Automakers Brought the Heat at the 2023 Tokyo Auto Salon

Automakers Brought the Heat at the 2023 Tokyo Auto Salon

The Tokyo Auto Salon is traditionally a tuner show, but OEMs brought some major excitement to this year's event.

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Image for article titled Automakers Brought the Heat at the 2023 Tokyo Auto Salon
Photo: Ken Saito

We all know the Tokyo Auto Salon as the premier Japanese show for tuners, but in recent years, it has increasingly been the place for OEMs to premiere their bolder concepts, too. With TAS being the only massive annual auto show in Japan, it makes more sense for them to show off their latest and greatest here than to wait every two years for the more corporate Tokyo Motor Show. For 2023, these were the big announcements from some of Japan’s biggest companies to one you might not have heard of before and a surprise French announcement.

Check out the end of the post for extra angles of these gorgeous machines.

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Toyota

Toyota

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Photo: Ken Saito

This one was a surprise; in fact, I was so surprised I completely ignored it at first and thought they were just a pair of normal AE86s on the stand. I thought, “Oh cool, it’s a nod to their Initial D connection” and moved on. But upon closer inspection, these throwbacks to Toyota’s storied past are actually a prologue of their future. One the one hand is an EV converted 86. Okay, stay with me here, because it gets better. While the original car’s 4A-GE engine has been binned and replaced with an electric motor, it retains a three-pedal and stick shift set up. That’s right, this is the manual EV Lexus have been working on.

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Toyota

Toyota

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Photo: Ken Saito

The car is actually a Lexus project, as it’s the brand in Toyota’s group given the task of electrifying Japan’s largest automotive brand. “It feels and drives like a real manual car,” says Hiroshi Horiba, Project Manager of Lexus Electrified Development Division. It even vibrates like an internal combustion manual, too. Lexus Electrified were only given a couple months to come up with a working prototype in time for the Auto Salon and somehow pulled it off. While there’s no immediate production plans for this car, it seems EV manual conversions for Toyota’s historic cars could be in the realm of possibility and future manual EVs could bring fun to an electric future.

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Nissan

Nissan

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Photo: Ken Saito

While Toyota is looking at how to bring the past into the future and make the future feel like the past, Nissan is still going at it with the R35 GT-R. I like the R35. I’ve said many nice things about the R35 and will continue to say nice things about it. But — and it’s a big but — how many facelifts can a car have?

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Nissan

Nissan

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Photo: Ken Saito

The 2024 update gets rid of the single piece grille in favor of a split grille setup. Power remains unchanged and pricing hasn’t been announced, though expect it to be roughly in the same ballpark as before. Nissan will start accepting orders in Japan from April.

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Honda

Honda

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Photo: Ken Saito

The Civic Type R GT Concept is a thinly disguised version of what will eventually become Honda’s latest entry into the Super GT championship. The Civic has a long history of participating in motorsports, particularly touring cars, but this is the first time the Civic will be entered in Japan’s top-tier touring championship, and it looks absolutely bonkers.

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Honda

Honda

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Photo: Ken Saito

As per Super GT rules, the racing car won’t actually be all that related to the road car, though one can only hope Honda will do a Super GT inspired version of the Type R for the road one day.

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Mitsuoka

Mitsuoka

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Photo: Ken Saito

Ah, Mitsuoka. Not even in Japan’s top 10 biggest car manufacturers, the brand that’s better known for the fish-like Orochi sports car and rebidding modern reliable commuter cars to look like unreliable cars of yesteryear, is back at it again. It’s given its controversial treatment to the outgoing Toyota Hiace and Daihatsu Rocky.

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Mitsuoka

Mitsuoka

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Photo: Ken Saito

Clearly inspired by the success of the Buddy, a Chevrolet Blazer homage based on a RAV4, the Hiace and Rocky conversions mimic the Blazer face, too. While they’re a rare and unusual sight in Japan, perhaps these American-inspired conversions might work in the U.S.? Perhaps not.

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Renault

Renault

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Photo: Ken Saito

It’s great Renault chose the Tokyo Auto Salon to debut its final Megane RS, as it knows the Japanese market has a strong love and following for the brand, especially its RenaultSport products. The Ultime will be the final RS-branded product as the RenaultSport is being retired in favor of Alpine as Renault’s sporty division.

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Renault

Renault

Image for article titled Automakers Brought the Heat at the 2023 Tokyo Auto Salon
Photo: Ken Saito

Renault will make 1,976 of these, and you can expect a big chunk will end up in Japan. It’s largely similar to the Megane RS Trophy, bar some stickers, but for die-hard enthusiasts, having the very final Megane RS in their collection is a big deal.

From here on out, let’s enjoy the rest of what the automakers had to offer.

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