Concept cars are one of the various ways manufacturers give consumers insights into the creative path they intend to follow in the coming years. It also serves to stimulate the interest of the competition’s consumers—an impressive marketing strategy. Until recently, auto shows used to be a platform for automakers to flex their muscles fighting over who the most futuristic and rule-breaking brand was. Think of it as a gathering of rich kids who plan a gala to show off their expensive toys. It was pure mechanical exuberance. But right now, it’s a more realistic way of showcasing designs and mechanical inventions in a fun way.
Some of the most impressive production models began as concept cars. Several concept cars were perceived to be practically impossible to debut as production models but did anyway, and some didn’t. Because, like all businesses automakers are driven by profit, the reviews and reception of a concept play a role in a company’s decision to roll them out as production models.
However, positive reviews alone do not guarantee a production model’s success. Gearheads usually have mixed feelings about auto shows because production models often fall short of what the concept may have promised to offer. Only a few live up to the hype. Here are the 10 coolest car models that stayed true to their concepts.
1997 Plymouth Prowler
Chrysler did the unexpected when they made the Plymouth Prowler a reality. The Prowler can be referred to as the modern past. One of the many designs that didn’t go by the book. That’s why gearheads were astounded that it really did happen; it had the looks of a modern car that predated the industrial age. The Prowler debuted as a concept car at the ’93 Detroit Show and was consequently rolled out with the Viper in early ’97.
Despite doing the unthinkable with the production model, they faltered. Maybe more than a little bit for most. The road-legal version was underpowered. It didn’t match the beast the design suggested it would be. The vehicle was powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that could only muster a measly 214 hp. The production of the Plymouth Prowler has since been discontinued.
2004 Bugatti Veyron
The Bugatti Veyron was a dream that seemed too good to be true. A 1,000-hp hypercar? If there was anyone who thought it’d come to pass, it was Ferdinand Karl Piëch. The Veyron’s concept car had the same engine as the Chiron’s, a prospective 16-cylinder engine!
There were four Bugatti concept cars. Its fourth design, the Veyron EB 16.4, made an appearance at the 1999 Tokyo Motor Show. Since the production model made it out, it has broken several records and awards. It was awarded the Car of the Decade by Top Gear.
2005 Ford Mustang GT
Not many concepts can blend the future and the past like Ford did with the Mustang concept. It initiated gearheads to a promising future by reminding them of the glorious pony car the Mustang once was, showing other muscle car brands how Ford does it.
J Mays, Ford’s senior vice president of design, calls it “retro-futurism.” The production model hit the market with a 300-hp V8 engine that offered 320 lb-ft of torque. It hit the 60 mph mark in only 5.2 seconds.
2008 Dodge Challenger
The Challenger Concept appeared at the 2006 Detroit Auto Show with a 420-hp Hemi V8 engine like it had a score to settle. It had this retro feel that made cat enthusiasts impatient for the production model. The 2005 Mustang was a smash hit partly because the design was reminiscent of when it first hit the streets.
The Camaro had just been revealed with a similar aesthetic direction. It was only fitting that the Challenger did the same. The production model was as close as any can get to a concept car. The 707-hp SRT Hellcat engine made it stand out as the most powerful American muscle car in history. Currently, Dodge Challenger Demon holds the world record for the fastest accelerating production model, hitting 60 mph in mind-blowing 2.3 seconds.
2008 Nissan GT-R
The GTR’s enviable history on racetracks was why American gearheads hoped it would hit the American market when rumors of a new GTR coming out made waves. The concept was a fusion of a rugged sports car and your everyday two-door vehicle.
When it finally hit the markets, the GTR got positive reviews from critics. BBC-owned automobile magazine, Top Gear, awarded the GTR Sports Car of the Year. It also held the world record for the fastest 0–60 mph acceleration by a four-seater production car in 2009.
2010 Lexus LF-A
The Lexus LF-A concept is Toyota’s way of saying, “I can be responsible, and I can be crazy fast. Just tell me what you want.” The LF-A made an appearance at the show circuit in 2007, after first emerging two years before.
The production model offered a 4.8-liter 1LR-GUE even-firing V10 engine that powered up to 553 hp. It was so good that some reviewers favored it over the Ferrari 559 GTB HGTE after it hit 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, 0.2 seconds faster. What else do you expect of a car that spent 9 years in development?
2012 Tesla Model S
This revolutionary concept first made an appearance in 2009. The Tesla Model S didn’t seem like it would see the light of the day for two reasons: it was built by a newbie automaker, and the specs promised were quite imaginative.
When eventually this electrical humdinger hit the streets in 2012, doubters ate their words twice—the car saw the light of the day, and it delivered on the promises made by the concept. The latest model year of this beauty has a range of 95 miles and can hit the 60 mph mark in just 3.2 seconds.
2013 Range Rover Evoque
Many didn’t think the Land Rover LRX Hybrid Concept would make it to the production line, much more metamorphose into what is now called Range Rover Evoque. Its design is a stark contrast to the four-door luxury SUVs characteristic of Land Rover. The LRX looked youth-inclusive, sporty, and elegant.
The Evoque didn’t look any different either. It hit all the sweet spots offering both luxury interior finishing and the power for off-roads typical of SUVs. Was the sudden change independent of the ownership change at the time? We can’t tell, but the design sparked a turnaround for the brand.
2014 BMW i8
You can easily pass off as a BMW employee who’s taking a concept car for a spin when you drive the BMW i8 through the city. It’s that close to a concept car. This beauty-from-the-future was first displayed as the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics Concept during the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2009. Before its production in 2014, its design was refined a further two times in 2011 and 2012. BMW refuted that it was only a concept and would be nothing more.
Contrary to their claims, they wet the mouths of gearheads by making it appear in the Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol movie in 2011. The concept had a turbo-diesel engine and a hybrid dual-electric drivetrain. Still, the production car uses a turbocharged gasoline engine with three cylinders and dual-electric motors. It doesn’t disappoint in the speed section; in less than 4 seconds, your speedometer can read 60 mph if you push the accelerator pedal hard enough.
2015 Acura NSX
This wasn’t Acura’s first attempt at resurrecting the NSX that died way back in 2005. When the concept that was to be the NSX finally surfaced at the Detroit Auto Show in 2012, many car enthusiasts were pleased the other attempts failed. It was a mid-engine all-wheel-drive that seemed to stretch the art of design to its limits. Before its release in 2015, it appeared on The Avengers as part of Acura’s marketing strategy.
Under its hood, the production model has a 3.5 L twin-turbocharged V6 engine and three electric motors, whose powers amount to 600 hp. It runs from zero to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds. Despite delivering on the concepts promises the NSX is considered a failure by many as its price tag puts it in competition with the Ferrari. The dip in sales, however, does not dim the influence the NSX has had in the sports car category.
Vision concept cars inspire interest and hype for the future of automobile creation. Here we’re taking a look at the 10 best.
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