A motor show, particularly an international motor show, should be on the bucket list for any car enthusiast.
If you're anything like us, chances are you'll also be excited at the prospect of going to a motor show; there you'll see the latest cars, preview upcoming models and check out the the most futuristic concepts.
Locally, we have the Manila International Auto Show and, once every two years, the Philippine International Motor Show. Both are jam packed with the latest and greatest cars and it's easy to while away time as you visit every booth. The domestic events are great already, but just what is it like to visit one of the world's biggest motor shows?
Enter the Tokyo Motor Show; easily Asia's most significant auto convention. As a first time visitor, I could say it was an unforgettable experience; if you want to see, or even experience, the future of the automobile, you will see it all in Tokyo.
How big is the Tokyo Motor Show?
Unlike other international motor shows, the Tokyo Motor Show only happens once every two years. With that rest year in in between, you can count on the manufacturers to roll out their most important concepts and production cars. Several cars make their world or Asian debut here too so if you want to be one of the first to see it, you should set Tokyo to your next destination. With such a wide variety of cars to see, enthusiasts of all kinds and ages will be in for a treat.
And you won't run out of cars to look at either. One part of the area alone, which houses at least five automakers, can perhaps fit in all the new cars from our local shows. Tokyo on the other hand had eight halls all in all, divided among five sections. If you've tried walking from one end to another in the Mall of Asia, then you will get a general idea of just how big the show is.
Inside, there are a lot of things to do from checking out each car and admiring the concepts. There are also activities in booths which allow you to experience a brand's idea of future mobility. You won't be disappointed with the souvenir shops either and scale model fanatics are in for a treat with the Tomica exhibition. Word of advice, bring a lot of Yen and prepare your credit cards. Pack very comfortable shoes too as the event venue, the Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba, covers 230,873 square meters of space; all of it with new cars and concepts on display. Yes, the Tokyo Motor Show is a good chance to put that Fitbit to use.
On top of that, Tokyo is one of the 'big five' global motor shows in the auto calendar; a prestigious distinction it shares with Detriot (USA), Geneva (Switzerland), Paris (France) and Frankfurt (Germany). Good thing it's only about a four hour flight to get to Tokyo from Manila.
What is next for the automobile?
That is the question car manufacturers have been answering during the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show. This year's show displayed how each manufacturer envisions the direction of the automobile from high-performance to simpler mobility solutions. If anything, this Tokyo showed us a glimpse into the future.
Expanding the concept of crossovers
If crossovers are your thing, then Tokyo is the show for you. After touring the exhibits, it is clear that the crossover is here to stay and automakers have rolled out what they have in store for this booming segment. Subaru showed various concepts of the XV and Outback with the Fun Adventure Concept and Smart Edition respectively. Mitsubishi on the other hand marked the Asian premiere of the Eclipse Cross, further cementing the brands commitment in building crossovers. Of course, there were eye-catching concepts too.
Toyota showed off the Tj Cruiser. While it's no direct successor to the truck-based FJ, but the Tj Cruiser follows in its footsteps with its retro-futuristic styling. Nissan on the other hand pulled the covers off the iMX. In essence, it previews a future Leaf-based crossover and, you guessed it, is powered by electric motors. Even motorcycle manufacturer Yamaha has joined in on the act with the radical looking Cross Hub concept.
The future is electrifying
It is perhaps safe to say that Japan loves the hybrid vehicle. After all, it is the country responsible for the Prius, the first gas-electric vehicle to hit the mainstream. This year's Tokyo Motor Show saw no shortage of hybrids and, at the same time, the automakers are pulling out all the stops for full-electric power.
On display were some of hybrids sold in Japan at the moment and nearly each booth was proud to display some for of hybrid car in their respective stands.
Of course, there are the all-electric concepts, starting with the aforementioned iMX concept. Mitsubishi on the other hand made their world debut of the e-Evolution concept, an electric interpretation of the much-loved rally-bred machine.
Honda's concepts meanwhile hark back to the past and look to the future. Underneath their retro-inspired bodies are high-tech electric powertrains and next-generation infotainment systems. Making its world debut is the Sports EV concept, a small, hardtop coupe that pays tribute to the S2000 and the S800 coupe. There's also the Urban EV hatchback which draws inspiration from the second-generation Civic. The best part of the Urban EV concept? It will be heading to production before the decade ends.
An autonomous future
It could be said that 'autonomous' could be the buzzword for the past three years. This year's Tokyo Motor Show further reinforced that notion. Lexus showed their idea of autonomous driving with the LS + concept and, not to be outdone was Nissan with the iMX's Intelligent Mobility solution. In essence, both these cars will let you relax that little bit more on your rush hour drives and long trips. These concepts will bring you to your destinations without ever having to exert any effort. It should be a treat once automakers get the ball rolling. That said, we still like to steer by ourselves when the time is right.
High-performance isn't dead
Performance junkies get their fix in Tokyo too. Even with all this talk about a greener, more eco-friendly future, manufacturers rolled out concepts that boldly say this: High-performance isn't dead.
The Mitsubishi e-Evolution concept isn't just an EV crossover. The brand says that, with its triple-motor electric system and active yaw control, it will deliver a dynamic drive all while putting out no emissions. Nissan meanwhile rolled out a car closer to reality with the Leaf Nismo, exploring the possibility of an electric hot hatchback. Needless to say, Mitsubishi and Nissan are keen to show that world that zero emissions doesn't mean zero fun.
Back to internal combustion engines meanwhile, we have the Subaru WRX STI S208. Limited to just 450 units in Japan, this uprated STI pumps out 330 PS, 25 more than the ones you see in our showrooms. Of course, there's upgrades to the suspension it is expected to be one of the fastest, if not the fastest, STI to roll off from Gunma. There's also the Viziv Performance concept, a thinly veiled preview of the next generation WRX. While Subaru did not release technical details on the concept, one can expect the classic, tried and true formula of a boxer engine, a turbo and all-wheel drive one it hits production.
But if you're looking for a raw sports car, then there's the Ikeya Formula IF-02R. Essentially a road-legal prototype race car, it packs over 350 PS and weighs a mere 1,100 kilograms. It's amazing to think that this car came from a transmission specialist.
Room for sedans and internal combustion
While crossovers and EVs were among the main highlights of the show, sedans and gas-powered vehicles made their stand in Tokyo, particularly with Lexus, Toyota and Mazda.
Mazda still thinks there is still a lot of potential for the internal combustion engine. Two concepts highlight the brand's beliefs with the Kai hatchback and Vision Coupe. The Kai is, in essence, a preview to the next-generation Mazda 3 and, paired with the upcoming SkyActiv-X engine, it's a highly advanced take on current technologies. Meanwhile, the Vision Coupe showed onlookers that the big sedan market isn't down and out. The concept is a sleek, four-door coupe that sees the styling direction of the brand for years to come. That said, the persistent rumors of a rotary comeback still linger.
Speaking of big sedans, perhaps the de facto king is the Toyota Crown. The Crown concept ushers in a new generation of Japan's traditional E-segment sedan with hybrid power, fastback-like styling and the promise of a 'thrilling' drive. While no longer sold in many parts of the road, one look at Tokyo's streets show why the iconic sedan is of great importance to Toyota. While we won't be seeing it in our shores soon, it's nice to see that this large four-door is alive and kicking in its home market.
There's also the Toyota Century, the sedan of choice for members of parliament, royalty and tycoons. Traditionally V12 powered, the all-new Century shifts to hybrid power for third iteration in 50 years. With its plush amenities and a (very) traditional take on luxury, one can call this land yacht Japan's interpretation of a Rolls-Royce.
A surreal experience
To say that the Tokyo Motor Show is like no other motor show I've been to is an understatement. From the sheer size of the venue to the very forward thinking concepts, walking through the halls was a truly surreal experience. There were so many things to learn, cars to see and experiences to gain when you visit each and every manufacturer. The best part is, there are cars for each and every type of enthusiast and in no way will you feel shortchanged when you exit the show. Sure, your feet will be tired after touring the show but boy will it be worth it.
Perhaps it's now time to look for the seat sale to Japan. You have a lot of time to prepare for it too as the next Tokyo Motor Show will be in 2019. Who knows, maybe you'll see this year's concepts become production reality by 2019, along with even more epic, and more futuristic concepts.