We’ve covered some of the best and most exciting cars that came out of the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show already, but not it’s time to reflect on all of the cars and trends that we saw this year. There were a few of the usual suspects, some knock-out designs, some ugly ducks, and the latest in automotive tech and alternative fuel. We’ll be honest, we were a little disappointed this year. But let’s start with the highlights of the show.
Mazda showed up big with two dramatic concepts. First off, the Vision Coupe Concept is long, sleek, and sexy. Mazda’s designers went minimal with the details, resulting in something impactful. Even the taillights are minimalistic, instead of the huge LED bars we’re used to seeing these days, and it really works. Some people are hoping the concept signals that Mazda is working on a successor to the RX-8 sports car, but so far that seems to be wishful thinking. Instead, the company claims it will influence the looks of future large models.
The second Mazda, called the Kai Concept, is obviously showing the direction we should expect from the Mazda3. Overall, the design isn’t as sleek as a low-slung coupe, but it avoids the overwrought nature of competitors like the Honda Civic. Mazda revealed the concept uses a Skyactiv-X gasoline engine with improved fuel efficiency, plus some onboard technologies that remain a mystery.
Also stopping the show, the Iso Rivolta Vision Gran Turismo was originally designed for Gran Turismo Sport on PlayStation 4. Zagato had a hand in the supercar’s design, which looks like an extremely sexy cross between a Corvette and Ferrari FXX. Speaking of which, the engine actually comes from a ‘Vette, but is modified to put out 997 horsepower. Production is supposed to be limited to about five units, meaning the final price will be incredibly high.
Japanese design sensibility can sometimes be an acquired thing. Sure, the nation has produced plenty of amazing vehicle designs, but just like every year, Tokyo hosted many unfortunate-looking concepts.
Among the weirdest, the Daihatsu DN Pro Cargo is like something you’d see in anime. It looks like a rolling loaf of bread. Huge doors on the sides and rear provide excellent access. That’s on purpose, because this thing is supposed to be used by vendors who want a quick and easy way to show off their wares on the street or other entrepreneurs that can repurpose the open interior. While it may be practical, the look of this concept is so off-putting, that everyone will be forced to stare. Maybe that’s a bonus?
This one might be controversial, but the Toyota GR HV Sports Concept doesn’t have the same smooth looks as the 86 coupe. Instead, it features garish, maybe a little overwrought styling in the nose and rear. The result is something you’d expect to be a set piece in some bleak near-future sci-fi flick, like Blade Runner, reminding us that humanity won’t even have good-looking cars. It also features a targa top, which is about the only nice detail. Topping off the funkiness is a hybrid powertrain, plus a transmission which is both manual and automatic.
Sadly, the many sports cars that people anticipated would break cover in Tokyo didn’t make an appearance. Among the missing was the upcoming Toyota Supra, Mazda RX-9, Nissan GT-R, and Nissan Z. Mazda didn’t even reveal a new rotary engine, making the show overall a blow to enthusiasts.
Adding to the disappointment was the Subaru BRZ STI Sport. Enthusiasts have been waiting for Subaru to throw a massive turbo or two on the rear-wheel-drive coupe, and the STI name normally would signal such a move. Instead, Subaru made a big deal about cosmetic changes, including a rear wing, not uttering a single word about forced induction. Not that it matters, but the BRZ STI Sport will only be sold in Japan.
One of the heavy focuses of every car show these days is alternative fuels. That was especially the case in Tokyo, with many methods for breaking way from gasoline.
Toyota has irked electric car supporters by investing heavily into hydrogen fuel cell tech. The latest example of that dedication, called the Fine Comfort Ride concept, is unique all around. At first glance, the vehicle looks somewhat sleek, thanks to deep body creases and dynamic headlights. As your eye realizes the roof and glass are there, your mind realizes the concept actually is quite boxy. The whole point, Toyota says, is to maximize room for occupants, and it does that. Of course, as a fuel cell concept, the Fine Comfort Ride only puts out water vapor, but it needs hydrogen to refuel.
While many electric vehicles were at the show, one really stood out: the Suzuki e-Survivor concept. It’s the spiritual successor of the Samurai, conceivably giving you a relatively affordable way to play in the great outdoors with zero tailpipe emissions. Each wheel has its own electric motor, which opens all kinds of possibilities for the future of four-wheel drive.
Honda produced another cheerful electric car, the Sports EV Concept. It’s the follow-up of the Urban EV concept which broke cover in Frankfurt last month. Instead of a shape inspired heavily by the first Civic, this one is much sleeker and sportier. The Digital grille has evolved in some form but still seems to have the same function, which injects plenty of fun into the design. If brought to market, this could be the EV that gets enthusiasts worked up, even though it has an autonomous drive unit, which brings us our next group of concept cars.
The other popular category in Tokyo was autonomous tech. Everyone’s racing to develop cars that will drive us to work and back while we sleep. One of the most notable, the Nissan IMx concept, strongly resembles the Murano. Other than a wild grille and headlights, the crossover packs a compelling user interface for the autonomous system. Instead of touching controls or tapping on a screen, users just move their hands or eyes to tell the IMx what to do. At least, that’s the theory—Nissan didn’t demonstrate the gesture controls, so you’re excused for being skeptical.
The Tokyo Motor Show had some exciting technology on offer, but a distinct lack of sports cars. The only automaker that showcased genuinely exciting new designs that will appear on production vehicles was show-stopper Mazda. Hopefully, other automakers will take note.