Photos: Concept cars at the 2007 Frankfurt auto show
Our favorite part of any auto show is the concept cars. These cars are mostly design studies put on display by automakers to gauge public reaction. This year, Mercedes-Benz and BMW come out with concepts that seem close to production. Nissan, VW, and Mitsubishi put some far-flung design studies on display. Hyundai reaches far beyond its traditional car style, and we get a surprise from China.
BMW, in its quest for a real competitor in the crossover segment, threw its 6 series in a blender with the X5 to come up with the X6. During the mix process, the X5 won by getting four doors into the final result, but BMW still insists on calling the X6 a coupe. The wheels on this thing are massive, and we don't doubt that it will perform well. It just doesn't seem necessary.
GM, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz completed joint development of a hybrid system, so BMW decided to try it out in the X6 concept. Could this be an indication that the X6 will not only go into production but also have a hybrid variant? We think so, as BMW's not going to let this hybrid technology just sit around, and it hasn't demonstrated the powertrain on any other model.
The up! represents a look back to past technologies, as Volkswagen puts the engine in the rear, just like it used to do on the original Beetle. The goal with the up! was to create the maximum amount of interior space in a small city car. This effort seems mostly successful, but the exterior lacks character.
Honda is in the process of updating its Accord Tourer, which is sold in Europe. This concept shows the direction the company is going for both the Accord Tourer and Accord Sedan, model updates for both of which will debut at the 2008 Geneva auto show. Nothing to see here, folks, move along.
Porsche promises the Cayenne hybrid will be available by the end of the decade. For this effort, Porsche designed a parallel hybrid system, which can run the car under electric power at speeds of 75 mph. Porsche claims current test car mileage of 24 mpg and is working to get that up to 26 mpg.
Mitsubishi built the cX to combine more environmentally friendly technologies with driving performance in a small SUV. The cX combines Mitsubishi's all-wheel-drive system, new dual-clutch transmission, and a new clean diesel engine. Going further with the eco theme, interior trim elements are made from bamboo-derived resins. The cX is a keeper, and we hope Mitsubishi will come up with a version for the U.S.
GM let its Opel designer loose with the E-Flex hybrid platform developed for the Chevy Volt, resulting in the Flextreme. This car has suicide doors, a split tailgate, and yes, those are Segways sticking out of the back. We assume the Segways were put there so the designers could have some fun while they built the thing.
Kia wants to build sports cars, and the Kee is a first look at what they might look like. The Kee is spec'ed out with a 2-liter V-6 and a six-speed automatic transmission, a bizarre powertrain for a sports car. The front of the car uses an interesting LED pattern, and this design is supposed to make its way to all future Kia models.
We like the looks of this entrant from Chinese automaker SsangYong. The company, which has focused on SUVs in the past, designed the Wz as a competitor in the luxury sedan segment. The car would be powered by a turbocharged 3.6-liter V-6 mated to a seven-speed transmission. We've got a few ad slogans to suggest: Whiz around in a Wz, or Off to see the Wzard.
Nissan, worried that kids are turning away from cars in favor of the Internet, designed the Mixim to reengage with youth. The Mixim is driven by electric motors, to appeal to the younger generation's environmental concerns. Nissan hopes that kids will stop IMing and e-mailing, opting instead to jump in a car like the Mixim and visit friends in person. Yes, it actually says that in Nissan's press materials.
Nissan designed the interior to look like a video game, another effort to draw in the world's alienated youth. Strangely, though, the Mixim has a three-seat arrangement inside, with the driver's seat in the middle and set forward of the passenger seats. We appreciate that the driver won't be distracted by chatty passengers, but how does this pattern lessen alienation?
The Verve is Ford's attempt at building a small car for a new generation. The Verve is supposed to incorporate a kinetic look, while appealing to a fashion-conscious crowd. Sounds like Ford had too many cooks in the kitchen.
The ReCharge plug-in hybrid uses wheel motors which get electricity from a lithium-polymer battery, giving it a range of around 60 miles. It also has a small flex-fuel engine that serves as a generator for the battery pack, adding range. Volvo built this series hybrid system into its cool-looking little C30 coupe.
Suzuki feels it has successfully designed sport and family cars and now wants to build status cars. The Kizashi has the appropriate gaudiness for a particular type of status-buyer. But Suzuki isn't content to design a shiny, weird-looking car--the Kizashi will also have low emissions and a performance character. It's spec'ed to have a diesel hybrid powertrain and all-wheel-drive.
Mercedes-Benz doesn't really do concepts, instead building research cars, according to its terminology. The F700 gets an engine under development called the DiesOtto, which combusts gasoline through compression rather than spark, just like a diesel engine. Mercedes-Benz touts some impressive performance figures for this 1.8-liter engine, like 0 to 62 mph in 7.5 seconds and 44.3 mpg.
Mercedes-Benz put the instrument and information LCDs close to the base of the windshield, making it easier for the driver to read them. Mercedes-Benz is also experimenting with an avatar to help with complex inputs, such as destinations or phone numbers. Although this avatar idea reminds us of Microsoft's Clippy, it might be more useful in a car, especially combined with voice command.
Prior versions of Mercedes-Benz F-Cell hydrogen fuel cell car were based on its A-class platform. This latest version is based on the larger B-class platform, and uses a much more efficient fuel cell and motor. The B-class F-Cell is intended to go into production in 2010. Mercedes-Benz didn't mention the range for this car, but it's supposed to get the equivalent of 81 mpg.