(Bloomberg) -- The path from concept car to production vehicle is a long one.
When Tesla delivered the first Cybertrucks to customers on Nov. 30 in Austin, it was almost exactly four years since the prototype debuted—and a decade since Tesla founder Elon Musk had started talking publicly about making an electric pickup truck.
Concept cars are visions of the future created by automakers to showcase design and technology they believe they can achieve one day. They hope that these design studies show so much promise, they’ll capture the imagination of consumers and hold their interest while the automaker decides whether, and how, to produce them.
This year I saw many concept cars that carried enticing hints about the automotive landscape’s future. Many were electric and carried smaller, more powerful batteries than are currently available on the market. Others ran on traditional combustion but pushed the thresholds of interior materials, craftsmanship and design. All laid out a path to where the brands intend to move the market in the coming years. Here are 10 of the best I saw.
Displayed prominently on the concept lawn outside the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August, the Lanzador is Lamborghini’s attempt to show what its electric SUV might one day look like. Conceived with seating for four, it has the versatility of the Lamborghini Urus and high ride height inspired by the off-road-capable Lamborghini Huracan Sterrato. It is powered by two electric motors, one for each axle, and features all-wheel drive. The system will deliver a peak power that exceeds one megawatt, according to the company, enough to supply more than 700 homes with energy at the same time. (One megawatt equals 1,000 kilowatts; the typical American home uses about 840 kWh per month.) It presages a real model slated for 2028.
Why it matters: With the 1,015-horsepower Lamborghini Revuelto hybrid already sold out until the end of 2025, the Lanzador furthers the momentum and excitement as the brand moves electric.
Infiniti QX Monograph
Unveiled during Monterey Car Week in Carmel, California, the Infiniti QX Monograph Concept is a design exercise inspired by parent Nissan’s Japanese heritage and intended to show a vision of styling language that is to remain uncluttered and minimal. The towering SUV features a grille design inspired by bamboo forests and is finished in a new color called Akane, which is meant to evoke the moment when a sunset transitions from a warm, glowing red into night sky. The large interior is drenched in sunlight, an effect enhanced by a panoramic roof that opens and closes like a kimono, the company notes.
Why it matters: With such clever innovations as the folding panoramic roof, the QX Monograph would offer a welcome alternative to the usual large-SUV offerings from Cadillac, Land Rover and Ford.
Automobili Pininfarina Pura Vision
The PURA Vision is Automobili Pininfarina’s concept of what an electric luxury utility vehicle should be; it debuted during Monterey Car Week. It has large cab-rear proportions that give it a wide stance, but that width is balanced with a narrow glasshouse top and pillar-less doors that open in reverse to provide easier access. Distinctive notes on the body include hidden headlights at the front and ultra-slim nanofiber lighting less than 1 mm thick, creating a singular look for the daytime lights. The company, which is owned by Mahindra Group and headquartered in Munich, Germany, with design studios in Turin, Italy, debuted its first car, the Battista electric hypercar, in 2019. It has not confirmed whether the concept will make it to production.
Why it matters: In a world of ubiquitous, appliance-like SUVs, creation of the Pura Vision would give well-heeled consumers a sure way to stand out from the pack.
Mercedes-Benz Concept CLA-Class
Unveiled at the 2023 IAA show in Munich, this is Mercedes’ Tesla killer, or so say the folks at company headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. The CLA-Class claims a longer range than any Tesla model; it’s rated to go beyond 750 kilometers (466 miles) on a charge, beating Tesla’s current Model 3. The jelly bean-shaped small sedan joins a host of EVs already offered by Mercedes, but this is the company’s first EV based on new underpinnings and with a battery system that can add 400 kilometers of range in just 15 minutes of charging. Inside, the cabin is covered in recycled plastics, natural fibers and sustainably processed leather.
Why it matters: If Mercedes can beat Tesla at its own game—mass luxury in the EV segment—Mercedes will solidify its dominant position in the market and pose a big threat to Tesla’s continued success.
Unveiled at the IAA Mobility 2023 in Munich, the Polestar Synergy concept looks like a wild electric supercar. It is low and long, standing just under three-and-a-half feet tall and measuring nearly 15 feet long. The cabin contains a single-seat and a steering wheel with crescent-shaped handles and a display that projects the vehicle’s cruising speed. The brake lights are a full-width light bar, and the glass canopy flips forward like a fighter jet to allow the driver to get inside. We don’t know much about its hypothetical performance, but this model probably has dual electric motors that would beat the 884 horsepower made by the Polestar 6's powertrain.
Why it matters: Sweden-based Polestar makes great electric family cars that lack sex appeal. The company needs a halo car to give it some pizzazz. This could be it.
Porsche Mission X
Porsche says its Mission X hypercar will be the fastest road-legal vehicle around the (admittedly obscure) Nürburgring Nordschleife track in Germany. Its aerodynamics are inspired by vintage racing cars like the Le Mans-winning Porsche 917K. It has a cockpit and roof made of a lightweight glass dome and an exoskeleton of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic. Inside, the two seats come in carbon fiber-reinforced plastic shells customized with 3D-printed body form full-bucket seats. The integrated headrests are removable for comfort in case you’re driving on the track and wearing a helmet.
Why it matters: It’s been a decade since the Porsche 918 hybrid supercar hit the road and Porsche’s former halo car has gotten a bit long in the tooth. Porsche lovers need an exciting successor, and company brass need a car that will help them press closer to Ferrari levels of status and success.
Mercedes Vision One-Eleven
A modern take on the historic C111 supercar, the two-seat Vision One-Eleven was first unveiled at the Mercedes-Benz International Design Center in June in Carlsbad, California. It has sleek gullwing doors, a body curved gently like a bow and a minimal interior with a flat pixel display that runs the length of the dashboard. It uses an advanced electric motor that Mercedes says is lighter and more compact than those in today's EVs.
Why it matters: Mercedes makes the most futuristic, technology-laden vehicles on the road today. But it needs to show that it remains close to its prestigious, priceless history. This car combines the company’s glorious past with the bold future.
Audi Activesphere Concept
The latest in Audi’s series of electric concept vehicles, the Activesphere combines the best of several worlds: It’s a four-seater with a rear half that can transform into a truck bed. It has impressive ground clearance, a panoramic 360-degree view and large 22-inch wheels, making it fit for off-road excursions. Built on the same EV platform used by Porsche, with a range exceeding 600 km and a fast charging time, thanks to 800-volt technology, it combines the sustainability, dynamics and long-distance capability of state-of-the-art electric vehicles.
Why it matters: Audi wants to show that it can appeal to those caught up in the off-road craze. Along with safari-style vehicles from Porsche and even Lamborghini, this shows that Audi can play in the active-lifestyle arena.
BMW Concept Touring Coupé
Unveiled at the Concours d’Elegance Villa d’Este in Italy, this BMW touring coupe echoes the lines and practicality of the BMW 328 Touring Coupé of the 1940s, the BMW shooting brakes of the 1970s, BMW’s infamous “Clown Shoe” Z3 M Coupe and even Ferrari’s underrated GTC4Lusso. It’s called “Clown Shoe” because the side profile is shaped like one. With seating for two, it uses BMW’s hallmark six-cylinder, in-line engine and includes ample room in the rear. It comes with specially made luggage exclusively from the Schedoni leather workshop in Modena. BMW is considering a limited production run; details regarding performance and acceleration have not been confirmed.
Why it matters: Singular on this list because it is not electric, the touring coupe hints that BMW isn’t quite ready to give up its attachment to the internal combustion engine.
Ram 1500 Revolution BEV Concept
Unveiled during the annual CES trade show in January in Las Vegas, the Ram concept is a fully electric, all-wheel-drive pickup truck that is four inches longer than the 2023 Ram 1500, a length needed to fit extra batteries and allowing additional cabin space and passenger comfort. It has full underbody aero panels and an active diffuser in the rear to help reduce aerodynamic drag and improve battery range; integrated front bumper flares and an LED headlamp design that looks like a tuning fork will be the new face of Ram, if the truck ever sees production.
Why it matters: The company says this serves as a road map showing how the brand will redefine the pickup segment. But with Ford and General Motors walking back targets on EVs, a launch might be further off than was initially planned.
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