Salon has all the fun of the flare

The Advertiser - Motoring - - NEWS - CRAIG DUFF

FLARES have never gone out of fash­ion in Ja­pan and the an­nual Tokyo Auto Salon shows why.

The event is famed for its af­ter­mar­ket ren­di­tions of reg­u­lar cars and high­per­for­mance ver­sions of the Ja­panese mar­ket-spe­cific 660cc Kei cars. It’s the Asian equiv­a­lent of the SEMA af­ter­mar­ket auto-fest in the US.

The tuner-fo­cused event is a dis­play of the aero­dy­nam­ics, en­gines and interiors that will shape the fu­ture of the Ja­panese au­to­mo­tive scene — by ex­ten­sion, it pre­views what the car brands re­gard as the next di­rec­tion for their ve­hi­cles.

Most of the show cars are from com­pa­nies closely aligned to the man­u­fac­tur­ers, from Ga­zoo Rac­ing, as­so­ci­ated with Toy­ota, to Honda’s Mu­gen per­for­mance arm and Nis­san’s Nismo off­shoot. The com­mon theme is that the makers have ap­proved the cars for show.

The Toy­ota GT 86 ex­em­pli­fies this point. The light­weight sport­ster will be shown in GRMN (that is, Ga­zoo Rac­ing Mas­ters of the Nur­bur­gring) guise with mi­nor boosts in power and torque thanks to re­duced in­ter­nal fric­tion in the 2.0-litre en­gine, along with aero aids and up­graded brakes.

Only 100 ex­am­ples will be built ex­clu­sively for Ja­pan but ex­pect to see the en­gine up­grades, along with some of the phys­i­cal tweaks, in the next re­vi­sion of the GT 86.

Subaru’s take on that is an STI-tweaked version of its BRZ twin, though this con­cept is tur­bocharged and looks near pro­duc­tion-ready. It’s a pity that Subaru of­fi­cially says it has no plans to force-feed reg­u­lar pro­duc­tion mod­els.

The BRZ will be joined by a Levorg wagon STI and an Im­preza XV hy­brid con­cept.

Mazda has a ro­tary-pow­ered RX-Vi­sion sports car to show off. The en­gine is the lat­est evo­lu­tion in its en­gi­neers’ con­tin­ued at­tempts to keep the en­gine rel­e­vant in an age that doesn’t tol­er­ate ex­ces­sive emis­sions, though Mazda isn’t re­veal­ing its out­puts or fuel econ­omy claims.

The sta­ble­mate CX-3 and MX-5 con­cepts are more an ex­te­rior makeover, with heigh­tad­justable sus­pen­sion matched to new spoil­ers and colours.

Mu­gen is Honda’s pre­ferred tuner for Tokyo and the com­pany is show­ing a tweaked HR-V and a Civic Type-R (the pro­duc­tion version of which has al­ready been re­jected for Aus­tralia). Honda’s in-house Mo­dulo sty­ing arm has its ver­sions of the same ve­hi­cles, with a less rad­i­cal ex­te­rior.

Godzilla con­tin­ues to head­line the ac­tion at the Nis­san stand, this time in the form of a Nismo-en­hanced N At­tack Pack­age. Of more in­ter­est is a per­for­mance version of the X-Trail — and a Leaf elec­tric car that even looks half-de­cent.

An Alto Works GP is the tasti­est morsel from Suzuki. The mini hatch is fit­ted with a bodykit and even with a tur­bocharger it still com­plies with Kei-car reg­u­la­tions spec­i­fy­ing max­i­mum en­gine out­put of 48kW.

The Tokyo Auto Salon runs from Jan­uary 15-17. View www.tokyoau­tos­a­lon.jp.

Kei notes: Honda’s Mu­gen S660 RA Pro­to­type; (be­low) Subaru BRZ gets a turbo and Mazda’s CX-3 gets spoiled

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