Metropolis Magazine
Issue #805 - Friday, Aug 28th, 2009
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Photo of the Week
The Small Print
Star Struck
"Page 2 "
The Goods
Body & Soul
Tech Know
Cars & Bikes
Global Village
The Last Word
The Negi
+ Best of Tokyo
Haikyo Corner
Out & About
Japan Beat
Live Report
Pop Life
2008 Flashback
Stage & Dance
Metropolis League
Theater Maps
Restaurant Review
Bar Review
International Dining
Local Flavors
Table Talk
About Us
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Past Issues

800: Going, Going, Sold!
Metropolis gets a rare glimpse into the world of car auctions
796: Cycle Fever
Tokyo dwellers are pedaling to work in increasing numbers
792: Bling It On, Baby!
Pimped-up luxury cars are the order of the day at the Tokyo Special Import-Car Show
788: For Whom the Road Tolls
Bargain-rate highway fares are creating some unexpected headaches
784: Bikes Back From the Dead
Pick up a bargain two-wheeler at Tokyo's recycle shops
780: D1 Grand Prix
From illegal sport to mainstream sensation, drift racing has come of age in Japan
776: Wanna Race?
A roundup of Japan's police vehicle fleet
772: Wanna Race?
Be a pro driver for a day at Tokyo's racetracks
768: Mazda Biante
Solve your space conundrums with this nimble people-mover
764: Lexus IS-F & SC430
With a new showroom and two sporty releases, the automaker is flying high
760: Chrysler Grand Voyager and Nissan Elgrand
It's American power vs. Japanese grace in a battle of the vans
756: Motor Sport Japan
The stars and cars come out for a day at the races-in an Odaiba parking lot
752: Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon
A reborn classic earns a (near) perfect 10
748: Nissan GT-R
It's fast, sexy and a bargain. So what's the catch?
744: Jaguar XF
The new sedan from Britain's storied automaker proves that appearances are, in fact, deceiving
736: Suzuki Swift Sport
Suzuki's bargain hatch proves big fun can come in small packages
732: Dualis & X-Trail
Nissan introduces a new SUV while its marquee model continues to play tough
728: Toyota Vanguard
Head off to the concrete jungle with a bit more vehicle than you need
724: Subaru Impreza S-GT
Japan's automotive loudmouth learns some manners
720: Tokyo Auto Salon 2008
Get ready for some modification mayhem at Makuhari Messe
716: Dodge These!
Chrysler introduces three muscle-bound imports to Japan
712: Licensed to Drive
We guide you through the bureaucratic jungle
708: Tokyo Concours D'Elegance
Exotic autos from the past and present glide into Roppongi
704: Car Knows Best
Automakers are introducing technology that will let your ride decide if you've had one too many
700: Range Rover & Land Rover
We put three SUVs from the fabled British maker through their paces
696: Aston Martin V8 Vantage
Channel 007 in this latest incarnation of the marquee automaker's "baby"
692: BMW R1200GS Adventure
The storied bike maker competes with itself to create a three-in-one masterpiece
688: Lexus LS460
The new sedan is big, fast, safe, classy-and unremarkable
684: Alfa Romeo Spider
We unleash the Italian monster on a 1,200km road trip
680: Ford Mustang
The American classic goes back to its roots
676: Citron C6
The French automaker's latest eccentricity pushes its own boundaries
672: Nissan's Pino and Otti
Japan-friendly K-cars pack a big punch
668: Jaguar XK
Forget James Bond-this is the UK's sexiest export
664: Mazda's Axela, RX-8 and Roadster
Here's the word on Japan's resurgent automaker: buy, buy, buy!
660: Mazda's Axela, RX-8 and Roadster
Here's the word on Japan's resurgent automaker: buy, buy, buy!
656: Alfa Romeo Brera
This gorgeous Italian coupe is both poised and sexy
652: Premium wheels
Business is good for Rolls-Royce in Japan, with an eagerly awaited convertible due out next year
648: Citroen C3 Pluriel
The quirky French automaker barrels into the 21st century
644: Jeep Commander& Grand Cherokee
Off road and on, these 44s do their military heritage proud
640: BMW Z4 M Roadster
Beemer's monster convertible provides the most fun you can have sitting down
636: Name dropping
What your car is called says something about you-and even more about automakers' marketing departments
632: BMW Mini Cooper S
All hail the mighty Mini!
628: Mazda Roadster
Redesigned and retooled, this two-seater is now a car for enthusiasts
624: Hyundai Sonata
A rev-happy South Korean import tries to find its niche in Japan
621: Lexus IS350
Toyota brings its upmarket brand to Japan-finally
616: Volvo XC90 V8
A bit sleeker and a lot more spacious, this SUV still puts a premium on safety
612: Chrysler 300C
This black beauty recalls the golden age of motoring
608: The Big Ideas
Tokyo Motor Show 2005 was a concept car bonanza
604: Tokyo Motor Show 2005
The automotive world's big players zoom into Japan with some high concepts in tow
597: Three brothers
We put a trio of Nissan sedans through their paces
593: Ducati 1000S DS Multistrada
The boys from Bologna deliver an Italian masterpiece for your garage
589: Mazda Demio Sport
A worthy cousin to the Atenza and RX8, this roomy sedan is happy around town and in the country
585: BMW K1200S
The boys from bavaria clothe an iron fist in a velvet glove
581: Chrysler’s Cruisers
The American auto manufacturer concentrates on the body beautiful
577: Suzuki Skywave 650LX
If you thought scooters were just for kids, think again
573: Cadillac STS 4x4
America’s flagship automaker recaptures its former glory
569: Tour de Force
Yamaha’s FJR1300A offers an unbeatable blend of poise, power and price
565: Alfa Romeo GT and 156 GTA
With stunning looks and power to spare, these two Alfas are an enthusiast's dream
560: Driving the Future
The talk of the auto industry in 2004 was hybrids, safe driving and intelligent vehicles
556: Deja vu
Blast to the past on Harley-Davidson’s Road King Custom
552: Sports sensation
Nissan's new SUV breaks out of its class
548: Lean machine
Lighter, faster, stronger and sexier—a diet works wonders for BMW’s R1200GS
544: Kings for a day
The Honda Elysion is master of all it surveys
539: Rules of the road
New traffic laws are on the horizon. Turn off your cellphone, watch where you park and don’t ride in gangs, Chris Betros warns.
537: Open roadster
William Bonds gets up-close with the elements courtesy of the Nissan Fairlady 350Z convertible.
535: Extreme makeover
Volvo sheds its stodgy-but-safe image for sleek-and-sporty with the new S40 T5. William Bonds likes what he sees.
533: Sporting chance
Mazda has brought the station wagon up to speed with its Atenza Sport Wagon 23Z. William Bonds takes one for a spin.
531: Street smarts
Automakers are taking car safety to new levels with sophisticated warning systems that almost do the driving for you, reports Chris Betros.
529: Speed zone
Just down the road from Ueno Zoo, a virtual hog heaven has everything for the motorcycling enthusiast. Steve Trautlein cruises on over.
527: Italian Stallion
The Alfa Romeo 147 carries on its maker’s reputation for hot cars with unmatched sex appeal. William Bonds gets carried away.
525: Hot wheels
A cross between a snowboard and a scooter, the Wheelman is a quirky Australian invention that's grabbing attention worldwide. Tim Colquhoun takes one for a ride.
523: Mean Machine
William Bonds gets behind the wheel of the Nissan Skyline 350GT.
521: Show stealers
Toyota stunned attendees at the recent Geneva and Melbourne auto shows with two concept cars that represent a powerful vision for the future of motoring. Tim Colquhoun reports.
519: Mighty mouse
Subaru goes boldly against the tide with its new R2 minicar. Justin Gardiner admires this latest feat of audacity and engineering.
517: Trail blazer
Nissan's top-selling 4x4 features cool touches for winter sports fans. Justin Gardiner drove the latest X-Trail to the slopes
515: Up to speed
The Formula One circus is gaining momentum as the season opener in Australia draws near. Tim Colquhoun takes a look at the latest developments.
513: Good save
Hybrid cars are the rage this year with Toyota, Honda and Subaru touting their gas-electric vehicles. Chris Betros looks at what they're offering.
512: The road ahead
Despite the lack of a full-fledged Tokyo Motor Show in 2004, domestic manufacturers have a bevy of weird and wonderful offerings in store for this year. Justin Gardiner previews the lineup.
509/10: Top of the class
Justin Gardiner finds his favorites from this year's Metropolis test drives.
507: Mom-mobiles
Japanese mothers are trading in their once ubiquitous mama-chari bicycles for a new breed of K-car. Justin Gardiner tries a couple of the most popular mini-cars.
505: Cubic's rube
Nissan has lengthened its highly successful Cube a few centimeters and added an extra row of seats. But, as Justin Gardiner finds out, the result is a bit puzzling.
503: Globe trotters
Kerstin Gackle and Volker Aldinger left their native Germany on April 1 and pointed their Yamahas toward Australia. Eight months later Justin Gardiner caught up with the couple in Tokyo.
501: Back to the future
Cutting-edge technology and futuristic vehicles highlight the 37th Tokyo Motor Show at Makuhari Messe through November 5. Justin Gardiner offers a guide.


By William Bonds

Are Cars Electric?
Nissan unveils the future of driving… maybe

If you read the local press here in Japan, you could be forgiven for thinking that Toyota is saving the world with its gas-electric hybrid vehicles, particularly its bestselling Prius model. Toyota/Lexus have amassed a broad range of hybrids, including the big, fat Lexus LS600h. Honda recently joined the fray with its Prius wannabe, the Insight, but Nissan has been a reluctant player in this market, producing only a limited number of hybrids in the United States using licensed Toyota technology.

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has been saying for years that hybrids aren’t the solution—the way forward is actually electric. At the opening of the company’s new global headquarters in Yokohama on August 2, Ghosn put his money where his mouth is as he unveiled the Leaf, Nissan’s electric-powered vehicle (EV) of the future. The very near future, in fact, as the Leaf will go on sale next year.

One of the main worries in producing battery-powered vehicles has always been the recycling of batteries. Nissan’s solution is that Leaf buyers will only own the car; the batteries will be supplied on a lease basis, thus making up part of the running costs of the vehicle rather than the purchase price. By taking responsibility for the car’s main environmental sticking point, Nissan will allow drivers to cruise around with a clear conscience.

“As its name suggests, the Leaf is totally neutral to the environment,” trilled Ghosn. “There is no exhaust pipe, no gasoline-burning engine. There is only the quiet, efficient power provided by our own compact lithium-ion battery packs.”

Be that as it may, the Leaf still requires feeding, and this means consuming electricity. The car only has a range of around 160km, after which it must be plugged into the mains for eight hours to recharge. Nissan says research shows that this range meets the normal requirements of 80 percent of drivers. Yet families won’t want to face a scenario where, for example, they have to make an emergency trip only to find their EV is slowly chugging jolts of power from the meltdown factory at Three Mile Island. The result is that most families will require a second, non-electric car, which may not be an option for some.

In the long term, it is likely that the charging time of EVs will be reduced and the range extended. Indeed, the amazing Anglo-American Tesla electric sports car can not only reach 100km/h in under four seconds, it can also travel nearly 400km on a single charge. Meanwhile, Subaru, one of Nissan’s rivals in the EV stakes, says that its recently released Stella minicar can be charged to 80 percent of capacity in 15 minutes, although a full charge still takes eight hours. Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV is similar, but offers an “Eco-drive” gearing position that reduces power output (and thus saves on electricity). Nevertheless, its maximum range tops out at 160km. Both cars cost over ¥4.5 million, a big price to pay to earn your green credentials. Ghosn insists the Leaf will be more affordable.

“The Leaf’s purchase price and cost of ownership will be competitive,” he said. “The car minus the battery will be within the price range of a comparably positioned car with an internal combustion engine. The monthly cost of the battery plus the electric charge will be less than the cost of gasoline.”
Although the Leaf will be launched next year, Nissan isn’t planning to start mass production until 2012. It has secured a $1.6 billion loan to modify its main manufacturing plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, and is also making plans for production in Europe.

If Nissan can replicate the success of the Toyota Prius, Ghosn’s prediction that the future is electric may well come true. Then again, that’s a big “if.”

commuter corner
Courtesy of Sanyo

The familiar—and tragically pathetic—sight of salarymen wheezing their way up hills on those small-wheeled folding bicycles may soon become a thing of the past. Not because the bikes themselves are on their way out, but because they’re about to go turbo charged. Sanyo’s new CY-SPJ220 Eneloop Bike, due to hit stores on September 21, is the latest—and, to date, most high-profile—addition to the expanding market for electric folding bicycles. Sanyo, of course, is already a veteran player in the rechargeable battery game, and puts its well-regarded Eneloop technology to good use here. The CY-SPJ220 uses a two-wheel-drive system, whereby the front wheel is powered by a motor while the rear one is connected to the pedals—thus increasing stability while allowing the rider to be lazier. Nice. Weighing in at 18.5kg and with an estimated retail price of ¥100,000, it’s neither the lightest nor the cheapest such bike on the market, but Sanyo seems to have struck a good balance between sturdiness and portability. JH


You’ve probably seen those orange-and-yellow leaf stickers affixed to the windscreens or bodies of cars, indicating that there’s a senior driver behind the wheel. Recently, many elderly drivers have been complaining about the design, saying the logo resembles a dying or withering leaf. The current logo was introduced in 1997, but a survey by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department found that it’s fallen out of favor with drivers aged over 70, for whom the sticker is mandatory. Of the 3,597 elderly male and female drivers surveyed, 53 percent said they didn’t like it. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department will seek submissions from the public for a new design and a committee will pick the winning entry in September. One thing’s for certain: the sticker isn’t going away. According to the police, there’s been a 50 percent increase in road deaths involving senior drivers over the past decade...

Next time you’re taking your electric car for a spin and you need to fill up, just pop in to your nearest Lawson. The convenience store chain operator this month began installing equipment to charge electric vehicles at some of its stores. Lawson representatives said the chargers will initially be installed at 25 shops—12 each in the Kanto and Kansai regions and one in Nagoya—and that customers will be able to use them for free. CB

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