Most of the attention this year is focussed on an array of futuristic and hybrid vehicles boasting state-of-the-art technology that challenge conventional notions about driving.
The first hall the visitor enters features motorbikes and car parts. True aficionados of two wheeled transportation will want to check out the latest Suzuki super-bike, with its three-dimensionally mapped cams. Others will plumb for the timeless beauty of the 70s retro Ducatis.
The visitor then takes in an eyeful of the oddballs of the show, from colorful TVRs to customised Porsches and Mercedes to the three-wheeled Grinnall Scorpion, a so-called kit car that is half car and half bike.
Next comes a feast for lovers of Italian thoroughbreds. The show’s west hall is home to Lamborghini, Ferrari (replete with Enzo, if only in North American specs) and the new Maserati flagship — the huge Quattroporte that was unveiled at the show.
The adjoining hall houses the Fiat stand. The beautiful 8c Competizione concept car hints at how the Italian manufacturer will develop the Alfa Romeo brand in the new millennium.
Suzuki’s 4-metre-long concept
Nearby, Suzuki displays four concept cars: the S2 which should be heading for production soon, the S-Ride — a tandem two-seater attempting to blend the pleasure of a motorcycle with the practicality of a car, a futuristic 4×4 called Landbreeze and the Mobile Terrace, which, as the name suggests, is a powered slab to which a number of different bodies may be attached.
In the Centre Hall, Nissan also has a bevy of concept vehicles, but conspicuously lacks a GT-R, much to the disappointment of the media and fans. However, the bizarre Jikoo two-seater is interesting, if only because it manages to be futuristic and retro at the same time.
Mazda also managed the same trick with a teaser of what the next Roadster may look like — very similar to the original MX-5/Miata, but made of composite materials for an even better power to weight ratio.
Honda is reinforcing its racing heritage with race cars and sports models at the fore, and the latest concept of the NSX’s future at the rear.
But the real surprise of the main hall comes from South Korea showing the daring style and attractive lines of the latest Kias and Hyundais. If cars such as the Kia KCV-3 and Hyundai Neos-II make it to Japan in production form, domestic manufacturers may have a fight on their hands.
In the East Hall, the BMW 6-series has arrived, and is worth climbing inside to remember what really comfortable seats feel like. Mitsubishi has an expansive and impressive display, the highlights of which must be the aggressively styled Tarmac Spyder sporty drop-top, the SE-RO concept minivan which appears to have dropped in from an old Flash Gordon show and the futuristic “ai” subcompact hatchback concept, which will go on sale within a matter of months.
Confusingly, Daihatsu also has a concept car christened Ai, this one a boxy but cute 2+2 K-car aimed squarely at young mothers. It will be interesting to see which company gets to keep the name.
Daihatsu has one of the most interesting stands. The naked style D-Bone buggy is refreshingly different, the XL-C is strangely large for a K-car, while maintaining the exact same dimensions as all its competitors, and the incredible UFE-II hybrid car has achieved an incredibly slippery air resistance coefficient of 0.19, a world best which helped the car to another world record — 60km/l (over 160 mpg) fuel efficiency on mixed roads.
Honda’s new hybrid lightweight
Conversely, big brother Toyota’s stand is quite disappointing. The Fine-N and PM concept cars are incredible, but so far off current technology as to be ridiculous. The PM is a single-seat electric vehicle with a pod-like cabin and seat shape designed to fit the driver “almost like a glove,” according to Toyota. Although its original color is silver, the PM can also emit colored lights to make it look pink, green or blue. The cabin is independent from the suspension system, enabling the vehicle to vary its posture according to speed.
The show continues until 5 November.