Optimism is back in style in the automotive world. The concept cars on display during the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show prove that automakers are again willing to take risks and push boundaries. After a couple dismal years of sales due to a global recession, manufacturers are exhibiting a renewed sense of creativity.
Some of the concept cars seen in L.A. rely on heritage to spark a new ideas for the 21st century. The aggressive-looking Audi Quattro Concept is a modern interpretation of the German company's famous all-wheel-drive sport coupes from the 1980s.
Other automakers, like Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar, chose to break all the rules and display cars that look ready to take flight or travel in time. The Mercedes-Benz Biome and Jaguar C-X75 concepts are not only wildly futuristic, they're absolutely gorgeous and a sign of even more good things to come.
Jaguar C-X75 Concept
Following its impressive Paris debut, the Jaguar C-X75 turbine-electric hybrid supercar took center stage at the Los Angeles Auto Show. While very much a concept, the C-X75 does represent Jaguar's new design face for upcoming models. That's excellent news, because this is one pretty kitty.
Even better is the fact that all this beauty is more than skin deep. At each wheel is an electric motor that provides 195 horsepower (145 kW) of power and weighs 110 lb. Power for the electric motors comes from a 506-lb. lithium-ion battery pack, which Jag claims takes a full charge in just 6 hours at 240 volts. Running only on electric power, the C-X75 will provide a driving range of 68 miles.
With the help of two micro gas turbines, the Jaguar's range jumps to 560 miles. Jaguar claims the C-X75 can accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in 3.4 seconds, while top speed is reportedly 205 mph. All that turbine-generated power creates a lot of heat, as evidenced by sign at the exhaust outlets with the warning: Beware of Blast.
Audi Quattro Concept
The Audi Quattro Concept is another Paris Auto Show veteran, but that did little to dampen enthusiasm for this muscular show car. The inspiration for this sport coupe stretches back a few decades. The German automaker built the Quattro Concept to celebrate 30 years of its "Quattro" all-wheel drive system – not to mention the Quattro Sport that dominated rallying in the 1980s.
Finished in "Col de Turini" white paint, the Quattro Concept is powered by a compact turbocharged 5-cylinder engine that puts out a whopping 408-bhp and 354 lb. ft. of torque. The chassis beneath the car comes from an Audi RS 5, with its wheelbase shortened and roof lowered. To further trim weight, the 2-passenger Quattro has an aluminum body and hood, hatch and bumpers made of carbon-fiber. The car weighs in at a slim 2866 lb.
Based on the positive reactions to the car in Paris and Los Angeles, we don't see how Audi could decide not to build the potent Quattro.
Nissan Ellure Concept
The Nissan Ellure Concept, a world debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show, is meant to bring excitement back to the sedan category while meeting consumer demands for environmentally friendly vehicles. Thankfully, the elegant exterior and classy cabin of the Ellure help the car meet these high expectations. The design is expected to heavily influence the next Altima and Maxima sedan.
The Nissan Ellure has what the Japanese automaker refers to as "rhythmic" shapes around the body. The polished grille is aluminum and acrylic, its wing shape apparently inspired by "Kamishimo," the Samurai's formal outer coat. The headlights are LEDs, with a light ribbon adding depth to their appearance.
Inside, the front seats are covered with black recyclable suede fibers and feature slender acrylic seatbacks. The front seat passenger can make use of an ottoman – no, we're not kidding. Under the hood is Nissan's next-generation hybrid propulsion system: a supercharged 2.5-liter inline-4 engine mated to an electric motor with lithium-ion batteries.
Cadillac Urban Luxury Concept
Also seen for the first time at Los Angeles, Cadillac's Urban Luxury Concept addresses the move to smaller and more fuel efficient city cars. The exterior shape of the Urban Luxury Concept carries Cadillac's strong and instantly recognizable sharp contours of its Art & Science design philosophy. The huge 19-in. wheels are pushed to the corners of the diminutive body to create a muscular stance and maximize interior volume.
A large windshield, overhead skylights and see-through A-pillars aid visibility while adding a spacious feel of the interior. The Cadillac Concept accommodates four passengers, with access to the cabin handled by huge chiseled door slabs that open scissor-style.
The ULC's powertrain is a hybrid, featuring an electrically assisted turbocharged 1.0-liter inline-3 mated to a dual-clutch transmission. An engine start-stop function and regenerative braking help nudge the ULC's economy to 56 mpg city and 65 mpg on the highway, at least according to Cadillac's number crunchers.
It remains to be seen whether the Cadillac family tree has room for a vehicle like the ULC. Yet it's exciting to see the American brand combine traditional luxury with the push towards greater fuel-efficiency.
This is the Mercedes-Benz you'll aspire to own in, say, 2310. The bright white concept looks like it belongs on the set of Star Trek. Yet the Biome was actually designed at the German company's design studio in Carlsbad, California. There is room for four-passengers inside, or so we're told, and the seating position is in a diamond format.
The best part is that Mercedes-Benz says the Biome can be grown from seeds, and not built in a traditional factory. It sounds absolutely crazy and over the top, but that's part of the fun with any dream car. Using genetically modified trees and something called BioNectar4534, Mercedes-Benz says the Biome's bio-fiber cloth body would be grown organically.
On the road, the car emits pure oxygen back into the environment. The car reportedly weighs only 875 lbs. – though it'll be several generations from now before anyone starts pondering the spec sheet for a genetically-built Mercedes like the Biome.
Mazda Shinari Concept
The Los Angeles Auto Show was the first opportunity for the public to see the handsome Mazda Shinari concept. Pictures of the car have circulated online, yet this was the fist auto show appearance for the sedan that represents the brand's new design language.
Traditional Mazda design elements will be retained, such as the five-point grille and the prominent front fender shape, but the 4-door Shinari embodies a new dynamic that blends sharp character lines with sculpted body shapes to convey a sense of power and elegance.
Crisp character lines, sculpted body panels and a pronounced cab rearward proportion give the car a powerful look. The attention to detail is remarkable for a show car. The satin-finish metal trim that frames the bottom of the grille splays out through the headlamp openings. This strip seems to travel through the wheel arch and re-emerges as a side vent accent.
Mazda believes this new design can be used on both passenger sedans, like the Mazda6, and replacements for sporty models like the MX-5 Miata and RX-8.
Subaru Impreza Design Concept
The Subaru Impreza Design Concept is an aggressive is an aggressive, but familiar, outlook for the all-wheel-drive-all-the-time company. Gone are the days of the three-box Subaru, as the overall line from the front of the car, through the bottom of the A-pillar, the roof, through the C-pillar and ultimately the trunk, is smooth and continuous. The front end – with all the character lines, headlights, fog lights and air openings – is much sharper and more pronounced than before.
For a company that has sometimes struggled to find its own look, the Impreza Design Concept is a safe step towards a more lasting long-term impression. The engine is a 2.0-liter version of Subaru's trademark Boxer configuration flat-four motor. It's mated to a continuously variable transmission that Subaru calls Lineartronic.
The "EyeSight" system is a clever tech touch, comprised of a series of cameras located at the front of the roof. EyeSight provides for collision mitigation, and can display the feed that it sees through the in-dash video system. The cabin is filled with video panels, including one located on the lower spoke of the steering wheel.