Ignore its road-going, jet-fighter looks. The decidedly triangular Nissan BladeGlider three-seater is more eco-supercar than bullet-from-a-gun sportscar. As Satoru Tai, design director for Nissan's product design department, puts it: 'We wanted a less aggressive and more peaceful feel. This car doesn't attack anything. It's about a coasting feeling - gliding, in fact.' Despite its ultra-aero shape, scissor doors, unusual central driving position and full-electric powertrain, Nissan has strongly suggested a car quite like this concept will go on sale in a few years, with good range potential to boot. Exciting stuff.
This awesome front-hinged, canopy-opening, four-wheel pod concept is controlled not by a steering wheel but by a standing driver shifting his body intuitively in the intended direction. It 'talks' with nearby vehicles via sensors to avoid accidents and encourages an emotional relationship with the driver like a horse and rider - but in this case it uses voice and image recognition to ascertain the driver's mood before suggesting destinations and driving style. The car is intended to be hi-tech as well as personal. Replacing the conventional dashboard is a head-up display on the canopy windscreen, which features augmented-reality info, and exterior body panels that are customisable with a roster of projected digital images, like an automotive screen saver. It's a far-off concept in packaging terms, we suspect, but the accident-avoidance and head-up displays with augmented reality showcase interesting nearer-term tech, too.
Having withdrawn from so many markets in the past few years (including Europe and Australia), the Daihatsu brand is becoming something of an enigma to Western eyes, but it always makes a strong showing at its home car expo. Our favourite was the FC Deck, a kei car-sized cubic truck cab with a ridged-back chassis housing a flatpack fuel cell system. As far-fetched as that sounds, the tech behind Daihatsu's concepts should not be dismissed lightly, considering Toyota Group is its parent company.
Honda showed its cute EV-N electric city-car concept back in 2009 with an 'electric unicycle' strapped to the door for traversing city streets too narrow for four-wheelers. Its 2013 version, UNI-CUB β, improves on the unicycle idea. Here the rider still moves north, south, east or west by gently leaning in the intended direction, but with improved usability, a lower seating position and reduced weight and size. It's classic Tokyo show stuff and, we can confirm from a test drive, a hoot to pilot.
Denim-clad cars can be counted on the fingers of one hand, the most notable being the rather special 1970s AMC Pacer Levi's edition. So it was with considerable pleasure that Wallpaper* noticed the seats of the 2013 iDX Freeflow concept car, zipped up in authentic Japan selvedge denim. Moreover, the dashboard and transmission tunnel were wrapped in thick cream leather, with exposed stitching of the kind you might find on an designer handbag or even a saddle. With a beige and white exterior of unusually sawn-off saloon proportions and a 'broken' rear-pillar that makes the roof appear to float, the Freeflow was one of the unexpected stars of the show.
In case the denim car interior isn't your thing, Nissan offered up another iDX concept called Nismo, named for its motorsport division. Using the same basic proportions as the Freeflow, the Nismo overhauled the look with traditional motor-racing details made contemporary, like pronounced side exhausts, go-faster numbers, carbon-fibre surfacing and cool interior switches in white, red and black.
Barring its wonky LF-NX compact SUV misstep at the 2013 Frankfurt motor show, Lexus has been on a conceptual-design roll. And the production-ready RC Coupé proves its concepts are turning into products you can buy. This sporty 2+2 retains the essence of the excellent 2012 LF-LC and LF-CC concepts, and is slated to go on sale from late 2014 in hybrid and go-faster V8 F variants to rival the BMW 4-series and M4.
Mitsubishi has had as many design misses as hits lately, but out of its three new concepts at Tokyo, the AR stood out for its mix of SUV design cues within a compact MPV package. Adventure-seeking young families familiar with the large MPV 4x4 Delica - a regular Japanese production car and a cult grey import in the UK - will be delighted to hear the news that this AR could morph into a mini-Delica production car in a few years' time.
Another surprise at Tokyo was a two-seater designed by motorbike specialist Yamaha. Using the highly credible engineering platform of former McLaren F1 supercar-designer Gordon Murray, the MOTIV.e is smaller and 200kg lighter than a Smart and designed to European specifications. It's also manufactured with a lean, Murray-patented process that he says results in 80 per cent less factory space (and resulting emissions savings). Yamaha has some experience in four-wheelers, with a quad bike range and a history of forays into car production, so Gordon Murray hopes MOTIV.e will take on the likes of upscale city cars like Toyota's iQ and Smart's Fortwo. As he says, 'Yamaha's management seems pretty serious about it. They didn't engage us to do a show car. It's a fully production-intent vehicle, all the body engineering is done and it's drivable.'
The former Pininfarina creative director and talent behind the 599 and Enzo Ferraris, Ken Okuyama now designs everything from sportscars to eyewear to tractor concepts, like this one for Yanmar. Unfortunately the production version due in 2014 will see quite a few changes, although Okuyama's office says the overall aesthetic will remain - and beleaguered Japanese farmers may get financial assistance from the government to purchase one. Stylish ploughing with a discount - nice.