I went to the 42nd Tokyo Motor Show this week with my friend’s father, Parker. He’s a big car fan and it turns out we have a lot of the same automotive tastes. It was a productive day, and I do mean “day” — we arrived at 10 am and didn’t leave until past 4. I took photos of the cars that stood out, so I’ll share some of them!
Our day started at 9:15 when we met in Shinbashi and took the monorail to Tokyo Big Sight, Japan’s largest exhibition center. Getting to the venue with ten minutes to spare before the gates opened, we found an absurdly long line. Keep in mind, this was on a Wednesday morning. Are there really this many people out of work?
But we got in quickly enough and were thrilled to find ten enormous exhibition halls filled with hundreds and hundreds of cars, motorcycles and various other vehicles. Best of all, the first exhibit we stumbled upon in the first hall was Porsche.
Parker and I are both huge Porsche fans, and the Tokyo Motor Show was the Japanese debut of the all-new Porsche 911. We’ve been waiting for this car since the last 911 was released in 2004 — it’s a huge event and something I’ve been looking forward to since I was in high school. Parker happened to be wearing a Porsche baseball cap, which got us noticed by one of the Porsche employees. We were invited inside the ropes and got to inspect the new model up close and even sit in the driver’s seat as dozens of spectators looked on in envy. I…almost melted. In my excitement, I forgot to take pictures of the interior, but I will say: the steering wheel felt great, the instrument cluster is still classically simple, the bespoke leather and carbon trim was exquisite and the new rising center console [complete with 7-speed manual gearbox!] looks fantastic. Anyone interested in the new 911′s development should take a look at this ten minute documentary made about testing in extreme locations. Here are the exterior photos.
Porsche 911 Carrera (991)
Porsche 911 Carrera S (991)
I love the looks. This is a future classic, no doubt. Because of the new 911, I completely glossed over the Panameras, Caymans and Boxsters on display. I did take a good look at the 997 GT3 Cup on display, though.
Porsche 997 GT3 Cup
The next stop was Audi, where the only car that stood out was the one-off A1 Samurai Blue Edition. Samurai Blue, as many of you probably know already, is the nickname of Japan’s men’s soccer team. This particular A1 is painted in the team’s colors, with special 18-inch wheels painted the same hue as the rising sun of the Japanese flag. This is the only one in the world, and it’s going to be auctioned off with proceeds going to charity.
Audi A1 Samurai Blue
This being the Tokyo Motor Show, it was only natural that the largest exhibits were Japanese automakers. Honda had dozens of displays covering compacts, fuel cell vehicles, SUVs, sedans, hybrids, motorcycles and scooters. The only picture I took was of the Honda AC-X, a plug-in hybrid concept. It’s not the most exciting car I saw all day, but it does a good job demonstrating where we’re headed. Smaller, more efficient engines coupled to plug-in hybrid systems capable of 35+ miles on electricity alone. Lightweight materials and simplified building techniques that maximize structural integrity. And aerodynamics; this car has an incredibly low drag coefficient of .21 cD, meaning fuel economy is markedly improved.
Another weird concept was the Daihatsu FC Case. It’s basically just a box with wheels that drives you around. There are TV screens and pop-up chairs to lounge on as the autonomous driving system takes you to your destination. It’s run on hydrazine hydrate, a gasoline alternative we might see more of in the years to come.
Daihatsu FC Case Concept
I guess I should mention the ladies. Some guys come out to see the makes, but others come for the models, if you know what I mean. Plenty of the exhibits featured models standing by the cars. They walked around the cars so as to cover every angle and let everyone get their shots. I must say, the cars with the models got a lot more attention that those without. The model showing off Japan’s new electric roadster, the TEEWave AR1, was pretty cute. I liked the car too — it’s smaller and lighter than the Tesla Roadster, and has a range of more than 100 miles — but the headlights looked awful so I stuck to the rear 3/4 view.
The crowds were really intolerable at some points. You have to be clever to get the shot you want, or sometimes just to see the car you’re right in front of. In the case of BMW’s new i8, we decided against the line of hundreds and instead found a small gap in the wall next to it to peer through. This car is a big breakthrough for BMW, as the flagship of its new “i” sub-brand of cars. It combines a pair of electric motors with a three-cylinder turbodiesel engine to provide performance and efficiency. Fuel economy will hit 80 mpg, but you can still do 0-60 in only 4.6 seconds on the way to a [governed] top speed of 160 mph. You’ll see this car soon enough starring alongside Tom Cruise in the new Mission: Impossible movie. This thing seems too good to be true, but production is set to begin in 2013.
Man, that looks wild. I like it, though. Speaking of wild sports cars, how many of you have seen the Lexus LFA Nurburgring Edition? Not many, I’m guessing. This particular LFA is limited to 50 examples worldwide, which is reasonable because it costs $445,000. It goes like stink though, with a V10 producing 562 bhp. Several four-letter words come to mind. Not crazy about the color, though.
Lexus LFA Nurburgring Edition
We had a lot to look at over at the Nissan paddock. They brought several new EV designs to the show, demonstrating their commitment to the technology. The designs aren’t bad, although there weren’t too many that blew me away. The Esflow sports car concept looked pretty aggressive, but I’d give 10:1 odds that this never makes production.
I was also interested to the the racing version of the Nissan Leaf EV. The Leaf is Nissan’s major EV offering at the moment and they’ve made a NISMO version to attract attention. Don’t be fooled, it’s not even close to being fast, but it’s interesting to see how they took a conservatively styled compact and came up with this.
Nissan Leaf NISMO RC
Being at a motor show makes you excited about things you’d otherwise never think about. One of the concepts Parker and I enjoyed the most was a Subaru wagon called the Advanced Tourer Concept. It’s powered by a 1.6L hybrid powertrain, but the exciting part is the design. The doors open up, there’s a monitor in the steering wheel and the interior is gorgeous. We loved this car and really hope it gets production development. The model helped as well.
Subaru Advanced Tourer Concept
Looks great, right? I’d love one of those.
Ok, I’ve saved this for the end — the two biggest spectacles of the Tokyo Motor Show. The big stories this year are the new sports car twins from Toyota and Subaru: the Toyota GT 86 and the Subaru BRZ. The cars were designed jointly using resources and expertise from both companies. They share an engine and most major components, but the styling is slightly different and they have different badges, of course. They’re about 2700 lbs [that's light!] and boast 200 bph [non-turbo], which should make for great driving. Toyota had special arcade-style racing simulators set up using Gran Turismo 5 to give you a virtual test drive. I went for a spin around Fuji Speedway…actually, I spun quite a lot. It’s a bit tail-happy.
Anyway, for some reason, the GT 86 was nearly impossible to get close to. Hundreds and hundreds of people were crammed around the perimeter of the platform. I don’t think it could have been crazier if Justin Bieber had been in the driver’s seat. Here’s the only shot I could get after 15 minutes of trying.
Toyota GT 86
The Subaru, on the other hand, was pretty easy to get up close and personal with, so I’ll post those pictures. The cars look almost exactly the same [the main differences being that the Subaru has a spoiler and a slightly altered fascia] so you’ll get the gist.
And the racing version:
Pretty cool, huh? The BRZ and the GT 86 are this generation’s cheap Japanese sports cars. They’re going to be relatively cheap, which means that owning a sporty, rear-wheel drive car with aggressive styling will no longer be out of reach for the average buyer. I wasn’t excited about them before the motor show, but I’ve seen the light. I don’t usually love Japanese cars, but these were designed with the right ideas in mind.
After a long day at Tokyo Big Sight, we headed back to the station and headed back to the mainland by way of the Yurikamome monorail line. There was a great view from the station as the sun began to set.
Anyway, that was six hours straight of pure automotive nirvana. I posted only 20 or so of the 150+ photos I took throughout the day, and I skipped dozens of makes and models I wanted to discuss for this post. I really can’t wait for the next show, which will be in 2013. But I don’t have to wait that long to see the Tokyo Motor Show again — that’s right, I’m going back on Saturday. The show will end on Sunday, the 11th of December.