Welcome to Tokyo!
To the eye, vehicles displayed at the Tokyo Auto Show lean more towards "transportation of the future" than "in dealerships next fall," but many of the exotic concepts shown are grounded in new hybrid and electric propulsion technology that is very close to being a reality today. And while many of the production vehicles shown at the Tokyo Auto Show are likely never to see U.S. roads, some will, like this $375,000 Lexus LFA supercar. So with that, open your imagination to these 15 futuristic rides from the 2009 Tokyo Auto Show.
Mitsubishi Concept PX-MiEV
What it is: A plug-in hybrid crossover with the ability to run on electric power for a range of 30 miles, after which a backup engine powers the electric motors for extended range.
What we like about it: Its cocochi-interior, which is not only fun to say, but also provides a "clean, stress-free and safe & reassuring" environment for passengers. Their words, not ours.
Coolest feature: Body paint incorporates heat-reflective and insulation technology to reduce the need to blast power-sapping air conditioning on hot summer days.
Nissan Land Glider concept
What it is: A battery-powered, zero-emissions tandem two-seater with the heart and dynamics of a motorcycle and the enclosed protection of a car. Also described by Nissan as a "personal city commuter."
What we like about it: Nissan's determination to actually produce something fairly similar in the not-too-distant future.
Coolest feature: Crash avoidance system in which sensors mounted in the body detect other vehicles and direct the Land Glider away from obstacles.
Lotus Exige Stealth
What it is: A one-of-35 special edition Exige coated in rubberized black matte paint and wearing a set of unique rims.
What we like about it: It looks like the type of car Batman might give his son on his 16th birthday — that is, if Batman wasn't destined to live alone.
Coolest feature: Lotus claims the paint actually has a "soft touch" to it that is actually four- to five-times more resistant to scratches than a normal paint job.
Toyota FT-86 concept
What it is: A stunning rear-wheel drive sports coupe concept from a company that isn't particularly known for building stunning rear-wheel drive sports coupes.
What we like about it: It's a nice reminder that Toyota isn't all Camrys and Corollas. (After all, they did bring us the Supra.)
Coolest feature: Contrast between sweeping smooth lines below the doors and the dagger-like headlamps.
Honda CR-Z concept
What it is: A hybrid sport coupe that offers the frugality and economy of an Insight with the spirit and styling of an updated Honda CR-X. While it's a concept, expect a production version soon that follows this design closely.
What we like about it: The entry-level hybrid market is lacking any kind of excitement, and the CR-Z changes that.
Coolest feature: Hybrid technology without lame hybrid design.
What it is: A V10-powered, 552-horsepower, 9,000-rpm-redline, 0-62-mph-in-3.7-seconds, one-of-500, $375,000 supercar…brought to you by Lexus. No, this isn't a concept. Yes, they will build it.
Coolest feature: Triangle-stacked galactic spaceship exhaust.
Subaru Hybrid Tourer concept
What it is: A good look into the future of Subaru's design language.
What we like about it: If this is how future Subarus are going to look, call us Crocodile Dundee.
Coolest feature: Giant gullwing doors that look like they were lifted off some futuristic Epcot theme park ride.
Honda EV-N concept
What it is: A petite plug-in electric vehicle whose lithium-ion-powered motor propels the front wheels.
What we like about it: Retro design that harkens back to the Honda 600. It's actually nice to see Japan on the retro bandwagon.
Coolest feature: The remote-start keyfob displays the car's level of battery charge.
Daihatsu Deca Deca concept
What it is: An ultra-boxy living space on wheels. The rear suicide door and lack of a B-pillar makes for an immense loading and cargo area.
What we like about it: Scooby-Doo's Mystery Machine has nothing on this.
Coolest feature: A table, movable folding seats and a slick built-in LCD TV mean you really could live in it pretty comfortably.
Subaru WRX STI Carbon
What it is: A Japanese market-only WRX STI with a carbon fiber roof, form-fitting Recaro seats and a choice of 296-hp or 305-hp turbocharged boxer engines.
What we like about it: Carbon fiber makes everything better. (No, the fake stick-on stuff doesn't count.)
Coolest feature: The red-stitched black suede dash adds class and rally-bred, glare-reducing practicality.
What it is: A featherweight, Lotus Exige-sized exotic powered by the Mazdaspeed3's turbocharged 2.3-liter direct injection 4-cylinder.
What we like about it: 263 horsepower in a car that weighs 1,100 lbs. less than the 'Speed3? Yes, please.
Coolest feature: Unconventionally-shaped wheel wells.
Mitsubishi i-MiEV Cargo
What it is: A taller, panel van version of Mitsubishi's regular i-MiEV electric vehicle targeted for commercial use.
What we like about it: In places cramped for space, like Tokyo, it only makes sense to build upwards instead of out.
Coolest feature: A whopping 62 cu. ft. of cargo space packed onto the back of a minicar.
Alpina B7 Bi-Turbo LWB
What it is: A long-wheelbase BMW 7-Series with a couple of turbochargers breathing new life into its V8, 21-inch wheels and luxurious custom interior touches.
What we like about it: Ferrari schmerrari — Alpina exclusivity is tough to beat.
Coolest feature: Hauling its enormousness from 0 to 60 in 4.8 seconds.
Nissan Fuga/Infiniti M
What it is: An all-new iteration of Infiniti's technology-laden M sedan (Nissan Fuga in Japan), wearing curvier sheet metal this time around. A hybrid is expected in 2011.
What we like about it: Aggressive new styling better matches its performance prowess.
Coolest feature: "Forest AC" climate control, which deodorizes the cabin air and creates backwoods-like breezes and fresh scents.
Mazda RX-500 concept
What it is: A 247-hp, 1,873-lb. rotary-powered supercar concept that originally debuted at the 1970 Tokyo auto show.
What we like about it: What's not to like?
Coolest feature: Forward-swinging butterfly-wing passenger doors and gullwing engine-access doors on that breadvan booty.