Japanese brands to embrace the small, the sporty and the futuristic
TOKYO -- Japan's automakers will go futuristic and local at this year's Tokyo auto show, combining the far-out concept cars the show has been famous for alongside the Japan-only 660cc minicars -- some of which are delightfully sporty -- that represent a third of the home market.
Toyota will show a wave-styled hydrogen fuel cell sedan and a podlike minivehicle. Nissan will channel its unorthodox DeltaWing Le Mans racer into a street-legal, three-seat electric vehicle. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. will debut three aggressively styled concept hybrid vehicles.
At the local end of the offerings, Honda and Daihatsu will display sporty, convertible minicars geared to the domestic market. Honda will also unveil a new subcompact crossover that goes on sale in December in Japan.
Here's a sampling of production and concept vehicles making their global debuts during press days Nov. 20-21. After a preview night on Nov. 22, the show opens to the public Nov. 23.
The Toyota-affiliated minivehicle maker will show two variants of its convertible Kopen minicar concept, with more rounded features and a bold trapezoidal grille. Daihatsu plans production versions of both but hasn't said when they will go on sale in Japan. It also will unveil a hydrogen fuel cell minitruck called the Deca Deck. The retro-looking cube-shaped cabin sits on a slablike platform that contains a compact, low-cost fuel stack and battery system.
Honda will unveil a market-ready version of the Fit-based Urban SUV Concept shown at the Detroit show in January. It hasn't released the vehicle's name yet. After that, Honda will keep it sporty and small. That theme starts with the Honda S660 Concept, a sleek two-seater convertible with a 660cc midship engine and an iPhone-inspired interior.
Next is another Japan-market minicar, the N-WGN, a wagon variant for Honda's N Box minicar series. The Japan-only four-seater gets a longer hood and lower roof than the N Box. It is the latest entry in a minicar lineup that will expand to six spinoffs by 2015. The N-WGN goes on sale in November.
Jaguar's F-Type coupe will have dual global debuts at the overlapping auto shows in Los Angeles and Tokyo. The design of the all-aluminum car is based on the C-X16 concept shown at the 2011 Frankfurt auto show.
Lexus will unveil a near-production version of its long-awaited sports coupe, a four-seater dubbed the RC that fills a big void in the luxury brand's lineup.
The car's styling draws from the LF-CC coupe concept shown at the 2012 Paris auto show, with a gaping spindle grille and wide-set side air intakes.
It gets a rounded roof silhouette and sharply creased rear fenders. Its L-shaped rear combination lamps and headlamps were inspired by the LFA sports car that ended production last year and the LF-LC concept shown at the 2012 Detroit auto show.
The car will come with a traditional 3.5-liter gasoline powertrain or a hybrid system that uses a 2.5-liter engine. Lexus is calling the RC a production prototype. Executives declined to say when it will hit the market, but the car is expected to go on sale in the later half of next year.
Also on display will be a variant of the LF-NX crossover concept shown at the Frankfurt auto show in September. The upcoming version will be equipped with a newly developed 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine, instead of the hybrid drivetrain shown in Germany.
The production version of the LF-NX, also expected next year, would be the first turbo Lexus and the first turbo for any Toyota brand since the company dabbled with the technology in the 1980s.
Mazda plays it low key this year, offering only the Mazda3 Skyactiv-CNG Concept, which can run on either compressed natural gas or regular gasoline. Vehicles running on CNG can cut emissions 20 percent compared with similar cars running on gasoline, Mazda says.
Mercedes-Benz is unveiling its first Tokyo show world premieres in eight years: two AMG variants bound for production. The first will be the S65 AMG long, a V-12 biturbo variant on the brand's flagship sedan. The second will be a special edition of what Mercedes calls a "super sports car" developed by the AMG tuning arm.
Mini will debut a third-generation hatchback.
Mitsubishi will unveil three concept vehicles with electrified drivetrains: a plug-in hybrid full-sized SUV, a plug-in hybrid compact crossover and a microhybrid van. All are envisioned with super- or turbocharged engines, some kind of electrification and a suite of active safety technologies. The engines are purely conceptual; they haven't been built yet.
The rear-wheel-drive SUV, dubbed the Concept GC-PHEV, has a 3.0-liter, V-6 supercharged MIVEC engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. MIVEC, which stands for Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electric Control, is the brand's take on variable valve timing.
"GC" stands for Grand Cruiser. It is positioned as a successor to the Pajero SUV, which was known as the Montero in the United States.
The Concept XR-PHEV is Mitsubishi's vision of a next-generation compact cross-over. Styled to resemble a sports coupe, it gets a lightweight plug-in hybrid system with a downsized 1.1-liter direct-injection turbocharged MIVEC engine. "XR" is short for crossover runner.
The third vehicle, the Concept AR, aims to offer the performance of an SUV with the seating of a van. "AR" comes from active runabout. It also gets the 1.1-liter direct-injection turbo engine but is packaged as a microhybrid with a small lithium ion battery pack that runs a stop-start system.
Nissan's BladeGlider concept draws its inspiration from the unorthodox, triangular layout of the DeltaWing racer Nissan entered in the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in 2012 and the similarly shaped ZEOD RC hybrid entry Nissan plans to enter there next year.
Like its racing brethren, the BladeGlider gets widely spaced rear wheels; a rear-slung cockpit; a long, pointy nose and a set of front wheels so narrowly tracked that they almost look like one.
Yet unlike those cars, the new concept is all electric -- powered solely by lithium ion batteries and in-wheel electric motors. Nissan calls it an exploratory proposal for an upcoming production vehicle, but executives didn't give a time frame for bringing such a car to market.
The lithium ion battery pack runs along the floor. The rear of the car gets large air vents to help cool the in-wheel electric motors. The body is carbon fiber.
The three-seat layout puts the driver front and center; the passengers sit behind on either side.
Subaru will unveil a new sports tourer concept, a wagon-shaped preview of a production model coming to market next year.
Dubbed the Levorg, the prototype foreshadows a car that is expected to sit below the Legacy. The car will be sold in Japan; Subaru has not said whether it will be sold elsewhere.
The car gets Subaru's next-generation EyeSight precrash braking system and a newly developed 1.6-liter direct-injection, turbocharged engine.
A teaser photo of the car shows a low-slung wagon with pronounced fender flares, a rounded nose and a raked back. There are also hints of a midhood air scoop, indicating turbo treatment, and wraparound LED lighting to accentuate the silhouette of the headlamps.
Subaru also plans another global debut: the Cross Sport Design Concept. That vehicle has a compact body for easy driving and seat access.
Subaru says it encapsulates the brand's future direction in urban crossovers.
Suzuki will showcase three global premieres.
The muscular Crosshiker concept, built on a new platform, prioritizes light-weighting and comes in at just 1,785 pounds. The compact crossover gets a newly developed 1-liter, three-cylinder engine to improve fuel economy and coupe styling with a heavily creased beltline.
The X-Lander is a rugged, open-topped, four-wheel-drive concept based on the Jimny 4wd runabout. It has a 1.3-liter engine as part of a lightweight hybrid system.
The Hustler is a boxy minicrossover reminiscent of the Nissan Cube. Suzuki will show two versions, a crossover and a more aggressive, coupe-styled model. Suzuki says it plans to sell the Hustler in Japan but hasn't disclosed its launch date.
Toyota's hydrogen fuel cell concept boasts distinctive styling.
The FCV Concept, a close-to-production concept of the fuel cell sedan Toyota wants to sell in 2015, gets a pointed nose with exaggerated side air intakes, a low-set grille, bulbous cabin, squinty headlights and well-defined character lines that sweep over the fenders.
The four-seat vehicle rides on an all-new dedicated fuel cell platform. Its two high-pressure hydrogen tanks give it a range of 310 miles.
Toyota says it draws styling cues from a catamaran and the wavy side view conveys the "air-to-water transformation" occurring in the car's fuel cell stack, which combines air and hydrogen to produce electricity and water vapor. The fuel cap's water-drop motif underscores the message.
Toyota's next concept, a one-seat pod dubbed the FV2, can be ridden standing in "ride" mode or sitting in "drive" mode. In ride mode, which Toyota compares to straddling a horse, drivers steer the car like a Segway, tilting their bodies in the direction they want to go.
From above, the four-wheel FV2 has a diamond-shaped layout. The wheels don't sit in the corners; they are attached at the front and back and on the sides, like a side-wheeler steamboat.
The JPN Taxi Concept points to what may eventually replace the Toyota Crown Comfort, the ubiquitous workhorse of Japan's taxi fleets since 1995. It offers a two-box wagon-hatch shape, sliding rear doors and an electric-liquefied petroleum gas hybrid drivetrain.
Volkswagen will debut a diesel-electric hybrid concept version of its Up minicar, called the Twin-Up, which uses a plug-in hybrid powertrain derived from the XL1 unveiled at the Geneva auto show in March. The powertrain includes an 800cc two-cylinder diesel engine and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. VW has not decided whether to put the Twin-Up into production.