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 high-performance 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.
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.
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.