Editors' Picks: Concept Cars
The Chevrolet Volt concept electric vehicle is a four-passenger, battery-powered car that features GM's first use of the new E-flex electric propulsion system, allowing flexibility in fuel sources for electric vehicles. With E-flex, the vehicle will always be driven by the electric motor, but it can be configured to charge the battery with electricity from a fuel cell, generated by an engine or from plugging it to the power grid. When it is fully charged, the Volt offers a driving range of 40 miles. To increase the useful range of the Volt, it includes a 1.0-liter 3-cylinder turbocharged engine that operates at a constant speed to create electricity and charge the battery. The engine is designed to run on E85 fuel, which is a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. While the Volt is a four-door, four-passenger sedan, it really looks more like a sleek sports car with classic Chevrolet design elements reminiscent of both Camaro and Corvette. Inside the Volt combines innovative materials and ambient light for a light and airy feel.
Ford debuted the bold Interceptor concept, a four-door muscle car with the engine and the chassis based on the current Mustang. The chrome grille treatment is borrowed from last year's Super Chief concept and the muscular, powerful look is achieved with a low roofline and a broad shoulderline, but is rather understated overall. The all-black interior has low, bucket seats and the headliner is finished in “belt leather” with silver buckles embedded in it. Head restraints hang from the roof, rather than extending from seatbacks. The straight dash is all squares and rectangles, similar to what you would find in a '70s muscle car. Back-seat riders get experimental inflatable seat belts. The engine is a 400-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 upgraded with sports and racing parts that Ford dubs "Cammer," after the high-power, large valve, overhead cam engines that propelled its race-winning cars in the mid-60s.
Honda debuted a sleek new Accord Coupe Concept that officials said closely resembles the 2008 Accord Coupe that arrives in showrooms this fall. With a long hood, 6-sided grille, projector headlights, sculpted lower body and quad exhaust outlets integrated in the lower bumper, the silver Accord Coupe Concept represents what Honda officials describe as a more emotional design. Another interesting design element is that the C-pillars are very narrow compared to what is typical for a coupe which will improve rear-quarter visibility for the driver. The new-generation 5-passenger Accord Coupe will be “the boldest, roomiest, most-refined and exhilarating car in the segment,” said John Mendel, senior vice president of automobile operations at American Honda Motor Co.
For the second year in a row, the Camaro is a show favorite, this year with the debut of the Camaro Convertible concept, finished in Hugger Orange pearl paint with two gunmetal gray sports stripes, a modern version of the color first introduced in 1969. The Convertible concept received only minor changes from the coupe necessary to create the convertible body style, is powered by a V8 engine with a manual transmission. The Camaro Convertible concept sits on 21-inch front and 22-inch rear 5-spoke wheels with charcoal center sections to match the stripes on the body and bright outer edges with an orange outlet on the wheel edge. The Camaro Coupe will go on sale in 2009 and a production convertible will be added later that year.
The C-XF concept is a dynamic, new, four-door sport sedan that is a clear indication in the design direction of the next-generation Jaguar sedans, beginning with a replacement for the S-TYPE early in 2008. The C-XF design is very modern yet takes inspiration from great Jaguars of the past, dominated by a bold, aggressive grille that is set back deep into the body and finished in black chrome. The headlights are narrow and angular yet evolve the twin-lamp motif from earlier Jaguars and a blue streak of light between the two lights creates the appearance of the iris of a cat when illuminated. The profile shows a strong shoulder line and the cabin is low and sporty with narrow glass and bright trim. The rear is also aggressive with a wide look that is emphasized by the lower diffuser. The interior has a tone-on-tone theme with brushed aluminum trim, unique carbon fiber pattern leather and Poplar wood that has been scorched for a rich feel. The front seats are lightweight and sculpted and the rear includes two bucket seats. The C-XF is powered by a 420-horsepower with a 6-speed automatic transmission and Jaguar Sequential Shift.
More evidence that Lexus is tooling up to build a super car. The LF-A concept was first shown two years ago at NAIAS. This year there’s a new version with curvier surfaces and finer detailing. Those refinements give it superior aerodynamics so its 500-plus V10 engine can propel it up to a top speed of 200 mph. "The first LF-A was a pure concept, but one that we went so far as to conduct engineering analysis on," said Lexus Group Vice President and General Manager Bob Carter. "This latest concept is much closer to a vehicle that we could bring to market, and one in which we will be gauging consumer interest."
One of the Detroit show’s most admired concepts was the Mazda Ryuga. Its name means “graceful flow” in Japanese, and designer Yasushi Nakamuta took his inspiration from Japanese rock gardens. Its ribbon-like front and rear taillights are modeled on drops of morning dew, and the chiseled parallel lines that flow down its sides really do resemble a wave-washed sandy seashore. Finished in shimmering “lava red” paint, it’s one of a series of concepts Mazda is producing in order to work up a visual identity lively enough to live up to the brand’s fun-to-drive cars and "zoom-zoom" tagline. The top-hinged full length doors and the horseshoe-shaped steering wheel aren’t likely to reach showrooms but let’s hope the elegant, flowing lines do.
Described by Head of the Mercedes Car Group Dieter Zetsche as “a car that could make the Mercedes star dance with the stars,” this is a slick four-door luxury convertible. It features a very classic style with clearly defined lines that are accentuated by two-tone paint and balanced by large, smooth surfaces. The interior features high-quality materials such as fine-quality leather, 3D-effect materials and large bird's eye maple trim panels in the interior and on the soft-top compartment cover. All four passengers enjoy neck-level heating thanks to Mercedes’ AIRSCARF system. “If everyone likes it as much as you do I promise that we'll consider a comeback for a full-size luxury convertible made by Mercedes,” said Dr. Zetsche. Watch this space.
Toyota capitalizes on its reputation for hybrids with this 400-horsepower sports car. Powered a by hybrid gas-electric engine including a 3.5-liter V6, it could manage the 0-60 mph dash in around 4 seconds. Foreign companies operating in the U.S. often emphasize the “American-character” of their products. Toyota puts a new spin on that line with the FT-HS: “Toyota is originally a Japanese company. That’s part of our history, part of our culture. We’re trying to express some Japanese attributes” said Kevin Hunter, who leads Toyota’s North American Calty Design Center in California. FT-HS is also notable for what’s missing―much unnecessary material has been excised. For example, the areas of the seats that don’t need to touch passenger bodies are missing. There are no plans for production.
Volvo’s XC models are SUV-like crossovers that bear a heavy resemblance to the company’s much-loved wagons but add larger wheels, higher ground clearance and other sport-ute attributes. The XC60 exhibits the Swedish carmaker’s plans for its next XC model. The headlights, 20-inch wheels, wheel arches and front and rear skid plates add to the aggressive stance, while the window profile and roofline give more of a coupe appearance. The S-shaped tailgate resembles the current C30 coupe model. Inside, light-colored leather and aluminum is contrasted with espresso brown. The instrument pod is described by Volvo as resembling a bumblebee, with a round analogue speedometer “body” flanked by two digital “wings” featuring display screens. “It is time to forget…all about boxy Volvos” said Design Director Steve Mattin.