Concept cars, also known as prototypes, allow car companies to showcase their newest designs and technologies that may or may not end up in their mass-produced models. For those of us who love cars, these prototypes offer us an exciting taste of what the automotive future holds. Many concept cars never actually make it past the drawing board, and those that do are often just scaled-up models, which can’t even be driven. Companies do, however, occasionally build fully functioning or at least semi-functioning models, sometimes using engines from regular, boring mass-market cars. Due to factors like production cost and government-mandated safety regulations, the majority of these vehicles won’t be found at your local dealership. They're often unveiled at auto shows, where companies can test the public’s reaction to wild designs and radical new materials.
Car companies also build these cars in the hope that the exciting prototypes will generate buzz and promote the image of their brand. One of the first concept cars ever built was the Buick “Y-Job” developed in 1938 by Harley Earl, who was the first design chief at General Motors in Detroit. The “Y-Job” was a convertible sports car that showcased many new innovative features, such as disappearing headlamps, electric windows, and flush door handles. Mr. Earl actually drove the “Y-Job” concept car for years, and the car is now regarded as one of the most important pieces of American automotive history.
For the purposes of this article, I've listed 20 insane concept cars that, while they probably won’t be mass-produced, at least let us dream. So, without further ado, here are 20 insane concept cars we wish were real:
Lambos are always beautiful, futuristic, aggressive and state-of-the-art. So, when Lamborghini unveils a new concept car, you know it's going to be bonkers. The Lamborghini Terzo Millennio is no exception. The car looks evil, like an alien spaceship from a planet where design matters a lot. The Terzo Millennio, like so many other contemporary supercars, is an all-electric prototype. Lamborghini’s stated goal is to push the envelope in terms of maximizing the untapped potential of electric motors. The Terzo Millennio is a testing ground for new battery technology, allowing for quick energy recovery and preservation of power density.
The Terzo Millennio concept is supposed to have the ability to monitor its own health, including to detect cracks or other structural damage in its carbon-fiber body resulting from an accident.
One element that I found particularly interesting while researching this car was that Lamborghini has stated that it's working on defining the engine sound for this all-electric car, something I've been wondering about a lot about given that I love engine sounds and that so many modern cars are getting silent battery-powered motors.
Although AMG is usually busy turning regular Mercedes-Benz models into insane, luxurious track monsters, the in-house performance company has already developed two models completely autonomously: the beautiful SLS AMG with its gull-wing doors and the AMG GT with its aggressive stance and modern good looks. The AMG GT Concept Coupe is a hybrid four-door GT, making it a sedan. The idea to develop a four-door performance sedan likely arose as an answer to the Porsche Panamera and Audi A7 models. Unlike many of the other concept cars on this list, the AMG GT Concept Coupe will probably be developed into a full production vehicle.
The car produces 805 HP using both a 4.0-liter V8 bi-turbo engine and a high-performance electric one.
Tobias Moers, CEO of Mercedes-AMG, claims that the AMG GT Concept will go from 0-100 in under 3 seconds and will feature the 4MATIC+ all-wheel-drive system. New style cues, torque vectoring (every wheel can be allocated torque individually to maximize performance), and a battery pack that will charge while driving and while braking are just some of the innovations this concept aims to showcase.
When Renault won the Formula E Championships in 2015, demand started to grow for an electric Renault sports car. In response to this growing demand, Renault developed a street version of its winning track car and named it the "TREZOR." This futuristic design features a low center of gravity and a wide wheel base to enhance aerodynamic efficiency as well as a lightweight carbon cell frame. One of the most striking features of this concept is the absence of doors.
To get in and out of the two-seater TREZOR, the roof automatically lifts up into the air!
The interior of the car is no less impressive, with a rectangular steering wheel and a modern OLED touch screen made of Gorilla Glass. The screen is fully customizable, and just like your iPhone, you simply drag applications to where you'd like them to appear. The TREZOR's electric engine makes 350 HP and 380 Nm of torque and accelerates from 0-60 in 4 seconds. Possibly the most impressive feature, however, is the MULTISENSE autonomous driving system, which allows the passenger to sit back and watch a movie or read a book while the car drives to its destination.
When the Rimac Concept One was first unveiled, it was priced at over $1 million, and the company had only built eight of them. Four of these electric hypercars were sold in the US, while the other four were sent to their lucky owners in the UK and the Middle East. The car was built to showcase Rimac's technical prowess and features a state-of-the-art torque vectoring system, which serves to counteract the heavy weight of the suspension system needed to support the car's batteries. Due to the Concept One's electric engine, the car is practically silent but still manages to pump out an insane 1,180 lb-ft of torque with 1,224 horsepower. This allows the Rimac to reach 220 miles per hour and go from 0-60 in 2.5 seconds. To ensure that you get your +$1 million worth, make sure you engage "Race Mode," which sends more power to the rear of the car and sharpens up the gear changes.
The Mazda Vision Coupe was unveiled in 2017 and is the continuation of the Kodo (meaning “Soul of Motion”) design language that was first seen on the Shinari Mazda 6 Concept in 2011. This new design direction is eye-catching and futuristic and points to the company’s apparent desire to move to the premium/upscale market. The Mazda Vision Coupe is a full-size four-door car and is actually larger than the Mazda 6. Although many details haven't been released, as it's still a prototype, the car’s proportions seem to suggest that it's a rear-wheel drive vehicle. While some readers may wonder why a four-door vehicle is being called a “coupe,” it's worth noting that several other car manufacturers list four-door coupes as well, like the Mercedes CLS, for example. In keeping with the notion of moving to the premium market segment, the interior of the Mazda Vision Coupe is minimalistic and highly luxurious. The dashboard features two screens surrounded by different types of stitched leather and real wood veneer.
This is certainly the most insane Concept Car featured on this list. The Pop.Up is a joint project between Italdesign and Airbus, known for its passenger airplanes, including the A380, the largest passenger airliner in the world. The Pop.Up was unveiled at the 87th Geneva International Motor Show. The vehicle is 100% electric and produces zero emissions. The concept came about as a solution to the problem of congested traffic in large cities.
The Pop.Up is essentially a two-seater car with the ability to take off and land vertically.
It would, therefore, be able to drive through traffic or fly right over it. The concept also includes a mobile app that passengers would use to plan their trip. The app would take many factors into account, such as time of day and levels of congestion, and would then automatically suggest the best transport option. The Pop.Up represents a futuristic vision of transport solutions and probably won’t be built anytime soon.
The Renault Dezir Concept Car is an electric two-seater coupe with tantalizing curves and butterfly doors. Power comes from a 24kWh lithium-ion battery, which gives the car a range of approximately 100 miles. The Dezir’s electric motor is positioned in the mid-rear area of the car to achieve the most efficient weight distribution across the four wheels. The engine in the Dezir Concept was taken from Renault’s other production electric vehicles but has been tweaked and improved upon to provide significantly more torque. Lateral scoops, hidden behind aluminum panels on both sides of the car, allow air flow to cool the battery. The Dezir can reach a top speed of 180 kph and accelerates from 0-100 kph in less than 5 seconds. Probably the single coolest feature of this car, however, the Renault DeZir’s body is made from Kevlar to keep its weight down!
One of the most attractive cars on this list, the Mercedes-Maybach Vision 6 Coupe is so big, so luxurious, so powerful, and likely so expensive that it makes me want to sell my soul to the devil for the chance to own one. The Vision 6 Coupe is a fully electric vehicle with 750 horsepower. The car measures almost six meters long and sports flamboyant 24-inch wheels and gull-wing doors.
Each wheel has its own synchronous electric motor, and batteries are stored under the floor of the car.
According to Mercedes/Maybach, the Vision 6 can accelerate to 62 mph in under four seconds. The car can be recharged wirelessly in just five minutes, giving it a range of 65 miles. The car has been developed as a hardtop and as a convertible, and I can’t decide which one is more beautiful.
I’ve been a fan of the BMW Z3, the Z4, and the rare and obscenely expensive Z8 for a long time, and so I was pleased when I saw images of the Z4 Concept, which previews some of the elements that will make it into the future production model of the Z4. The production Z4 is slated to be released in 2019. I was surprised to learn that the car is actually the result of an unlikely partnership between BMW and Toyota! The two companies are collaborating to create the Z4 for BMW and a new Toyota Supra. The Supra will actually have a turbocharged BMW engine under its hood, and BMW will assist in the development of that car as well. The design elements of the Z4 Concept include styling cues from other BMWs, including the 6-series. The car features low air intakes and stacked headlights. Another feature that I really like in this concept is the roll bars. The car has 20-inch wheels on Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, which give the car an aggressive stance. Finally, I must admit that I actually like the Matte “Energetic” Orange color the company has chosen. It’s youthful and fun and works well with the small and quick persona of the Z4.
The Laraki Epitome is the kind of car you dream about and draw pictures of on your notebook as an elementary school daydreamer. Thanks to founder Abdesslam Laraki, your elementary school dreams can be a reality (if you have $2 million). The Laraki Epitome was built on a C6 Corvette chassis, and the body panels were made entirely out of carbon fiber. The use of so much carbon fiber brought the vehicle’s weight down to approximately 2,800 pounds.
The Epitome has a 7.0-liter Chevy V8 engine and two turbochargers, which produce 1,200 horsepower.
As if that weren’t enough, the Laraki Epitome has a separate gas tank, which holds 110 Octane. By pressing a button in the car, the Epitome will burn gas from both the regular tank and the octane tank, which in turn raises the car’s output to a staggering 1,750 horsepower! The company’s plans were to build only nine of these cars, so it’s unlikely you’ll see one on a street near you.
I’m not quite sure if I like the look of this Concept Car, but it certainly is modern. The Citroen CXperience is a large, comfortable hatchback, which the company calls a “two-box saloon.” The back doors open to 90 degrees, as they're rear-hinged. This allows for a wider opening and easier access in and out of the vehicle. The car features many modern innovations, such as the car’s air intake flaps, which open and close to improve aerodynamic efficiency. The interior of the CXperience features touchscreen controls in the place of physical buttons and a heads-up display. In keeping with this futuristic vibe, the dashboard includes a 19-inch screen. One feature of the car that I think will definitely make its way into all future cars is the smartphone stand and the mobile tablet (for passengers sitting in the back). The tablet lets passengers adjust settings, such as the position of their seats or the temperature in the vehicle. Passengers can also share media files using these devices. The CXperience is a plug-in hybrid with a range of up to 40 miles on the electric motor alone.
The Nissan 2020 Vision Gran Turismo was unveiled in June 2015 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. One look at the car conjures up images of a console racing game like Forza Motorsport for the Xbox or the Gran Turismo series for the PlayStation. That’s because it basically is a video-game car.
Nissan created the 2020 Vision in collaboration with the makers of the Gran Turismo video-game series, which has featured Nissans since 1998, when the game first came out.
Initially, the project was started by a group of designers at Nissan Design Europe, based in London, England. The designers had originally set out to build a virtual car, but once a team of engineers from the Nissan Technical Center in Japan saw the design, they decided to evaluate it and experiment with turning it into a full-scale prototype. The car seems to have some design cues that are similar to the famed GT-R. Nissan, if you’re reading this, please produce this gorgeous vehicle.
Here's an older concept car to change things up a bit. The Lancia Stratos HF Zero is one of the coolest cars on this list and, I would argue, of all time. The car was insane in so many ways, as it was clearly designed with practically as an afterthought. The Lancia prototype was launched almost 50 years ago, but this car influenced modern-day car designers in a significant way. The concept was developed by Nuccio Bertone and was unveiled at the Turin Motor Show in Italy in 1970. The HF Zero was a fully functioning vehicle, unlike many modern prototypes. Both the interior and the exterior of this eccentric Italian automobile were full of radical and futuristic elements. The unique exterior design led some to call the car “The Wedge.” Despite the car’s aggressive appearance, however, the car produced only 115 horsepower from a 1.6-liter V4 engine.
Here's another classic concept with a radical yet surprisingly attractive design: The Alfa Romeo Scarabeo. Alfa Romeo had stopped participating in major race competitions in 1953 and wanted to return to the sport. The Scarabeo project aimed to develop technologies that could be incorporated into a track-ready competition car. This concept was actually a program that involved the development of three different prototypes, including a coupe and a spider configuration. The three different versions featured different bodywork and different seating layouts. The project designers believed that the driver should be seated as far back in the car as possible in order to give the driver more control of the vehicle. Alfa Romeo incorporated exotic materials into the project, including magnesium. Other innovations included the use of large-diameter tubes to build the H-shaped structure of the body.
When most of us hear the name “Lada,” we don’t often associate the Russian carmaker with supercars or cutting-edge prototypes. There was a Russian supercar manufacturer called "Marussia," which had put forward some very cool concepts, but they recently declared bankruptcy. The Lada Raven was designed by Dmitry Lazarev, who brought his amazing idea to the company that manufactures Lada cars, AvtoVAZ.
The car appears to have been designed as a mid-engine vehicle with 5-spoke wheels and huge vents on all sides.
For now, the Raven remains just a prototype, as AvtoVAZ reportedly turned down the offer to develop the car for the time being, with the company quoted as saying, "AvtoVAZ's market segment is mass models, predominantly for users with a family. A low-riding sports car without a trunk is not our style."
The Mercedes-Benz F400 “Carving” Concept, also called the “Active Research Vehicle,” was unveiled in 2001 and was intended to be a testing ground for new technologies that would become standard in Mercedes production vehicles for years to come. Like modern-day aircraft, which employ a fly-by-wire system to move, the F400 uses “active camber control” to tilt the two front wheels by up to twenty degrees. The car also features special tires, similar to the tires found on motorcycles, which provide thirty percent more lateral stability than standard road cars. The F400 uses a computer to control an active hydro-pneumatic monitoring system, which adjusts the car's suspension and shock absorption based on road conditions. In the event of an emergency, the system can tilt all four wheels in a split second, shortening stopping distance significantly. This technology allows the car to go around corners faster and, more importantly, makes the car much safer to drive.
The BMW Concept 8 is another concept that'll probably closely resemble its production variant set to be released in 2018. It's been 19 years since BMW released an 8-Series, and BMW will reportedly be releasing three variations of the car, a 2-door coupe, a 4-door Gran Coupe, and a cabriolet. The 8 series will be replacing the BMW 6-series and will almost certainly come with a much higher price tag. Although the concept will resemble the production version, the front end of the car will be tweaked to conform to pedestrian-impact safety regulations, and more robust door mirrors will probably be added. The 8-Series sits on 21-inch wheels and features a media controller made from Swarovski glass. The car will likely come with several engine options, but I'm most excited to see an M-badged version. The BMW M8 will share an engine with the upcoming M5, so it's definitely something to look forward to!
I was lucky enough to see the Toyota FT-1 Concept at the Montreal Salon d’Auto a few years back, and I remember thinking, “It’s been a while since Toyota made something awesome.” "FT" stands for “Future Toyota,” and the number “1” represents the ultimate sports car. The FT-1 design was inspired by the wind, with sleek lines and stunning curves that evoke notions of movement and speed. The car is a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive vehicle with a low-slung cockpit, a nod to sports car proportions of the past.
This concept represents the successor to the beloved 1990s Toyota Supra and will hopefully become a full production car in the near future
It would seem that by designing the FT-1, Toyota is looking to build a car to be able to compete with the popular Nissan GT-R and the Acura NSX.
The Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept is a gorgeous mid-size luxury sedan, and I hope they make it. That being said, I was surprised that the concept features a non-electric engine as that seems to be the trend that automakers are veering toward as of late. Instead of a silent, environmentally friendly battery-powered motor, the Q Inspiration is powered by a VC-Turbo engine ("VC" meaning "Variable Compression"), which combines turbocharged gasoline power and the torque efficiency typically expected from a hybrid or a diesel engine. According to Infiniti’s VP of global sales, Christian Meunier, “The premium sedan segment has become rather conservative, so the Infiniti Q Inspiration previews something that could appeal to a younger audience who seek modern design and new technologies to both inspire and empower them.” It appears that customers want good-looking and performance-based “four-door coupes,” and so, the Q Inspiration will likely compete with the Porsche Panamera and the Audi A7 when it makes it to production.
Unveiled at the 2016 Beijing Auto Show, the Hongqi-B Concept is a Chinese luxury sedan based on the current Mazda 6 Atenza platform. The Mazda 6 Atenza is made by FAW-Mazda, which is unsurprising, given that FAW, which stands for “First Auto Works,” also owns the Hongqi brand. The impressive vehicle features suicide doors, a huge grille, and the Hongqi “Red Flag” logo on the hood. The car’s interior is modern and luxurious, with a digital dash and Bose speakers built into the seats. The center of the steering wheel even holds an LCD screen. The Hongqi B-Concept seems perfect for transporting important dignitaries or celebrities, and I can easily imagine it being turned into an armored car for VIPs. While the model on display at the Beijing Auto Show was most likely a non-functioning mock-up, I hope the company moves forward with the production of this concept.
Sources: auto.howstuffworks.com; motortrend.ca; caranddriver.com