We always love to look at the new concepts at a car show. Some are things we hotly anticipate, such as the BMW M3 concept, and some are fantastic-looking explorations into the future shape of automobiles, such as the Mazda Hakaze. Here are a set of concepts on display from major automakers.
We already saw this predecessor to the new Mitsubishi Evo at the 2007 Detroit auto show, but we couldn't resist taking another look. The new Evo will use a turbocharged version of the Mitsubishi Lancer's 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine. Mitsubishi also has developed a new all-wheel-drive system, dubbed Super All Wheel Control, for the Prototype-X.
Opel shows off a classic grand tourer concept car. The GTC coupe is designed as a performance car that can seat two comfortably, or four in a pinch. The engine in the GTC is a 300-horsepower, 2.8-liter, turbocharged V6, which powers all wheels through an electronically-controlled four-wheel-drive system
The rear seats of the GTC fold up at the touch of a button, creating extra cargo space on either side. The center stack is awash in buttons, denoting a solid array of cabin gadgets. The GTC is already well developed for a concept, and hopefully GM can find a place in its Saturn lineup for a similar model.
The Hybrid X was developed in Toyota's European design center as a unique hybrid car, and as such, it seems to indicate the future of the Prius. New plastic body components allowed the designers to create a transparent roof. The A and C pillars reach up and over the roof, forming two U shapes.
Because the rear doors would be hard to open from inside the car, Toyota made them power-operable, opening at the touch of a button. LED headlights are actually inside the cabin, attached to the dashboard module. Clear-plastic body panels allow them to project outside the car.
Hyundai imagines a crossover coupe segment for the QarmaQ, something that doesn't quite exist yet, as all crossovers have four doors. The rounded design of the QarmaQ is made possible by GE, which worked with Hyundai on the use of new composite materials. The front is designed for pedestrian safety, with soft areas built to cushion a pedestrian during an impact. Hyundai's press materials state that 39 percent of traffic fatalities in Korea involve a pedestrian getting hit by a car.
The cabin of the QarmaQ is classic concept car, with sculpted seats, a strangely shaped steering wheel, and weird lights that are embedded into surfaces. The car is powered by a 2-liter, four-cylinder diesel. Its composite body materials make it more than 130 pounds lighter than if it were made with traditional materials. The name QarmaQ comes from the word for an Inuit hut.
The Hakaze concept is the third in a line from Mazda intended to explore the idea of flow. As such, it uses striated body panels intended to mimic the way sand-swept surfaces look. The Hakaze is based on the CX-7 platform, and as such, it uses a four-cylinder turbocharged engine.
Believe it or not, the Hakaze was designed for kite surfers. If you are not engaged in this sport, then the Hakaze apparently isn't for you. Mazda designers used this specific demographic as a way to focus the interior, using a soft leather floor that would feel comfortable on bare feet and flexible interior space that can hold kite surfing equipment. Personally, we want a car built for devotees of curling.
Suzuki isn't much for big design concepts. Lately the company has shown modified versions of its existing cars at auto shows. The SX4 WRC is one such concept. It answers the question, "what would an SX4 built for rally competition look like?" The SX4 isn't a bad start, as it already comes with all-wheel-drive. Lower it and tune up the engine, and you're ready to compete.
This concept tries to fuse environmental friendliness with performance, resulting in a two-seat, aerodynamic sports cars. The car is powered by a four-cylinder engine with Honda's Integrated Motor Assist hybrid system. Its bulbous canopy uses a severely raked glass windshield that stretches into the car's roof.
The concept's front window comes over the roof to connect to a rear window, running all the way over the rear lip of the car. Headlights and taillights are LED, and the car has 20-inch wheels and low rolling-resistance tires.
Suzuki completed the first phase of a new design program when it launched the SX4, the Swift, and the Grand Vitara. Project Splash represents the second phase of that design program. The car, built on the Swift platform, is intended to seat four adults comfortably while providing excellent economy. Suzuki intends to go to production with something very similar to this concept.
Subaru's explores the idea of an electric city car with the R1e. Although the car goes only about 50 miles on a single charge, its lithium ion battery pack can receive an 80 percent charge in just 15 minutes when hooked up to its special rapid charger.
Similar to Honda's hybrid system, the Kia Rio Hybrid uses a motor tied into the drive train that assists the engine during starting, accelerating, and hill climbing. It also has regenerative braking to recharge its nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. Kia just received a contract to supply more than 3,000 Rio Hybrids to the Korean government, which makes us wonder why Kia still calls it a concept and doesn't offer it for public sale.
Fresh of the launch of its Cee'd sedan and new wagon, Kia tries out another body style on the Cee'd platform, this time with a cabriolet. Kia isn't shooting for the stars with Excee'd--the car's soft top isn't power operated. Instead, Kia brags that the car can hold four adults and, with the top down, still have enough cargo room for a picnic basket.
Kia puts an LCD in the center stack of the Excee'd, indicating the company might be considering such cabin gadgets as navigation. The glove compartment gets a cooling mechanism, making it a good place to store beverages. Given that Kia is already building two cars on the Cee'd platform, a cabriolet wouldn't take much more in the way of technical expertise, making production of the Excee'd a definite possibility.
There have been a lot of successful roadsters out there ever since the Mazda Miata revived the style back in 1989. The popularity of the Saturn Sky and the Pontiac Solstice seems to have convinced Dodge that even an American car maker can build one.
The Demon has an aggressive-looking front end, yet the rear tapers back, requiring big fenders over the rear tires. The front fenders and headlights look similar to the Honda S2000, but the grille uses a heavy, cross-bar structure with openings that come almost all the way up to the hood.
BMW released few details at the unveiling of the new M3 because it's officially only a concept. All we know now is that it gets power from a M-tuned V8, and carbon fiber has been used selectively around the body. But this car looks sharp, and we hope it goes into production soon.