Concept Cars that Matter

2003 Cadillac Sixteen

Cadillac was well-known in the 1930s for its sixteen-cylinder engines powering beautiful luxury sedans for America’s aristocrats. The Sixteen is a modern take on a classical theme. Nothing about the Sixteen is practical – just outstanding. It is as powerful as a Bugatti Veyron and far more luxurious than a Rolls-Royce. The Sixteen’s styling will be used on Cadillac’s future lineup. How big a chance is there the Sixteen will move into becoming a real street car? Slim. There was an effort to put it out for production as a start to moving Cadillac into a Bentley market, but money troubles have since forced a change of mind.

2005 Maybach Exelero

Maybach is the Mercedes Car Group’s highest-level marque, aimed at the same audience as Rolls-Royce and Bentley. Maybach today is a far cry from what it was in its hey day – its sedans are about as exciting as women’s golf. The Exelero is an attempt to bring an exciting, post-modern idea using the same motivation Cadillac had with the Sixteen. The Exelero, unlike the Caddy, is fierce and frightening. It’s something you’d think a guy in a cape would drive in Gotham City. It’s powered by a 5.9 L twin-turbo V-12. Despite weighing 5,900 lbs., the Exelero can hit 60 mph in a little over four seconds.

2006 Alfa-Romeo 8C Competizione

The 8C echoes the styling and spirit of Alfa-Romeo’s sports cars from the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Competizione has been making the runs at auto shows and concourse events, gaining a lot of good feeling. A fixed coupe and a Spider were built and shown. The good news is that there are plans to build the 8C. Alfa-Romeo views the car as critical for its comeback in the United States. The bad news? A delay in planning for a US return has made the chances of the 8C making it to production less likely and even less than that for coming Stateside. Worse news is that if the car were built, writers are floating a $200,000 price tag in magazines.

2005 Nissan GT-R

The Skyline GT-R has come a long way in Japan from being a fast sedan cobbled together with plastics and a few bucks; it has since turned into a legitimate, world-class speed machine. Sadly, the only Skyline GT-Rs to come the United States have been specially imported. The GT-R will now be a separate entity and be the basis for a sports car sending chills in the West. The GT-R is being nicknamed “Japan’s Corvette.” The GT-R name has a history, but this new example (due for production in 2009) will make its own history. What is known is that the GT-R will have all-wheel-drive (a growing trend in Japan’s future sports cars) and a twin-turbo V-6. Nissan rocked the auto world in 1990 with the 300ZX Turbo. It looks to do just the same with the GT-R.

2005 Lexus LF-A

Toyota sure has lost what little “cool” it had. After killing off the revered (and overpriced) Supra in the late 1990s and then ending production of the Celica and the MR2, Toyota has no sporty cars in its arsenal. The closest thing Toyota can boast as sporty is the Lexus SC430, which has been regarded as a boring styling disaster. In any case, Lexus is making a real effort to take its reputation for clean engineering and long-term reliability and produce a premium-market sports car. The LF-A is going into production, with test cars already running the tracks. The LF-A will target the same market as the Ford GT and the Ferrari F430, meaning it will be priced around $150,000 to $170,000 and be able to pass 200 mph. There is nothing about this dream car that says boring. Perhaps this could be the next Lexus SC?

2005 Mitsubishi Concept X

In case you’re not aware, Mitsubishi Motors is in a lot of trouble. Quality is in the dumps and its sales in North America are poor. The Concept X could be the company’s savior. The concept is going to be the next incarnation of the Lancer Evolution, Japan’s top sport sedan. The X will use a 300 hp turbocharged I-4 along with all-wheel-drive to make this a rally racer’s dream. Great looks (something Evos have lacked) and a lightweight body will earn this sucker a lot of good word and enough to spank any Subaru in its sights.

2006 Chevrolet Camaro

After years of complaints and artist renderings, Chevrolet put the public at ease and then joy with the Camaro concept car. The concept harkens back to the days of the 1969 Camaros. Under this car’s hood is a 6.0 L V-8 found in the current Corvette. Beautiful interior work with chrome gauges and black leather round off the best show car the press has seen this year. With the Camaro due for 2009, we’ll have to wait for a couple of years to see the final rendition in all its glory.

2006 Dodge Challenger

Dodge has been hitting the market hard with new muscle cars ranging from the Magnum R/T to the Viper SRT-10. The Challenger may have lost the spotlight to the Camaro, but it’s a winner in the hearts of Mopar maniacs. Massive wheels, flashy paint, and a 6.1 L Hemi have aroused wild interest in Dodge’s baby. 425 hp under the hood should get the final version of this car to sixty well under five seconds. The Challenger’s design has been criticized by some as being too retro and looking little different than the original 1970 model. That doesn’t bother Mopar men who felt the Charger looked too little like the original.

2003 Audi R8

The R8 concept is making its runs in mule form, with little change from the concept that wowed Frankfurt in 2003. The R8 is Audi’s challenge to Porsche’s 911. This segment of the sports car market is getting increasingly crowded. Aston-Martin has hit it with the Vantage and Ferrari is rumored to be offering its own response. The R8 will maintain the Quattro all-wheel-drive Audis are famous for and the likely V-10 power plant. There is a precedent: Audi engines and drive systems power Lamborghinis. The R8 is definite proof the future is now. Reports currently suggest a 2008 release.

2005 Chrysler Firepower

The Firepower name was attached to Chrysler power plants a half-century ago. The name is now applied to the company’s beautiful coupe that made the runs at Detroit in 2005. It’s no secret the Viper has not been a big seller. Its high price tag ($82,000) and the current model’s polarizing appearance have pushed away prospective buyers. Even worse, Ford’s GT and Chevrolet’s Z06 Corvette both outrun it. The Firepower is said to target the Corvette’s market. It uses a 6.1 L Hemi that makes 425 hp, as opposed to the Viper’s 8.3 L V-10 that produces more than 500. Inside the Firepower is a cabin as well-equipped as a Bentley or an Aston-Martin. Chrome embellishment and high-quality light-colored leather provide drivers and passengers with serenity. Chrysler is currently reviewing the car for production, but the Firepower name will be dropped thankfully.

2005 Ford/Shelby GR-1

The GR-1 is inspired by the Shelby Cobra Daytona coupes from four decades ago. Ford has been making a lot of its past in recent years, taking old styling cues for the Thunderbird and the Mustang. The GR-1 was originally the final chapter in Ford’s sports car effort. The Mustang GT was at the bottom, with the Cobra roadster concept in the middle (priced at $100,000), and the GT at the top. The plan has since fallen apart with the Cobra no longer in the works (for the time being) and the GT having had teething problems, mostly due to dealers overcharging. The GR-1, if built, would target the same audience as the GT. The polished aluminum body reduces weight and comes equipped with a high-output V-10. Current circumstances don’t favor the GR-1 making it to production, but circumstances do have a way of changing.

2006 Saab Aero X

Saab’s history is deep in the world of combat aviation. Sadly, that excitement has not translated into Saab’s cars. The Aero X changes that. Clearly inspired by Saab aviation in looks, its engineering is completely for the future. It cabin opens from the roof upward, with no doors to handle. The cabin is more like a cockpit. A digital instrument panel shows all data – something out of Star Wars. All lighting is done by LED. The engine is powered by ethanol, making a green dream – oh, and there’s all-wheel-drive to add to that. The twin-turbo 2.4 L “BioPower” V-6 generates up to 400 hp. Of course, you’re not going to see this in Saab showrooms. But this car’s styling and technology are recipes for the future.

2005 GM Sequel

Hydrogen power is touted as the energy source for the future. The Sequel from GM is one form hydrogen-powered cars are taking. The Sequel is a compact SUV with a three-hundred-mile range and the ability to travel to 60 mph under ten seconds. That may not sound like much, but considering this car emits only water, that’s a big deal. Those numbers are far better than the ones for GM’s electric car, the EV-1, that came out ten years ago. GM has dedicated lots of time, money, and manpower to produce a viable hydrogen-powered vehicle to the market by 2010. Don’t be expecting to buy one anytime soon. Current hydrogen cars run for over $1,000,000.

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