Concept vehicles are generally planned and designed to create enthusiasm for a brand. While many of these prototypes never actually hit the highway, manufacturers create lavish blueprints showcasing their ideas and capabilities, occasionally inspiring innovations used in future productions. Here, we look at 10 of the most exciting concept vehicles that almost became automotive reality.
10. Chrysler ME Four-12
During the short-lived Daimler-Chrysler Group, this supercar was a cooperative effort, intended to be the most aggressive Chrysler model ever produced. The nameplate itself—Mid-Engine, Four turbochargers, Twelve cylinder engine—expressed the intention of making this vehicle a beast. The 6.0-litre engine boasted an incredible 850 horsepower (hp), with a top speed of 399 kilometres per hour (km/h).
Making its debut at the 2004 North American International Auto Show with a limited operational prototype, the sports car was almost approved for production. However, the Daimler side of the partnership vetoed it because the model would directly compete against the team’s Mercedes SLR McLaren.
9. Cadillac Sixteen Concept
This luxurious model imagined by Cadillac was to be powered by an impressive 13.6-litre, 1000 hp, V-16 engine. The concept came to the public’s attention in 2003 but was never mass-produced. For its time, it was ahead of the curve in technology and innovative features. The luxury sedan included a rear-seat DVD infotainment system and superior control from its advanced Quadrasteer four-wheel steering capability. The car may not have been the most practical, however, as it measured in at a whopping 19-feet long.
While the Sixteen never saw production, some of its unique elements can be seen in subsequent sedans, such as the Cadillac CTS.
8. Hyundai PassoCorto
Today, Hyundai is synonymous with family sedans and affordable SUVs. In 2014, the manufacturer was almost the force behind a jaw-dropping turbo-charged performance vehicle that would have placed it in the supercar market.
The two-door PassoCorto featured a compact 2.45-meter wheelbase and measured only 4.1-meters long. As a prototype, it utilized a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged engine, producing nearly 270 hp. While the sleek model never made it to the production line, it showed that Hyundai possessed the grit and attitude to add a true sports car to its already impressive lineup.
7. Volkswagen GX3
The 2006 GX3 by Volkswagen just missed approval for production, as prototypes were spotted in public while the German automaker worked out the kinks. It was a unique three-wheeled trike concept that promised exceptional acceleration (0 to 99 km/h in 5.7 seconds), impressive fuel economy (20 kp/l), and an affordable price ($21,000 CAD).
Unfortunately, after all the test drives, consumer hype, and plans for production, the concept fell flat. Volkswagen cites that the model was ultimately scrapped after lawyers noted the potential for liability lawsuits.
6. Lincoln MK9
After Lincoln discontinued production of the Mark VIII in 1998, the automaker developed the MK9 in 2001 as a design study on two-door coupe technology. The stylish vehicle exuded luxury with a sleekly sculpted hood, signature waterfall grille, and advanced LED taillights. Elegance was also the driving force for the coupe’s interior. Dark cherry-red wood floors, paired with a similarly coloured leather seating and dashboard combo, offered plenty of eye candy.
While the coupe didn’t find its way to the production line, there is one model in existence. In 2010, the one-of-a-kind concept car sold at auction for a staggering $125,000 (CAD).
5. Maserati Birdcage 75
The extravagant Birdcage 75 concept was the brainchild of a partnership between Maserati, Motorola, and Pininfarina. Powered by a 6.0L V-12 engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission, the supercar generated 700 hp. Along with impressive power, a unique aspect of the vehicle is its lack of doors.
Instead, a large bubble canopy lifts to allow cabin access. While it was speculated that Maserati considered custom builds for its wildest and wealthiest fans, the concept never saw production because the model’s market price would exceed $3,000,000.
4. Mazda Furai
The Furai, meaning the sound of the wind, represented Mazda’s late-2000s attempt to repeat the success it had in the 1990s with its RX series. Under the hood, an intricate tri-rotor configuration gave the beast its aggressive sound and solid performance. Design plans show the supercar was intended to reach 450 hp and incorporated a stylish rear wing, which looked incredible while also generating downforce to help the vehicle stick to the road.
After successful testing in California, the Furai was shipped to England for further analysis. Unfortunately, during a photo shoot, the sports car became engulfed in flames due to a triple rotor engine system failure. Today, fans can pilot a digital version of the Furai in popular video games like Gran Turismo and Forza.
3. Dodge Demon
Today, the Demon badge is a well-known and aggressive package offered in modern Dodge Challengers. In 2007, however, the nameplate served as a two-seat roadster concept that was foiled due to the failing Daimler-Chrysler Group merger. After Daimler sold most of its stake to Cerberus, the new owners shelved the concept. A year later, Dodge expressed co-development plans with Chery, a Chinese brand. Unfortunately, the teams never had the opportunity to bring it to life before 2009, when Chrysler declared bankruptcy, ultimately leading to today’s partnership, Fiat Chrysler (FCA).
The Miata competitor operated in rear-wheel-drive, achieving 172 hp thanks to a four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission.
2. Saab Aero-X
The 2006 Aero-X concept showcased a design scheme that acknowledged Saab’s expertise in aircraft development. Another vehicle lacking doors, the Aero-X featured an adjustable cockpit canopy that opened to provide access. Powered by a V6 twin-turbo engine that ran on pure bio-ethanol, the coupe was expected to produce 400 hp.
Inside, the GM Europe design team incorporated ambient lighting, precision instrumentation that eliminated dials and switches, and a 180-degree visual perspective. Early computer simulations estimated that the Aero-X would reach 100 km/h in less than five seconds and top out at a staggering 250 km/h.
1. Mitsubishi Concept-RA
While the 2008 financial crisis hit several markets, the auto industry was hammered especially hard. One concept that didn’t survive the economic disaster was the Concept-RA by Mitsubishi.
The coupe was expected to help the manufacturer refresh its once-popular Eclipse model. Before it was put on the backburner, the Concept-RA was meant to utilize Mitsubishi’s Active Steering, Super-All–heel Control, and active stability control. One of the vehicle’s most exciting features was its 2.2-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine, rarely found on an all-wheel-drive sports car. The automaker claimed the souped-up Eclipse would pump out 201 hp.