We Round Up the Coolest Concept Cars in Recent Memory
If you’re planning to attend any auto shows this year, make sure to spend some time checking out the concept cars. Automakers use concepts to showcase their best new ideas and technology, and they can get really wild.
After a concept car makes the auto show circuit, they typically meet one of the following three fates. Many concepts fade into obscurity, overshadowed by the next big thing. Some are resurrected as production vehicles that somewhat resemble the concept, or showcase a key element or feature of the concept. And sometimes, a concept car is turned almost directly into the brand’s newest hot model, with only a few changes here and there. The following cool concept cars include several that we think are likely to see production, in some form or another.
Though most concepts are unveiled on auto show stages, some manufacturers prefer other settings. Cadillac is fond of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, and chose last summer’s gathering for the debut of the Escala concept. The company says this sedan is a companion to the Cadillac CT6, which went on sale in 2016.
Generally, the Escala concept seems to fit with Cadillac’s current design direction, although the car’s front lighting is edgier than what we’re used to — it’s narrow, deep-set, and constructed of organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs). These OLEDs are also used for dashboard displays, and make the Escala look high-tech, yet still elegant. Cadillac says the Escala is a candidate for production, but even if it doesn’t make the cut, keep an eye out for that new lighting technology.
In January 2017, Honda chose to introduce the NeuV concept at the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) rather than a traditional auto show. That’s because the NeuV is a high-tech car that features autonomous driving technology, generates its own energy that could potentially be sold to the power grid, and has an “emotion engine” that enables the car to get to know its owner (or at least, the owner’s routines).
At its heart, the NeuV is a city car, designed to be efficient, affordable to own, and easy to drive and park. Even better, Honda says that the autonomous driving system is designed so that the driver can take back control at any time; the company says they want driving to stay enjoyable. It’s a stretch to say that the NeuV will ever be available in production form, but some of its technology might not be too far off.
Hyundai FE Fuel Cell
Few automakers have invested in fuel cell technology as seriously as Hyundai. The company showcased its latest fuel cell vehicle, the FE Fuel Cell concept, at the Geneva Auto Show this month. “FE” stands for “Future Eco,” and this SUV is both lighter and more efficient than the Tucson Fuel Cell, which was the company’s previous fuel cell-powered concept. Fuel cell vehicles work by converting hydrogen into power, and water is the only byproduct of that process.
Hyundai FE Fuel Cell
Hyundai says that, not only is the FE Fuel Cell more efficient than its previous efforts at fuel cell vehicles, it’ll travel about 500 miles on a tank of hydrogen, which is the best range of a fuel cell vehicle to date. So, can you buy the FE Fuel Cell concept? Well, Hyundai is planning on launching a fuel cell-powered SUV in 2018, but they’re hard to come by in most of the United States, due to limitations with transporting and storing hydrogen for sale. The production vehicle probably won’t look exactly like the FE Fuel Cell concept, either, but we won’t be surprised if there’s a strong resemblance.
Concept vehicles don’t often borrow the name of an existing model, but the Infiniti QX50 concept is an exception to that rule. Infiniti rolled out the QX50 concept at this year’s Detroit Auto Show, and it’ll probably be seen again fairly soon — whenever the current-generation QX50 midsize SUV needs to be replaced.
Some things will almost certainly change between concept stage and production, but based on the QX50 concept, we can expect the next incarnation of this SUV to be much bolder looking than most vehicles in the brand’s current lineup. The QX50 concept also has a more upright posture than the current model, which if kept, will translate into a more spacious interior. The concept is powered by a new variable compression engine called VC-Turbo, which Infiniti says is nearly ready for rollout.
Every now and then, Jeep rolls out a pickup truck concept. It makes sense — lob the top off a Wrangler (already capable of truck-like duties) and maybe extend the back a bit. Last year, Jeep actually brought several different truck concepts to the Easter Jeep Safari, an annual gathering in Moab, Utah. Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the event, and attendees got a sneak peek at some upcoming potential Jeep models.
Though it’s unclear which of the Moab truck concepts (if any) was chosen for completion, Jeep announced this January that a pickup model is in the works. Details are vague, but Jeep has said that the new model will come alongside a resurrected Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, and that it will be built in Fiat Chrysler’s assembly plant in Toledo, Ohio.
The Mercedes-Benz X-Class was one of the most talked-about concept vehicles at the Geneva Auto Show this year, and it’s one of the most extreme concepts we’ve seen recently that’s actually planned for sale. Before the X-Class came along, the expensive G-Class SUV was the best option for Mercedes shoppers who wanted a truck-like vehicle, but now, Mercedes-Benz is adding an actual pickup truck to the lineup.
Though the X-Class concept is scheduled for a production model, Mercedes says it’s unsure whether the truck will be exported to the United States. It’s most likely that customers in Europe, South Africa, Australia, and Latin America will have the chance to buy an X-Class. More information will be available this summer, when Mercedes-Benz reveals the finalized version for production. It’s expected to go on sale in Europe near the end of this year.
Nissan Vmotion 2.0
Nissan’s coolest concept in recent years made its debut in January at the Detroit Auto Show. The company says the svelte four-door car reflects the brand’s design aspirations for future models, and has features such as a “floating” roof laced with silver threads, rear suicide doors (that open from the rear pillar rather than from the middle), and geometric body panels reminiscent of origami.
Nissan Vmotion 2.0
There’s more to the Vmotion 2.0 than style. Nissan used the concept to highlight what they call “Nissan Intelligent Mobility,” which incorporates the company’s autonomous driving and zero emissions technology. So far, Nissan hasn’t said if the Vmotion 2.0 concept is a candidate for production, but they’ve made clear that it signals a new direction for the company’s sedan designs. So, next time Nissan introduces a new commuter car, look for elements of the Vmotion 2.0 concept.
Porsche Mission E
Porsche first introduced the Mission E concept at the 2015 International Motor Show in Germany, but developments have been ongoing. The Mission E, shown as a sleek, low-slung coupe, was conceived as a long-range electric luxury car to take on Tesla. Like the Tesla Model S, the Mission E concept has over-the-air software updates and quick-charging capacity. Even better, this concept is actually in the works.
Porsche Mission E
Since the Mission E is a contender for production, Porsche is teasing the public with progress reports. At this year’s Geneva Auto Show, Porsche revealed that there will be several variants of the Mission E, with different powertrains and capacities. Porsche even suggested that it might be possible to upgrade the car’s horsepower rating simply by charging. If all goes according to plan, the Porsche Mission E might be for sale by 2020.
Volkswagen Atlas Weekend Edition
The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas is already on the way, but VW used the Chicago Auto Show as an opportunity to get more attention for this midsize SUV. The Atlas Weekend Edition Concept is a throwback to the VW Vanagons and Eurovans of the old days, which could be equipped with “Weekender” packages to make those campgrounds and amphitheater parking lots a little more comfortable.
Volkswagen Atlas Weekend Edition
The Atlas Weekend Edition’s Urban Loader roof carrier expands in a way that’s reminiscent of the VW pop-up camper vans. Carrier bars help stow adventure gear such as skis and kayaks. Inside, a pet barrier and cargo bay liner help keep everything clean, safe, and in place. Volkswagen has said they don’t plan to sell the Atlas Weekend Edition, but if you’d like to build your own, most of the accessories will soon be available at VW dealerships.
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If you can’t wait for these concept cars to make it to market, check out our new car rankings to see what vehicles are available (and to see if you can spot any former concepts). Then, check out our Best Price Program so you can get the best price available on a vehicle that’s right for you.