Japanese firms back as strong as ever at Detroit

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Story and photos by Lorne Drury
Metroland Media

DETROIT, MICH – There may not be as many world premiers at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit as there would have been five years ago, but the enthusiasm of the manufacturers this year is undeniable.

Japanese firms in particular like Honda/Acura and Toyota/Lexus, who suffered through a difficult year in 2011 after the earthquake in Japan devastated the industry at home and abroad, seemed as strong as ever.

Acura, which has suffered in recent years with a lack of new product, had three reveals in Detroit. Toyota used the show to present the newest entry in the Prius family, the c hatchback, while Scion debuted the FR-S compact sports coupe and Lexus revealed its striking LF-LC premium concept coupe.

The Acura NSX concept promises to put excitement back into the Acura brand that has been missing since this halo model supercar was discontinued in 2005.

This time around, the NSX will be built in the USA. Acura executives announced this shortly after members of the international press corps got their first look at the concept that demonstrates the direction the new NSX will take when it comes to the retail market, and the racetrack, within the next three years.  

The new NSX will make use of lightweight materials and feature a mid-mounted V6 engine and Acura’s new Sport Hybrid SH-AWD (Super Handling All Wheel Drive) hybrid system.

This will feature a unique two electric motor drive unit that can instantly generate negative or positive torque to the front wheels during cornering.

The fifth and final entry in the expanded Prius family, the 2012 Prius c (the c represents city in the Prius lineup) will come to market this year and bring Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive to the subcompact segment.

This urban friendly five-door hatchback is expected to have a combined fuel consumption rating of 3.7L/100km, the lowest rating of any vehicle without a plug.  It will be offered in three trim levels

Toyota’s Scion division showed its 2013 FR-S sports car, developed in conjunction with Subaru. A compact, rear-wheel drive high-performance coupe, the FR-S will be the fifth vehicle in the Scion family and will go on sale this spring.

It has a 2.0-litre flat boxer engine that is mounted mid-ship and low to produce a favorable front-to-rear weight ratio. The engine will produce 200 hp and 151 lb/ft of torque.

Lexus introduced its LF-LC hybrid sports coupe concept car that explores future Lexus design trends. Developed at the company’s Calty design studio in California, the exterior of the LF-LC is highlighted by expansive use of glass, a new interpretation of the Lexus signature spindle grille and their interpretation of what a premium sports coupe could be.

Inside, the concept has a driver-focused cockpit and lots of advanced technology features like a twin 12.3-inch LCD screens.

Inputs come from a pop-up touch-screen keyboard that allows the driver to operate the controls comfortably without shifting position or altering sight lines.

Toyota’s vision of what things might look like in 2015, the NS4 Advanced Plus-In Hybrid targets a next generation Hybrid Synergy Drive plug-in system.

A mid-size sedan, the NS4 takes a new and futuristic styling direction for Toyota, while the cabin boasts a whack of new technological features as vehicles increasingly become another communications hub for connected consumers.

The NS4 also includes many new advanced safety features like a next-generation pre-collision system. Four new glass technologies are also used on this concept as well as cameras that replace inner and outer rearview mirrors.

Although a concept, the ILX Concept is a precursor to an all-new Acura luxury compact sedan launching this spring.

It will be the entry-level vehicle into the luxury brand and likely feature three different powertrains, including Acura’s first ever gas-electric hybrid. Standard will be a 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder engine.

The Acura RDX Prototype is a prototype version of the 2013 RDX, the second generation of Acura’s five-passenger crossover SUV that will feature a new engine, transmission and all-wheel drive system. Standard will be a 3.5-litre V6 engine producing 273 hp, a jump of 33 over the outgoing model.

Acura promises the best fuel economy of any gasoline-powered luxury SUV in its class. Featuring a six-speed automatic transmission, the RDX also gets a new lighter weight all-wheel drive system.

The ninth generation Accord will debut this fall and Honda gives us an idea of what it might look like with the Honda Accord Concept Coupe unveiled in Detroit.
The Accord Concept refines the current look in an attractive exterior package.
More powertrains will be offered including a plug-in hybrid model in addition to the four- and six-cylinder gasoline versions.

Making its world debut here, the Nissan e-NV200 Concept is an advanced electric vehicle that previews a near-future production version of Nissan’s multi-use NV200.
The battery capacity of this zero-emissions vehicle will support a driving range similar to the Nissan LEAF, but the load capacity makes it viable for business use.

The Nissan Pathfinder concept gives a preview of the next generation Nissan Pathfinder SUV.

Set to go on sale this fall, the Pathfinder Concept hints at a sleeker, sexier look for the popular SUV that has been on the market since 1986 and sold more than 1.2 million units.

It features three-row, seven-passenger seating and a refined V6 engine that Nissan says will deliver a 25 per cent improvement in combined city/highway fuel economy, while maintaining a towing capacity near the top of the segment.