The international auto show season for 2010-2011 wound up in New York last week, so we looked back at all the concept cars unveiled around the world and picked the 10 most interesting. These include a supercar from Jaguar, a prototype for the next Ford Escape, and a retro Microbus from Volkswagen.
Jaguar caught the world's attention at the 2010 Paris Motor Show with the C-X75 concept. This sleek car was partly designed to celebrate Jaguar's 75th anniversary, but it also showcases innovative technologies. It is essentially an electric car, with motors driving each wheel. This arrangement allows for torque vectoring with precise power delivery designed to aid handling.
The wheel motors draw electricity from a lithium ion battery pack, with that battery pack getting recharged from two micro gas turbines. Jaguar says this power train lets the C-X75 hit 62 mph in just 3.4 seconds and reach a total range of 560 miles.
Sadly, Jaguar is not likely to build this car, merely showing it off as a technology demonstration and celebration of its 75th anniversary.
The compact 4C unveiled at the 2011 Geneva auto show sports typical Alfa Romeo styling, with beautiful curves rising up from the hood of the car and continuing all the way to the rear. The 4C is Alfa Romeo's attempt at an efficient sports car, the model designation half that of the 8C Competizione. Alfa Romeo constructed the 4C's body out of carbon fiber, which helps keep overall weight down to 1,874 pounds.
Alfa Romeo hides the door latches in the air intakes, minimizing body disruption. The intakes feed air to the engine's turbocharger. The 4C is powered by a turbocharged 1.75-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine, displayed supercar style under the back glass.
The good news is that Alfa Romeo plans to actually build this car.
Also unveiled at the 2011 Geneva auto show was the Nissan ESFlow, an electric sports car. Although this electric sports car concept looks like a Z, it was built from the ground up for its electric power train. Lithium ion batteries are located over the front axle, and two electric motors drive the rear wheels, contributing to even weight balance. The headlights actually conceal charging points.
Nissan cites exciting performance figures for the ESFlow, such as 0 to 62 mph in less than 5 seconds. Meanwhile, range is quoted at 150 miles. The two rear motors can vector torque across the rear wheels, making for better cornering.
Although Nissan hasn't announced plans to build a production version of the ESFlow, the electric power train developed for the Leaf opens up many possibilities.
BMW's roadster concept, shown at Geneva, is really more about the electronics than traditional design or motive power. Vision ConnectedDrive integrates three driving modes, which BMW calls Safety, Infotainment, and Environment. Each state uses lighting effects to signal its presence. Orange signifies Safety, and is denoted here by the lighting effects in the hood, which direct the driver's attention to the road.
Although BMW de-emphasizes the car aspect of this concept, it serves as a possible future design direction for BMW's Z series of cars. The windshield flows into the hood, while humps behind the seats evoke classic racing cars. The electronics certainly show how BMW is looking at integrating driving modes with the car.
Nissan attempts to "redefine the sedan" at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show with the Ellure concept. Nissan takes a kitchen sink approach to the Ellure's power train, matching a supercharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder with Intelligent Dual Clutch Control and a 25kWh electric motor with an Xtronic CVT sending power to the front wheels.
Rear-hinged rear doors give the Ellure a wide opening into the cabin. Accenting the cabin are red ambient lighting, piping, and trim. Nissan calls the colors of the interior palette "Molten Ice," "Molten Steel," and "Molten Gray."
Many of the Ellure's lines suggest a future look for the Maxima, but expect it to lose the funky doors and many of the other concept car elements.
At the 2011 New York auto show, Mercedes-Benz showed off this concept, intended to preview the next generation of the A-class. The design mixes classic Mercedes-Benz elements, such as the large badge on the grille, and more-outlandish features. For example, the grille is formed from an array of black stems topped with silver.
A more realistic aspect of this concept is the power train, a direct-injection turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder making 210 horsepower. The transmission is a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, helping to maximize fuel economy.
Along with being a look at the next-generation A-class, this concept also shows Mercedes-Benz's interest in bringing that model to the U.S.
Kia's Pop concept car, shown in Paris, runs on electricity and is about 9 feet long. With those dimensions, it would make a suitable city car. But the outlandish design suggests it is not something that will ever see production.
At the 2011 Detroit auto show, Hyundai showed off its latest concept, the HCD-12 Curb, an on-roader that is built to handle beat-up city streets while treating the passengers to an interesting cabin tech package. The Curb is a very compact package, only about 4 inches longer than Hyundai's smallest Accent model.
Out back, the concept features an illuminated "Curb" logo that shines through one-way paint. There are no door handles; drivers simply swipe a touch panel to pop the doors. The Curb uses a power train not unlike the Hyundai Elantra and Veloster. A 1.6-liter gasoline engine mates with a DCT gearbox to help the Curb reach an estimated 40 mpg on the highway.
Hyundai has not announced plans to build a production version of the Curb, but the compact SUV segment is getting hot. Something like it may end up in Hyundai's model lineup.
At the 2011 Detroit auto show, Ford rolled out the new Vertrek concept, a small SUV built on the company's C platform, which also supports the Focus and C-Max. The hood of the Vertrek bulges up, probably more than needed for the turbocharged direct injection 1.6-liter Ecoboost engine specified for the car. The trapezoidal grille is a newish design element for Ford, seen previously on the Fiesta.
Ford showcases its idle stop technology with the Vertrek, and although this is no hybrid, it includes a regenerative braking system to keep the battery charged. This latter technology complements the former, because of the battery drain incurred during long traffic lights when the engine shuts itself down.
The Vertrek indicates the design direction for the new Ford Escape, which will be a radical change from the boxy car of past generations.
Volkswagen enthusiasts will welcome the sight of a big-plate VW badge, made famous by its presence on the Type 2, or Microbus as it came to be known in the U.S. Unlike the rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive Type 2, the Bulli gets front-wheel drive from its front-mounted electric motor. Volkswagen claims impressive numbers for the concept, such as a 186-mile range and a 1-hour charging time. Volkswagen unveiled the Bulli at the 2011 Geneva auto show.
The Bulli's doors are hinged, similar to those on the Type 2. Later Volkswagen Microbuses would get sliding side doors. One area where the Bulli does not compete with the Type 2 is quantity of windows, which numbered up to 23 in the original vehicle.
Volkswagen has suggested it wants to make a production vehicle similar to the Bulli, possibly egged on by the success of its retro-Beetle.