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Friday
Oct272017

Tokyo Motor Show 2017

Some of the more interesting concepts from this year’s show.

By Christopher A. Sawyer

Nissan IMx Crossover

This all-electric four-seater will be built on Nissan’s new EV platform should it reach production. Though the IMx has a claimed driving range of 373 miles (according to Japan’s JC08 protocol), that range promises to shrink quickly should you unleash the 420 horsepower and 516 lb.-ft. of torque available from the electric motors powering the front and rear wheels. It’s safe to say that when this concept reaches production later this decade as the Leaf SUV, it won’t have as much power, and will be more conventional in many other ways. You can expect the exterior styling to be much more subdued, a shame as the IMx is quite handsome, and the interior to seat five and be much less a designer’s flight of fancy.

Nissan also announced that it would be entering Formula E, taking the place of Renault in the all-electric single-seater series. This will allow Renault to put that money and effort into improving its Formula 1 chassis and powertrain, where it trails Mercedes and Ferrari and is regularly beaten by its customer, Red Bull Racing.

Yamaha Cross Hub

Everyone was expecting a concept automobile from Yamaha, but what they got was a pickup truck. A tiny pickup that’s just 177 in. long, 77 in. wide and 69 in. tall. In other words, it’s about the size of a compact sedan.

Though the last Yamaha concept, the Sports Ride of 2015, was designed and engineered by  Gordon Murray Design, and built around that company’s iStream production process, the Cross Hub’s only nod to Murray is its seating. The driver’s seat is centrally located, with a seat to either side and slightly behind, and a third passenger seat directly behind the driver’s seat. The unusual layout opens the area on either side of the cabin, allowing the cabin’s rear panel to curve forward. This liberates enough room for the front wheel of a motorcycle to be placed in the recess and tied down.

The Transformer-like front styling and McLaren F1+1 seating arrangement may not be to everyone’s taste, but Cross Hub brings fresh thinking to a segment that is more “me-too” than memorable and proves pickups don’t have to be gigantic.

Toyota TJ Cruiser

The TJ Cruiser brings back memories of a concept I created for Volvo back in 1999-2000. That vehicle combined attributes of a minivan and SUV in a single package, retaining the long roof, sliding rear doors and folding second and third row seats, and combined them with the ride height, all-wheel drive and tough stance of a sport utility vehicle. Though a bit too radical for Volvo at the turn of the century, Toyota’s TJ Cruiser places these attributes into a smaller package that — 17 years later — really is quite appealing.

Built on the modular TNGA platform that underpins the current Prius, Camry and C-HR, the sheer and boxy trucklet sits on a 108.3-in. wheelbase, and has minimal overhangs. Fold down the second row (which fold even with the rear load floor) and front passenger’s seat, and you have 118 in. of load space to play with, making it possible to carry bikes, surfboards, ladders and other long items inside and out of the elements.

The design team for the TJ Cruiser approached the project as they would production vehicle, making sure the car could be put into production with minimal trouble should it prove popular with showgoers. It can accommodate either front- or all-wheel drive, and is powered by a hybridized 2.0-liter four. Given the long flat floor and the fact that the TNGA platform has not yet spawned an all-wheel drive vehicle, it’s possible that a production TJ Cruiser would use a rear axle driven by an electric motor like the Toyota Highlander.

If Toyota’s scion brand still existed, we’d say this would be a no-brainer for sale in the U.S. under that banner. However, we expect Toyota’s U.S. dealer body will take a pass on the TJ Cruiser, afraid that it would be a tough sell alongside the C-HR.

Honda Sports EV

A couple of years ago, Honda was looking quite seriously at bringing its mid-engine S660 convertible sports car to the U.S. market. In place of the 660 cc JDM motor, a 1.0-liter turbocharged engine would be fitted to give it the power to go with its looks. Unfortunately, limited production, the cost of certifying the car for the U.S., and its higher than expected price scuttled the idea.

Honda rolled out its Sports EV at Tokyo, an all-electric sports car that would share the same platform as the Urban EV concept that debuted at Frankfurt. That car, with its first-generation Civic hatch overtones, is reportedly headed toward production, aimed at customers in Europe and Japan. Adapting it to produce a rear- or all-wheel drive small sports car would be relatively quick and easy, and give Honda a “green” replacement for the S660.

Subaru Viziv Performance Concept

Subaru is famous for creating concept cars that lose something — a lot of something, actually — in the translation to production. Undoubtedly, this four-door coupe will be no different, teasing with its taut, trim, handsome lines, only to be much more mediocre when the production version arrives as the new WRX.

The concept sits on a 107.5-in. wheelbase, and stretches 182.3 in. overall. It is 76.7 in. wide and 56.3 in. tall, making it slightly shorter and considerably wider and lower than the current WRX. And the wheelbase is just over three inches longer, suggesting the cabin will be roomier than ever, especially in the rear.

If the past is anything to go by, the production Viziv/WRX will be powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged boxer motor, and will have an intercooler mounted just below the hood scoop. Power will be sent to all four wheels through either a six-speed manual or CVT automatic. Unfortunately, that same past also tells us that the production car will be nowhere near as handsome as the concept.

Mitsubishi e Evolution Concept

While Subaru teased us with the handsome Viziv Performance concept, Mitsubishi pulled the wraps off its idea for the next Evo. Only this time, Mitsubishi’s Evolution isn’t a rally-bred sedan, it’s a battery powered SUV.

The battery pack is integrated into the floor and three electric motors — one driving the front axle, with a further pair in back providing torque vectoring — drive the wheels. Unfortunately, that’s all the information Mitsubishi provided.

The design, which is pyramidal in the way it slopes front and back and side-to-side, shows yet another take on Mitsubishi’s corporate nose. Unfortunately, it is similar to Lexus’s spindle grille, while the rear borrows from the discontinued Toyota Venza. The high body sides add solidity, but must make visibility difficult for shorter drivers. In addition, the C-pillar is cut to give a floating roof effect, and the upper portion runs along the cant rails to create a roof rack.

Mitsubishi is working on a crossover that will carry the Evolution name. Whether it will look anything like this concept, or live up to the promise of the name, is debatable.

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