Honda President Takanobu Ito arrived at the company's Motegi test track on Monday in full leathers riding the company's all-conquering 2011 Moto GP bike. This is clearly the sort of bloke who should be running a car company.
More significantly, Ito was also one of the chassis engineers on the original NSX, and he knows that Honda desperately needs to inject some sparkle into its environmentally worthy but rather pedestrian range. The company's Tokyo show stand will feature no fewer than three new concept cars, but the big news as far as TG is concerned is a car that isn't actually here but WILL be at the Detroit show in a month's time: an all-new NSX.
‘We need a halo car,' Honda's design manager Yoshikazu Kigoshi told TopGear, ‘and this is a decision that's come from Ito-san down. A new S2000 is a difficult car for us to do, because of its front-engined, rear-drive platform. But we are definitely looking at the EV-ster and a new NSX.'
The EV-ster, aka the Small Sports Concept (pictured above) is barely bigger than Japan's tax-break tiddler ‘Kei' cars, which makes it a likely successor to the early-'90s Honda Beat. Kigoshi confirmed that the EV-ster uses an all-new platform, and that Honda plans to offer a choice of petrol or pure-electric power.
Like the other two Tokyo concepts, the AC-X and Micro Commuter Concept, the EV-ster replaces the traditional steering wheel with a system called TLS or ‘twin lever steering'. Perhaps smarting from its absence in F1, Honda insists that it still has a lot of new tech derived from its F1 programme, and says that a TLS-equipped F1 car lapped the Suzuka circuit 3.3 seconds faster than a car with a regular wheel... Expect to see laser lighting technology arriving soon, too.
The new NSX, meanwhile, will get the company's clever new SH-AWD torque vectoring system, which uses independent electric motors on the rear wheels to optimise cornering behaviour.