For many, those wild imaginings are the true showstoppers - but, for our road-focused team, it's the concepts that preview the next-generation of production models that really steal the show, along with the handful of market-ready models revealed on the day.
For this year's show, our 'on the ground in Tokyo' team have formed their own opinions on what were the hits and misses at the show. Catch the full verdict below.
Hit: Subaru Impreza 5-Door concept. Subaru has been in something of a design wilderness for most of this millennium, but the Impreza 5-Door concept — and to an equal extent the Viziv Future concept — suggest the company may be racing back towards civilisation.
The hatchback concept’s wide front end, sleek headlights and flowing character lines give it an elegant, dare we say European, appearance that’s a refreshing change from much of the current line-up’s blocky styling.
Subaru’s challenge now is ensuring the concept isn’t just another mirage, something the brand has been guilty of in the past, and making sure that the final version due in 2017 remains true to the show car’s design.
The Vision Tokyo concept is not one of those cars. It looks like a lamprey. (Look it up if you don’t know what one is. Maybe grab a bucket first.)
Hit: Yamaha Sports Ride Concept. Way to make established four-wheeled brands look boring right off the bat, Yamaha. This is a mad two-seater sports coupe using a carbon-fibre tub developed by the guy who did this little car called the McLaren F1.
A screaming motorcycle engine, that bespoke and beautiful interior with a minimalist edge and the sort-of miniature Pagani styling made this the walk-up winner for mine. Hell, the company even leveraged its musical instrument division and for some reason, as-yet unexplained, displayed the car with a trumpet on the parcel shelf. Win.
By the way, considering Yamaha also showed off a bike concept ridden by a humanoid robot, it might just be my new favourite company.
Miss: Toyota Kikai. Put this concept car back in the oven, it's not done yet.
I couldn't pick a favourite: the Air Triser minivan with its functional and flexible seat layout and Volkswagen Bulli-like looks; the Mighty Deck convertible miniature ute that harks back to the iconic Mighty Boy; and the Ignis Trail concept looks a lot better than the standard Ignis. The company also showcased the Hustler Scoot moped, a funky little two-wheeler with extra storage for better practicality.
Now, let's hope Suzuki actually builds some of these amazing machines for the mass market.
Miss: Honda Clarity. I thought that in reality the spats over the rear wheels would look good. They don't. And in my opinion, not much looks good about the Clarity fuel cell vehicle.
It appears to be a hodgepodge mix of design, with those oversized headlights and the sleek body style simply not gelling to my eye, particularly in that burgundy colour (the white one Tim drove and reviewed looked heaps better!).
Hit: While Subaru’s 5-Door Impreza concept achieved high for improving the breed, it was Mazda’s return-to-greatness RX-Vision that stole Tokyo’s spotlight — and my biggest hit vote — for all of the best reasons.
Rotary power flies fiercely against today’s motor show, and car industry, grain of stigmatising a love of internal combustion and driving. In a push to criminalise petrol-hedonism, the RX-Vision was Tokyo’s most guilty pleasure. It was the biggest middle finger to movement towards homogenised, autonomously driven motoring. Proof that RX-Vision represents deep-seeded pundit desires was demonstrated by the red hot reception that welcomed the concept.
Remember, Mazda: lightweight, manual, affordable, purity. That way fans won't be gutted when your fiery concept's promise becomes a Soul Red herring.
Hit: The Mazda RX-Vision for me represents the best car at the show, because not only does it say that Mazda is bringing back the rotary, but it’s also a big statement for a company that has always punched well above it weight.
Bringing back the rotary in the modern era is a huge challenge, but what it will do is show that Mazda can do it alone. It also shows that the company is managed by enthusiasts and car people, not accountants.
The rotary project will create an entirely different type of internal combustion engine to anyone else, it will, literally, be the only petrol burning vehicle using a different philosophy of engine development and that, ladies and gentlemen, is extreme passion and persistence wrapped up in one.
Miss: Toyota as a whole. While Mazda is talking about bring back rotary at all costs and challenging convention to make cars fun again (even Subaru is showing off meaner performance cars), Toyota’s new Supra, its RX-9 competitor, was no where to be seen.
It has been concept after concept and the Tokyo show would’ve been the ideal place to show off firm plans on the car’s return. Instead, we saw the S-FR, a smaller sports car than the 86, with no doubt even less power. Sure, it looks okay and it might even be fun, but come on folks, my heart rate almost flatlined at your stand.
Hit: Undoubtedly one of the hottest concepts at the show, the Mazda RX-Vision is a stunner from every angle. The Mazda team have dug deep into their past with this one (50 years) to return to the ever popular rotary engine, simply naming it the SKYACTIV-R.
Let's hope that this design will be Mazda's "vision for the future" for the RX-9.
MISS: Toyota's FCV Plus. To power this spaceship-like Toyota, it involves fuel cell stacks, oxygen, hydrogen... and if I keep adding more, it'll sound more like a science project than a car.
Is our team on the money? What did like and dislike from this year's Tokyo show? Let us know in the comments section below.