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Tokyo Auto Salon

They range from a tiny supercharged Toyota iQ to a full-race Lexus LFA and deliver on the recent promise by Akio Toyoda, the new chief executive of the Toyota Motor Corporation, to inject excitement, passion and driving enjoyment into the world's biggest brand.

The most important car is a turbocharged version of Toyota's FT-86, which shows the potential of the production car that Toyoda plans to use to bring young people back to his brand.  There is no sign of a hotrod Camry at the show, the third-biggest 'tuner' event in the world after SEMA in the USA and Essen in Europe, but Toyota's introduction of its hero cars creates the biggest surprise since the start of the Global Financial Crisis. The Salon line-up is also a massive contrast to the conservative and underwhelming effort by Toyota at last year's Tokyo Motor Show, traditionally Japan's biggest motoring event.

At the Auto Salon, Akio Toyoda does the introductions himself and spends more than 30 minutes talking about the cars during a presentation that partly erases some of the pain of the company's withdrawal last year from Formula One racing. Toyoda said simply ‘We quit’ at the F1 press conference, but also promised cars ‘that generate fun and passion’.

The first of the passion pack is unveiled at the Salon and, despite a couple of aero-tweaked Prius sitting on the same stand in a nod to Toyota's hybrid drive, there is plenty of good news.  The FT-86 concept has pumped-out bodywork and a powered-up turbo engine, proving the tuner potential in a car that will be in showrooms in 2011. It's a classic rear-wheel drive coupe, just like the original Corolla Sprinter that has become a drift favourite around the world.

The rich mix of raunchy metal actually starts with a supercharged iQ GRMN concept produced by Toyota's current tuner favourite, a company called Gazoo Racing Master of Nurburgring. It's still a tiny three-seater but it's quick.  There is also a 1.5 litre rear-drive Aigo that has been switched from front-drive, a 325 kiloWatt high-performance Lexus IS-F Circuit Club Sports and a full a race-specification LFA.

The big surprise is a car called the GRMN Sports Hybrid Concept, also produced by Gazoo.  This two-seater, four-wheel drive hyrid sports coupe is based on the old Toyota MR-2 and boasts a mid-mounted 3.3-litre V6 engine and the company's well-known THSII hybrid system, a delicious combination that generates over 400 kiloWatts.

Draped in a carbon fibre body and tipping the scales at around 1500 kilograms, against a final target in the 1300 range, the V6 drives the rear wheels while the electric motor propels the fronts. It can drive in silent EV mode in the city and, when called upon for some quick acceleration, the V6 springs to life and engages the rear rubber.

This combination could very well put Honda's CR-Z to shame, even if Honda is calling its new coupe "The world's first hybrid sports car".  Stories leaking out of Honda say the CR-Z has only lukewarm performance, unlike the MR-S hybrid that has near-supercar performance and reportedly sprints from 0-100km/h in under 4.5 seconds.

So, what's the bottom line from the Tokyo Salon? Based on what Toyota unveiled, it intends to make good on its passion promise and create cars that people really will want to buy.

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