Monday, December 28, 2015

The Best Concept Cars of the Year: Supercars, EVs, Pickups, and More!

This year’s standout concept cars came from some of the world’s largest automakers like GM, Ford, and Toyota, of course, but also from some of the more obscure corners of the automotive universe (Yamaha, Giugiaro). Yet whether they were visions of supercars, pickups, sports cars, or luxury cars, all of them possessed an inordinate power to capture our imaginations. Presented here in roughly the chronological order in which they premiered, these are our choices for the best concepts of 2015.Buick, of all companies, hosted its very own reveal event on the eve of the Detroit auto show, having all to itself an expansive stage in a warehouse in the city’s Eastern Market. The assembled journalists—and politicos, and hangers-on—were there to see the 2016 Buick Cascada convertible, two examples of which rolled out, one top-up, the other top-down. Right on schedule, as expected. No surprise.Once the Cascadas were in place, however, a spot was left unoccupied at center stage. We thought the brand might introduce a new SUV—to fill the yawning gulf between the tiny Encore and the huge Enclave. Instead, Buick rolled out a completely unexpected concept, the Avenir, and it’s a stunner. READ MORE ››In one of his last shows as the cocky, right-wing-mocking talking head on The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert made a gleeful, deliciously prescient point about Americans’ short attention spans for cheap gas: “Fuel is cheap this week? Give me a five-year lease on a rolling cargo ship with the aerodynamics of a cinder block!”Colbert's statement may have been sarcastic, but there couldn’t be a better climate into which Ford could introduce its second-generation F-150 Raptor. READ MORE ››“Engineered to keep company with exotics” is how Ford modestly refers to its bombshell 2015 Detroit auto show debut, the GT hypercar. The concept’s appearance wasn’t a huge surprise, as we learned months ago that Ford was taking a new GT to Le Mans in 2016, and such a car must be homologated by building roadgoing versions.But as it slinked onto a stage at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena, Ford kept feeding us a host of stats that had our jaws opening wider by the second. It packs more than 600 horsepower. It utilizes full carbon-fiber construction and body panels. It has active aerodynamics. The new GT is poised to not only keep company with other exotics, but perhaps also force them to up their game. READ MORE ››Rumors that Hyundai would introduce a pickup truck to the U.S. market have swirled for years, but they always seemed to fall just short of reality. The rumblings typically centered around a full-size model, a bold and ballsy shot across the bow of the Detroit Three, yet at the 2015 Detroit auto show, Hyundai surprised everyone with a unique and very much not full-size truck. It’s called the Santa Cruz, and it boasts a unibody design, a compact footprint, and a diesel engine.Hyundai says that it came up with the Santa Cruz’s basic format after “intently listening to customers” and recognizing their needs, and apparently enough of those folks wanted a CUV-type vehicle with a dirt-friendly place to stash cargo. Critically, those same people didn’t want to deal with a truck’s huge size, poor fuel economy, or price. Thus was born the Santa Cruz, one of the cooler-looking vehicles ever to be focus-grouped into existence. READ MORE ››At every auto show, there’s always at least one manufacturer that tries to spring a surprise with a not-even-hinted-at new model. First blood at this year's Geneva auto show went to Bentley with the EXP 10 Speed 6.To be fair, the dedicated Crewe-ologist can look back and find some fairly broad hints that the company was planning to do a smaller sporty car to slot below the existing Continental. We reported on the possibility, in fact, in the summer of 2014. But the EXP 10 still came as a radical surprise, not least of all because it looks so much lighter and more agile than Bentley’s existing range of continent-crushers. READ MORE ››The Geneva auto show is known for its outside-the-box thinkers, and this year, we saw a lot of designers rethinking cars in some very fundamental ways, some more visionary than others. Case in point, the autonomous Italdesign Giugiaro GEA sedan, which was penned by none other than former Audi design chief Wolfgang Egger.At 211 inches long and 78 inches wide—about the size of a Rolls-Royce Ghost—and rolling on zillion-spoke 26-inch wheels each milled from a single hunk of aluminum, the GEA is huge. Like the Rolls, it has “book style” doors, but in true concept-car form, it has no B-pillar (the chance of a side impact when parked on a carpet are very low). When said doors swing open, a virtual red carpet is cast on the ground below—hello, Hollywood!—granting access to the plush four-place cabin. READ MORE ››The endless and endlessly entertaining march of Vision Gran Turismo virtual—and sometimes not-so-virtual—concept cars from real-life automakers designed to be plopped into Sony’s Gran Turismo video game continued apace this year, with Hyundai debuting this amazing show car.Dubbed the N Vision 2025, not only does the concept shoulder the weight of expectations for wildness Vision GT cars increasingly face, but it also rather appropriately launches Hyundai’s new N high-performance sub-brand. (Hence the “N Vision 2025” portion of its name.) READ MORE ››In a cute play on words, Mercedes-Benz used this year's Frankfurt auto show, a.k.a. the IAA (Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung), to launch a stunningly futuristic concept car, the Concept IAA (Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile).Mercedes-Benz has a long history with aerodynamic vehicles both in the distant and in the very recent past. The W126 S-class, launched in 1979, had a claimed drag coefficient of 0.36. While Cd is difficult to compare directly given differences in wind tunnels and even measurement method, Daimler's current lineup is nevertheless impressive; a version of the CLA is rated at a mere 0.22. The Concept IAA takes aerodynamics to an extreme, sporting a drag coefficient of only 0.19—despite a disadvantageously short front overhang, large 22-inch wheels on 235/35 tires, and a plug-in-hybrid powertrain with significant cooling needs. It does so by means of active aero—changing its shape. READ MORE ››Porsche’s Mission E may be very explicitly a concept car—its exaggerated lines and ridiculous ride height attest to that. But its mission is abundantly clear: This all-electric performance sedan is out for Tesla blood.Introduced as a surprise at VW’s Group Night festivities in Frankfurt, the automaker’s 12-brand celebration that precedes almost every major auto show, the Mission E carries some impressive, if imaginary, stats: zero to 62 mph in less than 3.5 seconds, 310 miles of all-electric range, and a platform that vectors 600 horses to all four wheels. While those acceleration and power numbers may fall slightly short of the 762 horses and 2.8-second zero-to-60 sprint claimed by Tesla’s Ludicrous Mode, Porsche also wants to hit Tesla where it hurts: the charging socket. Porsche recently confirmed that the car will reach production. READ MORE ››Less than 24 hours after word that Mazda’s sports-car concept would pack a rotary engine leaked ahead of the Tokyo auto show, the maker pulled off the wraps and provided official confirmation. Officially dubbed the RX-Vision concept, the Mazda sports car is a two-door, two-seat, front-engine, rear-drive mass of single-purposed hotness said to provide a look at the future direction of the brand’s Kodo design language.---Undeniably alluring, the RX-Vision ultimately exists as a host body for the next-generation, Skyactiv-R rotary engine that resides underneath its long, low hood. For its part, Mazda is quick to point out that without the compact dimensions of the Skyactiv-R engine, the RX-Vision’s sultry hoodline likely would be impossible to implement.Although the maker pulled the plug on its last rotary-powered production car, the RX-8, in 2012, research and development of the rotary is said to have continued unabated. (This despite reports to the contrary.) Reviving the rotary for public consumption, however, is predicated on triumphing over all three of the rotary’s demons—namely poor efficiency, poor emissions, and poor reliability. Here’s hoping Mazda’s engineers are in it for the long haul. READ MORE ››Yamaha is obviously well known for its achievements in the world of two-wheeled mobility, but like any successful company it seeks to expand its horizons. One evidence of this among Yamaha’s Tokyo show properties was Motobot, a robotic rider that Yamaha R&D is developing to pilot a motorcycle at speeds up to about 125 mph.Another, much closer—perhaps—to actual production, is this foray into the world of automobiles, a snappy little two-seat sports car. It’s not Yamaha’s first street-car concept; the company displayed a small two-seat commuter, the MOTIV, at the 2013 Tokyo show. But it’s far more appealing—and far more advanced. READ MORE ››Heading up the Toyota lineup of debuts at the 2015 Tokyo auto show was the S-FR concept, which stands for Small, Front-Engine, Rear-Drive. Aimed at bolstering the company’s performance image, the two-plus-two sports car boasts a compact configuration; Toyota characterizes it as an entry-level sports coupe—one that is headed for production.Toyota isn’t yet sharing details of the car’s mechanicals, but we have it on good authority that it’s powered by a 1.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder, making about 130 horsepower, which ought to be enough to motivate the 2160-pound coupe. READ MORE ››
from Car and Driver Blog

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