Cool Concept Cars Debut at the
North American International Auto Show
by Jessica Howell
Touring the exhibits of Detroit’s annual auto show, it seems that the distant future may not be so very far away. Beside perfectly pleasing production models, automakers touted their vamped up, technologically-plumped concept vehicles, luring the press in while spinning tales of a driving experience in the not-so-far future.
Sharp angles, fluid lines, practically deceitful luxury and unmatched power fused together for the creation of 2007’s concepts. From delightfully quick cars to uber-functional family crossovers, concept vehicles ran the entire range of industry segments.
Here, we’ve compiled a few of our favorite Detroit debuts to whet your driver’s palate.
[Acura] [Chevrolet] [Jaguar] [Lincoln]
[Mazda] [Mercedes-Benz] [Nissan] [Suzuki]
Photos of Jaguar’s newest concept were dropped into our hands prior to the Detroit auto show, leaving us hungry for the big reveal. As usual, Jaguar did not disappoint. The newest realization of the brains behind the prowling feline automaker, Ian Callum, is this extraordinary machine — the C-XF.
Sleek, Jaguar-fast, and seeped in sex appeal, the C-XF is composed of gracious but aggressive contours, lines and edges, headed by an rounded, rectangle black-chrome grille. A four-seat cabin, roomy and calm in a sophisticated sort of way, boasts the brand’s trademark luxury. A 4.2-liter, V8 powers the coupe.
“[It’s] one of the most exciting interiors Jaguar has ever done,” boasts Callum. We agree. Touches like semi-aniline leather with no visible stitching, wrapped aluminum facia and a central transmission tunnel that runs between the seats give passengers a feeling of belonging — even in the backseat.
Battery-powered by GM’s E-flex system, the Chevrolet Volt sedan is a concept small sedan that takes to the ring the perception of environmentally conscious as uncool. Created for four passengers, Volt blends athletic stance and modern design with an open, airy feel thanks to a panoramic roof.
“A new type of electric vehicle,” said GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, “[Volt] addresses the range problem and has room for passengers and their stuff. You can climb a hill or turn on the air conditioning and not worry about it.”
To charge Volt, the vehicle would require being plugged into a 110-volt outlet for about six hours per day. Running on a 1.0-liter, 3-cylinder engine designed for to run on E85, a driver that rarely traveled long distance might never have to put a drop of gasoline into the vehicle.
So what makes Volt a concept and not a reality? The lithium-ion battery that would be required for the car would have to be large – 400 lbs. large. While one hasn’t been created yet, some experts predict that such a battery could be set for production by 2010.
Suzuki XL7 Flix
More fun than function, this concept made our list because it made our day while cruising the auto show. Based on the 2007 Suzuki XL7, the aptly named Flix boasts an unprecedented in-vehicle movie system that plays films on an oversized moonroof that also serves as a 40-inch movie screen. And to wax nostalgia, drive-in lovers can get the same feel by using the Flix projection system to display a movie on the side of a building, home, or almost any wall surface.
On the outside, Flix’s smooth lines mimic those of the all-new XL7, although this vehicle is draped in Midnight Black paint, accented with platinum and lined along the perimeter with "theater red" LED emitters. Inside, Flix features four bucket seats that can pivot 180 degrees to view the screen — and of course, a high-def DVD player and THX/SDS-theater quality sound system are included.
Parked in front of bright red, cushiony theater seating, the Flix played scenes from various movies while we nibbled on hot popcorn during a break at the auto show. From our particular view, this concept gets two thumbs up.
Mazda’s newest concept — Ryuga (pronounced ree-yoo-ga) — is all about design. And the name, which is Japanese for gracious flow, couldn’t possibly sum up the vehicle any better. Low to the ground and smooth as water, this four-seater took its design cues from nature — Japanese zen gardens, morning dew dropping from bamboo leaves, and flowing lava. Yes, Mazda did quote those exact comparisons.
I’m not sure exactly what a Japanese dry garden really looks like, but I do know that I like Ryuga. It certainly has the harmony part down. Just one look at the fluid shape of the vehicle (not a sharp corner in sight) and you’re reminded of what beauty really is.
Inside of two gull-wing doors, passengers are bound to experience lounge-like comfort, the interior being designed “to maximize the emotional connection between the car and driver.” (Ahem, I believe we’ve heard that phrase somewhere else — could it be the idea behind ROAD & TRAVEL’s annual ICOTY Awards? I think so.) Smart move, Mazda.
Concept or not, we’d love to see this Lincoln on the roads — soon. A premium four-door coupe, Lincoln’s MKR concept signals the future for the next generation line-up. On the outside, it’s clean and bold, featuring a dramatic new double-wing grille that was inspired by the ’41 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet. Winged doors open with the touch of a button that is concealed in the chrome door trim.
On the inside, MKR is dubbed “guilt-free luxury,” meaning it offers a luxe interior but boasts environmentally friendly amenities. Ambient Ice Blue lighting glows from door panels, foot wells, seats, a black oak instrument panel that floats all the way to the rear of the cabin, as well as from the large Lincoln star above. Quite dreamy.
Acura Advanced Sports Car Concept
Oh, what an original name. Title aside, Acura’s newest concept is straight-up cool. Built to provide a preview of Acura’s NSX successor, the Advanced Sports Car Concept gives us a glimpse of the future in the form of a sultry, performance-based sports coupe.
Powered by a gutsy V10, the concept blends technology and emotion to reach the heart of true drivers. Stretched wide and riding low to the ground, the exterior is precariously sculpted, featuring embossed air vents, slim, LED headlights, wraparound rear taillights and an all tinted black glass cabin.
Mercedes-Benz Ocean Drive
Often, to look to the future, automakers find themselves taking cues from the past. So it is with Mercedes-Benz’s newest concept, the classy and refined Ocean Drive four-door convertible. Reminiscent of the ultra-elegant auto culture of the mid 20 th century, Ocean Drive is a study that reveals the highlights of a gone genre — long, large surfaces; calm, clean styling; and classic comfort and style that might beckon owners on leisurely Sunday drives.
Two-tone paintwork blankets the all-new body that features a large radiator grille and LED headlamps and taillights, enveloping a powerful twin-turbo V12. Inside, buttery soft leather and bird’s eye maple trim whisper distinction. All that’s needed are an iPod loaded to the max with Frank and a great pair of sunglasses.
Built as a utility vehicle for the empty-nest life stage, Nissan’s boxy Bevel concept is a vehicle whose main purpose is to provide ultimate functioning for its driver. Simply put — this is a loner’s car. And that’s not a bad thing; it’s just following Nissan’s thinking that in the future, cars will be much more specialized in delivering driver needs.
Styled to cater to the needs of an individual — as opposed to a family — Bevel offers a cockpit that’s accessible via an extremely long driver’s side pivoting door to which part of the floor is actually connected. Sitting behind the wheel, you’ll find what Nissan has dubbed a “ribbon” instrument panel that moves forward and out of the way when the driver’s side door is opened. Bevel also features a “command central” zone flanking the instrument panel with side LCD monitors and offer vehicle information, navigation, entertainment and more.
Unlike anything else we’ve seen at the auto show, Bevel demonstrates an entirely new concept, and that’s just refreshing.