Tokyo Motor Show's big sights, oversights and eyesores
It’s not every year that our man David Undercoffler gets to attend the Tokyo Motor Show. That’d be weird since it’s a biennial show. So when he goes, he makes the most of his trip, taking time to sample the vending-machine corn soup, stocking up on manga books for the flight home and, for your sake … er … benefit, checking out the cars. Here’s what caught his eye.
HIT: The Mazda brand
Like Cindy Crawford at a Grateful Dead show, Mazda was hogging all the sexy this year in Tokyo. The degree to which its designs were showing up its larger countrymen such as Honda, Toyota and Nissan was almost embarrassing. First Mazda rolled out the Vision Coupe, a pewter-colored look at what a rear-wheel-drive sedan from Mazda might look like if the brand ever had the kintama to build one. It was accompanied on the next stand over by the Kai Concept, a more production-oriented hatchback that teases the next Mazda3 that’s due shortly. Complicated design is easy. Specimens like this are hard. Ogling the sleek and subtle lines, curves and detailing on these two models was the best part of my trip — and I ate my body weight in Kobe beef one night.
MISS: Honda Sports EV Concept
Sequels are almost never better than the original — just ask my younger brother. So it should come as no surprise that the follow-up to Honda’s scene-stealing charmer, the Urban EV from the Frankfurt show, didn’t light up the dojo in Tokyo. Yes, the back half is nicely done despite a blind spot the size of Vermont, but the odd proportions of the squished front end look like a cartoon. Overall, the car is too damn cute; it looks like a hand-held vacuum I’m getting my aunt for Christmas. Extra demerits to Honda brass for playing up this car’s “beautility.” Even Pat Sajak knows that’s not a word.
Toyota Tj Cruiser
HIT: Toyota Tj Cruiser interior
Consider this thing the love child of Honda’s Element and Ford’s Flex. Hold your nose as you walk up to it but breathe a sigh of relief once you’re inside. This thing hauls. Stuff — not butt — since it’s a hybrid. Despite a footprint smaller than Toyota’s RAV4, it’s cavernous inside and oozes practicality. Fold down the three passenger seats completely flat and you can fit something nearly 10 feet long in here (no need to roll up your CVS receipt). Plus, it’s powered by a 2.0-liter engine and the Prius hybrid system and will come in four-wheel drive. It’s a win all around. Until you drive by a mirror.
MISS: Toyota Tj Cruiser exterior
Look guys, it’s late here. I’ve eaten more raw fish in the past 72 hours than is legal and I’m not sure all of it was dead yet. So if you need me to actually explain to you why this thing is ugly — why it hurts to look at something resembling a pixelated manatee — I can’t help you. You’re in LensCrafters’ hands now.
MISSING: Toyota Supra
What’s that? You didn’t see the all-new Toyota Supra at the Tokyo show? The one Big T and BMW have been working on since Gerald Ford was plunking people with golf balls? The one everyone was sure would debut in Tokyo, making it essentially the only production model to actually break cover at the show? Neither did I. It wasn’t there. In fact, there were basically no production debuts in Tokyo this year. So let’s all pretend the Supra arrived, that it was awesome and fast and not at all ugly, and that there’s still a business case for sub-$100,000 sports cars. Because by the time this car and its cousin, the BMW Z4, finally land, there won’t be.
AARGH: Subaru Viziv Performance Concept
Deception. It’s what makes a Subaru concept a Subaru. For years the brand has trotted out ultra-sexy/cool/badass concepts that have enthusiasts salivating and industry nerds nodding that li’l Subaru really can keep pace with the bigguns. Then the production versions arrive, and Subaru makes suckers of all of us. Enough’s enough. Roll out a concept that looks as good as this baby — built to tease the next WRX/STI — and then hit Control-B for build. Don’t water it down, don’t clinic it. Just add door handles and real mirrors. Your instincts are great. Your accountants need to be locked out of the building.