2017 North American International Auto Show

CONCEPT Vehicles

 
 

Lincoln Navigator Concept

First shown at the New York Auto Show in 2016, the Navigator Concept is Lincoln's second all new model to showcase its new design language.  The concept features a private-jet-themed interior with six 30-way Perfect Position seats (first seen in the new Continental), a low-profile dash, and a full length console.  The Navigator concept strikes an imposing presence and brings a level of execution to the full-size segment that has previously not been seen.  

Power comes from the 400-horsepower twin-turbo V6 already found in other Lincoln models.  

If the production Navi, due later this year, is as close to the concept as the Continental was, it will most certainly send rival Cadillac running back to the Escalade drawing board. It's nice to see this segment evolve past the obvious hooched-up pickup trucks we've seen in the past, because as prices creep close to six figures and beyond, buyers deserve it!


Cadillac Escala Concept

The Escala concept, introduced by Cadillac at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in August, is suggestive of a new full-sized luxury sedan intended to compete with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7-Series.  It's based on the Omega architecture that underpins the CT6, and will likely be called the CT8 if it reaches production.  It's powered by Cadillac's upcoming 4.2L twin turbo V8. 

Photos don't really do this car justice. The scale (Escala is Spanish for scale, after all) and proportions of the car are simply stunning.  It has a elegant, coupe-like lift back shape, emphasized by the long hood and windshield set back far from the front axle.  In its current form, the expressive and joyous Escala makes its natural German rivals look overwrought and self-conscious. Caddy would be wise to hew to the concept form of this car as closely as possible. 

The interior is a beautiful composition of white leather, American Walnut, brushed aluminum, and light grey fabric that looks as if it was acquired from a high-end men's suiting shop. The full-width OLED touch-and-gesture controlled screen spanning the dash is particularly novel, as is the integration of rear seat entertainment into the front seat backs.

 


Mercedes-Benz GENERATION EQ Concept

Things are really starting to heat up in the electric car category. The Generation EQ Concept from Mercedes Benz, first unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in September, previews one of four new all-electric models that are in the works for introduction by 2020.  The production version of this concept is expected to cost around the price of a GLC Crossover (about $40K in the US), and have a range of 315 miles.  For comparison, the $37,000 (before tax incentives) Chevrolet Bolt claims a range of 238 miles.  It will be interesting to see the uptake of electric vehicles as ranges start to approach and exceed the range of similar gas-powered models.  

The exterior styling is reminiscent of the new GLC-class, with the now-familiar LED faux grille that we've seen on other Mercedes electric concepts. The interior features a chocolate-and-cream color scheme accented with miles upon miles of cool blue LED accent lighting. As in newer production models, the upper instrument panel is a wide swath of OLED display.

This model forms the foundation of Mercedes' new all-electric EQ sub brand, and it will launch with Tesla and BMW i in its sights.  


Audi Q8 E-Tron CONCEPT

Audi used its pavilion in Detroit to preview next year's production Q8 with the Q8 E-Tron concept.  The Q8 is a chopped down "coupé"  version of the Q7, and such comes with similar mechanical bits underneath its sexed-up Bombay Blue bodywork. Audi is targeting the niche currently occupied by the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupé, which are somehow growing in popularity despite their objectively awkward proportions.  Compared to the Q7 on which it's based, the roofline is lower and more steeply raked at the rear, the tail lamps are horizontal and full-width to emphasize the width of the car.  Unlike the X6 and GLE Coupé, which look like partially collapsed soufflés, the Q8 cuts a strong, angular profile which harkens back to the ur-quattro coupé of 1980's rally racing fame.

The concept is powered by a 333hp turbocharged 3.0 liter V6 supplemented by a 134hp electric motor which is cleverly integrated into the 8-speed automatic transmission. The resulting system produces approximately 443hp and 516lb-ft of torque.  It's good for a 0-60 run of about 5.4 seconds as well as 37 miles of all-electric driving. 


Volkswagen I.D. Buzz CONCEPT

The I.D. Buzz (which sounds like 'Idea Bus') is a showcase for VW's electric- and autonomous-vehicle capabilities.  It features innovative packaging that allows for many different interior configurations, including front seats facing rearward when in autonomous mode.  Perfect for a conference to discuss things like yoga poses, hemp products, and vegan meat substitutes on the way to a music and mindfulness festival. 

It's beautiful, it's clever, and I cannot get excited about it.  You see, I have been a Volkswagen fanboy since before I could drive.  My immediate family has owned no fewer than 18 VW/Audi products over the last 20 years (8 of which were mine).  My sixteen-year-old petrolhead brother Alex recently told me how excited he was at the prospect of this new I.D. Buzz hitting the road.  How adorable, his naiveté!  I had to be the one to explain to him that Volkswagen has presented four completely different Microbus concepts in his lifetime, none of which has made it even close to production.  Volkswagen has taken so long to get this concept to production, that Alex and his friends will finish university and possibly have children by the time it gets made. 

Now, this time it's supposed to be different.  In the wake of its emissions-scandal woes, Volkswagen needs exciting, unique and extremely eco-friendly models to help shorten the public's memory of Dieselgate. This modern Microbus, theoretically to be introduced not before 2022, would do the trick...If they can actually bring themselves to build it.  

 

 


Nissan VMotion 2.0 Concept

The VMotion 2.0 concept is Nissan's preview of their next Altima mid-sized sedan.  In a word, it's stunning.  The proportions, the stance, the detailing; they're flawless. As with many other concepts at this year's show, the VMotion 2.0 is built around autonomous technologies.  Nissan calls theirs "ProPilot", and the system features lighting in the grille and rear fascias that illuminates to indicate to motorists and pedestrians that the car is driving itself and there's no need to flip the bird at its occupants. 

The current Altima is the #6 best selling car in the US, despite the fact that it's flabby, dowdy, and depressing to drive. It's particularly uninspiring in base "S" trim, with it's undersized 16" steel wheels and miserable CVT.  If Nissan can successfully translate this gorgeous concept into an inspired production car, they may be able to chip away at the Honda Accord's 5th place position without putting so much cash on the hood in the showroom. 

 


Subaru Viziv-7 CONCEPT

The VIZIV-7 (short for Vision for Innovation, 7-passengers) presages the upcoming Subaru Ascent crossover.  Since giving the B9 Tribeca the axe in 2014, Subaru has sat out of the booming 3-row crossover market and focused on their existing Outback and Forester models.  That will change in early 2018 when the Ascent launches in North America. Look for the new model to have the familiar boxer 4- and 6- cylinder engines found in the Outback, driving all four wheels via Subaru's Symmetrical All Wheel Drive system.  

If you like the styling of this concept, don't get too excited.  Subaru has a history of showing exciting concept cars that show up on the road bearing almost no resemblance. If these spy photos are any indication, it will look like an enlarged Forester.  It's no bad thing as the Forester is a good looking vehicle, though I can't help but wonder why Subaru insists on castrating every concept on its way to production.   


Chrysler Portal CONCEPT

My, how time flies.  When you weren't looking, the millennial generation entered its thirties and started having kids. Shocking, I know! The Portal is presented as a fresh approach to family transportation; futuristic looking and packed with technology and entertainment. Chrysler says it was developed by an entirely millennial-aged team of designers.  The Portal was first shown at CES in Las Vegas, showing that Chrysler is hip to the fact that their target audience is more interested in mobile devices than in cars. 

As with most concepts this year, particularly the similarly targeted Volkswagen I.D. Buzz, the Portal is a semi- autonomous electric vehicle promising innovative packaging and improved usability over the current crop of electrics.  Its 100-kWh battery, which lives in the floor, is said to provide 250 miles of range on a full charge, with 150 miles of range available on just a 20-minute charge.  That's certain to help the industry conquer at the biggest obstacle standing in the way of widespread electric adoption: charging time.

The Portal features a massive touchscreen interface, and a zoned audio system which allows each passenger to listen to their own music selection without headphones.  Sensors in the interior use facial recognition to customize various entertainment and seating settings to each passenger's preferences. Voice biometrics are employed to allow you to shout to your Portal to open the doors when your hands are full. 

The squat, chunky styling, with front and rear sliding doors and is successful overall, if a bit anonymous. It will be interesting to watch this class of mobile devices as more carmakers join FCA and VW in pursuit of the family car of the future. 


BMW X2 CONCEPT

The X2 is a styling exercise meant to preview the look of the upcoming production X2.  There's no interior and no mechanical specifications yet, but it's safe to say that as the "Sports Activity Coupé" version of the popular X1 crossover, you can expect it to have the same selection of four-cylinder motors as the X1. 

 BMW created chopped SUV segment with the original X6, but to my eye neither generation of X6 or the X4 was a particularly successful design. This SAC is different than the X4 and X6 in that designers have ventured farther afield from the X1 than they did from the X3 and X5, and that's a very good thing. The X2 cuts a handsome profile and has details that will hopefully make it to production, such as the blocky 21" wheels and integrated tailpipes.

Look for the X2 in dealers in spring of 2018.


Lexus UX CONCEPT

In tech-geek parlance, UX is short for "User Experience," and that's just what Lexus is reinventing with its newest crossover concept.  Likely a coupé counterpart to the NX compact crossover, the UX's interior is designed around 3D hologram-like displays and a capacitive-touch console.  The furniture is pretty out-there as well: driver and front passenger sit in open-webbed "Kinetic Seats" which Lexus claims conform better to the human form than traditional upholstered foam seats.  

The concept was designed by Lexus' design studio in France, and the result is a body that marries expressive French style with Lexus' wild L-finnesse design language. It's another very successful execution by Lexus, and though the production model will likely be toned down a bit, I expect it will be as beautiful and polarizing as Lexus' best work. 

Lexus has applied for trademarks on the model designations UX200, UX250, and UX250h, so it's safe to assume that the production model will offer similar powertrain options.  Likely competitors include the upcoming BMW X2, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Infiniti QX30, and Range Rover Evoque. 


Infiniti QX50 CONCEPT

Infiniti's QX50 Concept is an evolution of last year's QX Sport Inspiration Concept from the Beijing Motor Show. With essentially the same proportions as the Beijing car, this iteration shows more production-ready detailing, and by the look of it, it's a home run.  Infiniti's nature-inspired design theme, which claims as inspiration "an ocean swell rising above the calm surface of the water" as well as the "compressing and releasing of tension calling to mind the human muscle," is evident in the styling.  The "crescent-cut" c-pillar, double-arched grille, and "focused eye" headlamps that define the current milieu are present and accounted for.  

Mechanical details are scarce, but it wouldn't be far-fetched to expect similar options to the Q50 Sedan, which means a Mercedes-sourced 2.0 liter turbo four with 208 horsepower, and a  3.0 liter twin turbo VR30 V6 with either 300 or 400 horsepower. 

It's a beautiful design, and if Infiniti gives it all the horsepower, it will be a compelling entry in a pretty homogenous field. SQ5 showdown, anyone?