Somewhat quietly apart from all of the hoopla in the City of Angels, the Japanese capital saw some important new vehicles from some of the biggest automakers in the world. We were on hand to document these reveals, as well as to take in some Japanese culture and get a glimpse of the future of transportation as our friends across the Pacific see it.
There were concept cars, production cars, cars of the future and no shortage of strange displays and ideas (such as giant, creepy puppets). Head on through to see our favorite sights.
Lexus "Steps" PuppetsThough it looks like some sort of autonomous robot, this is actually a giant puppet -- one of the stars of the recent Lexus short film "Steps." The bizarre video, which you can watch on YouTube, features this male puppet alongside a gold female puppet as they attempt to navigate the city as giant, faceless humanoids controlled by their masters. We're not sure how the film is supposed to get us interested in Lexus cars, but it certainly captured our attention and got us talking.
Lexus unveiled its sharp and somewhat polarizing LF-NX crossover concept. You can see hints at where the brand is going with its CUV design in this vehicle's sharp, angular sheetmetal, squinty headlights and, of course, the now-signature spindle grille.
The most interesting thing about the crossover concept is its engine: a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder. Because of the American government's CAFE fuel economy mandates, luxury automakers have been downgrading their bigger V6 engines for some time now. It appears Lexus has fallen in line with the trend. We expect to see this engine on more models in the near future.
Lexus RCThe second Lexus unveiling was of an actual production car: The RC. At first glance, it looks a lot like the IS in coupe form, but there are actually a few important differences. The RC is wider, lower and shorter in wheelbase. The front end is also tweaked with a more extreme-looking grille. All in all, the RC is more focused on driving than the IS, with a more rigid body and better aerodynamics.
The RC will come in a hybrid option, using a dual-injected 2.5-liter four cylinder engine with a 105kW electric motor driven through an electronic continuously variable transmission.
Honda Short-Distance EVAccording to Honda, this pint-sized EV (seen on the left) can seat two adults comfortably, travel over 50 miles on a charge and hit speeds of up to 43 mph. Though it's probably not intended for strong use in the U.S., we think it could work in niche communities where daily drives are very short.
The real noteworthy attraction at Honda's display here, though, was the demonstration of a new battery pack that, for some reason, involved a giant urinating baby. We're not really sure what else to say about it.
Toyota JPN Taxi Concept
There's not a lot of information out there on Toyota's nifty little JPN Taxi Concept. All we know is that the vehicle is aimed at making the navigation of busy city streets a more efficient and comfortable experience.
The company says the taxi concept was created with Japanese hospitality in mind. Inside, there's a roomy interior with what appears to be lots of head and leg room, as well as several touchscreens that we assume provide information and entertainment.
Mitsubishi FusoThe Mitsubishi Fuso looks to take advantage of the role of "cuteness" in Japanese pop culture with its pink paint job and polka dots. The Fuso is apparently a play to get more women interested in careers that involve driving trucks. Although its color scheme -- which extends to the interior -- seems a little too stereotypical, it's interesting to see a truck company make an effort to get women involved in a profession where they're underrepresented.
Nissan GT-R Nismo
In stark contrast to the previous slide, the Nissan GT-R Nismo is very, very far from cute. This supercar is downright mean. The new Nismo, which looks like an angry cyborg, is an even more powerful version of the standard GT-R, packing 600 horsepower and "over 480 lb-ft" of torque.
The car also employs a race-tuned suspension with a larger, hollow anti-roll bar, custom dampers and the use of high-rigidity bolts. Outside, a new aero package from the wider front carbon bumper to the carbon rear spoiler above a longer, tapered rear bumper creates an additional 220 pounds of downforce at 186 miles per hour.
Nissan BladeGlider ConceptYet another weird concept from the show floor, the BladeGlider is a three-seat, knife-like vehicle that Nissan called an "exploratory prototype" for a future production car.
The BladeGlider's front wheels are just about three feet apart, while the rear has a more conventional track. Inside, there is a center driving position flanked by two passenger seats and a cockpit-inspired design. Nissan said that the concept is an all-electric vehicle.
Subaru Cross Sport Design ConceptThere aren't a lot of details out there on Subaru's sharp concept wagon, but it appears to be a bigger, hatchback version of the automaker's BRZ sports car. We're hoping that this will turn into a production vehicle, considering how much we love sporty wagons. The combination of great driving dynamics and versatility is always a winner in our book.
Toyota FCV Concept
Toyota is getting very close to releasing a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, as evidenced by this FCV Concept from the Tokyo Motor Show. The final product should be launched around 2015, according to Toyota. The automaker is "aiming for a price under $100,000" and is hoping to sell thousands of fuel cell vehicles by the 2020s.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are driven by an electric motor that is powered by electricity generated through a chemical reaction between oxygen in the air and hydrogen on board the vehicle. The only emission is water, making the technology a very promising clean alternative to gasoline.
Honda VezelThe Vezel is essentially a bigger Honda Fit crossover, similar in size and power to entry CUVs like the Nissan Juke and Hyundai Tucson. We like its sporty look quite a bit. Details are still fuzzy on cost, power and features, but Honda said that the Vezel will go on sale in Japan with both hybrid and gas-only powertrains. It will be launched in Europe sometime in 2015 and could conceivably come to North America, though likely with a different name.
Mitsubishi AR ConceptThe Mitsubishi AR Concept is part minivan, part SUV and all lime green. According to the Japanese automaker, the concept was designed to combine the comfort of a minivan with the utility of an SUV. It seats up to six people and comes with a wide variety of tech, including a phone-sized touchscreen in the steering wheel.
The AR employs a 134-horsepower, 1.1-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine paired with a 10-kW electric motor used as a belt starter generator, making it essentially a mild hybrid.