Special Coverage

2011 Tokyo
Motor Show

TOKYO – German brands chose the biannual auto show here for some prominent vehicle unveilings, despite their relatively small sales volume in the local market.

Volkswagen, the leading import brand in Japan, with an expected 70,000 deliveries this year, hints at its future cross/utility vehicle styling direction with the Cross Coupe concept.

“Visually, the all-wheel-drive, plug-in hybrid vehicle shows how Volkswagen designers could envisage a crossover between a 4-door coupe and a compact (CUV),” VW says in a statement.

The Cross Coupe, which is longer than the Golf but shorter than the Tiguan, boasts a long hood and low window line that are defining features of the vehicle’s front fascia.

Designers joined the xenon twin headlamps with the radiator grille’s chrome-plated fins, a departure from the current production Tiguan and Touareg CUVs.

The center of the front bumper retains the body color to form a “homogenous unit with the bars of the radiator grille,” VW says.

The Cross Coupe interior is dubbed both sporty and precise by the auto maker, which says robust controls are located on the center console, where the drive system and air conditioning is activated via two aluminum rotary switches.

The Cross Coupe’s hybrid system combines a 147-hp TSI gasoline engine with 40-kW (54-hp) and 85-kW (114-hp) electric motors.

“The 85-kW motor, integrated with the rear-axle layout as a co-axial drive unit, kicks in the when the vehicle is in all-wheel-drive or all-electric modes, VW says.”

Total system output is 261 hp. A 9.8-kWh lithium-ion battery is housed in the driveshaft’s tunnel. Fuel economy of the Cross Coupe is pegged at 87 mpg (2.7 L/100 km).

Audi rolls out a new Sportback, a 5-door variant of its popular 3-door A1 small car, which currently accounts for 25% of Audi sales in Japan.

Audi Chairman Rupert Stadler says the Sportback is a 4-seater with room for a fifth seat. It is taller than the 3-door for an overall roomier rear seat.

On sale next year in Japan and Europe, the A1 Sportback will offer three gasoline and three diesel engines, all with direct-injection and turbocharging.

The top-of-the-line gasoline engine is a 185-hp supercharged and turbocharged 1.4L, Audi says, producing 184 lb.-ft. (250 Nm) of peak torque. It is capable of 0-62 mph (100 km/h) sprints in 7.0 seconds and boasts a top speed of 141 mph (227 km/h).

The engine design echoes the Twincharger technology developed by Audi's sister-brand Volkswagen that made its debut at the 2005 Frankfurt auto show.

Audi is the No.2 best-selling luxury brand in Japan, with sales up 20% through October to 20,000 units. The auto maker is aiming to overtake No.1 BMW, Stadler says, and will be adding the Q3 small CUV to its lineup to boost volume.

BMW, which this year celebrates 30 years in Japan, plans to battle domestic auto makers in a segment they dominate, hybrids, with its new ActiveHybrid 5 that debuts here. The all-new vehicle goes on sale next year in Japan and other markets.

Ian Robertson, BMW board member, says the vehicle can achieve up to 37 mph (60 km/h) in electric mode. It is the auto maker’s first hybrid to use the 3.0L I-6, in lieu of a twin-turbo V-8. The concept is rated at 335 hp, including a 41-kW (55-hp) electric motor.

ActiveHybrid 5 also has the unique ability to link the navigation system with the drivetrain to capture electricity for the battery on downhill routes, BMW says.

BMW sales have grown this year, up 8% through October, but at a slower rate than Audi, Robertson says.

Mercedes-Benz is the only German brand that does not have a global unveiling at the show. Instead, it is showing two models new to Japan on its stand: the C63 AMG Coupe Black Series and SLS AMG Roadster.

Mercedes also brought to Japan for the first time the F125! fuel-cell hybrid concept car, unveiled at Frankfurt’s auto show in September. Parent Daimler’s Smart brand showed off its Frankfurt-first concept, the lightweight ForVision.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com