TOKYO - Alternative-powertrain technology was in the spotlight at this year's Tokyo Motor Show, which opened to the public 24 October. Here is a rundown of the major introductions:
All of Honda's concept cars are based on the Logo platform, a grade smaller than the Civic. The Joyful Mover series, all with 'J' in their designation, enters a segment in which Honda sees much of its Japan-market growth in the near term.
'Small is smart,' said Hiroyuki Yoshino, Honda's executive vice president for r&d.
The J-WJ is a 'wild and joyful wagon' with Realtime 4WD and full-open soft top.
The J-MW, for multiwagon, is closest to production. It is aimed at families with one child.
The J-MJ, for 'multijoyful hobby car,' is reminiscent of a Range Rover, with flat front, rear and side panels. The only curves are at the corners. The steering wheel, speakers and armrests flip down and out of the way to allow the seat backs to fold down into a single flat surface front to rear, turning the car into a room on wheels. Air conditioner and airbags are in the roof.
The J-VX combines light sports-car styling with an environmentally clean hybrid power train. Honda considers it a CR-X for the 21st century. A lightweight direct-injection, 1.0-liter, three-cylinder engine draws additional power from an electric ultracapacitor during acceleration to yield more than 30km per liter.
Inside, the dual shoulder belts for each seat are 'air belts: ' seat belts that function as airbags.
The VX-2 is a vision of how Isuzu's sport-utilities will look 'in the near future.' The front and rear are truncated; windshields are steeply raked. The Japanese-language press kit says its lines are sharp, as though 'cut by a Japanese sword.' The sport-utility also features individually removable roof panels over the driver and passenger and a spare tire mounted inside the rear gate.
The Zaccar has an open rear deck on its compact body, and half-size casement doors for rear entry. It is powered by a four-cylinder, direct-injection diesel engine.
Two more concept sport-utilities complete the noncommercial part of Isuzu's stand: the upscale, four-door 145-X and the sporty, two-door 145-Y.
Mazda introduced its new Miata MX-5, with a 145ps engine replacing the 130ps version.
The Capella wagon, known as the 626 in other markets, was introduced.
The 626-based concept cars on display are largely the work of Mazda's non-Japanese studios. All share the company's new Contrast in Harmony design theme, which favors angular lines which contrast with rounded sheet-metal edges.
The MV-X is designed for active sports. A section of the waterproof floor automatically lifts and extends out the rear gate so that mountain bikes can be locked into place. Removable lightweight mesh seats double as beach chairs.
The SW-X compact van, designed to seat up to seven, has seats on four long slide rails. A jump seat can be added in the middle of the second row, or the seats can be arranged in a single row down the middle. This makes possible, for example, a 2-1-2 seating arrangement. A column-mounted switch replaces the gear shifter.
Like the SW-X, the MS-X was designed by Mazda Research and Engineering in Germany. It is a technology-filled sedan, styled to convey substance and space. Although based on the Mazda 626, it has more interior space than the Mercedes-Benz S-class.
When the MS-X's decklid lifts, the rear panel drops to give straight-in entry to a spacious trunk. Buckling the seat belt deploys the automatic seat adjuster and raises the driver's instrument-panel display into place. A larger, 180mm display is located out of the driver's line of sight, for accessing the Internet and other nondriving uses.
The car is packed with intelligent transport system gadgets, including active cruise and a rear-mounted camera.
A hybrid-electric version of Mazda's popular Demio combines an ultracapacitor and nickel-metal hydride batteries.
The concept car MAIA - which stands for Mini Advanced & Ideal Archetype, was introduced. See story, Page 12.
The Stylish6, Nissan's concept for a 'utility wagon,' uses a parallel hybrid drivetrain that combines a 2.5-liter, V-6 GDI with an electric traction motor that draws power from a lithium-ion battery pack. Power is transferred through Nissan's Hyper CVT, a continuously variable transmission designed to work with 2.0-liter and larger engines.
Besides the advanced powertrain, the Stylish6 boasts a palmrest-style control pad in the center of the instrument panel just beneath a 180mm-wide screen. The screen is for the navigation system and other electronically displayed information. The car also has radar-based adaptive cruise control, front- and rear-view cameras and electronic toll payment.
For those sitting in the rear row, there are drop-down tables and 150mm-wide television monitors built into the front four seat backs.
The car seats six in three rows, with swivel captain's chairs in the first two rows and a split third-row seat that folds up.
The Nissan Hypermini is a tiny car in the Smart class. See story, Page 12.
The AL-X is Nissan's experiment in aluminum space-frame construction. Described as an environmental concept car, the boxy four-seater features a parallel hybrid powertrain. The direct-injection gasoline engine is an inline-four linked to an electric motor and mated to the Hyper CVT to drive the front wheels. Batteries are lithium-ion.
Nissan officials said the company plans to build an aluminum-bodied car on a regular Nissan assembly line in 1999, but that car will not be the AL-X.
Nissan presented the R'nessa as a new concept in sedans, designed to hold four. (The name is derived from renaissance.) It looks like a station wagon.
The R'nessa arrives in the USA in 1998 as the battery-powered Altra EV. Its 12 lithium-ion batteries will be stowed below the raised, flat floor, which results in a notably higher step-in and seat height.
The appropriately named Cube rides on the March/Micra minicar platform. Powered by a 1.3-liter engine, the four-seater goes on sale in Japan next spring in a segment that is increasingly popular there.
The Exiga concept wagon may be close to market. It has a roof rail that is one-quarter retractable, an electrically controlled sliding center console and a new drivetrain and suspension design that Subaru calls its 'axle forward' layout.
The Elten is Subaru's entry in the hybrid-car competition. See story, Page 12.
The UW-1 concept car is a utility wagon that seats five with a midship layout. It is powered by a 1.0-liter, all-aluminum, four-cylinder engine.
It uses glass extensively and has a double sunroof. A band of metal across the roof links the two C-pillars.
The CT-1 is an electric commercial vehicle that can double as a truck or van. It is powered by nickel-metal hydride batteries, and Suzuki says the two-seater can go 240km on a two-hour charge.
The C250 is Toyota's compact luxury car aimed at the BMW 3 series. It is expected to become the entry-level Lexus in Europe; the Lexus franchise may be split from Toyota when it arrives.
The rear-wheel drive sedan is slightly smaller than the Lexus GS in all dimensions. It is powered by a 2.5-liter inline-six with variable valve timing. It has conservative lines and woodgrain accents on the instrument panel.
Technical features include radar-controlled active cruise control, seat-mounted side airbags and curtain shield airbags that deploy downward from the front pillar and the roof rail.
The MR-S concept roadster is a potential follow-up to the MR2. It features a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine with an aluminum block, mounted in the middle. The rear-drive has sequential transmission that shifts without the use of a clutch pedal. A hard top is mounted manually.
The NEW (for New Experimental Wagon) sport-utility concept, designed by Toyota's Calty Design Research center in California with help from ASC Inc., features headrests that fold down from the ceiling and a gearshift lever located at the door-side of the steering wheel.
The Harrier debuts in Japan early next year and then in the USA as the Lexus RX 300.
The Grand Cruiser, which will be known as the Lexus LX 470 in the USA.
The five-door RAV-4L electric vehicle replaces a three-door model sold in selected parts of Japan. It will go on sale nationwide for the equivalent of $41,250. In addition, Toyota plans to sell 322 of the five-door model in California and 250 in Massachusetts during the next three years.
Toyota's 'e-com' is a two-seat electric vehicle. See story, Page 12.