Automotive

The ferocious, the flying and the fuel-frugal: The best concept cars of 2017

The ferocious, the flying and ...
The Pop.Up concept could soar high above city traffic
The Pop.Up concept could soar high above city traffic
View 93 Images
We're not sure we'd pay Bentley money for it, but the combination of plum leather and white paint looks gorgeous on a concept car
1/93
We're not sure we'd pay Bentley money for it, but the combination of plum leather and white paint looks gorgeous on a concept car
The Bentley EXP 12 Speed 6e's grille contains a "6"
2/93
The Bentley EXP 12 Speed 6e's grille contains a "6"
VW Group has made clear its commitment to electrified vehicles, and even brands like Bentley and Lamborghini are getting in on the mission
3/93
VW Group has made clear its commitment to electrified vehicles, and even brands like Bentley and Lamborghini are getting in on the mission
Bentley debuts the EXP 12 Speed 6e at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show
4/93
Bentley debuts the EXP 12 Speed 6e at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show
Bentley didn't go into powertrain details, but it said the 6e's battery would offer enough charge to get you from London to Paris or Milan to Monaco
5/93
Bentley didn't go into powertrain details, but it said the 6e's battery would offer enough charge to get you from London to Paris or Milan to Monaco
Bentley debuts the EXP 12 Speed 6e at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show
6/93
Bentley debuts the EXP 12 Speed 6e at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show
We don't think we'd like Pininfarina's overlapping console tablet in an everyday car, but it gives the H600 concept's interior a distinct look
7/93
We don't think we'd like Pininfarina's overlapping console tablet in an everyday car, but it gives the H600 concept's interior a distinct look
Inside the Pininfarina H600
8/93
Inside the Pininfarina H600
The H600 isn't Pininfarina's prettiest car, but that's no shortcoming given Pininfarina's history with the likes of Ferrari
9/93
The H600 isn't Pininfarina's prettiest car, but that's no shortcoming given Pininfarina's history with the likes of Ferrari
The H600 is defined by its bold grille and smooth luxury car lines
10/93
The H600 is defined by its bold grille and smooth luxury car lines
With the H600, Pininfarina and HKG offer a combination of sheer performance, fuel economy, luxury and touring range
11/93
With the H600, Pininfarina and HKG offer a combination of sheer performance, fuel economy, luxury and touring range
The HKG H600 by Pininfarina debuts at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show
12/93
The HKG H600 by Pininfarina debuts at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show
A collaboration between aerospace staple Airbus and Italdesign, the Pop.Up concept shows a futuristic look at air/ground travel
13/93
A collaboration between aerospace staple Airbus and Italdesign, the Pop.Up concept shows a futuristic look at air/ground travel
Bentley debuts the EXP 12 Speed 6e at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show
14/93
Bentley debuts the EXP 12 Speed 6e at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show
When you're designing a radical concept like the Pop.Up, you don't need to get weighed down with an intricate interior. Italdesign keeps things neat and simple
15/93
When you're designing a radical concept like the Pop.Up, you don't need to get weighed down with an intricate interior. Italdesign keeps things neat and simple
The Pop.Up travel pod is designed to work seamlessly with both a ground chassis and a quadcopter 
16/93
The Pop.Up travel pod is designed to work seamlessly with both a ground chassis and a quadcopter 
Honda's Urban EV is the 'simple, boring car' you just can't look away from
17/93
Honda's Urban EV is the 'simple, boring car' you just can't look away from
The Urban EV Concept was heavily inspired by the original Honda Civic hatchback from the 1970s
18/93
The Urban EV Concept was heavily inspired by the original Honda Civic hatchback from the 1970s
Honda debuts the Urban EV Concept at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show
19/93
Honda debuts the Urban EV Concept at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show
The front-end of the Urban EV Concept serves as a friendly face that can communicate with the outside world
20/93
The front-end of the Urban EV Concept serves as a friendly face that can communicate with the outside world
Kia shows what an "extended hot hatch" could add to its line-up
21/93
Kia shows what an "extended hot hatch" could add to its line-up
The Audi Aicon is a stretched electric sedan concept with Level 5 autonomous capabilities
22/93
The Audi Aicon is a stretched electric sedan concept with Level 5 autonomous capabilities
In place of traditional headlights and taillights, Audi has opted for an LED lighting array using  digital displays with triangular pixel segments
23/93
In place of traditional headlights and taillights, Audi has opted for an LED lighting array using  digital displays with triangular pixel segments
Audi Aicon concept
24/93
Audi Aicon concept
Audi reveals the Aicon concept at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show
25/93
Audi reveals the Aicon concept at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show
In place of traditional headlights and taillights, Audi has opted for an LED lighting array using digital displays with triangular pixel segments
26/93
In place of traditional headlights and taillights, Audi has opted for an LED lighting array using digital displays with triangular pixel segments
The two recliners in front of the Audi Aicon can slide all the way back
27/93
The two recliners in front of the Audi Aicon can slide all the way back
The Volkswagen I.D. Buzz at the Frankfurt Motor Show
28/93
The Volkswagen I.D. Buzz at the Frankfurt Motor Show
After debuting the I.D. Buzz in Detroit, Volkswagen later announced its intentions to pursue production 
29/93
After debuting the I.D. Buzz in Detroit, Volkswagen later announced its intentions to pursue production 
Kia debuts the Proceed concept in Frankfurt
30/93
Kia debuts the Proceed concept in Frankfurt
Kia didn't detail any powertrain or performance specifications for the Proceed, instead keeping focus on the concept's (beautiful) styling
31/93
Kia didn't detail any powertrain or performance specifications for the Proceed, instead keeping focus on the concept's (beautiful) styling
The Proceed has an illuminated side glass surround that serves to highlight the car's sporty roofline 
32/93
The Proceed has an illuminated side glass surround that serves to highlight the car's sporty roofline 
Kia debuts the Proceed concept in Frankfurt
33/93
Kia debuts the Proceed concept in Frankfurt
The BMW Concept 8 Series is a preview of a new production model that will also get an M variant
34/93
The BMW Concept 8 Series is a preview of a new production model that will also get an M variant
BMW will add some serious excitement to its line-up when it introduces the production 8 Series
35/93
BMW will add some serious excitement to its line-up when it introduces the production 8 Series
BMW shows the Concept 8 Series at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show
36/93
BMW shows the Concept 8 Series at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show
BMW shows the Concept 8 Series at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show
37/93
BMW shows the Concept 8 Series at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show
The BMW Concept 8 Series gets a little fresh air at Monterey Car Week 2017
38/93
The BMW Concept 8 Series gets a little fresh air at Monterey Car Week 2017
BMW Concept 8
39/93
BMW Concept 8
Infiniti shows some gorgeous retro lines on the Prototype 9
40/93
Infiniti shows some gorgeous retro lines on the Prototype 9
The VW I.D. Buzz poses with a classic Type 2 Splittie in their natural element
41/93
The VW I.D. Buzz poses with a classic Type 2 Splittie in their natural element
The Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet sports one of the most striking interiors we've seen this year
42/93
The Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet sports one of the most striking interiors we've seen this year
Mercedes-Maybach's latest concept is a great example of blending distinctive interior and exterior styling into a memorable concept car
43/93
Mercedes-Maybach's latest concept is a great example of blending distinctive interior and exterior styling into a memorable concept car
Mercedes-Maybach debuted its cabriolet concept at Monterey Car Week
44/93
Mercedes-Maybach debuted its cabriolet concept at Monterey Car Week
Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet
45/93
Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet
Mercedes-Maybach pulls some inspiration from yesteryear in giving the 6 Cabriolet incredibly long, flowing proportions
46/93
Mercedes-Maybach pulls some inspiration from yesteryear in giving the 6 Cabriolet incredibly long, flowing proportions
The 6 Cabriolet is an electric concept with four motors, and Mercedes-Maybach uses all that under-hood space to house a luggage set and offer additional cargo space
47/93
The 6 Cabriolet is an electric concept with four motors, and Mercedes-Maybach uses all that under-hood space to house a luggage set and offer additional cargo space
Bentley blends the classic with the modern in the EXP Speed 12 6e's interior
48/93
Bentley blends the classic with the modern in the EXP Speed 12 6e's interior
Bentley blends the classic with the modern in the EXP Speed 12 6e's interior
49/93
Bentley blends the classic with the modern in the EXP Speed 12 6e's interior
Inside the BMW Concept 8 Series
50/93
Inside the BMW Concept 8 Series
Honda gives its Urban EV a very simple interior to go along with its retro-modern exterior
51/93
Honda gives its Urban EV a very simple interior to go along with its retro-modern exterior
Nissan/Infiniti explored what would happen if the company had designed a race car back in the 1940s
52/93
Nissan/Infiniti explored what would happen if the company had designed a race car back in the 1940s
The Prototype 9 uses a modest 148-hp prototype electric motor
53/93
The Prototype 9 uses a modest 148-hp prototype electric motor
Infiniti debuted the Prototype 9 at Monterey Car Week
54/93
Infiniti debuted the Prototype 9 at Monterey Car Week
The Prototype 9's huge grille gives it a very strong identity
55/93
The Prototype 9's huge grille gives it a very strong identity
Italdesign and Airbus debut the Pop.Up concept at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show
56/93
Italdesign and Airbus debut the Pop.Up concept at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show
Using a mobile app, Pop.Up users would book a trip with a blend of air, ground and possibly mass transit, providing an efficient A-to-B
57/93
Using a mobile app, Pop.Up users would book a trip with a blend of air, ground and possibly mass transit, providing an efficient A-to-B
The Pop.Up concept could soar high above city traffic
58/93
The Pop.Up concept could soar high above city traffic
While the Kia Proceed's exterior styling is spot on, the red structure and seat ruching look way too loud and weird inside
59/93
While the Kia Proceed's exterior styling is spot on, the red structure and seat ruching look way too loud and weird inside
Kia Proceed concept
60/93
Kia Proceed concept
Lamborghini isn't just looking to make an electric car, it's looking to create a cutting-edge electric Lamborghini
61/93
Lamborghini isn't just looking to make an electric car, it's looking to create a cutting-edge electric Lamborghini
Lamborghini is working with several MIT departments toward developing the technologies to underpin a Terzo Millennio-style electric supercar
62/93
Lamborghini is working with several MIT departments toward developing the technologies to underpin a Terzo Millennio-style electric supercar
The Terzo Millennio concept pulls out all the stops on aerodynamics
63/93
The Terzo Millennio concept pulls out all the stops on aerodynamics
Lamborghini revealed the Terzo Millennio at an MIT conference
64/93
Lamborghini revealed the Terzo Millennio at an MIT conference
Lamborghini and MIT are exploring material technologies for the Terzo Millennio, including self-healing body panels
65/93
Lamborghini and MIT are exploring material technologies for the Terzo Millennio, including self-healing body panels
Nissan explores the idea of a more rugged NV van
66/93
Nissan explores the idea of a more rugged NV van
The Nissan Cargo X gets upgraded with a Cummins diesel engine, off-road suspension and reworked front bumper
67/93
The Nissan Cargo X gets upgraded with a Cummins diesel engine, off-road suspension and reworked front bumper
Nissan revealed the Cargo X at this year's Chicago Auto Show
68/93
Nissan revealed the Cargo X at this year's Chicago Auto Show
The Nissan Cargo X includes an off-road bumper with winch
69/93
The Nissan Cargo X includes an off-road bumper with winch
Toyota reveals the Fine-Comfort Ride concept at the Tokyo Motor Show
70/93
Toyota reveals the Fine-Comfort Ride concept at the Tokyo Motor Show
Another Toyota concept from Tokyo: the Tj Cruiser
71/93
Another Toyota concept from Tokyo: the Tj Cruiser
Both the Fine-Comfort Ride and Tj Cruiser concepts use traditional front and sliding rear doors ... but toward very different ends
72/93
Both the Fine-Comfort Ride and Tj Cruiser concepts use traditional front and sliding rear doors ... but toward very different ends
Inside the Toyota Fine-Comfort Ride concept
73/93
Inside the Toyota Fine-Comfort Ride concept
The fuel cell-based Fine-Comfort Ride isn't the prettiest concept outside, but its interior sure looks like a nice place to take a spin
74/93
The fuel cell-based Fine-Comfort Ride isn't the prettiest concept outside, but its interior sure looks like a nice place to take a spin
The Fine-Comfort Ride concept features four adjustable recliners for comfort and flexibility
75/93
The Fine-Comfort Ride concept features four adjustable recliners for comfort and flexibility
For work or just chatting, Toyota's Fine-Comfort Ride seats can swivel to face each other
76/93
For work or just chatting, Toyota's Fine-Comfort Ride seats can swivel to face each other
Kicking back in the Toyota Fine-Comfort Ride
77/93
Kicking back in the Toyota Fine-Comfort Ride
Toyota's Tj Cruiser also has flexible seating ... but it's designed for utility more than comfort
78/93
Toyota's Tj Cruiser also has flexible seating ... but it's designed for utility more than comfort
With the flat folding seat system, the Tj Cruiser hauls goods you'd usually want an empty cargo van for
79/93
With the flat folding seat system, the Tj Cruiser hauls goods you'd usually want an empty cargo van for
Toyota blends the SUV and the cargo van into the Tj Cruiser
80/93
Toyota blends the SUV and the cargo van into the Tj Cruiser
The Tj Cruiser was one of the multiple rugged all-terrain concepts Toyota played with in 2017
81/93
The Tj Cruiser was one of the multiple rugged all-terrain concepts Toyota played with in 2017
Everyone loves the iconic VW Transporter camper bus, and Volkswagen gives its I.D. Buzz concept camper-style swivel front seats and folding rear seats
82/93
Everyone loves the iconic VW Transporter camper bus, and Volkswagen gives its I.D. Buzz concept camper-style swivel front seats and folding rear seats
The I.D. Buzz features a flexible interior made possible by the under-floor battery
83/93
The I.D. Buzz features a flexible interior made possible by the under-floor battery
Inside the VW I.D. Buzz concept
84/93
Inside the VW I.D. Buzz concept
VW debuts the I.D. Buzz at NAIAS 2017
85/93
VW debuts the I.D. Buzz at NAIAS 2017
A peek inside the Audi Aicon concept
86/93
A peek inside the Audi Aicon concept
Audi Aicon
87/93
Audi Aicon
Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet
88/93
Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet
Lazzarini Hover Coupe
89/93
Lazzarini Hover Coupe
The Hover Coupe and the Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8 that inspired its fuselage
90/93
The Hover Coupe and the Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8 that inspired its fuselage
Lazzarini Hover Coupe
91/93
Lazzarini Hover Coupe
Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet
92/93
Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet
The Hover Coupe takes flight
93/93
The Hover Coupe takes flight
View gallery - 93 images

After covering major international auto shows and events stretching way back to January's 1-2 CES/Detroit Auto Show punch and through to this month's LA Auto Show, we've seen a lot of concept cars. They range from brilliant to unjustifiably weird. Our favorites of 2017 include past icons reinvented as vehicles of the future, electrifying ultra-premiums, hard-to-define segment-benders and utterly insane hypercars.

Bentley EXP 12 Speed 6e

Even if the Bentley EXP 12 Speed 6e wasn't born an electric concept in a year that saw even the least likely auto badges getting more serious about electrified powertrains, it'd have made this list. What's not to like about a perfectly sculpted Bentley roadster with a plum-delightful interior blend of leather trim and cascading touchscreen center console?

The Bentley EXP 12 Speed 6e's grille contains a "6"
The Bentley EXP 12 Speed 6e's grille contains a "6"

Of course, the EXP 12 Speed 6e is an all-electric concept, and Bentley's first at that, so all the more reason it deserves to be here. Bentley didn't detail the 6e's electric powertrain layout when it introduced the concept at the Geneva Motor Show, but it did say that such an electric car would spit out plenty of torque and grand touring capability – enough to complete a trip between London and Paris, roughly 300 miles (483 km), on a single charge. That's about in line with the 311+ (500-km) miles that other VW Group badges have been estimating on their concepts. The all-electric design has an added bonus, inspiring the copper accents that dress both interior and exterior.

Italdesign Pop.Up

"Where are our flying cars?" It's a query that's been shouted from the hilltops and is likely to get louder and louder, given that flying cars have been "just a few years away" for, well, more than just a few years. 2017 didn't provide the answer to that question, but it did bring plenty of flying car news, and it did see a few flying car designs show up at major international auto shows. Before Daimler welcomed folks to its Frankfurt Motor Show hall with a Volocopter vessel, Italdesign and Airbus wowed the Geneva crowds with the Pop.Up concept.

Using a mobile app, Pop.Up users would book a trip with a blend of air, ground and possibly mass transit, providing an efficient A-to-B
Using a mobile app, Pop.Up users would book a trip with a blend of air, ground and possibly mass transit, providing an efficient A-to-B

More than just a flying car, the Pop.Up is a mobility ecosystem based around a two-seat transport pod that can secure to the electric vehicle chassis and VTOL quadcopter that Airbus/Italdesign penned to go with it or trains, hyperloops and other mass transit systems.

Each user can find just the right blend of road, air and mass transit by letting the accompanying app do its work in compounding factors like time, cost and traffic, creating the ideal A-to-B ride. If ever a futuristic concept car vision were able to get us excited, it'd have to be the idea of a Pop.Up quadcopter swooping in to lift our transportation pod out of rush hour gridlock, turning an arduous hour+ commute into a flight of mere minutes.

We're not anticipating that the Pop.Up will become the very first product to answer the "where are our flying cars" question, but Airbus suggests that it would be possible to develop such a system within a decade or even less. So 2027 Geneva Motor Show, we're looking at you.

Kia Proceed Concept

Some concepts use every gimmick in the book to catch your attention, and some do it without much effort at all. The Kia Proceed finds itself in that second category, a styling exercise that just makes you stare in awe, trying to figure out what it is you're looking at. With a Stinger-inspired face and sloped roofline, it's too sporty to be an estate, but it's also too long and roomy to be a coupe. Kia's quite happy calling it an "extended hot hatch," and it definitely walks and talks like that breed of duck.

Kia Proceed concept
Kia Proceed concept

Even in a year in which sporty estates like the new Jaguar XF Sportbrake and Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo broke cover, the Proceed stands out as the best-looking wagon of 2017.

The illuminated side glass surround and dripping "lava red" paint perfectly accentuate the car's gorgeous proportions. We would readily trade the feathery seats and aromatic "memory bank" of the weird interior for some powertrain details – real or imagined – but even without, the Proceed is a highly effective piece of styling from a company that's starting to find its footing in adding some excitement to its line.

Toyota Fine-Comfort Ride Concept

Quite the opposite of the Kia Proceed, the Toyota Fine-Comfort Ride concept does not make the list for its style, of which the boxy concept has little. Toyota calls it "a new form of premium saloon," but it looks more like the spawn of a crossover/minivan union. On the other hand, it's loaded with more than enough tech and interior design features to overlook its awkward style.

Both the Fine-Comfort Ride and Tj Cruiser concepts use traditional front and sliding rear doors ... but toward very different ends
Both the Fine-Comfort Ride and Tj Cruiser concepts use traditional front and sliding rear doors ... but toward very different ends

Toyota breaks away from the electric concept car convention, exploring the next generation of fuel cell technology, along with fully autonomous design. It says the fuel cell powertrain driving the Fine-Comfort's wheels could deliver around 620 miles (1,000 km) of range for each three minutes or so of hydrogen fueling.

Behind the Fine-Comfort's B-pillar-free combination of hinged front doors and sliding rear doors, four occupant-wrapping recliners provide the utmost of comfort in the first and second row, swiveling around on orb-like bases when so desired. The third row is a simpler, more familiar bench.

The interior benefits from a diamond shape that provides extra width and space toward the front and center before narrowing at the rear. Digital displays integrated in the side windows and dash provide the full gamut of infotainment multimedia. The Fine-Comfort Ride may not be the vehicle you'd most like to be seen in, but it's definitely a vehicle you'd like to be in.

Lamborghini Terzo Millennio

Lamborghini concepts have been some of the most wild in recent memory. We're talking sci-fi-level creations like the air-sucking Veneno or shark-spearing Egoista. So we never imagined the first all-electric Raging Bull would be mistaken for a basic highway commuter. We also never suspected it would be the radical amalgam of high-tech materials, next-gen technologies and huge air-channeling cutouts that is the Terzo Millennio.

Lamborghini is working with several MIT departments toward developing the technologies to underpin a Terzo Millennio-style electric supercar
Lamborghini is working with several MIT departments toward developing the technologies to underpin a Terzo Millennio-style electric supercar

Lamborghini is working with MIT in developing the technologies needed to create an electric bull that can properly rage. Those technologies include supercapacitors, energy-accumulating carbon fiber body panels, a high-performance in-wheel motor system, and even a "self-healing" structure that could repair damage autonomously. In other words, we're looking at an electric car with next-gen Lamborghini levels of awesomeness.

No typical auto show reveal for the Terzo Millennio – Lamborghini and its MIT partners revealed it at the EmTech MIT Conference in November. Hopefully we'll get a closer look during the 2018 auto show season.

Toyota Tj Cruiser

The Fine-Comfort Ride shows a futuristic way Toyota might blend SUV and van construction into a functional vehicle, and the Tj Cruiser shows a more contemporary one. This versatile mash-up machine could write a compelling new chapter in Toyota's legacy of rugged, capable 4x4s built for abuse and longevity.

Another Toyota concept from Tokyo: the Tj Cruiser
Another Toyota concept from Tokyo: the Tj Cruiser

Unlike other 2017 MP-SUV designs, notably the Mitsubishi Expander and Citroën SpaceTourer 4x4 Ë Concept, the Tj Cruiser is more than just a beefed-up minivan equipped for deftly handling slick, frosty gravel driveways. And that's because Toyota isn't balancing an urban crossover with a minivan, instead slapping a rugged 4x4-style front-end on a boxy cargo van-like body.

Likewise, the folding seats/flat load floor of the interior smartly blend the passenger hauling capabilities of an SUV with the stuff-carrying of a cargo van, letting owners load oversized items up to 9.8 feet (3 m) long straight to the dashboard. We're guessing the Tj won't handle like a dream, but selectable 4WD and large tires will help to ensure solid traction over varying ground.

We'd think a production Tj would have to add at least an extra seat to the concept's four, but we can certainly think of many uses for one. Here's to hoping Toyota gets serious about it, for Japan and beyond.

BMW Concept 8 Series

Many concepts are born with an unknown future, but the BMW Concept 8 Series' future is much clearer, as BMW has said that it is a taster of a production 8 Series Coupe. News of an all-new 8 (i.e. the "pinnacle of sports performance and exclusivity at BMW") should be enough to get BMW fans all giddy, and the sharp, aggressive styling of the Concept 8 should have the same effect on anyone who isn't excited by the words alone.

The angry face, the precisely placed lines and creases, and the perfectly proportioned muscles combine to create a car that exudes power, confidence and class. The driver-focused interior features a masterful blend of digitization and performance-based materials like carbon fiber, polished aluminum and leather.

BMW Concept 8
BMW Concept 8

Not only does the Concept 8 Series score for being one of the better-looking concepts of 2017, it also gets points for building excitement about next year's debut of the production version. Onward to 2018.

Honda Urban EV

The year brought plenty of EVs and autonomous concepts that wear modern or futuristic looks. Honda bucked that trend with the beautifully retro Urban EV. But for some carefully rounded edges and a digital face that communicates with the crowd, this Frankfurt-debuted concept would look like it had been dragged directly out of 1975 and retrofitted with Honda's latest electric tech.

It's amazing how basic designs from simpler times truly pop when surrounded by the more stylized machines of today. The Urban EV's flat roofline, classic hatchback stance and white paint were among the simplest design elements in Frankfurt, but this concept was also among the vehicles that held our attention the longest.

The Urban EV Concept was heavily inspired by the original Honda Civic hatchback from the 1970s
The Urban EV Concept was heavily inspired by the original Honda Civic hatchback from the 1970s

The Urban EV gets much more modern below that throwback shell, where its electric powertrain is joined by a personal digital assistant, streamlined digitized driver's area and two-way energy management system that allows the car to share power with the home and electrical grid.

We're not sure how closely it will follow the concept's retro motif, but a production Urban EV-based car will debut in 2019.

Volkswagen I.D. Buzz

Now that we've gone down the path of production-bound, retro-futuristic electric concepts, we're all but required to turn our attention to the Volkswagen I.D. Buzz. Not that it doesn't earn a spot on its own – the world has been waiting for a new-generation VW Microbus for decades, and after toying with folks with the 2001 Microbus and 2011 Bulli concepts, Volkswagen is finally hitting the accelerator on a production bus. The I.D. Buzz concept serves as a preview, having opened a busy year of electric concepts at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show.

After debuting the I.D. Buzz in Detroit, Volkswagen later announced its intentions to pursue production 
After debuting the I.D. Buzz in Detroit, Volkswagen later announced its intentions to pursue production 

The production I.D. Buzz-based electric van scheduled for launch in 2022 will lose the fully autonomous driving suite of the concept, but it will have Level 3 capabilities. Hopefully it'll also have the classic short nose, window-lined cabin and flexible interior. The concept has a floor-mounted 111-kWh battery powering its 369-hp AWD e-motor layout for up to 373 miles (600 km, NEDC). We don't suspect the 2022 version will be quite so powerful, but hopefully it'll have comparable range.

Nissan NV Cargo X

As interesting as it is to ogle time-traveling vehicles from the 2020s and beyond, sometimes it's nice to see something that just works, in the present tense. Nissan's NV Cargo X is just that, with the compelling off-road video to prove it.

The type of van you usually have to turn to an aftermarket outfit like Sportsmobile to build, the NV Cargo X concept shows Nissan's own ideas on a rugged, off-road-ready NV 2500 HD van, not that it didn't have help, as off-road builder Ian Johnson joined the automaker on the project.

The Nissan Cargo X gets upgraded with a Cummins diesel engine, off-road suspension and reworked front bumper
The Nissan Cargo X gets upgraded with a Cummins diesel engine, off-road suspension and reworked front bumper

With a 310-hp/555 lb-ft Cummins V8 turbo diesel engine, heavy-duty Aisin 6-speed transmission and 4WD borrowed from the Titan XD and an off-road-specific suspension and 37-in General Grabber X3 tires, the Cargo X is a convincing go-anywhere van.

The upgraded van also wears a front skid plate, tube front bumper, 10,000-lb winch and off-road lighting. Should anything go wrong on the trail, it's equipped to be its own support vehicle, its cargo area filled out with an onboard air system, fluid containment and storage, high-lift jack, portable welder, recovery equipment and more.

While the self-supporting off-road van angle is interesting, we'd really love to see this one turned into an off-road expedition camper van. Nissan has been dipping its toes in the overland market, so here's to hoping for an NV Cargo Xpedition concept in 2018.

Pininfarina H600

Usually when we talk about microturbines in motor vehicles, we're talking about a big rig or super-exclusive supercar, but this year Pininfarina brought the conversation to the luxury sedan segment.

Working with Hong Kong's Hybrid Kinetic Group, the world-famous design house created a silky smooth sports sedan around a potent 805-hp electric powertrain with graphene-enhanced battery and microturbine range extender. So when all those other next-gen concept cars shut down around 311 miles (500 km) or so, the H600 is only about halfway through its total range of 620 miles (1,000 km, NEDC). For those interested in shorter, quicker journeys, it can also sprint from 0-62 mph (96.5 km/h) in a mere 2.9 seconds.

The HKG H600 by Pininfarina debuts at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show
The HKG H600 by Pininfarina debuts at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show

The H600 wears a classic, upscale set of clothes while its interior is a bit more playful and cutting edge, highlighted by the tablet-sized floating center console screen. Pininfarina followed the Geneva-debuted sedan up with a crossover and SUV, so the H600 definitely appears more than just a one-and-done concept.

Audi Aicon

Audi is leading the way toward autonomous driving with the Level 3 A8, and the Frankfurt-debuted Aicon concept shows how it might continue to lead the way in the future. The dramatically stretched sedan leverages autonomy toward a much more comfortable and luxurious premium car experience.

The Level 5, AI-controlled concept doesn't even waste unnecessary space or gross vehicle weight by carrying a steering wheel or pedals around. Combine that with standalone front recliners that can slide all the way back, and you have new levels of legroom and interior space – at least until you have to move the seats back up for the rear passengers. Integrated ottomans provide further comfort.

The Audi Aicon is a stretched electric sedan concept with Level 5 autonomous capabilities
The Audi Aicon is a stretched electric sedan concept with Level 5 autonomous capabilities

The settings throughout the Aicon's cabin are dialed in effortlessly because Audi's PIA digital assistant recognizes the passengers via their smartphones and sets everything to their preferences when they step aboard. Should anyone feel the need to manually change anything, touch controls built into the door panels are at their fingertips and voice-based and eye-tracking control systems are at the ready.

With manual driving but a memory, passengers are free to watch media on the digital display, surf the Web, work or simply take a nap. The glass roof panels can be set to opaque and OLED mood lighting set to create a relaxing atmosphere.

Powertrain details are a bit of an afterthought on a concept of this nature, but in case you're wondering, Audi specified a 349-hp four-motor electric drive with nearly 500 miles (800 km) of range. The concept can drive itself to charge, where it can reach the 80-percent level in under 30 minutes.

Lazzarini Hover Coupè

Retro-futuristic design is a theme seen in several concepts on this list, but no other takes it to the extremes of the Lazzarini Hover Coupè. Designer Pierpaolo Lazzarini centers a classic Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8-influenced body between four rotors, creating a style of flying car utterly perfect for a future adaptation of Dick Tracy. The Hover Coupè doesn't require a separate drone like the Pop.Up or deployable wings like other flying cars, vertically lifting from the confines of city traffic to the airspace high above.

Lazzarini Hover Coupe
Lazzarini Hover Coupe

We definitely won't be expecting a final Hover Coupè prototype in 2018, or anytime in the years following, but the concept does make us "think about the future without forgetting the past," as Lazzarini intended.

Infiniti Prototype 9

Easily the most fun (ground) electric concept car of the year, the gorgeous Prototype 9 sees Infiniti trying its hand at rewriting the past. The badge sought to explore the type of open-wheeled grand prix race car it might have run if it had been in business back in the 1940s, giving a simple, cigar-shaped body dimension and definition with creases, tucks and vents. The dominating front grille gives a big first impression, but unlike the huge front grilles that have found favor in production with some automakers (we're looking right at you, Lexus), this one actually works quite nicely as a signature styling point.

Infiniti shows some gorgeous retro lines on the Prototype 9
Infiniti shows some gorgeous retro lines on the Prototype 9

While the Prototype 9's exterior is all retro, the underlying powertrain technology is modestly futuristic. Infiniti has hooked a prototype electric motor worth around 148 hp and 236 lb-ft to the rear wheels via a single-speed transmission.

That doesn't exactly make the Prototype 9 a lightning-quick podium-topper, with a top speed of 106 mph (170 km/h) and 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) of 5.5 seconds, but it does give the car some credibility as more than just a fancy showpiece. If that prototype motor finds use in a production Infiniti or Nissan, we reckon it'll drive for a bit longer than the 20 minutes of feisty track driving the Prototype 9 offers.

Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet

Yes, the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet is yet another electric concept. No, that's not why we picked it, nor do we anticipate the massive 18.7-foot (5.7-m) convertible being particularly efficient, no matter what is spinning the wheels.

Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet
Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet

The new Maybach concept gets the nod for being a magnificent piece of design work, every bit as stunning as its hard-topped sibling, one of our favorite concepts of 2016. All the bodywork of the Cabriolet's long-arcing hood is balanced nicely by the fresh air that fills out the two-seat cabin.

The retracted soft-top naturally draws the eye to the superlative interior, which is every bit as much a highlight as the classic lines of the body. The two seats flow together as if poured from large vat of liquid leather, and backlit quilting serves as the perfect day/night accent. The yacht-like wood floor, the blue fiber optic cable mimicking the flow of electricity from within the central tunnel, the wraparound digital display strip, and the classic cylindrical gauges all add to the car's exceptional presence.

A single photo will never do a concept car justice, so be sure to browse through more interior and exterior angles of each of these intriguing vehicles in our photo gallery.

View gallery - 93 images
5 comments
jshaw
Wow ... here's hoping some of them reach production.
The Creator
"News of an all-new 8 (i.e. the "pinnacle of sports performance and exclusivity at BMW") should be enough to get BMW fans all giddy"
Hardly. I could see the best concept EVER, and I would not be giddy or excited or anything because not ONCE in the history of humanity, has a production car ever been even as close to cool and amazing as the concept car it was based off of. Auto manufactures are the masters of the bate and switch.
dougspair
...Infiniti Prototype 9....they'll need to build 2 of these...one for Jay Leno, and the other for the car show....
dougspair
....Concept Cars.....that's "code" for.....you'll never be able to get one.....or even sit in there....
John Gochnauer
Where is the "perfectly sculpted Bentley roadster" described toward the beginning of this article? Instead, we see an unholy mashup of the Fiat 124, Toyota 2000GT, and Mitsuoka Orochi.