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The Lexus NX 450h+ (right) is an SUV with enhanced trail-tackling skills, while the ROV (left) is a hydrogen-powered off-road toy. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Lexus NX 450h+ (right) is an SUV with enhanced trail-tackling skills, while the ROV (left) is a hydrogen-powered off-road toy. Picture: SUPPLIED

The motor industry showed off some of its most extravagant creations at last weekend’s Tokyo Auto Salon. The annual event is one of the world’s top motor shows for concept vehicles and modified cars, and brings out some of the automotive world’s most eye-catching fare.

Here are some of this year’s most standout models:

LEXUS NX 450H+ OFFROAD AND LEXUS ROV CONCEPTS

With the NX PHEV (plug-in hybrid vehicle) off-road and ROV concepts Lexus is showing more adventurous off-road leanings than usual for the luxury brand. The NX 450h+ model that’s usually a stylish family SUV for urban usage is given off road driving accoutrements such as a raised suspension height, 265/65R17 all-terrain rubber and a roof rack. It’s then given a glitzy polish though a customised bronze (Iron Oxide), matte black paint, smoked Lexus emblem and door mirror visors.

The NX 450h+ has all-wheel drive and it’s powered by 2.5l in-line four-cylinder petrol engine and a rear mounted electric motor. Total system output is 174kW and 391Nm, enough oomph to haul the new Recreational Off-highway Vehicle (ROV) concept.

This lightweight side-by-side romper aims to provide a stimulating seat-of-the-pants adventure drive when out in the bush. Aside from being painted in the same fancy Iron Oxide colour as the NX 450h+ and equipped with L-shaped front/rear headlamps, the ROV is also the first Lexus vehicle to use an environmentally friendly hydrogen engine.

It uses a 1.0l in-line three cylinder that's fuelled by compressed hydrogen gas. It has a sequential paddle shift + reverse transmission, and a drivetrain with selectable 2WD and 4WD with diff lock.

 

A prototype of the Honda Civic Type R was shown ahead of the car’s production debut later this year. Picture: SUPPLIED
A prototype of the Honda Civic Type R was shown ahead of the car’s production debut later this year. Picture: SUPPLIED

HONDA CIVIC TYPE R

As the latest version of Honda’s Civic hot hatchback gets closer to launch later this year, a prototype made its first public appearance at the Tokyo Auto Salon, fresh from testing at the Suzuka Circuit.

Wearing a special camouflage designed exclusively for Type R, the prototype is featured in a new test-driving video, so TAS visitors were able to go behind the scenes with Honda engineers and experience the car’s development.

Honda promises it will be the best performing Civic Type R ever when it hits the streets this year, but very little technical information is forthcoming.

Some styling details are hidden under the camouflage, but it looks as if the new Type R is designed with more restraint than the outgoing car, which is festooned with aggressive creases and air scoops. The large rear wing and triple exhausts are, however, carried over.

Power is likely to come from a rehashed version of the existing 228kW and 400Nm 2.0l turbo four-cylinder engine, potentially with hybrid assistance.

 

The Subaru STI E-RA is a concept for an electric race car. Picture: REUTERS
The Subaru STI E-RA is a concept for an electric race car. Picture: REUTERS

SUBARU STI E-RA

This is a concept model of an electric race car being developed under STI’s near-future motorsport study project. It’s for gathering experience with new technologies in the world of motorsports for the carbon-neutral era.

​The STI E-RA concept is powered by one motor at each wheel, with a torque vectoring system that raises grip levels to the maximum by independently applying the optimum drive to the four wheels as the body load shifts.

Maximum system output is 800kW and the Japanese brand says the first goal of the STI E-RA is to try to record a lap time of 400 seconds (six minutes 40 seconds) in a time attack at the Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit. To put this into context, they are aiming to go three seconds faster than the current production-car record holder, the Porsche 911 GT2 RS.

 

The Yaris GRMN is is a more hardcore, track-focused version of the GR Yaris that was recently unveiled in SA. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Yaris GRMN is is a more hardcore, track-focused version of the GR Yaris that was recently unveiled in SA. Picture: SUPPLIED

TOYOTA YARIS GRMN

Toyota is intensifying its efforts to build exciting cars for customers seeking some adrenaline.

The latest generation of the Yaris GRMN (Gazoo Racing Masters of Nürburgring) is a more hardcore, track-focused version of the GR Yaris that was recently unveiled in SA.

This sizzling subcompact hatch shares its 1.6l turbocharged 198kW three-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive system with the GR Yaris, but its laptime-chasing potential is improved with a mechanical limited-slip differential, closer ratios in the six-speed manual gearbox, and a more rigid body that is 20kg lighter and 10mm wider.

The GRMN also squats 10mm lower to the road, and the rear seats have been removed. The two front seats are full Recaro bucket versions with side airbags.

Buyers can also further upgrade their vehicles with optional Circuit and Rally packages.

The Yaris GRMN is exclusive to the Japanese market and only 500 will be built.

 

The GR GT3 Concept signals a Toyota that GT3 customers would want to race. Picture: SUPPLIED
The GR GT3 Concept signals a Toyota that GT3 customers would want to race. Picture: SUPPLIED

TOYOTA GR GT3 CONCEPT

Toyota Gazoo Racing’s (TGR) promise to provide attractive and exciting cars has also resulted in the new GR GT3 Concept race car. If it comes to fruition, it likely will be poised as a customer purchase for teams wanting to race in the FIA GT3 series against the likes of Porsche 911 GT3, Ferrari 488, Lamborghini Huracan GT3 and others.

At this stage it’s unknown whether it will go racing but Toyota said this is how it can test out new technologies with a view to using them in both future road and racing programmes, or it could spawn a road GT to go head-to-head with super car royalty.

The Japanese carmaker won’t say what’s under the bonnet, but it’s certainly one of the meanest-looking Toyotas we’ve seen.

 

The custom Z Proto is a sportier execution of Nissan’s new two-seater coupe. Picture: SUPPLIED
The custom Z Proto is a sportier execution of Nissan’s new two-seater coupe. Picture: SUPPLIED

NISSAN FAIRLADY Z PROTO

The retro-modern successor to the Nissan 370Z will be launched in the Japanese market later this year where it will be called the Fairlady Z. Its styling pays homage to Z cars through the ages, including the original 240Z of the 1970s, and power is supplied by a V6 twin-turbocharged engine.

Three models were displayed at the Salon including a custom version called the Nissan Z Proto, with a sportier design and striking orange paint finish. It has a tapered front end with additional air inlets, with racing stripes and black accents to enhance its athletic appeal.

Nissan didn't give much information about the car, but potentially it points to a high-performance Nismo version of the two-seater sports coupe.

It is not known when the Nissan Z might come to SA.

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