JAPANESE - LEFT, OTHER - RIGHT
On the streets of Tokyo you can hardly see a traffic policeman. Anyone who is familiar with the life of the Japanese capital by publications a decade ago, can assume: they died out, could not stand the famous Tokyo smog. And he’ll make a mistake, because there is no smog on the streets! Years of struggle for clean exhaust, public pressure on automakers and, as a result, the ubiquity of catalytic converters have done their job. However, the problem is not considered resolved at all, and most of the exhibits of the current 32nd Tokyo Motor Show serve as proof of this. Correspondents "Behind the wheel" managed to visit this, the most prestigious auto show in the East.
Photo by Vladimir Knyazev
After an overabundance of impressions from the Frankfurt Motor Show, which ended a month before Tokyo, it is calm and homely here. Cars are allocated three halls of a large and bright pavilion, which is also divided by a through passage through all the halls. Even with the most cursory acquaintance, a peculiarity is evident: only Japanese automobile companies are located on one side of the aisle, and “overseas, ” that is, “overseas, ” are located on the other. And although their number is about three times greater, they occupy the same area as the local ones. In general, of course, this is logical - foreigners fill only a few percent of the Japanese market.
Before arriving in Tokyo, it seemed that the exhibits of Japanese companies would be most interesting, and you should not expect new products from the rest: Frankfurt-97 had just ended. Reality has refuted these assumptions. And how much!
We leave the press center and, going down the escalator, we get to where countless squads of journalists from around the world attack the seemingly vast sea of cars, and hundreds of young stand-men are slightly memorized, but charmingly smiling at the lenses of an unimaginable number of photographers.
So, we are in the East Hall, on the left hand are the "Japanese", on the right - the rest. Let's start with the owners, that is, on the left. And the first company on our journey will be Isuzu, which will present two areas of its activity - trucks and sport utility vehicles - off-road vehicles. In fact, it produces both Asco and Gemini cars, but they are not new, and they are not very successful. But all-terrain vehicles, on the contrary, have proven themselves well. Among them, the gaze immediately stops on familiar lines. Oh yes, it's almost Opel Frontera! Naturally, cooperation with Opel is no coincidence - after all, Isuzu, in fact, belongs to the General Motors concern and Japanese developments are used by other branches of the corporation.
It is unlikely that anyone will argue that the forms of the current "puffy" off-road vehicles are already becoming obsolete. The company introduced a couple of concepts, as stated in a press release, "the near future." One of them, VX-2 (the company itself writes VX2 in some places, likening, by the way, to the same “g-emo" SAAB with its 95) is very similar to predatory sport prototypes for rally raids. From the car, it blows tangibly restrained power. A certain question is raised only by headlights - should such a real off-road vehicle have such? The second prototype, the ZACCAR, looks more peaceful, and its unusual body attracts attention with swing doors without middle pillars and a rear section transformed “for any needs”.
Next on the left hand is the Mitsubishi. As you remember, recently gasoline engines with direct injection, developed by this company, have caused great interest. Now she, of course, is not alone in possessing this technology (looking ahead, we’ll note that almost all Japanese car manufacturers have developed GDI variants - Gasoline Direct Injection), however, taking advantage of it, she has equipped this type of engine with almost all of her cars. Prototypes were not an exception, two of which - HSR-VI and TETRA - are familiar to us from Frankfurt (the second was called Technas there), and the third MAIA, in addition to the GDI engine, also has a V-belt variator in the transmission. The interior of the last car is unusually multifunctional, there are many options for installing and adjusting seats, and for luggage, both the trunk itself and the removable box behind the rear bumper are used. Appearance, however, is doubtful - it is unlikely that the motorist’s eye will ever get used to such forms. Although how to know?
Of the latest Mitsubishi models, it is also worth noting a couple of RVRs (on board, it means JVRs are on board) and RVR Sports Gear, the relatives of a good station wagon of increased capacity Space Gear, as well as the all-new Shariot Grandis minivan, mind clearly intended for the American market. All three models will appear on sale (naturally, in Japan) in the very near future.
We will not stop on Hino trucks, it’s better to go to the Mercedes stand on the “foreign” half of this hall. Well, revival! And it is by no means caused by the A- or ML-class. Maybach appeared at the stand! (Note that the rights to this famous brand have belonged to Mercedes since 1961.) The company reports that although it is still a concept car, “but more than a concept, ” it is the embodiment of all the most advanced technologies. The machine simply suppresses with its grandeur. The complex design of the front lighting fixtures, hidden under a common hood, resembles the faceted eye of an insect, the glass roof has a dimmer control. Thanks to aluminum and magnesium parts, the V12 six-liter engine is much lighter than the standard, and part of the cylinders are turned off to save fuel. The car was conceived as "the very top" of the production program of the Mercedes and, probably, in some way the competitor of Rolls-Royce is also a car for traveling with a driver. I must say, the rival turned out to be glorious - teams from the Japanese (they won the competition), the American and German design studios of Mercedes worked on it. One may wonder why the Tokyo Salon was chosen for the premiere. However, even a quick count of the number of people passing through the streets of the Japanese capital S600 (there are even more of them here than in Moscow) confirms that the German strategists were not mistaken.
In the next room, we will miss the stand of the cargo compartment of Nissan and immediately fall into the arms of Toyota. Fourteen prototypes and 44 production models! Of course, such a scale is "laid" for the largest Japanese car manufacturer, and yet it is amazing. However, some prototypes are familiar from Frankfurt, and among the others were cars of a very close future, three of which we will now name. The first (in terms of size and probably interest in Russia), of course, will be the Grand Kruizer, or, as they say on the company itself, the Kruizer of the 100 series - it will replace the current Land Kruizer. The electronic active suspension control system (ANS) allows us to talk about the dual purpose of the car - both comfortable for the highway and off-road vehicle. Somewhat smaller and simpler than another "sport utility", "Harrier". The third in this series is the NC250, by the definition of the company itself, a compact luxury sedan; after the start of production, it, like the Grand Kruizer, is likely to be delivered to Russia.
Another prototype does not seem to be a novelty - at first glance, this is the well-known long-base RAV-4. However, do not rush to be disappointed - firstly, this is an electric car. And secondly, not an ordinary electric car (say, like the American EV-1), but a car with fuel cells: methanol poured into the tank, as a result of complex chemical and physical transformations, is spent on generating electricity, while the exhaust contains only CO2! Unlike conventional electric vehicles, at one gas station the car will be able to drive about 500 km, which roughly corresponds to the performance of its gasoline counterparts.
There was also a “real” electric car in the exposition of Toyota - this is a tiny urban “e-com” with nickel-metal hydride batteries and a maximum mileage of 100 km per charge.
It is impossible to name all the “Toyota” news, we will stop only on two more. One is already a production car, called the Prius (the prototype was in Moscow, at MIMS-96). Not only the original and pleasant appearance makes it stand out among other serial cars. The Prius powerplant is interesting - it is hybrid. We have already talked about a similar Audi Duo (ЗР, 1996, No. 10), a similar principle is implemented here - the electric motor drives the wheels, and in difficult conditions, a gasoline motor is connected to accelerate or recharge the batteries (Audi has a diesel engine). As a result, the fuel consumption of a rather big car is only a little more than 3.5 l / 100 km! Another car - Toyota-Crown-Majesta - is simpler and more interesting because it has a gasoline engine with direct injection.
The next on our way is the Honda stand. Here we are waiting for the new “Accord”, intended, however, so far only for the Japanese market, “Accord-Wagon” (that is, the station wagon), as well as “Torneo”, a new model created on the basis of the “Chord”. The technical part of the entire trinity at the level of the best modern models - a two-liter engine with variable phases, a five-link suspension, steering with an electric power amplifier and a variable gear ratio, a stabilization system - in general, everything that a buyer expects from such cars.
Naturally, the company could not do without several prototypes, and the most interesting of them seemed J-VX, a compact sports car of extraordinary appearance. The machine is driven by a 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine with variable phases (VTEC proprietary system) and direct fuel injection (as it should now). Is the motor too small? It’s small, but for a uniform motion it’s just enough, and during acceleration it will help … an additional electric motor! It will also serve as a generator when decelerated, returning the energy expended during acceleration to the battery. Two more prototypes, J-WJ (compact all-terrain vehicle) and J-MW (micro-van, although the company denies this), were more like pre-production copies, and the fourth, J-MJ … The press release says: this is a car, when it’s going, and the room, when it’s standing. In general, something like that is, and in addition, the car is distinguished by four-wheel drive and a strange angular body shape.
Horizontal boxer engine, four-wheel drive - with these words you can start the description of most Subaru models. The Exiga concept car, a rather large but pretty station wagon, is no exception. If you remember, the concept of “a-Exigue” was shown in Geneva, the current one is its obvious successor.
Since we already got acquainted with the novelties of a part of Japanese companies, it is easy to guess that the second Subaru concept car, Elten, should be equipped with a hybrid power plant. So it is, and under the hood, as well as under the floor of the car, a four-cylinder gasoline engine with a volume of only 658 cm3, an electric motor, lithium batteries and capacitors fit. Transmission - with a V-belt variator, in addition, all-wheel drive ("Subaru"!) With a viscous clutch as an interaxle differential. Solar panels on the roof complement the picture. And all this - with a car length of 3.4 m. By the way, its appearance is very similar to the Subaru-360, the first of the company’s production cars that appeared forty years ago.
So we walked along the left side of the Central Hall, and what is there on the right, how are the “foreigners” doing? Of course, there’s no such fireworks there, but still it’s not boring - Ford shows the new Lincoln Continental, a big car for big people, and the concept (or rather, a joke of the designers) of the Torus Santa Fe, an all-wheel drive station wagon, camouflaged as a car for heavy roads - the headlights are covered with a net, and … a shovel is mounted in the driver's door.
And still the Volkswagen stand was more interesting. Of course, Golf IV was here, but even it didn’t attract visitors like a magnet. There was a yellow squat sports car with guillotine doors and an all-wheel drive transmission. Well, suppose her appearance is quite ordinary for this class of cars, except that the VW badge looks strange on such a monster. But engine, engine! From afar, it seems like an ordinary V-shaped motor. The inscription on the cover, however, reads: "W12." A technical miracle is obtained by combining two VR6. The truth is, the rumors about this engine have excited the automotive community for a long time, and it was intended for the "higher echelon" that had not yet been mastered by the German company. Apparently, now on the way - a large luxury sedan or even a limousine.
Let's move on to the last, Western Hall. The first on the left hand we are met by "Suzuki" - a company specializing mainly in small cars. And here she did not change her image by introducing three small concepts - C2, a friend from Frankfurt, a ST-1 electric van with nickel hydride batteries (mileage up to 240 km), as well as a UW-1 microven with a four-cylinder liter engine. The glazing of the latter is made “as large as possible”, and the motor is hidden under the floor at the rear of the machine. It seems that the rear-engine layout is returning (remember, say, “Mercedes” “Smart”).
Mazda seems to love arithmetic. Therefore, apparently, she introduced "2 new cars, 3 concepts, 4 new technologies." Let's start with the new products. Firstly, it is, of course, the Mazda Roadster, which will soon replace the current MX-5. Conceptually, the design will remain the same, but the power unit and the rear differential (by the way, with limited slippage, such as the Thorsen) will be connected by an aluminum frame, which increases stability and accuracy of control, say, during sharp acceleration. In the near future, the new Capella-Wagon station wagon, the Japanese version of the well-known 626 model, will also be on sale. Like all other "Japanese", the company has already created its own engine with direct injection of gasoline, and from the rest of the developments, we can mention the concept - the minivan MV-X and nickel-hydrogen fuel cells.
According to estimates by analysts at Nissan, almost 90% of the time a private car carries no more than two people (including the driver). Therefore, two-seater cars should have good demand. Since, moreover, 90% of cars travel no more than 70 km per day, such a car can be made electric. And now the concept with the straightforward name "Hypermini" is ready. But what else do you call a vehicle 2.5 meters long and less than a half wide? But the energy efficiency is record high - only on electric trains and the metro.
Another Nissan concept - the Style 6 station wagon is equipped with the already mentioned “gentleman's kit” - there is a direct-injection engine, an electric motor, a V-belt variator. Externally, the car, however, is scary.
The hybrid propulsion system also drives a small car with an aluminum body, called … AL-X (remember Audi with its Al-2?). As they say, know ours - in the East they are also good at working with aluminum! The promising developments of Nissan include a toroidal V-belt variator, methanol fuel cells, water-repellent glasses … Of the developments of the more near future, R'nessa cars and a small but tall Cube.
“We make compact” - says the advertising slogan “Daihatsu”. It is hard to disagree - most of its cars do not reach four meters in length. The company did not invent new powertrains, and all of its concept cars are powered by gasoline engines. But a number of novelties are entertaining - the tiny “athlete” FR-X, the angular universal X070 and the pretty NCX hatchback (it’s on our cover), the almost four-meter AKINDO commercial car with the seagull wing back door … And what kind of vehicle is this? It is somewhat similar to a scooter, only a four-door, three-seater, four-wheel, with two round headlights. “Daihatsu” calls it “mini-sedan” “Midget IV”, it is made on the basis of “Midget II”, an equally tiny (only 2990 mm in length) delivery truck. Naturally, at the “Daihatsu” stand there was also a pair of electric vehicles based on already known cars.
We cross the path again, and we are at the Opel stand. The new “Astra” did not make any furore in Japan, and the City Trekker concept car seems to be close to the future Astra Caravan. Another German company, BMW, apparently overcame nostalgia - and she decided to recall the once famous "507". Now, in a new guise, this is a black-and-black sports coupe with round xenon “eyes” and the name Z07. So far - a concept, but promising. The machine was created on the basis of the nodes of the current fifth and seventh series, so it can be mastered without any special costs. “Z07 - a dream or a reality?” - BMW asks a rhetorical question and evasively answers it - from 1956 to 1959 252 BMW-507 cars were produced. A hint of small batch production?
So, we went (or rather ran) on the stands of the Tokyo Motor Show-97. Does it look like some European car dealerships? Perhaps most of all - to Geneva. And a relatively compact exposure, and a clear organization, and, of course, an abundance of all kinds of prototypes and concept cars. Only the main emphasis here is not on body design, but on the advanced design and technology. There would be “offal” - and the form for them, in the end, can be ordered in Italy.
In general, a car is a small field where the Japanese are free to express themselves more or less freely: everything else is strictly regulated by written and unwritten rules, ceremonial oriental etiquette. To some extent, the “non-inviting” appearance of the car is subordinate to them, but there, inside, a couple of air conditioners, a lot of servos, a host of all kinds of electronic systems are waiting for the owner … Japanese companies, producing serial cars and “composing” concept cars naturally take into account the mentality of their fellow citizens. And also - the requirements of ecology and resource conservation, which is more than relevant for a small island country.
Our report covered only the main, “cross-cutting” topics of the car dealership. We will return to some interesting exhibits in future publications, but now we note that the East is a “delicate matter”. It is difficult for a European to even imagine the structure of those internal interconnections and interdependencies that make Japanese designers go almost in step: after all, according to the description, most concepts of the car dealership are almost relatives. Remember: a hybrid powerplant, direct injection, V-belt variator …
Or maybe it’s its own, incomprehensible eastern depth - the depth of half tones and nuances?
Toyota Grand Kruiser.
In the afternoon this street belongs to pedestrians.
"Mazda Capella Wagon."
Daihatsu Midget IV.
"Opel City Tracker."