10 Years of Amazing Concept Cars
The vehicles that draw the biggest crowds at auto shows are often not production vehicles but the automobiles of tomorrow — concept cars. Not only do concept cars fuel the dreams of enthusiasts, they provide a look at what might be coming to a dealer showroom in the future. We’ve culled through hundreds of concept vehicles introduced over the last 10 years and cherry-picked the highlights. Some of these one-of-a-kind vehicles eventually turned into production cars, while others were never seen again — often relegated to collecting dust in a museum or perhaps sequestered in a private collection. Take a quick look at the best concepts of the last decade.
Acura NSX Concept — Detroit 2012
The original Acura NSX ceased production after the 2005 model year, but rumors continued to swirl for years that a new NSX was in the works. After announcing and then subsequently canceling plans for a new NSX coming in 2010, the company introduced the NSX concept in Detroit a few years later. The NSX Concept featured the sleek lines of a supercar while remaining lightweight like the original. Unlike the original, the NSX Concept featured an advanced powertrain consisting of a powerful VTEC V6 engine teamed with two electric motors that would provide excellent performance as well as Super Handling All-Wheel Drive.
Status: Three years after the concept debuted, Acura introduced the production version of the NSX, which did not change much from the concept. The new NSX is still on roads today.
Aston Martin Vanquish Concept — Geneva 2019
The Vanquish was once Aston’s flagship sports car, so it seems fitting that this name returns to the lineup for such an exotic new mid-engine concept. Technical details are still a bit scarce and will remain so until further development occurs on this new model, but we do know it will be powered by a version of Aston Martin’s new V6 engine as part of a hybrid system. The vehicle will be built on a unique bonded-aluminum chassis. Aston’s Chief Technical Officer Max Szwaj observed, “The full engineering story of this car is yet to be told, but what you see here should tell you this car will not only compete at the highest level, but it will do so in a manner and style unique to Aston Martin.”
Status: Aston Martin expects the production version of this new exotic to arrive in 2022.
Audi AI: TRAIL — Frankfurt 2019
AI:TRAIL is fully electric, designed to handle rough terrain with enough battery life to venture far from civilization. Sporting massive 22-inch wheels, the AI:TRAIL is built for heading off the beaten path. Ground clearance is a very high 13.4 inches, and the AI:TRAIL can even ford 1.6 feet of water. Like the previous AI concepts, the AI:TRAIL is capable of autonomous driving, which lets occupants relax and enjoy the scenery. Large windows all around give occupants a great view of the surroundings, thanks to a glass roof as well as additional glass below the windshield that provides a better view of the upcoming terrain. The AI:TRAIL has a unique lighting system — rather than employing conventional headlights, the vehicle carries a series of highly-efficient drones with matrix LED lighting. These can attach themselves to the vehicle or fly ahead to light the way.
Status: This car will never go into production, although some of the technology may end up in future Audis.
Audi e-tron GT Concept — Los Angeles 2018
The German car company continued its march toward producing fully electric vehicles with the introduction of the sexy e-Tron GT. This stunning, low-slung four door possesses sleek styling, thanks in part to its flat-floor architecture and captivating 22-inch wheels. Looking a bit like a futuristic A7, the GT is adorned with the familiar Audi Singleframe grille as well as large air inlets that cool the battery and brakes. The e-Tron GT will have power appropriate to its sporty styling. Twin electric motors — one powering each axle — combine to generate a plentiful 590 horsepower. Audi expects that the production version would be able to sprint to 62 mph in 3.5 seconds, and 124 mph would come up in around 12 seconds. The GT should be able to travel up to 249 miles between charges.
Status: At the time of the reveal, Audi announced the e-tron GT would go into production in late 2020.
Audi Nanuk quattro Concept — Frankfurt 2013
Designed to be at home on the track, street or off pavement, the Audi Nanuk concept may be the ultimate crossover vehicle. Designed in collaboration with Italdesign Giugiaro, the Nanuk looks a bit like an off-road sports car with sleek lines and large 22-inch wheels. Doors open upward at an angle with sculpted lines and cameras instead of rearview mirrors. The two-seater features an adaptive air suspension that can lower the vehicle for high-speed driving or raise it up for adventures off-road. Powering the Nanuk is a 5.0-liter V10 TDI diesel engine producing 544 horsepower and a stump-pulling 738 lb-ft of torque. Performance is impressive — 62 mph can be reached in less than 4 seconds with a top speed around 190 mph. At the same time, fuel economy is estimated at 30 mpg.
Status: This concept would have been unique in the market as an off-road capable high-performance sports car, but no plans for production were ever announced.
Audi PB 18 e-tron — Pebble Beach Concours 2018
A high-performance concept car that focuses on the driver, the Audi PB 18 e-tron gives hope to driving enthusiasts who worry that in the future all cars will be autonomous. With a name derived from the mystique of the Pebble Beach debut location and from the Audi R18 e-tron LMP1 race car, the PB 18 e-tron is powered by three electric motors with quattro all-wheel drive. One electric motor is located in the front to drive the front wheels, and the other two motors power each rear wheel. With a total system output of 670 horsepower, Audi expects the PB 18 e-tron would accelerate from zero to 60 mph in a bit over 2 seconds. One of the most unique aspects of the Audi PB 18 e-tron is the central driving position. For performance driving, the pilot sits in the center of the car for better weight distribution and visibility. But when needed, the driver’s seat and all necessary driving controls can be moved to the left to create room for a passenger.
Status: Eventually Audi will have a sports car in the e-tron portfolio with influences from this concept.
Bentley EXP 100 GT — Pebble Beach Concours 2019
Bentley celbrated its 100th anniversary in 2019, and the famed British marque revealed its latest creation at the most recent Pebble Beach Concours: the EXP 100 GT. The EXP 100 GT is advanced in myriad ways including a high-tech electric powertrain, autonomous driving capabilities, futuristic artificial intelligence and a design that reflects a future Bentley. The company sees this concept as the Grand Tourer one could expect to drive in the year 2035. As a proper grand tourer, the EXP 100 GT possesses grand dimensions, measuring almost 20 feet long and close to eight feet wide. While the design of the EXP 100 GT is thoroughly modern, styling cues abound that reference Bentley’s rich past. Up front big, round headlights overlap the grille — a look similar to the powerful Blower Bentleys of the 1920s. Bentley designed the EXP 100 GT to be relished by a driver who loves the thrill of carving a mountain road or cruising a curvy coastline. But for those times when the driver chooses to disengage — sitting in traffic, crossing Montana on a long, straight highway — autonomous mode can be employed.
Status: The EXP 100 GT won’t go into production as is; however, certain styling cues could make it to future production models.
BMW i8 Concept — Frankfurt 2011
Almost 10 years ago BMW showcased the German automaker’s first electric vehicle concepts while announcing plans to start a new BMW i sub-brand. The i8 Concept — showcased alongside the i3 Concept — provided a new idea of what a sports car could be, from its advanced powertrain to its futuristic design. The plug-in hybrid concept would be able to accelerate to 62 mph in less than 5 seconds while traveling in electric-only mode for about 21 miles. “We are marking another milestone in the history of the BMW Group. As Chairman of the Board and an engineer myself, I am very proud of this project,” declared Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG Norbert Reithofer at the time of the debut. “As the world’s leading premium car manufacturer, our aim is to offer customers purpose-built electric-drive cars as well,” he added.
Status: As promised, BMW put the i8 into production in 2014, and the hybrid-electric sports car still looks futuristic today.
Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo — Frankfurt 2015
This extreme sports car was arguably the star of the entire Frankfurt Motor Show in 2015. Designed for the popular Gran Turismo PlayStation gaming franchise, the 1:1 scale vehicle looks like it drove straight out of the video game. Bugatti designers wanted to pay homage to the brand’s legendary racing history while at the same time create something extremely modern. The result is the Vision Gran Turismo, which has elements of the already extreme Veyron, but with a considerably more aggressive look. “We wanted to develop a virtual race car for our fans, which is a genuine Bugatti down to the last detail and radiates the unrestricted values of the brand,” the designers noted. “We hope that the gamers will have just as much fun racing the car as we did in developing it.”
Status: Although this car never went to production, the new Chiron followed soon after with many of the same styling cues.
Buick Avista — Detroit 2016
One of the surprise hits of the 2016 North American International Auto Show, the Buick Avista concept — an elegant 2 + 2 coupe — debuted the night before the Detroit show press days. Powered by a 400-horsepower twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine teamed with an 8-speed automatic transmission driving the rear wheels, the Avista is a contemporary version of a grand touring coupe. “The Avista embodies the dynamic soul of Buick,” said Duncan Aldred, vice president of global Buick sales, service and marketing. “It is a modern expression of the brand’s heritage of sophisticated performance, communicated with beautiful elegance,” Aldred noted. The Avista was the recipient of the annual EyesOn Design Award, which recognizes the best concept and production vehicle designs at the Detroit show.
Status: Unfortunately this beautiful vehicle never made it to production.
Cadillac Ciel Concept — Pebble Beach Concours 2011
Appropriately introduced at the Pebble Beach Concours, the Ciel Concept represents the ultimate in open-air elegance. This large grand touring convertible has four doors with rear-hinged rear doors. The interior has luxurious seating for four amid Italian Olive wood, machined aluminum and hand-tipped leather. Rear-seat passengers have an integrated cashmere blanket to keep warm, as well as a small humidor stocked with cigars. “Large, expressive luxury is innate to Cadillac and the Ciel recalls that heritage, while suggesting where the brand can go in the future,” said Clay Dean, global design director for Cadillac. “Authentic luxury is driven by experiences, not just products, and Ciel is about the experience of the journey,” Dean noted.
Status: Although some Ciel styling made it to production Cadillacs, the car itself never went into production, instead finding a home in a museum.
Cadillac Escala Concept — Pebble Beach Concours 2016
Making its worldwide debut in Pebble Beach, the Escala showcased possible future design and technology ideas for Cadillac sedans. “Escala is a concept with two clear objectives,” said Johan de Nysschen, president of Global Cadillac. “First, Escala is a statement of intent for the next iteration of the Cadillac design language, and also technical concepts in development for future Cadillac models. Secondly, Escala builds Cadillac’s aspirational character, signaling the brand’s return to the pinnacle of premium.” Bold statements indeed. The 4-door sedan is larger than the Cadillac CT6 and features a liftback design similar to the Audi A7.
Status: We hold out hope that a car based on Escala will enter production; the latest Cadillacs carry a similar front-end design.
Chevrolet Code 130R — Detroit 2012
With the idea of capturing the attention of next-generation car buyers, Chevrolet introduced two concepts at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show, one of the two being this unique Code 130R. The four-seat coupe has a sporty look while still having a useful-size cabin. With a fuel-efficient 1.4-liter turbocharged Ecotec engine producing 150 horsepower, power gets sent to the rear wheels for what would certainly be fun-to-drive characteristics. The expectation was that a sporty coupe of this nature could be priced in the low $20,000 range.
Status: This car could have done well for General Motors; unfortunately it never made it to production and was never seen in any form again.
Genesis Essentia Concept — New York 2018
With stunning looks and a futuristic interior, the Essentia Concept was a favorite at the 2018 New York Auto Show. The Essentia is a pure electric vehicle with multiple motors that would drive all four wheels. Performance would match the sleek styling — it’s estimated that a vehicle such as this would be able to sprint to 60 mph in a mere 3 seconds. The Essentia’s silhouette emphasizes classic GT styling with its long, low hood and swept back cabin. Butterfly doors allow for easy ingress and egress. Inside Essentia, the front seats look like modern furniture, trimmed in cognac leather with herringbone quilting. Oxford Blue leather swathes the rear seats, while blue velvet trims the roof pillars. The gauges and other driving information gets displayed in front of the driver on an 8-inch widescreen. A larger display fills the entire dashboard, providing infotainment, climate, communication and other details for both driver and passenger.
Status: The Essentia has remained a concept vehicle with no production plans. However, Genesis will likely carry over some of the concept’s technology and styling cues to a future GT car that fits within the Genesis brand.
Honda Urban EV Concept — Frankfurt 2017
An all-electric car smaller than the current Honda Jazz supermini, the Urban EV Concept debuted in Frankfurt a couple years ago. Built on an all-new platform, the Urban EV Concept is low and wide, with a simple, somewhat retro design. The Honda emblem is backlit in blue, which will be a new styling element for future electric Honda vehicles. Between the headlights, messages can be displayed such as greetings, messages for other drivers or charging status. Inside, the Urban EV Concept seats four on two bench seats, the front seat finished in grey fabric with a wood trim seatback and armrests. The large floating dashboard console is also trimmed in wood with simple controls and a panoramic screen on top. A wraparound panoramic screen behind the console extends into the doors and replaces the side mirrors with camera displays. Slim A-pillars and a wraparound windshield improve visibility for the driver. The doors are rear-hinged.
Status: Honda recently showed the production version called the Honda e; however, the automaker has no current plans to bring this small EV to America.
Hyundai HCD-14 Genesis — Detroit 2013
Back when Genesis was still a luxury model in the Hyundai lineup, the Korean automaker brought this advanced concept to the Detroit Auto Show. The HCD-14 Genesis was created to showcase the design direction for a rear-wheel drive premium sedan, featuring short overhangs, a sharply-tapered greenhouse, a short rear deck and large alloy wheels. The rear door is rear-hinged, providing a wide opening to the futuristic cabin. Inside the driver’s position is separated like a cockpit with driving functions kept separate from the passenger. Controls for infotainment, audio and other items are selected via eye-tracking or gesture controls, eliminating the need for hard buttons.
Status: Genesis has since become its own brand; however, the unique interior controls or styling of the HCD-14 have not made an appearance in any production model from the Korean car company.
Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept — Detroit 2015
This concept garnered plenty of attention when revealed at the Detroit Auto Show a few years back, mainly because it looks like the perfect combination of fun and utility. Designed for the “Urban Adventurer,” the Santa Cruz Concept offers the comfort and convenience of a small crossover but with a more versatile cargo bed. “The Santa Cruz crossover truck concept meets the unspoken needs of a growing Millennial lifestyle we call ‘Urban Adventurers,’” said Mark Dipko, director of corporate planning for Hyundai Motor America. At first glance the Santa Cruz looks like a 2-door, but it features rear-hinged rear doors for easy access to the rear seat. An integrated rigid tonneau cover that conveniently retracts when not needed provides a secure cargo area. A tailgate extension expands the cargo area even more.
Status: Hyundai recently announced that Santa Cruz will go into production at the company’s Alabama assembly plant in 2021. We’re still waiting on details that will reveal how close the final vehicle will be to the original concept.
Infiniti Prototype 10 — Pebble Beach Concours 2018
Nissan’s luxury brand took the wraps off this futuristic sports car at the 2018 Pebble Beach Concours. With a long, low hood, open cockpit and dramatic fin behind the driver’s seat, the Prototype 10 features a large Infiniti badge is integrated into the bodywork at the front, while slashes at the base of the hood reveal ultra-thin headlights. To emphasize its focus on the driver, the Prototype 10 is a single-seater. The interior features a clean, minimalist design with a 4-point harness as well as brake / accelerator pedals and a race-inspired steering wheel mounted on carbon fiber struts. With an electric powertrain there would be no gears to shift, further simplifying the cabin and driver experience.
Status: Infiniti was quick to point out that the Prototype 10 was purely a design study at the time.
Infiniti Prototype 9 Concept — Pebble Beach Concours 2017
Nissan’s Infiniti brand debuted in America 30 years ago, but imagine if the Japanese automaker’s luxury brand had existed back in the 1940s. If it had, there might have been an Infiniti race car such as this sleek Prototype 9 concept. Infiniti signature design elements can be found throughout the Prototype 9, including the double-arch grille and “shark gills” behind the front wheels. Inside the cockpit, Infiniti designers kept things simple, as would have been the case in a 1940s race car. In a modern twist, the gauges are in a fixed central hub made of turned aluminum. This hub is in the center of the steering wheel, which puts everything directly in front of the driver. The cockpit itself is replete in black leather with contrasting red stitching. Japanese flags are stitched into the integrated headrest of the single bucket seat. Although the Prototype 9 has the look of a vintage race car, under that long hood is a thoroughly advanced electric powertrain.
Status: As exciting as it would be to see the Prototype 9 on a racetrack, Infiniti has no plans to put this car into production.
Infiniti Q80 Inspiration — Los Angeles 2014
A 4-door fastback design, Infiniti’s Q80 Inspiration Concept was designed to provide a look at a future premium sedan at the top of the Infiniti range. The long, low profile is created by the teardrop-shaped greenhouse incorporating a panoramic glass roof. The Q80 Inspiration features autonomous driving technology and a high-performance hybrid-electric powertrain expected to produce more than 550 horsepower. Making its North American debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the Q80 Inspiration features a simple but luxurious interior with four individual quilted leather seats and Alcantara, leather and metal finishes throughout. A simplified driver interface and head-up display provide the information drivers need, while the front-seat passenger also has a head-up display for external information via a smartphone connected to the vehicle’s telematics system. Each rear-seat passenger has a touchscreen to access the onboard entertainment system.
Status: The styling of this concept has since made it to most of the luxury sedans in the Infiniti lineup; however, we are still awaiting the arrival of a new flagship sedan.
Jaguar C-X75 Concept — Paris 2010
Jaguar builds some of the most elegant, sporty vehicles available; however, the company has never come close to building anything as sexy as the C-X75 concept that was introduced at the 2010 Paris Motor Show. “This will be the finest looking and most innovative Jaguar ever created,” said Ian Callum, Jaguar’s then Director of Design. “Even in the world of supercars, we can still produce the most beautiful. C-X75 is an exciting project for us and a clear statement of Jaguar’s intent to continue creating bold, innovative and beautiful performance cars,” Callum enthused. The powertrain for the C-X75 is as exotic as its styling —a 1.6-liter supercharged and turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that develops 502 horsepower, with the addition of two electric motors for a total output of 850 horsepower. Boasting a top speed of 220 mph, the C-X75 could reach 100 mph in less than 6 seconds.
Status: Although the public did get to see the C-X75 on the road in the James Bond movie “Spectre,” unfortunately Jaguar has not announced any further plans for this gorgeous supercar.
Jeep Trailcat — Easter Jeep Safari 2016
If the Jeep Wrangler is the ultimate off-roader and the Hellcat engine one of the most powerful on the road, then combining these would create the ultimate off-road machine — and it’s called Trailcat. At the heart of this Jeep is a 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V8 engine generating a massive 707 horsepower, teamed with a 6-speed manual transmission. All that power makes plenty of dust with 17-inch beadlock wheels and 39.5-inch BFGoodrich Krawler T/A KX tires, front and rear Dana 60 axles and Fox shocks. The Jeep’s wheelbase has been extended 12 inches and the windshield has been chopped, giving what is normally a boxy vehicle a sleeker look. Other styling updates include a power-dome vented hood, satin black grille, LED headlights and fog lamps, and rock rails. Inside are sport bucket seats from the Dodge Viper featuring Katzkin leather seat covers with accent stitching.
Status: While the hellcat engine did make it into the Grand Cherokee, the odds of a Hellcat-powered Wrangler are somewhat low.
Kia GT4 Stinger Concept — Detroit 2014
At a time when Kia’s most exciting vehicle was the Soul crossover, this GT4 Stinger Concept made a big splash. Unveiled at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, the GT4 Stinger was designed as an affordable but fun rear-wheel drive 2+2 sports car. Although the grille was clearly associated with the Kia style, the rest of the vehicle was unlike anything else in the Kia lineup at that time. Painted in “Ignition Yellow,” the GT4 Stinger has a low, wide stance with a sporty silhouette highlighted by 20-inch aluminum wheels with carbon-fiber inserts. Power comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine producing 315 horsepower, teamed with a close-ratio 6-speed manual gearbox.
Status: Kia never had plans to put this sport coupe into production, which is too bad since it would have been very entertaining to drive. However, the Korean automaker did introduce the high-performance Stinger a few years later.
Imagine by Kia Concept — Geneva 2019
Kia introduced an all-electric concept car — dubbed Image by Kia —at the 2019 Geneva show, describing it as the company’s first look at a 4-passenger car designed from inception to be electric. While the Kia eNiro electric crossover is based on an existing architecture adapted to be an EV, the Imagine by Kia features a low-mounted, induction-charged battery pack and a compact electric drivetrain. Image by Kia features a new interpretation of Kia’s tiger nose grille with illuminated trim that surrounds the LED headlight units and includes a floating horizontal element. The front turn signals high on the edge of the hood feature glowing elements that float in clear acrylic, and the windshield and roof are created from a single piece of glass.
Status: Clearly a concept car at this point, Imagine by Kia possesses design elements and a drivetrain that might be used in future Kia models.
Land Rover DC100 Concept — Frankfurt 2011
There had been rumors that Land Rover was looking at bringing back a modern-day version of the iconic Defender, and the DC100 Concept provided a first look at what that Defender might be like. At the time, Land Rover Global Brand Director John Edwards noted that “the Defender has always been at the heart of the Land Rover Brand and single-handedly defines our go-anywhere, can-do spirit. Our ambition is to create an all new Defender for a global market that remains absolutely faithfully to its original DNA: tough, versatile, durable and capable. At the same time, it will be developed for the 21st century and adaptable for the needs of future generations.” The DC100 Concept includes advanced off-road features such as a next-generation Terrain Response system, a Wade Aid sonar system to assess water depth, permanent 4-wheel drive and a Terrain-i system that can create an intelligent map of the topography in front of the vehicle and display it as a 3D visualization.
Status: At the time of this concept, Land Rover planned to introduce a new Defender in 2015. Although slightly delayed, the all-new Defender debuted in 2019, arriving in showrooms this year.
Lexus LF-30 Concept — Tokyo 2019
Following a theme of electrification that seems to be prevalent at every auto show lately, Lexus introduced its vision for the future — 2030 to be more precise — in the shape of this bold concept vehicle. The LF-30 advances the iconic Lexus spindle grille and takes the most modern form possible with this concept’s electric powertrain. The futuristic styling is accompanied by an advanced powertrain that features four in-wheel motors and steering-by-wire, which would provide not only outstanding handling and performance, but allow a more spacious interior design. The advanced cockpit of the LF-30 is designed for manual or autonomous driving, with steering-wheel-controlled switches and a head-up display. The LF-30 features next-generation interfaces that use gesture control while presenting information with augmented reality displays. Access to the interior is via very large gull-wing style doors.
Status: The LF-30 Concept will not become a production vehicle; however, the powertrain is likely to find its way into a future production vehicle from Lexus.
Lincoln Navigator Concept — New York 2016
Lincoln debuted a stunning Navigator Concept at the 2016 New York International Auto Show, offering a first look at what to expect from the soon-to-be-arriving full-size SUV from Ford’s luxury brand. Inspired by luxury sailboats and yachts, a nautical theme carries throughout the design via the body lines, Storm Blue paint and teak wood trim. At the front is a larger, taller version of the grille design from the new Lincoln Continental sedan. Power gullwing doors provide easy access to a spacious interior with an opening wide enough to access both rows and feature a series of three deploying teak stairs that drop when the doors are raised. Inside, the Navigator Concept boasts the most spacious Lincoln interior ever with six Lincoln-patented Perfect Position Seats that adjust 30 different ways, finished in light blue leather. The cargo area has a wardrobe management system replete with everything you might need for a day on the water.
Status: The final production Navigator looks very similar to the concept with many of the same features; however, the large gullwing doors and wardrobe management system didn’t make the cut.
Maserati Alfieri — Geneva 2014
Created to commemorate 100 years of Maserati, the Alfieri Concept is a sleek, Italian 2+2 design that reflects historic Maserati styling while looking to the future of Maserati design. Named for Alfieri Maserati, the most prominent of the Maserati brothers, the Alfieri Concept was created, designed and built with an eye on a potential production version. The Alfieri 2+2 Concept includes iconic Maserati design elements such as triple air ducts on the wheel arches, a Trident emblem in the grille and Saetta logo on the rear pillar. The interior is finished in Poltrona Frau aniline leather accented with aluminum, copper and other materials reminiscent of oxidized steel, which was commonly used in racing cars during the 1950s.
Status: There have been off-and-on plans to put the Alfieri into production since the concept debuted — the latest news being that a production version is once again expected for 2020, but this still remains unconfirmed.
Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet — Pebble Beach Concours 2017
The elegant Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet was built in the spirit of classic ultra-luxurious open-top cars. Measuring almost 20 feet, the Maybach’s length gets accentuated by clean, sleek lines, especially with the top down. The steeply-raked windshield gives the appearance of momentum, while the immense size is further enhanced by 24-inch light alloy wheels at the corners. Up front a modern interpretation of the Mercedes-Maybach grille has narrow horizontal struts, and its chrome finish plays well with Nautical Blue metallic paint. Mercedes reps say the grille was inspired by a pinstripe suite. The interior is just as elegant, evoking the atmosphere of a luxury lounge. The electronic display screen wraps around the dashboard and continues into the doors for a fully immersive experience. This high-tech environment gets offset by classic round analog gauges behind the steering wheel. Power comes from four compact electric motors — one at each wheel to provide full-time all-wheel drive. Total output from the four motors is 750 horsepower, providing impressive acceleration. Mercedes says the range would exceed 200 miles.
Status: This concept could be the basis for a new Maybach flagship convertible, but there’s nothing official from Mercedes at this time.
Mazda RX-Vision Concept — Tokyo 2015
One of the stars of the 2015 show in Japan, Mazda’s beautiful RX-VISION coupe concept features a low, wide stance, short overhangs and a sleek roofline. Mazda never stopped research and development on the rotary engine, and under the sleek hood of the RX-VISION is a next-generation SKYACTIV-R rotary powerplant. Mazda applied SKYACTIV principles of lighter weight and more fuel efficiency to the rotary engine without sacrificing performance. Although the Japanese automaker has no immediate plans for a production version of the RX-VISION, it looks to be a worthy successor to Mazda’s rotary legacy, which includes the RX-8, RX-7 and Cosmo.
Status: While we would love to say that Mazda is going to build a new sports car based on the RX-VISION, there has been no visible movement in this direction.
Mazda VISION COUPE — Tokyo 2017
Continuing to iterate on the brand’s KODO design language, this gorgeous concept indicates how design will evolve for future Mazda models. Employing what seems to be a growing trend among automakers, the VISION COUPE is a four door; however, it carries the lines of a luxury coupe. Most interesting is the evolution of the classic Mazda grille with the deeply inset headlights that further enhances the luxurious feel of this elegant machine. The VISON COUPE’s silhouette is particularly stunning with its long hood, high beltline and sleek passenger compartment. Large wheels and bold rear fenders complete the look of a what could easily be a flagship sedan for the Mazda brand. The clean design continues to the rear with a sloping rear window, simple round taillights and quad exhaust outlets.
Status: Car buffs would love to see this vehicle on the road, but the VISION COUPE is simply a concept at this point. However, many of these styling cues could be found on future Mazda models.
Mercedes AMG Vision Gran Turismo — Los Angeles 2013
Video games such as Gran Turismo give players the opportunity to experience all sorts of exciting cars that exist only on screen, but Mercedes brought their entry for the latest Gran Turismo 6 game to life at the 2013 Los Angeles show. With a long hood and bold Mercedes grille, the concept is absolutely stunning in person. Sharply angled headlights accentuate the sleek front end, and the eight exhaust pipes are a perfect companion to the 577-horsepower twin-turbo V8 under the hood. The interior is inspired by a Formula One cockpit, featuring red sport seats and an instrument panel that flows into the gull-wing doors.
Status: Unfortunately, the only road we expect to see this beauty on is paved with pixels.
Mercedes-Benz Ener-G-Force Concept — Los Angeles 2012
Participating in the 2012 Los Angeles Design Study, Mercedes-Benz created this Ener-G-Force concept to represent what an off-road vehicle might look like in 2025. Gorden Wagener, Director of Design at Mercedes-Benz Cars explained: “The Ener-G-Force is the vision of an off-roader that, while reflecting tomorrow’s adventures, also invokes the genes of the Mercedes-Benz off-road icon, the G-Class. Modern and cool, it could also be a clue about a new beginning for the off-road design idiom of Mercedes-Benz.” The Ener-G-Force concept has a similar profile to the iconic G-Class — it is clearly more expressive with bolder elements throughout. Since the concept is complete fantasy, so is the powertrain: water stored in tanks on the roof are transferred to a “hydro-tech converter” where it is converted to hydrogen to power the fuel cell. Power from the fuel cell is directed to the four wheel-hub motors.
Status: The Ener-G-Force would look amazing on the road, but as Mercedes-Benz stated, this concept is “pure, rendered science fiction.”
Mercedes-Benz EQ Silver Arrow — Pebble Beach Concours 2018
Mercedes-Benz rolled out the stunning EQ Silver Arrow concept at the 2018 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The single-seat Silver Arrow pays homage to the historic Mercedes Silver Arrows while utilizing a futuristic electric powertrain. Although the original Silver Arrows bore the silver sheen of bare metal to avoid the weight of a paint layer, the EQ Silver Arrow concept’s body is constructed from carbon fiber and then covered in multiple layers of Alubeam Silver paint. The result gives the appearance of liquid metal, which has a stunning effect in any light. The sleek concept sits low to the ground on massive 24-inch front and 26-inch rear wheels. Wheels have non-rotating hubs with 168 spokes per wheel; lightweight aluminum spokes are painted Rose Gold. Inside, the seat and steering wheel are wrapped in soft Saddle Brown leather, and the entire cabin gets swathed in soft gray suede that matches the exterior color. The floor is solid walnut, while trim pieces are of brushed aluminum.
Status: Although this car would never be built as-is, we expect the potent electric powertrain and some e styling cues could end up in a future Mercedes product.
Vision Mercedes Maybach 6 — Pebble Beach Concours 2016
Mercedes-Benz revealed this stunning luxury coupe at the famed Pebble Beach Concours a few years ago, and it remains one of the most beautiful “Visions” from Mercedes. Measuring more than 18 feet long, the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 offers classic coupe proportions with a very long hood, a low roofline and the cabin positioned toward the rear. The Maybach marque has a long history of building elegant luxury vehicles, and this Vision concept upholds that tradition by possessing enough elegance to wear the prestigious double M logo. The gullwing doors on the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 add another level of exotic elegance to this already extreme-looking coupe. The Maybach features four compact permanent-magnet synchronous electric motors — one at each wheel — creating a high-tech all-wheel-drive system. Total output is expected to be an impressive 738 horsepower.
Status: While this exact car was never slated to reach production, the powertrain technology as well as styling elements could end up on a future high-end production model.
Vision Mercedes Simplex — Los Angeles 2019
More than 100 years ago, Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft developed a new style of vehicle called the Mercedes 35 PS that had great success on road and track. Due to its simple nature it was called the Simplex. Now Mercedes-Benz Design has created a vehicle that pays homage to that original groundbreaking automobile while at the same time embracing technology of the future in the unique Vision Mercedes Simplex. Up front is a classic radiator shape trimmed in rose gold to emulate the bronze used in the original. However, the grille itself is now a black panel / 3D display that can project animations or information about the vehicle’s status. The two-seater uses freestanding wheels with transparent rims providing a similar appearance to the original’s wood-spoke wheels. Mercedes designers put an impressive amount of detail into this eye-catching design, including integration of the Mercedes-Benz star logo into the tire tread and leather bag strapped to the lower rear of the vehicle.
Status: Just a concept, forever a concept.
Mitsubishi MI-TECH Concept — Tokyo 2019
Over the years Mitsubishi has shown some rather outlandish concept vehicles, and while the MI-TECH Concept that debuted at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show would fall into that category, it is one of our favorites. Up front sits a prominent grille featuring copper highlights designed to communicate the fact that this is an electric vehicle. Large wheels with big fender flares give the MI-TECH a look of being able to conquer any terrain, while the open-air cockpit indicates that occupants will have a blast doing the conquering. The MI-TECH Concept employs a lightweight plug-in hybrid system that uses a small gas turbine engine to operate as a generator, showcasing how a system like this can fit into a small SUV. Fitted with a Quad Motor 4WD System, the MI-TECH would have excellent off-road control with front and rear Dual-Motor Active Yaw Control — if two wheels are off the ground, power can easily be directed to the wheels that still have traction.
Status: We don’t expect to see this vehicle reach production, but the powertrain could certainly be found in a future Mitsubishi SUV.
Nissan Ariya Concept — Tokyo 2019
Making its world debut at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show, the Ariya Concept is a small all-electric crossover that introduces an all-new look for Nissan. Although earlier Nissan concept vehicles have seemed too futuristic for production, the Ariya Concept is the closest to a realistic vehicle thus far. The signature V-Motion grille is still at the front; however, with the Ariya the overall size is broader, incorporating thin LED headlights and what Nissan calls the “shield,” emblazoned with an illuminated Nissan logo. The Ariya Concept is built with an all-new vehicle architecture likely to be the basis for all future Nissan EV models. With a twin-electric motor powertrain — one in front, one at the rear — the system should provide instant acceleration as well as the grip and handling of all-wheel drive. This electric all-wheel-drive system is designed to manage power delivery to the road for better cornering and handling on dry pavement, or when surfaces offer less grip.
Status: Earlier this year Nissan debuted the production version of the Ariya, expected to arrive in showrooms later in 2021.
Nissan Concept 2020 Vision Gran Turismo — Tokyo 2015
The Nissan CONCEPT 2020 Vision Gran Turismo began as an ultimate Nissan performance model for the virtual world of the Sony PlayStation Gran Turismo videogame series. Penned by Nissan designers for the Gran Turismo fantasy garage, the car then became a physical model, premiering in July of 2015 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England. Created by a team of young designers at Nissan Design Europe in conjunction with Polyphony Digital Inc. — the creators of Gran Turismo — Nissan engineers in Japan then collaborated on the real-world project to create a vehicle that represents the performance potential of the virtual model. The Nissan CONCEPT 2020 Vision Gran Turismo presented at the Tokyo Motor Show is finished in Fire Knight red which highlights the extreme design, accentuated by carbon fiber elements as well as a new version of Nissan’s V-Motion grille.
Status: The only roads where this concept was ever seen were the virtual ones on Sony PlayStation. The Vision Gran Turismo is currently on display at Nissan Crossing exhibit center in downtown Tokyo.
Nissan IDx NISMO Concept — Tokyo 2013
At a time when small rear-drive sporty cars were being introduced by Toyota and Subaru, Nissan joined the fray with this very sporty IDx NISMO concept. With a shape reminiscent Datsun 510 from the early 1970s, the boxy 2-door sport coupe was familiar to many enthusiasts from its placement in racing video games. Power was said to come from a 1.6-liter engine from the Nissan Juke NISMO that would produce around 200 horsepower — perfect for a vehicle such as this. The side pipes would likely make a nice sound to match the sporty styling. Inside were crimson Alcantara seat covers with bright-red suede trim.
Status: The IDx NISMO was well received by enthusiasts — in fact Jay Leno tried to convince Nissan to build it. Unfortunately, the IDx never got past the concept car phase.
Peugeot e-LEGEND CONCEPT — Paris 2018
One of our favorite vehicles on display at the 2018 Paris Motor Show was this unique e-LEGEND CONCEPT from French automaker Peugeot. This thoroughly futuristic vehicle features a design inspired by the 1970s Peugeot 504 Coupe. Like that original 504, the e-LEGEND CONCEPT has a cabin that seems to stretch to the back — the rear window is much more raked than the front windshield. The sloping hood and wide stance also echo that of the original model. Unlike the original 504 Coupe, the e-LEGEND CONCEPT is completely electric, connected and can be run autonomously if the driver chooses. There are four driving modes, two of which are autonomous. Doors open automatically to reveal a simple but high-tech interior trimmed in velvet and wood. While the instrument panel is very basic, the entire area in front of the passengers makes up a 49-inch digital screen that curves toward the cabin for better viewing. The screen can be used for watching movies, navigation or even a view of the road depending on the driving mode selected.
Status: While the advanced drivetrain and technology in this concept are still a ways off, we would love to see Peugeot create a modern-day version of the stylish 504 Coupe.
Porsche 918 Spyder Concept — Geneva 2010
Porsche wowed the crowd at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show with the introduction of this powerful hybrid concept sports car, the 918 Spyder Concept. Proving that hybrid powertrains could be used for performance, the 2-seat exotic featured a 3.4-liter V8 engine producing more than 500 horsepower, paired with three electric motors that add another 218 horsepower. Acceleration is expected to be staggering, with 60 mph coming up in just 3.2 seconds with a top speed of almost 200 mph. It was expected that the 918 Spyder would even be quicker around the legendary Nurburgring quicker than a Carrera GT. At the same time this powerful Porsche was very fuel efficient and could travel on electric only for up to 16 miles.
Status: Not long after the concept was introduced, Porsche announced plans to put this hybrid sports car into production. The 918 Spyder was sold from 2013–2015 with only 918 copies built.
Porsche Mission E — Frankfurt 2015
With plenty of experience around hybrid and electric drivetrains, it was no wonder Porsche was looking at building a high-performance electric sports sedan. The Mission E provided a taste of what that vehicle would eventually be, and was the first all-electric 4-seat sports car from the German automaker. Legendary Porsche performance with new levels of efficiency and innovation are expected from the Mission E. Virtual external mirrors capture images and project them onto the lower corners of the windshield, eliminating the drag of large door-mounted mirrors. In order to properly compete in the high-performance electric car market (which is still quite small), the Porsche would need to be able to reach 62 mph in less than 3.5 seconds, have a 300-mile range and be able to reach 80 percent capacity after just 15 minutes of charge.
Status: Porsche introduced the all-electric Taycan earlier in 2019 with much of the styling and performance based on that original Mission E concept.
Ram Rebel TRX — Detroit 2017
This one-off Ram concept is a study in the possibility of an extreme performance half-ton pickup truck, and is the most powerful half-ton truck the company has ever built. The Rebel TRX stands out with its big 37-inch off-road tires, unique front grille, big fender wells and bright red paint. However, what’s underneath really makes the TRX something special. The high-strength steel frame increases durability and stability, while the custom off-road suspension is the result of a collaboration with Dirt King Fabrication in San Diego, California. Power in the Rebel TRX comes from a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine borrowed from the Dodge Hellcat, which produces 575 horsepower. With more than 13 inches of wheel travel, performance shocks and custom suspension, the TRX is built to fly off-road at triple-digit speeds.
Status: Ram has announced that the TRX will indeed go into production — details of this new high-performance off-road truck will be released shortly.
Subaru WRX Concept — New York 2013
Subaru has had the unfortunate habit of building breathtaking concept vehicles that never quite look the same when they reach production. The WRX concept shown at the 2013 New York Auto Show is a perfect example. This high-performance 4-door concept features a wide, low stance, expressive headlights, integrated hood scoop and sleek roofline. The 20-inch wheels added to the sporty silhouette. Power was expected to come from a turbocharged engine putting out at least 300 horsepower, directed to all four wheels via Subaru’s legendary all-wheel drive system.
Status: Subaru still offers the high-performance WRX STI, but the company has not announced any plans to build a vehicle based on the sexy concept from 2013.
Toyota FT-1 Concept — Detroit 2014
The Toyota Supra had been discontinued in 1998, and since that time enthusiasts hoped this iconic sports car would return. The first indication that this might be in the works was the introduction of the FT-1 (Future Toyota – 1) Concept at the Detroit Auto Show in 2014. With classic sports car lines and a large rear spoiler the FT-1 certainly looked the part; however, this concept created by Toyota’s California design studio was just a design study with no mention of powertrain or plans for production. However the company did make the FT-1 available to drive — in the Gran Turismo 6 video game.
Status: It turned out that the FT-1 Concept provided a good look at what a Supra might look like — the new Supra arrived in showrooms last year with styling very close to this concept.
Toyota FT-4X Concept — New York 2017
Although the iconic FJ Cruiser is no longer in production, the FT-4X concept looks like the perfect successor. Styled like a mini FJ, the FT-4X —as in Future Toyota 4WD Crossover — was designed by Toyota’s Calty Design Research in Newport Beach, California. Given its long list of unique, highly functional features, designers refer to the FT-4X as a 4-wheel-drive toolbox. This fun little concept possesses many standout features. At the rear is the Multi-Hatch with a large rotating handle that opens either as dual side-hinged doors for easy cargo access, or as one large hatch that provides shelter from the rain. On the inside of the hatch are warm and cold storage — keeping gloves warm and beverages cold. Interior lighting can be removed and used as a flashlight, the audio system can be removed to act as a boom box, and rear door handles double as water bottles. A GoPro camera built into the driver’s side rearview mirror captures video of whatever action might materialize in front of the FT-4X.
Status: Toyota has not officially announced any plans to build a vehicle such as this, but rumors of a new Toyota SUV sized between the RAV4 and CH-R could be the FT-4X.
Volkswagen GTI Roadster Concept — Los Angeles 2014
Originally developed as an electronic design for the Sony PlayStation3 game Gran Turismo 6, the Volkswagen GTI Roadster is powered by a 503-horsepower 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 TSI engine teamed with a 7-speed DSG transmission and all-wheel drive. Weighing only 3,133 pounds, the GTI Roadster is said to sprint from zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds with a top speed of 192 mph. The driver sits low in this radically-designed VW, finished in intense red metallic paint known as Gran Turismo Red that accentuates the car’s extreme angles. The doors swivel up and forward, and the door glass rises forward from the roll bar to the top of the low-profile windscreen.
Status: Like it was when shown way back in 2014, this concept can only be found in the Gran Turismo game.
Volkswagen I.D. BUZZ — Detroit 2017
The second I.D. concept from Volkswagen is perhaps one of the most exciting of the ID. family — the I.D. BUZZ. Making its debut in Detroit, the I.D. BUZZ is an all-electric Microbus that pays homage to the beloved Microbus of years past. The electric drivetrain allows flexibility for up to eight passengers and two luggage compartments. Two electric motors — one driving each axle — provide all-wheel-drive capability and a total output of 369 horsepower. A new take on the original Microbus, design elements of I.D. BUZZ include a new interpretation of the VW logo in contrasting color, the friendly “face” of the Microbus and the short front and rear overhangs. A fully autonomous vehicle in I.D. Pilot mode, the BUZZ’s driver and front passenger seats can be rotated 180 degrees to face the rear. With a slight push on the steering wheel it retracts into the instrument panel and switches to I.D. Pilot mode. The head-up display projects information via augmented reality, and the center console includes a tablet display and Beats Bluetooth speakers.
Status: Volkswagen has announced plans to put the I.D. BUZZ into production by 2022.
Volkswagen ID. BUGGY — Geneva 19
One of the most engaging vehicles introduced at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show was the Volkswagen ID. BUGGY, the latest addition to Volkswagen’s series of electric concept vehicles. Both retro and modern, the ID.BUGGY concept takes inspiration from classic California dune buggies of the 1960s with a raised hood, tail and fat fenders surrounding big 18-inch wheels shod with all-terrain tires. In true beach-buggy fashion, the concept has no doors and no roof. All interior materials are waterproof, and seats feature head restraints and belt guides integrated into the seatbacks. Built on VW’s new MEB modular electric drive platform, the ID. BUGGY features a rear-mounted 201-horsepower electric motor driving the rear wheels. With a 62-kWh lithium-ion battery integrated into the floor, the ID. BUGGY has an estimated range of 155 miles on a single charge. This layout mimics the 1960s Beetle-based dune buggies with their engines mounted in back, but an additional electric motor could be added to the front axle for 4-wheel-drive capability.
Status: Volkswagen has announced no plans to produce this vehicle in the near future, but given the flexibility of VW’s EV platform, perhaps this will eventually become that crazy cousin of the ID. family.
Volvo Concept Coupe — Frankfurt 2013
In late 2013, Volvo introduced its new Scalable Product Architecture that would become the basis for the brand’s entire lineup, but the first vehicle to showcase the flexibility of this new platform was the sleek Concept Coupe. Debuting at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Concept Coupe provided a look at the planned design direction for the Swedish car company, including the expressive grille and first use of the T-Shaped LED running lights, later referred to as Thor’s Hammer headlights. While the exterior has the classic lies of a grand tourer, inside is a luxurious blend of leather, wood and machined-metal trim. Motivation comes from a plug-in hybrid powertrain generating around 400 horsepower.
Status: The Concept Coupe introduced the large vertical integrated touchscreen display and crystal gear shift, both of which can be seen in production Volvos today. Last year the Volvo group launched a new premium standalone electric brand called Polestar — the Polestar 1 is a dead-ringer for the Concept Coupe, with similar styling and the same hybrid powertrain.