Yes, there are serious production cars here, but the Tokyo auto show is also a place to see the wild, wacky, and fantastical creations of Japan’s best automakers. Here are six cars that grabbed our attention.
1. Nissan Teatro for Dayz
How about a vehicle created for those who couldn’t care less about vehicles? According to Nissan, potential buyers for the Teatro for Dayz are called “share natives.” To quote the automaker, “this generation will reach driving age in a few years, but has shown little interest in cars so far.”
Sounds like they won’t be attending the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, apparently preferring to “create and share experiences immediately with friends both onboard and online.”
It seems unlikely those non-drivers would be enamored of the Teatro’s blocky exterior design, but we’re told they have a “clean canvas,” with a smooth white interior that, hey, we need to quote this, we can’t make it up, “allows the instrument panel, seats and even door trim to serve as a blank canvas for expression.”
As for the tech details, the Teatro is based on Nissan’s EV technology so think of it as a Leaf on a bad hair day.
What we can’t figure out is why these share natives, who are anti-car and likely spend their days staring down to mobile devices, don’t just take the Tokyo subway. It’s the best in the world and we won’t have to look at the Teatro for Dayz. Or ever.
2. Toyota KIKAI
Sometimes one’s initial reaction to a concept car is a simple, “Huh? Whazzat?” So it was with the rear-engine Toyota KIKAI.
Toyota’s answer is, “to explore and emphasize the fundamental appeal of machines: their fine craftsmanship, their beauty, simplicity, and their fascinating motion.”
In other words, there’s a basic beauty to the mechanical stuff under the bodywork, so why not strip off the KIKAI’s sheetmetal and enjoy the car’s bones and internals? This is arguably a Japanese approach to some hot rods.
The driver gets a center seat with up to three passengers in a triangular layout. The side windows stretch up into the roof to give a tall view of the great outdoors. The one behind the wheel not only gets to see the suspension movements out front, but there is also a window in the floor so the tires, suspension, and roadway itself are in full view.
Interesting concept, but think how the world’s great automotive designers — Giugiaro, Pininfarina, Fioravanti — would think of a car in which their life’s work is tossed.
3. Toyota FCV Plus
There has been much made of the fact Honda and Toyota seem headed to fuel cell vehicles in place of Leaf- and Tesla-style EVs. The FCV Plus is further evidence.
The design has the fuel cell stack set between the front tires, with the hydrogen tank aft of the rear seat. A motor at each wheel provides motivation. Toyota figures putting the major elements at the front and back of the FCV Plus leads to the best weight balance.
For all the words Toyota uses to describe the car’s layout, it spends more explaining that a hydrogen-powered fuel cell is not just a clean source of motive power, but also a means of providing electric power for your home as well as the grid.
The bottom line is that the FCV Plus is a rather cool-looking machine, as opposed to Toyota’s ungainly Mirai.
4. Okuyama kode 9
Ken Okuyama is the designer who brought us, among other shapes, the original Honda NSX and the Ferrari Enzo. Now back in his native Japan, Okuyama is making very small series of his kode 9 Spyder and Coupe.
That’s Ken with the Gulf livery Spyder, which is powered by a 1.8-liter turbo Honda four that puts out 350 hp. With a weight of just 1,716 lb, that means a Spyder with scoot. Other tech bits include a 6-speed manual gearbox and double wishbone suspension.
Think of the kode 9 Spyder as being Lotus Elise size, with an extruded aluminum center core and carbon fiber bodywork.
That also describes the basics of the kode 9 Coupe, which has the same horsepower but from a Toyota turbo engine. This version weighs in at 1,782 lb and has a somewhat retro body. Last time we saw that sort of central rear fin it was on a Type 64 Birdcage Maserati.
We mention limited series and the pair of kodes are just that with only five of each model being assembled. And the five coupes are already spoken for.
5. Suzuki Air Triser
Some of you might find this hard to believe, but some of us are big fans of minivans. Even harder to believe, some of us fondly recall our Ford Aerostars. That’s hardcore. So we love the genre of small vans they have in Japan. Some are popular with young people who can’t afford to move out of the family home, but want their own space.
Which somehow leads us to the Suzuki Air Triser. First of all, it measures just 165 inches long, 67 inches wide and 71 inches tall. By comparison, a Honda Odyssey is 203 by 80 by 68. The Air Triser’s exterior design leaves us gawking a bit at the sides. That bodywork is a bit odd, but does provide privacy. The seats are normally in three rows, but can be configured into a U shape for lounging. It’s easy to plug in your music. A nice place to be… away from the house.
The Air Triser’s engine is a 1.4-liter four-cylinder, which is part of a hybrid system that makes the funky box all-wheel drive.
6. Lexus RC-F GT3 Racing Car
And to finish up, wouldn’t it be nice to see this GT3 version of the Lexus RC-F on the grid for the Pirelli World Challenge? We’ve seen this 540-hp, 2,756-lb race car before, but as the 2015 racing season winds down for the winter and we get to thinking about next year’s racing… well, Lexus, are you going to make us smile?