We saw several electric car concepts at the Detroit auto show, but there were also a set of more traditional concepts with internal combustion engines on their specification lists. These cars show off the sorts of designs the car companies are looking at for future production models.
As a proponent of diesel engines, Volkswagen launched the BlueSport roadster concept at the Detroit auto show. The midmounted engine is a turbocharged 2-liter, putting out 177 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, getting it to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds, with an estimated 55 mpg.
The BlueSport uses Volkswagen's DSG dual-clutch gearbox, and has Sport and Eco modes. Instead of a shifter, a dial changes drive modes while paddles handle manual gear shifts. A small touch screen, for controlling audio and other functions, sits above the DSG dial.
Also along the diesel front, Audi shows off the Sportback concept. Audi tried out a coupe with the A5, and now stretches that idea out for four doors. It uses a 3-liter turbocharged V-6 diesel engine, giving it 225 horsepower and 40 mpg.
Audi didn't go crazy with the interior, fitting it with standard switchgear. The LCD powers into place out of a recess in the dashboard when the car is turned on. The woodwork is particularly nice, and something we would like to see in just about any car.
Subaru takes a conservative approach with the Legacy concept, showing off a body style that could easily go into production. This concept would use a 3.6-liter boxer-style six-cylinder engine, and, of course, Subaru's all-wheel-drive system.
The interior shows a little more futuristic panache, with a panoramic rear view displayed on an LCD in the traditional rearview mirror spot. The image comes from two rear-facing side cameras. The center stack also holds a conceptual touch vehicle interface.
Volvo explores a four-door fastback design for its S60. This car uses unique LED headlights from supplier Valeo that are supposed to evoke Viking longboats. Volvo envisions the car using a turbocharged 1.6-liter direct injection engine, which would be fine for Europe, but the car would need extra oomph for the U.S. market.
The door design on the S60 concept is particularly interesting, with the rear doors pulling out, then moving back on a rear hinge, so the inside of the door faces the rear fender when it is open. The lack of a center pillar creates a wide open cabin space.
The cabin is filled with cosmetic and technical gimmickry, such as the crystal floating console panel. It holds a unique shift lever for the transmission. As a new safety feature, the car can detect pedestrians in its path and hit the brakes.
Lincoln showed off its C concept at the 2009 Detroit auto show, with the idea that luxury cars don't have to be big. This urban cruiser uses an economical 1.6-liter four-cylinder direct injection engine. Even more interesting is the six-speed dual-clutch transmission, a new development from Ford we hope to see in a production car soon.
The C has a hubless steering wheel, with the wheel rotating on a chrome rim to provide steering input. A hubless wheel gives the driver an unobstructed view of the instrument panel. Paddle shifters for the dual-clutch transmission are mounted on the stationary rim.
Kia launched its new, boxy Soul model late last year, and has immediately come up with a concept based on it. The Soul'ster modifies the box by giving it a pick-up truck-style body without losing the rear row of seats. The result is an open back, suitable for warm climates.
The interior shows a more radical take on the Soul design, with a short-throw shifter for the five-speed manual transmission barely sticking up from the console, a thick, squarish steering wheel, and a small LCD mounted in the center stack.