Tokyo drift: The best cars at Japan's biggest biennial automotive event

Lexus LS+
Lexus LS+PHOTOS: DAVID TING, JEREMY CHUA
Toyota Century
Toyota CenturyPHOTOS: DAVID TING, JEREMY CHUA
Nissan IMX
Nissan IMXPHOTOS: DAVID TING, JEREMY CHUA
Mitsubishi E-Evolution
Mitsubishi E-EvolutionPHOTOS: DAVID TING, JEREMY CHUA
Honda EV Sports Concept
Honda EV Sports ConceptPHOTOS: DAVID TING, JEREMY CHUA
Subaru VIZIV Performance Concept
Subaru VIZIV Performance ConceptPHOTOS: DAVID TING, JEREMY CHUA
Mazda Vision Coupe
Mazda Vision CoupePHOTOS: DAVID TING, JEREMY CHUA
Mazda Kai Concept
Mazda Kai ConceptPHOTOS: DAVID TING, JEREMY CHUA
DAIHATSU DN COMPAGNO
DAIHATSU DN COMPAGNOPHOTOS: DAVID TING, JEREMY CHUA
Toyota Concept-i
Toyota Concept-iPHOTOS: DAVID TING, JEREMY CHUA

The best Japanese cars at the 45th edition of Japan's biggest biennial automotive event hint at things to come, David Ting reports from Tokyo

LEXUS LS+

The latest, fifth-generation LS flagship saloon has just been introduced and Lexus is already showing what the next generation might look like.

As the "+" in its name suggests, the concept adds to the existing LS package - more aggression in the styling, especially for the grille and lights, and a more advanced suite of automated driving systems, which Lexus plans to introduce in 2020.


TOYOTA CENTURY

Twenty years after the debut of the second-generation Century, Toyota has unveiled the 2017 model of Japan's most traditional limousine.

The exterior is as stately as ever, with particularly lustrous paintwork, and the cabin continues to prioritise comfort for the two VIPs seated in the back.

The only interior options are wool or leather upholstery, with or without curtains. The previous 5-litre V12 engine has been replaced by a 5-litre hybrid V8, which is derived from the unit in the defunct Lexus LS600h.


NISSAN IMX

This is Nissan's idea of a high-performance SUV that offers both manual and fully autonomous driving modes.

It will have a pair of electric motors delivering 320kW (or 429bhp) of energy and 700Nm of torque. Its batteries can supposedly deliver a range of more than 600km on a single charge.

Thanks to artificial intelligence, the IMx will allow the driver to control the instrument panel with eye movements and hand gestures. Make sure there isn't a fly in the cabin.


MITSUBISHI E-EVOLUTION

Evo fans who were expecting a turbocharged saloon to succeed the previous Lancer Evolution X are in for a shock. The new "Evo", if it ever hits the streets, is slated to be a crossover.

Not just any crossover, mind you. It will be an all-electric SUV with three motors, all-wheel-drive and artificial intelligence. The last feature will enable the car to communicate with the driver and augment his driving skills.


HONDA EV SPORTS CONCEPT

Honda appears to have rediscovered its sporty mojo with the NSX hybrid supercar, the S660 mini-roadster and now this.

Based on the platform of the Urban EV Concept - an electric hatchback which was well received at the Frankfurt Motor Show last month - the EV Sports Concept is a low-slung coupe that comes across as both adorable and purposeful.


SUBARU VIZIV PERFORMANCE CONCEPT

Old-school Scooby fans who were afraid that the next WRX and WRX STI models might be turned into crossovers can breathe a sigh of relief. The Viziv is a prototype that the brand's next full-blown sports saloon might be based on.

Expect plenty of driver-assistance technologies, which Subaru says will enhance both driving pleasure and peace of mind.


MAZDA VISION COUPE

This swoopy four-door coupe showcases the next generation of Mazda's Kodo design language.

The Vision Coupe has a strikingly simple form, with subtle curves that help present a visual transition between light and shadow. Mazda says that the design "strips away all non-essential elements to embody a less is more" aesthetic.

Indeed. This concept coupe does not even have door handles.


MAZDA KAI CONCEPT

This concept car not only gives a design preview of upcoming Mazda models, but also showcases the carmaker's new Skyactiv-X engine, which Mazda says is the world's first commercial petrol engine that uses very high compression to ignite the fuel-air mixture in the cylinders.

With minor changes, the Kai Concept could well be the shape of the next Mazda 3 hatchback.


DAIHATSU DN COMPAGNO

With its pretty styling and trendy orange, Daihatsu's design study for a compact four-door coupe looks like something for junior drivers. But the car is actually targeted at active seniors in ageing Japan and is intended to "provide colourful support for their post-retirement lives".

The support includes a choice of engine - either a turbocharged 1-litre three-cylinder or a 1.2-litre hybrid drivetrain. Daihatsu had a Compagno model range in the 1960s.


TOYOTA CONCEPT-I

This futuristic vehicle has a real future. In 2020, a version of it will begin road trials in Japan and start validating its cutting-edge automotive technology.

At the core of the Concept-i is artificial intelligence called Agent, which is able to activate relevant functions in a timely fashion to make the drive safer, easier and more interactive. For instance, it can suggest conversation topics and different routes based on the mood of the driver.

• Additional reporting by Jeremy Chua

• The writers are with Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2017, with the headline 'Tokyo drift'. Print Edition | Subscribe