What will we drive in the future?
Concept cars, always popular features at auto shows, give a glimpse at the answer to this question.
They are cutting-edge prototypes, one-of-a-kind vehicles designed to showcase new technology and the most innovative design. Concept cars show trends within the auto industry, the potential of current technology, and a hint of what may be possible years from now.
It’s impossible to say what will materialize and what will remain just a fun footnote in the records of auto history. Here, I’m sharing the top 5 coolest, most exciting and ground-breaking concept cars that have already debuted this year at auto shows around the world.
1. Genesis Essentia
The Genesis Essentia stole the show at the NY auto show earlier this month.
Created by Hyundai’s breakout new luxury brand, the Essentia is a high-performance, all-electric supercar. The first thing you’ll probably notice about it is the hood: a clean line of glass that sweeps from the grille, over the roof and down the rear window.
The Essentia is exceptionally light, constructed from carbon fiber, and many interior components are 3D printed, both lighter and stronger than normal materials. This undoubtedly will contribute to its speed: Genesis says it will do 0-60mph in 3 seconds.
Its design, while giving a striking impression of mid-century futuristic, is actually inspired by traditional Korean aesthetics. (Hyundai’s headquarters, after all, are in Seoul.)
Luc Donckerwolke, chief designer of the Genesis, explains: “There’s a beauty of emptiness. Koreans are expert in orchestrating white spaces and not overpowering with too much clutter.”
The car is activated by biometric readings (fingerprint and facial recognition). Just walk up, get scanned and its butterfly doors will lift open.
Of course, it promises to support advanced voice recognition and a panoply of connective features.
2. Aston Martin Lagonda Vision
The Lagonda Vision, which recently debuted at the Geneva Auto Show, is a bullet of a car: both in its profile, and the powerful effect it could have on the ultra-luxury automotive world.
It’s a huge step forward for alternative powertrains. An all-electric vehicle with zero tailpipe emissions, it will have a 400-mile battery range and all-wheel-drive.
Unconstrained by an engine up front, its elongated layout includes a windshield that stretches all the way to the tires. The overall look is decidedly space age.
The interior is meant to compete with the highest standards of luxury. The front seats will be raised for extra legroom, while the rear seats recline flat like a first-class airplane cabin. Giant winged doors will open up part of the roof for even more space going in and out.
Cashmere, silk, carbon fiber and unique ceramic-trimmed elements will grace the interior.
The Lagonda is designed to accommodate Level 4 autonomous driving, meaning it can handle itself in all normal conditions with no input from the driver.
3. Infiniti Q Inspiration
Unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show, the Infiniti Q Inspiration concept car features a brand-new type of engine. Infiniti says that its VC-turbo technology is “the world’s first production-ready variable compression ration engine.”
Developed over 20 years, it delivers the speed and power of a gasoline engine with the efficiency and torque of a hybrid. (This engine will be included in the QX50, coming out later this year.)
The design is pure and concise. It’s a snow-white beauty of a car, with an all-glass roof and streamlined profile, set off by subtle detailing.
The interior is refined and minimalistic, yet the atmosphere is surprisingly warm and cozy.
Tech features include a new ProPilot autonomous driving system, which can navigate intersections and multilane highways.
This is a car that’s stunningly good-looking, high-tech, should be fun to drive, and there’s a high chance it will actually appear for the commercial market, which makes it all much more exciting.
4. Byton electric SUV
Electric SUV’s are coming out in force this year: between the Tesla Model X, Hyundai Kona Electric and Waymo Jaguar I-Pace, I think we can see where the market will go in the next few years.
One head-turning new contender made an appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Developed by Byton, a Chinese startup, from the outside it looks just like a standard SUV. Humdrum, even.
But open the door and check out a massive, high-resolution display screen in place of a dashboard. A solid 49 inches, running almost door to door, it’s controlled exclusively by gestures. No knobs, switches, controllers or any other gadgets cluttering up the front.
It’s billed to include the cutting edge of auto tech, like facial recognition, cameras instead of side mirrors, autonomous driving, and even monitoring the driver’s blood pressure.
5. BMW M8 Gran Coupe
A BMW press release before the Geneva Auto Show redefined the M in the brand’s name: it stands for “More.”
That’s definitely the impression given by the M8 Gran Coupe.
Bigger wheels, air intakes and fenders.
Four wide exhaust pipes.
More muscular design with bolder accents.
And much more power: 600+ horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque, channeled through a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system.
It’s an ultra-sporty vehicle whose design takes luxury out of the comfort zone. While many high-end designers go for sleek and understated, the M8 is here to make a statement. It’s a powerful car with a powerful image.
Chief designer Adrian von Hooydonk wants it to represent “a new facet of luxury: extremely sport, extravagant and polarizing.”
With its aggressive lines, indented roof and rose gold finish on the kidney grille, wheels and exhaust tips, it’s certainly one of the flashiest cars of the year.
The concept car is a close preview of the production M8 Gran Coupe, which is poised to replace the M6. The production model should be out later this year, hopefully not too much changed from the concept version.
It’s exciting to take a peek at the cars of the future and wonder what will actually end up on the roads. Many concept cars never make it past the auto shows where they’re displayed. But others go on to shape the future of the auto industry.
Some of the cars on this list are already set to go commercial within the next few years. Others, we can only hope.
In any case, they show what auto designers are dreaming of and the expanding limits of what might be possible in the near future.