Anyone who’s ever been to an auto show knows that one of the highlights of the event is watching the line of new concept cars roll out. These often imaginative vehicles represent the latest engineering feats in automotive technology and are usually, if not always, identified by their bold styling, extremely cool interior features and mind-blowing power plant options.
Manufacturers use these show cars to gauge the public’s reaction to various styling and design elements. Some are nearly production ready while others are simply meant to serve as representations of what cars of the future might look like.
In either case, concept cars never fail to dazzle, delight and deliver excitement. Here are a few worth remembering:
Though I’m not much of a Bavarian Motor Works fan, I find the i8 concept car very intriguing. Designed as a high-performance electric hybrid, it has a claimed 0 to 62 mph time of just 4.6 seconds,* making it one of the fastest hybrid vehicles ever. Introduced in 2009, the i8 features a 3 cylinder turbo diesel engine along with two electric motors. The i8 also has a regenerative braking feature, meaning that every time the brakes are depressed, kinetic energy is collected and stored, thus replenishing battery power.
First unveiled at the British Motor Show in 1988, this mid-engine, all-wheel drive supercar was never intended to make its way into production, though 281 examples were actually built and sold. None however, were made available in the U.S. since the car could not pass U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. From its styling to its advanced all-wheel drive system to its super high-revving 542 bhp, twin-turbo engine, the XJ220 represented a triumph in British ingenuity. Too bad it was victimized by the recession of the early 1990’s.
This forgotten gem first burst on the automotive scene in 2007. It’s an attractive SUV/crossover/coupe thingy that looks fantastic from every angle. Its proportions are a little weird though and at first glance it’s hard to tell if the Hakaze is an SUV or a car pretending to be an SUV. In either case, the coupe’s futuristic interior and chimerical styling, complete with unique flip-up doors, will no doubt lend itself to many future Mazda production-ready designs.
1955 Chrysler Falcon:
Despite the modern era prototypes mentioned above, concept cars are nothing new. In 1955, noted Chrysler stylist Virgil Max Exner created a 2-seat sports car designed to compete with the Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Thunderbird. The Falcon used a powerful Hemi V-8 motor and borrowed styling cues from both the Ford and the Chevy. The car was a promising concept which came within a whisper of seeing mass production. It was shelved because Chrysler execs believed the company had sufficiently addressed the performance market with its 1956 lineup. Too bad. Who knows what could’ve been if Chrysler had had the vision (and the guts) to produce the Falcon.
*Based upon BMW AG test results