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November 9, 2015

Tokyo Motor Show 2015: Toyota Asks - What Wows You?

Photos by Ulysses Ang
Since taking over in 2009, Toyota Motor Corporation’s President Akio Toyoda had one simple goal for the company: make cars that bring joy to the driving experience. Roughly six years on, the world’s largest automaker has been delivering on this promise by creating cars that are uniquely designed and well-engineered. But what sort of future does Toyota foresee? What kind of driving wonder can people expect decades from now?

Their vision for the future is outlined at their exhibit in the Tokyo Motor Show. “What Wows You” is a simple theme, but asks much more difficult questions: What moves people? What can Toyota do? What is the future of mobility and what can be brought out by the relationship between people and cars? Through these questions, Toyota launched an array of amazing concepts as well as the debut of one of their core products: the all-new Prius.

The fourth-generation Toyota Prius took the center stage and is said to combine groundbreaking environmental performance with a bold new design and fun-to-drive spirit. Underpinned by Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA)—it’s set to become the pillar for a platform that allows engineers to develop a wide array of powertrain components and vehicles. The sleekly designed Prius is designed with the new Iconic Human-tech design philosophy that merges emotional and rational vehicle factors.

In redesigning the Prius, designers have moved the peak of the roof by 170 millimeters lowering the maximum height by 20 millimeters. The result is the unique roofline that still keeps ample head clearance for adults, but cuts the co-efficient of drag to 0.24. Inside, it features a thin, horizontal motif to its dashboard to maximize space while redesigned seats offer improved comfort for all occupants.

Enhancements were also done to achieve more than 40 km/L. The 1.8-liter VVT-i equipped Atkinson cycle (2ZR-FXE) engine now has 40 percent thermal efficiency—the highest ever in a mass-produced engine thanks to a re-designed intake port, large volume Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) system, and many more. The hybrid portion—the motors, batteries, and such are also lighter and smaller with less electrical loses. And for the first time, it can be equipped with either Nickel-Metal Hydride or Lithium-ion batteries. A new E-Four (electric four-wheel drive) system is also optional.

Next to the Prius is Toyota’s S-FR Concept—a perky vehicle that continues the brand’s heritage of fun-to-drive lightweight sports cars. Pitched as an entry-level model that slots below the Toyota 86, the S-FR Concept features a long nose and wide stance—archetypal of a sports car. It has a full-fledged FR layout with the engine mounted in a front midship location. This ensures optimal weight distribution. All around independent suspension makes for outstanding cornering performance. No powertrain was mentioned, but it does pack a six-speed manual.

Overall, the S-FR Concept is conceptualized as the kind of vehicle that attracts a die-hard fan base. It keeps the joy of feeling in sync with the car even when used daily. It’s therefore important for Toyota (if they decide to build it) to keep it low cost while allowing owners the flexibility (and fun) to customize it.

The trio of main showcases at the Toyota stand is capped off by the C-HR Concept—a car that already made its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

It embodies a new direction in Toyota design with a strong sense of individuality, very important in the highly competitive crossover market. It’s distinctive because of its diamond-inspired styling, sculpted and chamfered to represent the surface of a gemstone. It also builds on Toyota’s two key styling elements: Keen Look and Under Priority—creating an emphatic profile that emphasizes the lower grille while increasing aerodynamic performance, cooling, and pedestrian safety.

Also underpinned by the TNGA, the C-HR Concept has a highly rigid body for handling stability and riding comfort. The Concept is aimed for a production launch by the Geneva International Motor Show in March and may come with a hybrid drivetrain.

Tucked away to the side of the main stage is the Toyota Kikai Concept—a car that embodies human creativity. It was designed to explore and emphasize the fundamental appeal of machines from their beauty, simplicity, and fascinating motion. It takes machinery, normally hidden beneath the body, and makes it open for display. This attention to detail is carried on to the fuel tank, reserve tank, and even the exhaust pipes. Analog-style meters and switches cap off the looks.

It also promises a different kind of driving sensation through the small window at the driver’s feet. Here, one can see the movements of the tires and the suspension as well as the rush of speed along the road surface. Through the windshield, the upper control arm is also visible. The adoption of a central driver’s seat gives an even more sensory connection with the car while the optimal spacing between the three passenger seats is achieved by their triangular layout.

Finally, the future of mobility is shown in the FCV Plus—a concept car that not only uses hydrogen fuel cells to power it, but can even generate electricity directly from hydrogen stored outside the vehicle. Furthermore, it can share its power generation capabilities with the power grid.

Also on display were a test vehicle, the Yaris WRC, currently under development with a view to participation in the FIA World Rally Championship, and a Land Cruiser used in the Toyota Discovery Tour, an employee driving project launched in June 2015.

Toyota also introduced Kirobo Mini, a robotic communication partner always at the customer's side.

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