Posts tagged ‘jdm’

Text and photos by Ronald Chua


Few of us would ever get the chance to visit Toyota Mega Web; even fewer still get to ever drive the V12-powered Toyota Century. Here’s a take from Ronald, whom we have invited to contribute about his experience in Japan’s ultimate luxury sedan…


To a car enthusiast, a trip to Tokyo, Japan would not be complete without paying a visit to Toyota’s Mega Web located in Odaiba. Mega Web can be described as the theme park for a car lover where any Japanese Domestic Model from the Toyota lineup can be test driven on a purpose built test track for 300 yen.

The main attraction for me was the Toyota Century – a Japanese leviathan that is powered by a 5.0 litre V12 made solely for this model. The Century is a status symbol of success for the conservative Japanese businessman who viewed the offerings from Mercedes, BMW and Jaguar to be too ‘loud’ and attention-seeking. First launched in 1967 as a competitor to the Mitsubishi Debonair and Nissan President, the first generation Century was produced from 1967 to 1997 with a V8 engine that dated back to the ‘60s. The second generation retained the classic looks, the hand built heritage and incorporated a new V12 engine within.


On first sight, one might mistake the Century for a Toyota Crown taxi before actually realising how huge this limousine is at almost 5.3m. In fact, the Century has an old-world charm about it with two front fender mounted side mirrors and a typical slab-sided ‘squarish’ design. The attention to detail can be seen from the intricate chrome detailing around the wheel fenders, side blinkers as well as the emblems fitted all around. There are also no Toyota logos on the car and instead, a ‘C E N T U R Y’ nameplate is fitted on the rear trunk.


While walking towards the Century parked at the waiting area, the engine sound was barely audible at idle. All that could be heard was the low pitched fan that reminds one of an old Mercedes. The doors of the Century also close with a solid thump that is not usually associated with Japanese vehicles. Once you settle into the driver seat, you realise how quiet the car is on the inside. Upon closer inspection, the air-con vents actually swivel to distribute cold air to each passenger. Something that bothered me would be the digital speed readout on the dashboard which was slightly out of place on a timeless car like this. You would also realise that most buttons, stalks and switches can be found in a Corolla or Camry. What makes a Century special though, is the quality of the vehicle, which began to show itself on the test drive.

On the road, the car wafts along. Pedal travel is long to ensure steady acceleration for a comfortable ride. The test track at Mega Web encompasses 2 straight roads, a slalom course, a cobbled street as well as a tight curved road mimicking a tight city street. The Century picks up speed quickly upon full acceleration which is reminiscent of a Mercedes W126 or W140. The comfort set-up is obvious when the car pitches and dives on hard acceleration and braking. Needless to say, the car also rolled a fair bit around the short slalom course.


Appreciation for the comfort leanings of the car really swelled when the car practically steam-rolled cobbled streets and speed bumps, with the air suspension maintaining a comfortable ride for passengers. All one can hear is the sound of the air-con when the car is cruising along. It’s worth noting that visibility is excellent; even around tight corners, the Century was easy to manoeuvre with the driver being able to see all 4 corners of the car with ease.


Driving (or even owning) a Century is an experience on its own. The car is very ‘Japanese’ from the way it is over-engineered. It was as though a Japanese engineer sat down one day and decided that a typical Mercedes or BMW was too pretentious for a Japanese businessman. Leather was replaced with wool seats to minimise squeaking seats, door latches were replaced with electric motors to reduce the ‘clunkiness’ of pulling a door handle and curtains were used instead of having tinted windows. All these Japanese engineering might not be appreciated in international markets but it is definitely clear that the Century has a special place in the upper echelons of the Japanese society with the Century being seen all over Ginza in the evenings with a chauffeur driving the car.


Let’s hope Toyota keeps this luxo-barge in production for that special niche market that it targets.

Leave a comment

Text and photos by The Lenspeed Team

A recent trip to Japan unraveled that Solios are actually all the rage there. With Tokyo being one of the largest urban metropolises in the world, this makes sense. As it would in our small, cramped island. The Solio is a Big car packaged in a Ultra-small car. It’s very, very clever, and would make you feel very smug indeed. If you’ve bought one, you’d know. OK, it’s not actually a new car per se – the Solio in Japan has been soldiering on for a while now, but only very recently have movements in COE prices allowed for the Solio to gain some ground in Singapore. But we can’t stop raving about it, just because it’s that good for Singapore conditions. Highly recommended. Let’s explore why:


  • You’d have even more interior space than some full-fledged sedans. In fact after the test drive I constantly marveled just how much larger the car felt on the inside, when compared to how it looks on the outside. You get an aircraft-style tray table behind the front seats, cupholders everywhere, a fully foldable rear seat that will yield to a flat floor, and comfy, giant rear seats that recline to pretty swell angles. The automatic rear sliding doors are a real boon. A magnificent one – getting out of tight car park spaces has never been easier.


  • You get a frugal 1.2-litre engine that puts the Solio comfortably in Category A. We managed to hit 23.2km/l on just a casual spurt on the highway, and we are confident that an average of 13km/l in the real world is entirely achievable (even with an arctic cold A/C). Although it has a small fuel tank, it still has a healthy range. The CVT gearbox pairs very well to the engine too, delivering performance that hints of a van on a hurry.


  • Overall length of 3.71m and width of 1.62m means the Solio is one of the shortest and narrowest cars you can buy. So tight car parks are never an issue while you see S-Class drivers struggling to get their cars to fit in the lots. It’s the Solio’s natural environment. You also get paltry 165 width tyres, which are quiet, light on the earth and surprisingly grippy.


  • At 1.77m high, the Solio is taller than it is wider – rare in the car world, but par for the course for the commercial vehicle world. So you get all of the benefits of a van, and all of the benefits of a normal car too. We can’t seem to find a drawback.
  • A 5-year warranty means you’d get an added peace of mind, as if Suzukis aren’t already reliable!


  • You get Bluetooth, navigation, xenon lights, expensive looking alloy rims, electric doors – yet this is one of the cheapest cars in the market!

By The Lenspeed Team


Motor Image revealed the WRX and WRX STI to the media and public in Singapore today, 6 May, in light of a sobering market that has proven to prefer quick-shifting automated gearboxes and smaller, more fuel-efficient engines for their sports cars. While the answer to this convenience-biased and cost-conscious market could well be the CVT equipped WRX (also available with a manual) with an all-new engine sporting 268bhp / 350Nm, the WRX STI will remain a distinctly left-field choice with its >S$200,000 price tag and manual-only configuration.

Whether consumers will open their wallets or not for the WRX STI is a question best left to number crunchers over at Subaru, but it is clear that the new car is distinctly out on its own with the Evo’s future still in stark limbo. The Scoobie is also still, notably, substantially cheaper than the AWD European competition such as the Volkswagen Golf R, Audi S3 and Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG.

However, it shows. Jump into the interior and the plastic bits still feel largely cheap, although there has been some effort to replace the top dash with softer plastics. It is not a vast improvement from any previous Subaru, and definitely is nowhere near any of its European competitors in terms of interior material quality. It doesn’t even have much added functionality, like a navigation system or an in-built hard disk. That said, from our primitive initial knock-and-hear test and past records, one can assume that the interior build quality will be of a high standard, which is at least of some comfort.

Compared to Lenspeed’s staff S204, the WRX STI’s clutch is shockingly light, understandably made to appeal to a wider audience. The gearshift action is still slick and has a very short travel, which is reassuringly familiar and one feature that Lenspeed is glad to see is still intact. The seats are shaped in a more cossetting way now, and marks have to be given for their comfort level, though we’ll have to verify this for sure when we go for a drive in it soon. The steering wheel is also now nicer to hold, adopting an European feeling to its texture and shape.

Interestingly, the WRX STI uses largely the same EJ25 from the previous Euro-spec WRX STI, but the WRX will use an all-new engine. We’re not sure why this has been done, but we hope it is not because of nostalgia because the EJ25 wasn’t exactly an award-winning engine, anyway. While the WRX’s engine has impressive outputs, one cannot help but wonder why such a sporting car has been equipped with a CVT gearbox. Maybe – just maybe – our bias against CVTs may be changed forever with Subaru’s take on it. But until we try it, it appears to us a rather odd choice of transmission indeed.

What will whet our appetite is more details of the JDM WRX STI, which will most certainly be the one to watch. Until then, we thirst to take the WRX and WRX STI out for a test on our roads, and to see for ourselves whether the rally reps for the road still live up to their name, and to their ancestors…



Leave a comment

By Gerald Yuen

FD2R Update pic-2-2

It has been quite a while since I last posted updates on the FD2R. That could work both ways… either that I’m not learning anything new from the car, or I’m busy wringing every drop of performance out of the K20A.

But it would be ridiculous to harp on the former, because the manner in which it delivers driving pleasure on an emotional level the past two years still engages me as a driver. We’ve made a couple of tweaks along the way. Most obvious change would be to swap the stock suspension for a set of aftermarket coilovers from APi Racing (tuned to the softest setting). I was against this idea initially, but it would be utterly selfish for me to make my family withstand a harsh ride during dinner outings. And my dad uses the car 80% of the time for work, so that works out to be a no-brainer.

The softer ride gives it more fluidity when darting through bumps and cambers, and I could keep it on the boil more regularly without the fear of the rear hopping wide, and this translates to more traction as the dampers labour to gather more grip. Initial turn in does not feel as sharp as before, with the front leaning more towards understeer on part throttle. But once you give it more angle, the stiff rear (although less jarring than the OEM setup) can still hold ground effectively.

It wasn’t easy switching from proven OEM setup to one that has yet to demonstrate its worth. But to be honest, I’m very satisfied with this swap. The OEM suspension is way too stiff on our pockmarked tarmac (the rear dampers are 300% stiffer than the regular FD2). Now, there’s more reason to utilise the K20A’s top end rush without the fear of losing traction over irregularities.

Leave a comment

By James Wong


It’s rather irrational, this Honda craze. After all, the natural progression for a typical Singaporean car buyer is to go from a mass-market Japanese car to, eventually, a ‘continental’ car (understood to mean European and American brands) which has supposedly better safety, performance and handling but at a price. While this traditional view takes some beating nowadays, I go quite completely opposite and am cherishing Japanese cars more than I ever did. In fact, I am quite sick of German cars that have been my mainstay for the past 2-3 years. You could say it is just childish indecision or naive ‘avoid the herd’ mentality, but I am certain I am changing to a Japanese car next. About why, that’s for another article. Right now, let’s focus our attention on the S2000.

There is no link between the car’s launch in 1999 and its ’2000 nomenclature to signal the new century. Rather, it is so named because of its engine displacement – a 2L engine also known as the F20C that has the famed 9,000rpm redline. The engine that replaced it in the AP2 models is the 2.2L F22C1 that reportedly had a more usable torque curve with the sacrifice of a lower redline (8,200rpm). Both are good for around 240PS and around 220Nm of torque. Astounding numbers for an engine of that size, which Honda seems to churn out effortlessly. In fact, the S2000s engines have one of the highest power-to-displacement ratios of any production engine ever produced.


Sampled in this article is the F22C1. Although the paper figures are mightily impressive, make no mistake – against modern machines, the S2000 is not a fast accelerating car. In fact, it feels like something from the appetizer menu next to the main course full-on K20A experience in the FD2R (disclaimer: the FD2R I sampled had a Hondata chip up to about 240bhp). What comes to mind is the Accord Euro R CL7, with its milder power delivery than in the FD2R despite having the same engine. The S2000 feels even milder. In fact, I felt it a bit difficult to figure out whether VTEC has kicked in simply because its effect is almost like a heady top-end of a sporty naturally aspirated engine, very much unlike the huge step-up of power, noise and acceleration that the K20A brings when on VTEC. However, every zing to the redline is an event; multiple downshifts are necessary to access the top-end power but when you get there it is thrilling just like in any great Honda: sound deadening is minimal and you get to hear all of the engine’s wail shrilling through underneath the cabin. The sweep of the digital tachometer never fails to raise heartbeats by a few notches.The gearshift, surely the best I have ever felt in any road car (yes, it unseats even the 997.1 GT3), sweetens the wait for VTEC. If there was any gearshift that defines the cliched expression of a rifle-bolt action, the S2000 can hold its head very high indeed. However, I can’t help but imagine having the K20A under the S2000s bonnet will surely add a few more stars to the car’s favour.

I didn’t get to bring the car to its handling limits as it was a very wet day and the car was on semi-slick Toyo R888 tyres. Unless I wanted to incur the wrath of my good friend Brendan (and surely the most JDM-crazed and one of the most dedicated car enthusiasts I know), I drove the car exceptionally carefully. However, in its current state, the car is very difficult to live with in a daily basis. Heck, it was just a 20-minute drive and I already had a list of things to moan about!

First, it was the clutch-actuated aftermarket LSD fitted to the car. I honestly felt as if a whole gearbox came out of the undercarriage and was being dragged along the road. I hastened to act as if nothing happened in case Brendan caught a whiff of something wrong with his car, but in actuality there is nothing wrong at all. ‘It’s just the LSD, I forgot to tell you about it’, he muses as I gravely looked upon his car as if I did some offence to it. I honestly didn’t drive it enough to feel its effects, but remembering the same in Brendan’s previous Silvia, it’ll probably be a great step-up in terms of grip. Not something I would install in my daily driver though.


Next were the seats. I must be old. I had a (*(*^^$^^&*() time prying myself out and in from it. No problem if it’s at Sepang, but a big no-no for the road. Good thing then that the car is not overly loud and that it has a comfortable suspension (but still with a front splitter that will repel unfriendly car parks). Well, viewed as a track car, it is fantastic – I am excited just thinking about how it will perform on the track. But as a road car, it is far too compromised. At Lenspeed we like our cars to be used for what they were designed for (or modified for) – so as a package this particular S2000 didn’t really appeal to us on the road. That would be an unfair verdict though. After all, I tested it in its unnatural environment and as such deserves brownie points for being able to be driven on the road at all.


What can’t be denied though is that the S2000 is a very, very special car. This is certainly an epic drive that I can never forget (even if only for 20 minutes). There might be nothing like it ever again. In fact, Honda seems to be straying further and further away from what we love them for. We no longer have the Type-R, let alone the promise or hope of a replacement; we have instead a hybrid sports car (yeah, right) that is currently fronting Honda’s sporty range. Honda killed off the S2000 and has lukewarm plans for a new NSX. What exactly are they doing? It seems that it is following Japan’s near two-decade long lull into irrelevance, alienating its enthusiasts and instead building cars for the mass market. Sure, this would keep the company alive, afloat, but where is the reward for the Honda loyalists? Thankfully, we still have the old Honda cars which we can buy, which is what most enthusiasts are doing now. Let’s just hope Honda will follow Toyota/Subaru’s lead in the GT86 and re-engage the enthusiast again to rekindle what is most needed at Japan right now: rejuvenation.

So would I buy an S2000? Surely. But a stock one, please – and an AP2 for the torque and sorted handling.

Thank you to Gerald for the pictures and Brendan for letting me drive his vehicle.

Leave a comment