If I could hand out a "Most Entertaining" award to one particular car at the 43rd Tokyo Motor Show--at least during the two press days that I was there--I would give it to the Toyota i-Road, the Japanese carmaker's idea of personal mobility in the not-so-distant future.
Okay, a full disclosure is in order as I give Toyota this virtual award: I was a guest of the company at the show (associate editor Paulo Subido went with Isuzu, consumer editor Botchi Santos was with Honda, and team art director Jaykee Evangelista was flown in by Mitsubishi). But trust me, this has nothing to do with why I'm proclaiming the i-Road as the most engaging car--or trike--at the event.
In fact, Toyota would probably even get pissed as the i-Road isn't even the main attraction at its booth. You see, the i-Road is already old by car-show standards, having already been displayed at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year. Toyota's principal stars at the ongoing Tokyo Motor Show are five new concept vehicles: the FCV, the FV2, the JPN Taxi, the Voxy and the Noah. So Toyota likely won't be amused that I'm instead raving and writing about a side dish.
But what the heck. I caught a demo run of the i-Road and was instantly transported back to my childhood days. This thing is the stuff my boyhood fantasies were made of. (Okay, this and Phoebe Cates.) The i-Road is essentially a motorcycle with a pair of wheels in front (technically making it a tricycle) and powered by two small electric motors. The Toyota peeps were actually charging the vehicle when I walked past the booth. My imagination already piqued, I decided to stick around for the demonstration. After a few more minutes, it was show time.
A bespectacled Japanese dude in the country's customary office attire then boarded the thing, as if to show the audience that practically anyone can operate it. Indeed, I'd die of embarrassment if I failed to physically master something a geek could effortlessly wrap around his fingers. And then he took off. Just round and round, he went in circles. The small i-Road--just 2,350mm long and 850mm wide--happily articulated its front wheels as it danced around like a graceful ballet dancer.
The i-Road can supposedly cruise to a top speed of 45kph and can travel up to 50km on a single charge of its lithium-ion battery. Best of all, it is scheduled for serious testing next year in Toyota City in Japan. So what we have here is a very realistic urban transport system for small cities in the very near future.
Sure, this year's edition of the Tokyo Motor Show boasts the likes of the Nissan GT-R Nismo and the Honda NSX and even the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT Final Edition, but these cars simply wow you motionless atop meticulously guarded pedestals.
The i-Road, meanwhile, is not merely a spotlight-enhanced show car. It prances around and lets everyone know that Toyota might start selling it in three years' time. Check out the photos below and tell me your head isn't being filled right now with images of yourself (and a date, because this seats two) merrily riding around Bonifacio Global City. If these pictures are entertaining to you, imagine how giddy I got seeing this thing up close.
I'll have mine in matte black.
Photos by Vernon B. Sarne