PIMS 2014: Postcards From the Future

While Kia and Suzuki were trumpeting the sports each had decided to sponsor and Nissan was touting their sporting history, a trio of Japanese marqued played to PIMS 2014’s theme perfectly, augmenting their crop of current production vehicles with their respective visions of the future of motoring.

SAM_3112

Waku doki? Waku doki.

All throughout the day, foot traffic around the Toyota area was heavy; a lot of people were stopping in to look at the cars Toyota had brought out. Toyota had also created a short interactive program where they touted the leading sales numbers of the Vios and Innova.

SAM_3114

Brand appeal is strong with this one.

On display were just their regular models, with the exception of the Hilux truck clad in a TRD bodykit…

SAM_3115

…but turning the corner would result in your consciousness meeting something that looked like a prop from Minority Report. Four round objects wrapped in rubber make this enough of a car for you to recognise it, but there’s little else about this concept’s form to suggest that we’ll be seeing this in series production soon.

SAM_3121

Least of which being the side of the concept. This is the Toyota Fun-Vii, representing what Toyota thinks of as mobility in the future. To be clear, this is most likely a future that is still quite some time away, with the recent FT-1 concept representing a closer kind of future.

SAM_3117

So maybe this is a little old, having been first unveiled at the 2011 Tokyo Auto Show, but the concept is still a futuristic as when it was first revealed. The basic idea of the Fun-Vii is to be the postmodern automotive take on the mood ring of the groovy 70’s, with an exterior completely covered in LEDs to display any image of the owner’s choosing at any time the owner wishes.

SAM_3122

Rear is vaguely reminiscent of a bulldog.

Navigation is to be provided by a “concierge” that functions through augmented reality. In simple terms this means you’ll be guided along by a hologram, most likely to be modeled after a smiling, svelte woman in a flight attendant uniform and white gloves accenting each direction change with a hand gesture.

SAM_3118

As we’ve said before, concept cars are an automaker’s dreams rendered in solid material, and the Fun-Vii is what Toyota dreams future mobility to be like. Whether the Fun-Vii means they should keep dreaming is entirely up to you, but for the “mood car” idea is an interesting one. Undoubtedly there are millions of things to consider should Toyota attempt to put this into series production. Off the top of my head, I’m seeing a problem between freedom of expression and censorship regarding what can be displayed on the LED exterior. Well, that’s something for a legal team to determine.

SAM_3124

As a design exercise, it’s a little nebulous. The overall shape is more “computer mouse” than anything, but the details are pleasing enough. I was particularly taken by the combination tail lamp and winglet going on at the back of the Fun-Vii; they just look like the absolute business stuck right out of the body like that.

SAM_3127

Behind the Fun-Vii was this cove, lit up and painted red. Toyota probably mean this to evoke their “waku-doki” (heart pumping) theme, but it does look a little like an extended stay would play havoc on your colour perception.

SAM_3129

Right across the Toyota floor was Honda, featuring more streamlined architecture and a concept that hinted at the return of a hallowed nameplate.

SAM_3130

In 1990. Honda released the NSX, a mid-engined sports car that was set to take on the revered halls of Italian performance. Packed with innovative engineering, a screaming 3.0-litre VTEC V6 and chassis development assistance from Satoru Nakajima and Ayrton Senna, the NSX immediately put the prancing horse at notice, offering comparable performance at a lower price point. Sadly, there was no competing with the brand cachet of the Europeans, so the NSX never really got the sales figures it deserved.

SAM_3131

Missing light section.

Happily, appreciation for the car has grown over the years, and the demise of the car in 2005 has only made enthusiast hearts grow fonder for the successor. Thus, the 2012 NSX concept. Yes, 2012; it’s a couple of years late to Philippine shores, but the upshot is that production is set to commence in 2015.

SAM_3133

And what a fantastic shape that would be to see in Honda showrooms. Okay, so maybe the distinctive long-tail proportions of the original NSX has given way to a more typical mid-engine supercar shape, and that’s totally fine. This is still a drool-worthy shape, whichever way you cut it.

SAM_3137

Early in its life – especially on its Avengers roadster cameo – comparisons between it and the Audi R8 were drawn. It isn’t hard to draw the same connections, because both mid-engine cars feature the same clean, streamlined shape. The differences though, rare in the details, where the NSX features some hard edges compared to the predominantly smooth surfaces of the R8.

SAM_3139

Through the dark windows you can see an inkling of an interior, at least the top quarter of one, as a flat panel fills up the rest of the space. I do really, really like the sharp cut they’ve created to finish off the C-Pillar. It’s a very distinctive feature and is something you’ll never find on any R8.

SAM_3146

Flying buttresses! See also: Ferrari 599.

I love cars that feature flying buttresses. The buttresses look like they channel air to the vents under the rear window, but in all honesty I wouldn’t care if they didn’t serve any purpose. They look awesome.

SAM_3145

The NSX features lots of interesting little design elements, like this cut that drops down to border the exhaust port. While I’m not so sure that the cut should go up that high, it does help define the edges of the car.

SAM_3149

Missing light section, part 2.

Long-tail proportions might be gone, but the details of the new NSX leave very little room to mistake this for anything else. Front and rear, this car has a personality that is every bit as distinct and memorable as the original NSX. You’ll have to forgive the lights which have gone out, as this has made its way around the car show circuits of the world.

SAM_3152

The original NSX came equipped with a high-revving, high-tech VTEC 3.0-litre V6 that produced around 280 horsepower directed to the rear wheels. This figure might not seem impressive now, but it was pretty heady stuff in 1990. The news NSX is reportedly going for a hybrid setup, combining a 3.5-litre V6 with electric motors, as is the fashion of the times. The little “SH-AWD” badge also points to the new NSX’s four-wheel drive drivetrain, using Honda’s “Super Handling AWD” system. Might the AWD dull the magic of the original NSX? I’m hoping it won’t.

SAM_3140

Unlike the Fun-Vii, this NSX concept isn’t so much of a concept as it is a preview. All signs point to the majority of this car making it through to production, with perhaps the lighting elements being the only obvious changes required for regulatory clearance. I can’t wait to see this in Honda showrooms.

SAM_3160

The rest of the Honda area was devoted to their regular models featuring Mugen and Modulo bodykits. “Modulo” is Honda’s in-house dress-up arm, providing manufacturer-approved accessories and bodykits for the discerning Honda owner. Meanwhile, Mugen is to Honda what AMG used to be to Mercedes; that is, a separate entity offering dealer-approved and warrantied performance parts and accessories. I say “used to be” because AMG is now wholly owned by Mercedes, while Mugen has never been owned by Honda.

SAM_3159

To bring the point home, Honda also had the Team Mugen SF13 race car on display. This is car #16, which took the drivers’ championship in last year’s Super Formula series. Super Formula is Japan’s top open-wheel racing series, and was known as Formula Nippon up until last year’s running.

SAM_3161

Super Formula mainly parallels F3000 regulations with one make for the base chassis, but allows for open tuning of the engine. 2013 marks the last year of use for the Swift FN09 chassis, with the Dallara SF14 taking over for the 2014 season. While open wheel formula racers already have an established look, each series differs in detail, depending on the regulations.

SAM_3162

I must say that I’m really liking those curved front wings. They look like they were pulled back and shaped by the wind, which they most probably were anyway.

SAM_3154

Like Nissan, Honda also had a couple of simulators running Gran Turismo 6 up, allowing kids and the kids-at-heart to simulate driving the new NSX.

SAM_3156

It was like two heavyweights competing for attention. Toyota sought admiration for its forward-thinking Fun-Vii, while Honda was looking to get hearts racing and blood pumping with the NSX concept and Super Formula racer. Pick your side, and place your bets.

SAM_3237

Mitsubishi decided to stay out of the fray, instead setting up shop in a corner of the hall.

SAM_3244

They had a rally raid Pajero rotating below yet another LED screen playing car commercials. The rally Pajero seemed to be a minor hit with the crowds, with a lot of people lining up to take pictures of it and with it.

SAM_3242

Normally, a bit of damage on a show car is cause for emergency, but in the rally Pajero’s case, some competition damage is practically expected.

SAM_3245

It has been cleaned up, however, with not a trace of mud on the body and clean shiny tires. Perhaps a short romp in the mud before mounting on the rotating platform would have been a good idea.

SAM_3252

As for new cars, Mitsubishi had the new Outlander on display. What’s that? Not really sure what an Outlander is? Well, it’s a compact CUV (Crossover Utility Vehicle) that competes with  the CR-V, X-Trail, Sportage, Tucson, and RAV4. The Outlander is the least popular of the group, but in my opinion has always been near the top of the looks chart.

SAM_3263

So while Mitsubishi did kind of lose the plot with the second-generation Outlander by trying to make it look like a Lancer wagon, the new one is a very handsome design. Like the new X-Trail, the new Outlander eschews the blocky styling of the previous car for a streamlined look that’s cleaner than anything else in its class.

SAM_3253

The interior is also a great place to be, with good choice in materials and just enough toys to keep you busy in traffic. One complaint I do have is that the steering wheel seems just one inch too large for the cabin.

SAM_3256

Since you get paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, the gated automatic doesn’t have the +/- gate. You do get selectable 4WD for when the pavement ends, and seat heaters for when you want to play tricks on your passenger.

SAM_3258

So maybe the door panels are mostly hard plastic, but in these days that’s typical. Besides, the important thing is that you have a good, functional window/door lock control panel that won’t fizz out should you open your door in the rain.

SAM_3255

So many blanks.

The centre stack is laid out well enough, with a clear hint that these controls are mainly for the driver. The switch blanks though, are irritating. It isn’t just the size of the area they occupy, but the location as well; being right in the middle of the shiny centre stack, you’re constantly reminded of the options that you didn’t pay for. At least you get a Rockford Fosgate stereo as an option; sound quality is very subjective, but it’s a nice name to mention to your friends.

SAM_3249

These are very nice wheels, and finish off the new Outlander’s looks quite well.

SAM_3248

As for the Monterosport they had on display, that was wearing aftermarket Ralliart 5-spokes. This is a very good-looking wheel, chunky enough for the Monterosport’s image and just low-key enough to not look like a rapper’s ride.

SAM_3265

Not to be outdone by Toyota and Honda, Mitsubishi also brought out one of their concept cars. The GR-HEV is what Mitsubishi sees when it looks to the future of the eco-friendly pick-up truck.

SAM_3267

Painted a mesmerising shade of gold, the GR-HEV certainly looked the part of  future-mobile. Of the three concepts, the GR-HEV is the newest, debuting at the 2013 Geneva Auto Show.

SAM_3272

Mitsubishi calls this a “Sport Utility Truck” and the overall shape certainly speaks to that. It is very curvy,  very streamlined and manages to sneak in a set of hips while still retaining the pickup bed. The front and rear ends of the truck are a little strange, but as a design direction, it’s a very good way to go.

SAM_3274

This is good, because all signs point to the GR-HEV being the design direction for the next Strada pickup. The current Strada is already quite a looker, with its rounded design, but if the next Strada comes to market with that wonderful Coke-bottle shape, then it’ll be the best looking pickup on the roads.

SAM_3269

Beneath the body though, the GR-HEV has some pretty interesting hybrid technology. Powering the GR-HEV is a 2.5-litre diesel, augmented by an electric motor and a bunch of battery packs located between the frame rails. It’s all hooked up to an automatic transmission and features selectable 4WD with performance and efficiency modes in both two- and four-wheel drive. Diesel hybrids aren’t particularly common, perhaps because diesels are already pretty miserly on fuel usage. The actual point of the GR-HEV is actually to clean up emissions from the diesel engine, something the drivetrain handily succeeds at, with the 149 g/km of CO2 emissions reportedly well below the class average.

SAM_3270

Being a concept car of the future, there are of course a few details that are common to most futuristic concept cars, one of which are the side view mirrors. Instead of actual mirrors, these are meant to house rear-facing cameras. Cameras taking the place of mirrors are a popular item on futuristic cars, mainly because cameras require far less space, which means less aerodynamic drag. As for long-term serviceability, I’d probably bet on the mirror.

SAM_3268

As for rolling stock, the GR-HEV rolls on wheels just as futuristic as the rest of the car. Don’t be fooled, this is a six-lug wheel, but the three lugs are under the black trim piece. The wheels look very industrial and tough, and I’d gladly take something like this over chromed multi-spoke “dubs”.

More than any other exhibitor at the show, Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi played to the PIMS 2014’s overarching theme of the future of mobility with a concept car each. It’s interesting to note that even if none of these concepts are fresh from the design studios, the ideas behind them are still very fresh. Even the future that each concept busies itself with is wildly different, giving you a glimpse into what each automaker thinks they should become in the future. Toyota concerned itself with the future of everyday mobility with the Fun-Vii, Mitsubishi’s HR-GEV was an attempt at exploring how the diesel could fit into a clean future, and the NSX represented the future of the one and only Japanese mid-engine supercar.

When we return to PIMS 2014, we’ll take a step back into the present, and take a look at what the Germans have to offer the Philippine automotive market.

– Words by Kristoff Franco, pictures by Eugene Calimag

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s