Thursday, October 29, 2015

Turning Japanese: 7 Must-See Vehicles from the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show

It may not be the largest or splashiest auto show on the calendar, but Tokyo’s biennial display of motor vehicles is perhaps the most narrowly focused. Japan’s market remains largely closed off to outside manufacturers—although recent trade agreements look to change that—and so the show is an undistilled glimpse into the nation’s motorized culture. Motorcycles share floor space with tiny boxes on wheels, there are gaggles of women dressed to resemble flirtatious high schoolers, and robot fetishism is rampant. Oh, and there are also plenty of cool rides. In between wolfing down “Japanese fried chicken” (which is . . . fried chicken) and grabbing a lunch beer (or two), we managed to pick some favorites:Toyota definitely got its freak on with the wild Kikai, which looked even cooler in person than it did in pictures.The Kikai somehow channeled the spirit of T-bucket hot rods while simultaneously seeming like something a Saturday morning cartoon character would drive. We loved the exposed, chromed suspension, the one-plus-two seating configuration, and the whole steampunk attitude, which is so not what you’d expect from Toyota. READ MORE >>Long, low, and lovely, the RX concept was a design case study in transcendent minimalism. Do you see a character line anywhere on this car? No, you do not.Instead it’s all about shape and proportion. And what proportions those are. The ultralow hoodline is enabled by a rotary engine, the message being that Mazda has not given up on the rotary—or on the RX sports car. Does this specific car have a future? Too soon to say. “It’s something we’d like to do,” said Mazda's North American CEO Jim O’Sullivan. “For Mazda, this is part of our DNA.” READ MORE >>Known mostly for motorcycles, Yamaha had one of the most surprising four-wheeled concepts of the show with its Sports Ride.Far from the dinky, Japanese box you might expect, this two-seat sports car was so shapely it could have been Italian. And the rich, leather interior with brushed-metal accents looked just as good as the exterior. There was no word on a powertrain, as this was yet another pure show car, but damned if it didn’t stop us in our tracks. READ MORE >>Neither car nor new—not by long shots—this classic Honda motorcycle nonetheless managed to stand out among the highly compelling new and concept bikes on Honda’s Tokyo show stand.The future-aero body fairing, the retro livery, the finned drum brakes—the RC143 has it all. It also has a 125-cc DOHC four-stroke twin-cylinder engine. Not only that, but this very bike won Honda its first World Grand Prix victory in 1961. Cool? This thing’s Antarctic.We have not one clue what “Super Great V” means, but Mitsubishi got at least one part of this terrifying-looking truck’s name right. “Spider” aptly describes the rig’s general presence; from its stabilizing outriggers to the four separate hydraulic arms seemingly crawling out of its frame, it appears as though it should walk, not roll, away.More unsettling are the attachments fitted to the ends of each robotic appendage: three different types of man-crushing claws and a gnarly drill-type thing. We’d call it a widowmaker, but with jaws like that, the Super Great V Spider seems more likely to pinch the grilles of unsuspecting cars—let’s call it the Lexusmaker.Looking for all the world like a JDM Dodge Power Wagon, the Isuzu TX80 was, in the words of Isuzu, “developed to meet the demands to restore industries after World War II.” We found this truck to be quite charming, and the old-school Isuzu badging and bright blue paint were fun.When Isuzu stopped selling cars in the U.S., its largest model was a rebadged Chevrolet Colorado; this rig has a payload capacity of five tons and looks like it could fit a modern Colorado pickup in its colossal bed.Ignore everything about the Nissan Vision Gran Turismo 2020 concept that you can’t see. The hypothetical powertrain, the intended link to the next-generation GT-R supercar—none of that matters for the purposes of this “coolest of” list. That’s because we knew all that stuff before.What we hadn’t known before arriving in Tokyo was just how epic the Vision GT concept is to behold in person. It’s sort of a shame that Nissan went with a matte paint finish, because the car’s lines deserve a high sheen to better play with light and shadow. Also, whereas today’s GT-R is a giant, upright, heavy two-door coupe, this concept is properly low, wide, and crazy looking—albeit still sort of huge. READ MORE >>

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