Top 10 concept cars from the 2012-2013 auto show season (pictures)
From September to March, CNET staff covered auto shows in such far-flung locales as Geneva, Detroit, and Los Angeles to see the latest models and concepts from the automakers. Ten of these concept cars stood out as either fascinating design exercises or the shape of production cars to come. Here are those 10.
Nissan Terra SUV
Nissan's Terra SUV appeared at the 2012 Paris Motor Show, and was easily the most interesting -- and least likely to ever enter production -- of the concept cars unveiled during the auto shows this season. Nissan said the Terra SUV, following a compact crossover style, would use motors to drive its wheels, getting electricity from a fuel cell stack.
One idea embodied in the Terra SUV that does not seem all that far-fetched is Nissan's notion that a tablet would work as its instrument cluster, cabin electronics, and key. The driver would dock the tablet in the dashboard, making it drivable. Think of it as being like a stereo with a removable faceplate.
Volkswagen, in an attempt to design a car for North America, came up with the CrossBlue, which features a plug-in diesel hybrid drive system and electric four-wheel drive. With its diesel engine aided by an electric motor and a second electric motor driving the rear wheels, Volkswagen sets the output at 306 horsepower and a 516 pound-feet of torque. Volkswagen unveiled the CrossBlue at the 2013 Detroit auto show.
The cabin of the CrossBlue sports a larger center LCD than we have previously seen in any Volkswagen model. It also has an LCD instrument cluster, with a design similar to what has been developed at Volkswagen's California-based Electronics Research Laboratory.
The MKC, which dropped at the 2013 Detroit auto show, represents Lincoln's attempts to break away from brand-engineering Ford vehicles. This compact crossover gets luxury touches, such as LED headlights and a glass roof, features of the production Lincoln MKZ. The grille shape incorporates the Lincoln waterfall style, albeit more subtly than some recent examples.
The interior of the MKC shows typical luxury appointments rather than new concepts in human-machine interface. Much of the visible electronics look like they could be implemented from Ford's current systems. Lincoln goes with a push-button transmission in the MKC, a nice retro-future touch.
As it's one of the most popular vehicles in America, any news of a new Ford F-series demands attention. At the 2013 Detroit auto show, Ford unveiled the Atlas concept, a look at the next generation of this iconic pickup. Much of the development of this new vehicle goes to fuel savings. Active aerodynamics help its highway mileage while an EcoBoost engine aids efficiency. Ford even puts an idle-stop system on the Atlas.
Along with Ford's standard array of cabin electronics, the company fits the Atlas with an around-view camera system, making it easier to maneuver this big boy in tight spaces. Likewise, it includes a system to help line it up with a trailer hitch, and another to help when backing up a trailer.
Honda took advantage of the 2013 Detroit auto show to show off a new model in development, labeling the concept the Urban SUV. With this vehicle, intended for production in 2014, Honda enters the compact SUV market.
The Urban SUV comes in at 9 inches shorter than the CR-V, and Honda says it would use a drivetrain developed under its Earth Dreams initiative, which likely means a four-cylinder, small-displacement engine with direct injection.
The 2013 Detroit auto show played host to Toyota's unveiling of not only the future direction of its Corolla model, but also the canvas for new Toyota design elements. Some of these design cues already showed up on the new Toyota Avalon, such as headlights integrated with a small upper grille.
Carbon fiber trim on the sides and big wheels serves to highlight the concept, and is not likely on a production car. However, the Furia does reveal a much bigger greenhouse than we have seen in recent production models, which would improve visibility for the driver. Toyota was mum about drivetrain options in this concept.
Nissan used the Resonance concept, unveiled at the 2013 Detroit auto show, to demonstrate its new V-Motion design language. Elements include a V shape flowing from a point at the low front of the car back over the grille and hood. Ostensibly, this styling will find its way throughout Nissan's model range, which is sorely in need of a cohesive look. Nissan specifies a gas-electric hybrid drivetrain for the Resonance.
At the 2012 Paris Motor Show, Lexus rolled out the LF-CC, a hybrid concept coupe unlike anything in its current lineup. The LF-CC features LED headlights, technology beginning to come out on many new production cars. Lexus specified a drivetrain comprising a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine and its Synergy hybrid system.
Porsche seems to have ignored all the criticism leveled against the styling of its Panamera model, yet its Panamera Sport Turismo concept squares off the rounded rear end, the main focus of detractors. Porsche refers to this concept, which it unveiled at the 2012 Paris Motor Show, as the "sports car of tomorrow."
Along with new styling, the Panamera Sport Turismo also came out with a new plug-in hybrid drive system. Based on Porsche's current hybrid system, the concept uses a 3-liter supercharged V-6 coupled to an electric motor. A lithium ion battery pack gives the Panamera Sport Turismo an electric range of 18 miles.
Ever since Subaru updated the Impreza but kept the previous generation for the WRX variant, enthusiasts have been waiting for news of the performance-oriented Impreza. Subaru gave some clue at the 2013 New York auto show with the WRX concept. Only shown in sedan format, the WRX concept appeared as a sleek little sled with nicely styled roofline.
Subaru did not reveal any details about the drivetrain for the WRX. It could potentially get a turbocharged version of the 2-liter flat four currently under the hood of Subaru's BRZ, or possibly a turbocharged version of the current Impreza's engine. Expect to see more details about a production WRX later this year.