Best Concept Cars

This year's nine best examples of auto-show eye candy, and also the Bentley EXP 9 F.

Acura NSX

The sigh you heard in January 2012 expressed the collective relief of journalists and fans alike that Acura managed to not screw up the appearance of the next NSX. Given Acura’s recent design history, this concept could have been some sort of horrifying squid-beaked travesty. But the NSX concept was a showstopper for all the right reasons. It looks nothing like the original NSX with its long dragonfly tail. The NSX concept, which is said to accurately predict the production car, is a gleaming compact jewel of techno-elegance, all faceted like a brilliant-cut diamond.

Bentley EXP 9 F

What is this mutant doing on a list of 10 Best Concepts? Good question. Here’s a better question: Why does a Bentley sport-utility vehicle look like a gilded London taxi? Here’s another: What the hell, Bentley? The 9 F got more attention and generated more buzz than any concept here. In a perverted world, that’s a perverted sort of success. Okay, now redesign it, Bentley.


Chevrolet Code 130R

Let the masses have their practical Cruzes and family-friendly Traverses, but please, Chevy, let us have this impractical, family-averse rear-drive coupe. The Code 130R gives off a sort of upright, hip-to-be-square BMW 1-series-coupe vibe. Riding on a version of the Cadillac ATS’s platform and powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine, this four-seater could be the American Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ, though without all the pointiness.

Kia Track'ster

The Kia Soul, an econobox straight out of Toontown, came on the market and promptly ate the Scion xB and Nissan Cube’s lunch. So why shouldn't a chopped, slammed, and fat-tired version perform the same feat on the Mini Cooper? That appears to be the aim of this two-toned bullfrog on wheels. It’s cool enough that we’re even willing to forgive the silly apostrophe in its name.

Lamborghini Aventador J

It is Lamborghini’s place in the world to produce life-size Hot Wheels toys. If Lambo doesn’t conjure up outrageous, nutball automotive weaponry, who will? The fanged and topless Aventador J is exactly that: a malevolent force of nature, wickedness incarnate, a plutonium-packed burr. Lamborghini says that the J, a one-off that was sold to a customer, is the distillation of its brand DNA. As we said: Hot Wheels.

Mazda Takeri

In our 10 Best Concepts calculations, we give special consideration to beautiful show cars that are built around practical packages. The Mazda Takeri is that kind of concept. Making the silky-smooth Takeri all the more wonderfully deserving is that it looks nearly identical to the production Mazda 6 sedan. Here’s to Mazda wiping the smile off its face.

McLaren P1

What do you get when you cross a peregrine falcon, a sailfish, and a cheetah? Nothing. You can’t cross those things. That’s just McLaren’s designer-y way of describing the P1, successor to the McLaren F1. The P1 is nonetheless shocking. Its undulating body panels droop away from the passenger canopy in an attempt to glide beneath the wind. With its odd fillips and cavities, the P1 appears to be the result of an alien knowledge of aerodynamics.

Peugeot Onyx

Peugeot’s Onyx concept looks like the world’s most wicked Duracell battery. Why shouldn't the front fenders and doors of a sports car be made of copper that will develop a patina with age? Why shouldn't the interior be covered in wool felt and the dashboard be constructed out of compressed old newspapers? We now know that if any automaker is going to heed our advice and replace carbon-fiber interior trim with Bakelite, it will be Peugeot.

Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo

At the 2012 Paris auto show, Porsche revealed that the goiter-inspired styling of the production Panamera was just an elaborate setup for the reveal of this sexy station wagon. Clearly, this is the Panamera that Porsche wanted to build all along because, well, just look at it. Porsche says the concept carries a plug-in hybrid powertrain. Sure, okay. Make ours a Turbo.

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