The world’s auto show circuit presents the ultimate opportunity for the planet’s premier automakers to show off their ideas and gauge opinions of their newest projects. While next-gen models are shown off, features are explained in detail, and technical data is poured over by critics and automotive journalists, the public usually goes straight for the most exciting part of these shows: the concept vehicles.
Concepts are exactly what they sound like: Ideas that automakers are exploring and not yet put into production. While most concepts live and die in the design studios, some make it to the stages at an auto show, and an smaller amount – like the Lexus LC500 – actually make it to the production stage. So what does it take to get them from the drawing board to your local dealer’s lot? Well, an awful lot of engineering tweaks, compromising, focus groups, and luck.
But that doesn’t stop car buffs from salivating at the thought of their favorite dream cars making it to the streets. We’ve put together a list of our favorite recent concept vehicles that we think need to be put into production right away, development costs and focus groups be damned.
1. Nissan IDx
The IDx and IDx NISMO were a pair of compact, rear-wheel drive coupes that sent shockwaves through the automotive community when they hit the show circuit in 2013. For a while, it even looked like Nissan was considering bringing them to production. But then reality spoiled the party, and the company officially ended the project in 2015. But Nissan built its reputation on affordable cars that punched well above their weight performance-wise – think the Datsun 510 and first-generation Sentra SE-R – and with its current entry-level cars some of the most boring on the market, fans of the brand are clamoring for something cheaper than the aging 370Z but just as performance-based. Nissan could put the IDx cars into production tomorrow and not need to change a thing style-wise; they look as great as they did three years ago.
2. Toyota FT-1
Toyota’s 2014 FT-1 concept was an incredible change of direction for a company that spent the past decade and a half focusing on commuter cars and hybrid technology. But the FT-1 had the aesthetics of a Lamborghini or Ferrari, and proved that Toyota still had it in the design department. The FT-1 was originally designed to be a part of the Gran Turismo series of racing video games but has made the jump from the screen to the real world, and gotten a spectacular response. There aren’t any technical specifications to dig into, but with the company partnering with BMW to build a sports car, there’s a chance we’ll see something a lot like it in the near future, hopefully wearing the iconic Supra nameplate.
3. Cadillac Escala
After the wildly Ciel and Elmiraj concepts, Cadillac is beginning to look beyond its long-serving Art & Science design language, and looking towards the future for its production vehicles. The Escala is a big, bold ultra-luxury sedan that could slot above the current CT6 and could potentially put the brand into Bentley and Rolls-Royce territory – a space it hasn’t occupied in about 50 years. With a prototype twin-turbo V8 engine under the hood, we’re hoping that we see something like the Escala take on the world’s best by the early 2020s.
4. Volkswagen BUDD-e
Volkswagen built its brand on being the affordable, versatile automaker for free-thinkers – think paisley-painted Beetles and Type II vans full of Deadheads. But Dieselgate has threatened to drive away all but its most devoted customers, and sales have plummeted. So how do you win back the faithful, attract new environmentally-conscious buyers, and repair your image after the biggest scandal in automotive history? Easy, build the BUDD-e, an electric people-mover that uses cutting-edge technology while recalling the iconic Type II vans of the ’60s and ’70s! If Volkswagen can build an attractive EV with competitive range and make sure the price is right, it could get back into the black sooner rather than later.
5. Buick Avista
Buick may not have the performance reputation as GM brands like Chevy (or even Oldsmobile or Pontiac), but it built some of the greatest muscle cars of all-time with its 1970-’72 GSX Stage 1 cars, and the 1987 GNX. With that in mind, we fell in love with the Avista when it was unveiled at this year’s North American International Auto Show. With production-ready looks and a platform and powertrain borrowed from the current Chevy Camaro, it looked like it had a chance of getting the green-light, but Buick quickly announced that the Avista was merely a styling exercise and called it a day. Still, it’s never too late to change your mind…
6. Lamborghini Asterion
Despite making a splash in 2014, Lamborghini unceremoniously scuttled plans to build the production Asterion. Word leaked out that brand head Stephen Winklemann hated the car’s hybrid drivetrain, and declared that it didn’t live up to the brand’s “ultimate track performance” – before going all-in on the Urus SUV project. But company founder Ferruccio Lamborghini loved his company’s now-forgotten grand tourers, and with the success of the Ferrari GTC4Lusso four-seater, Ferrari and Porsche’s excursions into hybrids, and Porsche’s upcoming electric four seater, a hybrid GT with a top speed of 199 miles per hour and a zero to 60 sprint of three seconds flat just might make sense for the Italian supercar builder. Plus, it’s pretty too.
7. Volvo Concept Coupe
We’re being greedy with this one. When it was unveiled in 2013, Volvo design chief Thomas Ingenlath said: “The new Volvo Concept Coupé reveals how we could shape our cars from now on. Free from the superficial surface excitement of other car brands, we add emotional value to the Volvo brand with the calm, confident beauty that is the hallmark of Scandinavian design.”
Since then, the company has launched the stunning new 90-Series and unveiled the designs for its 40-Series, and Ingenlath has kept his word. But we’d love to see this sexy throwback to the ’60s-era P1800 enter production along with the rest of Volvo’s exciting new lineup. With the company’s sales soaring in the wake of its new models, we hope they’re feeling frivolous…
8. Opel GT Concept
Most Americans may not remember the Opel brand, which is a German-based GM brand. After years of building uninspired models in Europe, Opel had its moment in the spotlight when it unveiled its GT concept earlier this year. A nod to its ’60s-era sports car (and its most successful model sold in the U.S.), the GT its a compact, three-cylinder performance coupe that could run with cars like the Mazda Miata and Subaru BR-Z/Toyota 86. Since it’s built on current GM architecture, we’re hoping it gets the green-light for production – and comes back to America too.
Additional Reporting by James Derek Sapienza
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