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Tokyo Motor Show 2017

By Kap Maceda Aguila

FIRST held in 1954, the Tokyo Motor Show (TMS) was a yearly spectacle of mobility until 1973, when it started to become a biennial event. Staged by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, Inc. (JAMA), the TMS holds the distinction of being one of the “big five” car shows globally, joining the exhibitions in Detroit, Geneva, Frankfurt, and Paris.

This year, the TMS returns once more to the Tokyo Big Sight (officially known as Tokyo International Exhibition Center), Japan’s largest convention and exhibition center. Boasting 24 passenger-car brands, six commercial vehicle companies, seven motorcycle brands, and other firms from attached industries, the 2017 edition of the iconic show is themed “Beyond the Motor,” to express “aspirations… to become an event that focuses on the broadly extended functional value and enjoyment of automobiles, attracting and integrating globally leading-edge knowledge and transcending industry borders to spawn new innovation and business.”

Already known as a venue for showcasing a myriad of concept vehicles, TMS continues to embrace its role to extend “the existing values of mobility… [as the] vision that underpins [the] goal of redefining the show within the context of continuous evolution…

That’s why the Tokyo Motor Show will look beyond motor vehicles themselves and transform itself into an event where cutting-edge knowledge comes together.”

We shine a light on a few of the featured Japanese brands and their important launches today. Judging from these vehicles (some conceptual, some ready for the road), the industry has accepted two seemingly immutable realities — the growing adoption of alternative power plants and sustainable fuel, and the encroachment of artificial intelligence into our driving experience. The future is not just nearer than we think; it’s here.

TOYOTA

Tj Cruiser
Toyota touts the Tj Cruiser as a “harmonious balance between the roominess of a cargo van and the powerful design of an SUV,” adding this concept model was designed for drivers whose lifestyles mix work and play seamlessly.

The “T” in the model’s name stands for “toolbox,” which Toyota said refers to how the car can be used, while “j” stands for “joy.” The car maker said it assigned the “Cruiser” tag to identify the vehicle as one of its SUVs.

A key feature of the Tj Cruiser is its van-like cabin, with seats that can be folded down completely flat. This allows the car to haul outdoor equipment, as well as large items like bicycles or three-meter-long surfboards. Meanwhile, a sturdy suspension and large tires boost its SUV credentials, as do a hood, roof and fenders coated in a special film that resists scratches and dirt.

Crown Concept
One of the longest-running nameplates in Toyota’s lineup — Crown was introduced in 1955 — is reinterpreted in the Crown Concept, which the car maker said blends the “storied Crown tradition” with driving performance and connected technology.

The Crown Concept has a platform based on Toyota New Global Architecture. It has undergone testing in the famed Nurburgring in Germany. In addition to handling performance, the car also has the capability to process Data Communication Modules (DCM) — which would be fitted as standard in the Crown Concept’s production version. Through DCM, Toyota said the car “aims to contribute to solving societal problems… by reducing traffic jams in cities,” as well as to predict potential mechanical issues.

The production version of the Crown Concept is scheduled to hit showrooms in mid-2018.

MITSUBISHI

e-Evolution Concept
Artificial intelligence (AI) underpins Mitsubishi’s “new-generation, high-performance all-electric crossover SUV.” Electrics have never been equated with off-road abilities, so the brand is making a bold statement in the e-Evolution which, it says, “combines the very best of Mitsubishi Motors technology with the go-anywhere flexibility of SUVs.” The concept car is touted as an all-weather, all-terrain ride that features a triple-motor 4WD, dual-motor active yaw control, a high-torque electric drive, and adaptive response characteristics.

Meanwhile, the AI system allows knowledge transfer to the driver and to “unobtrusively enhance [his/her] driving expertise.” The system does this by first ascertaining the driver’s skill level, then constructing a tailored training program that “provides advice through voice dialogue and a large dashboard display.”

NISSAN

Leaf Nismo Concept
According to the company, this vehicle is its “flagship electric car [matched with] Nismo’s driving excitement.” First revealed last September, the Leaf’s EV goodness is now packed with the latest version of Nissan’s ProPilot single-lane autonomous driving technology, as well as the first-in-Japan ProPilot Park to help drivers park “by automatically controlling the accelerator, brakes, steering, gearshift and parking brake.”

The Nismo Concept is rendered sportier by Nissan’s motor sports and in-house tuning division. “The application of Nismo racing technology to the car’s body results in enhanced aerodynamic performance and less lift, without sacrificing the Leaf’s excellent drag coefficient. The black interior features Nismo’s signature red accents, creating an exciting, high-performance feel,” reports Nissan in a news release. In addition, the suspension and even on-board computer have been sport-tuned, and the car has been equipped with performance tires.

Serena Nismo
The Nissan minivan receives a similar Nismo reimagining “without sacrificing the base model’s family friendly, utilitarian nature.” Its exteriors get aero parts to heighten a sporty appearance, while the cabin gets Nismo red accents. Performance gets a bump in handling via custom sport-tuned suspension system, while a new engine control module and exhaust system enhance the driving experience.

HONDA

Honda Sports EV Concept
As the electric-vehicle (EV) technology improves markedly, so do the abilities (and not just range) of EVs. As proven by the fast-growing sport of Formula E, “electric” is no longer synonymous to “slow.” That’s well and good for Honda, which professes an enduring love for motor sports, declaring it “will always be its identity.” The Sports EV Concept is the car maker’s expression of its treatise. “A highly responsive electric power unit in an easy-to-handle compact body,” promises “powerful, smooth acceleration.” A low center of gravity aids in maneuverability. In addition, engineers provide an AI-platformed “Honda Automated Network Assistant” for smarter, adaptive performance.

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