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Concept Cars 2015: New Horizons

The latest batch of concept vehicles isn’t just about swooping angles and unlikely door configurations. Instead, the vehicles are imagined as being heavy on delivering power through hybrid electric engines and batteries.

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MERCEDES-BENZ VISION G-CODE CONCEPT

The Vision G-Code Concept is packed with cutting-edge technology and modeled like an all-wheel-drive SUV because of its 21-inch wheels, high ground clearance and aluminum skid plates. However, it’s a scant 161 inches
long (shorter than Mercedes-Benz’s smallest crossover SUV), and it has a panoramic glass top that stretches the length of the roof. Multivoltaic silver paint converts the body into a continuous solar panel that fuels the electric portion of the unspecified hybrid powertrain, Mercedes says. After the driver activates the vehicle by means of a smartphone, the instrument panel, steering wheel and pedals automatically move into the best position that’s sensed for that driver.

Prognosis: Mercedes wouldn’t say whether the Vision G-Code will become reality. However, Mercedes says the concept could be a template for future Mercedes design and technology.

MINI SUPERLEGGERA VISION

The Superleggera Vision is a collaboration of Italian design, British heritage and German practicality and, as such, is a departure from current MINI models. One vision is of an electric-only convertible roadster. It’s an indication of the future of the brand, according to Anders Warming, who is the head of MINI Design. The interior is spartan: The dashboard is one large piece of hand-brushed aluminum, and instrumentation is minimal. A midtrunk fin includes a long vertical taillight in addition to the car’s horizontal taillights. The Superleggera Vision would follow the movement toward electricity by being either pure electric or a combination of fuel and electricity, such as parent BMW’s i3 and i8 models, MINI says.

Prognosis: The last two prominent concepts that BMW introduced, the i3 and i8, are on the world’s streets. We believe that this model could join them within the next 2–3 years. The brushed-aluminum dashboard is appealing, but it’s likely that more controls would be incorporated.

AUDI A9 PROLOGUE

This coupe shares the basic layout of the Audi A7 but is the harbinger of a new design philosophy—and possibly a new top-of-the-line model for
Audi. Mark Lichte, who is the automaker’s design chief, tells us that this concept was influenced by the company’s 90 Quattro IMSA GT race car as well as its A8 and TT. The A9 Prologue’s slender headlights flow into angular shoulders, which glide back toward the doors before blending into the side panels. A 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 engine that produces 605 hp powers the concept. When it’s combined with Audi’s quattro, or four-wheel-drive, system, the engine provides zero-to-60-mph acceleration in 3.7 seconds, Audi says.

Prognosis: The A9 Prologue will serve as a model for design elements on the next A6, A7 and A8. Audi hasn’t said whether the concept’s engine would be used in a production model, however.

LINCOLN MKX CONCEPT

Ford Motor’s renewed commitment to Lincoln is evident in the company’s plans for a new MKX. The concept SUV’s styling is a departure from previous Lincoln models and is said to be inspired by airplane and motorcycle aerodynamic designs. The MKX Concept even adds an integrated spoiler to the liftgate. Some in the industry wonder whether the MKX Concept’s 305-hp V6 engine likely would be replaced by a 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine that would provide similar power and better fuel economy.

Prognosis: Because Ford is committed to global automotive platforms, we expect this concept to become reality as soon as the 2016 model year.

MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER PHEV-S

Reports of Mitsubishi’s struggles to sell vehicles in North America haven’t deterred the automaker from unveiling the Outlander PHEV-S, which would be the company’s first plug-in SUV, through its 2.0-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine plus two electric motors. The sleek, more aerodynamic design of the Outlander PHEV-S includes wraparound headlights that are bordered by LED lighting and an interior that features hand-stitched leather upholstery.

Prognosis: The design of the Outlander PHEV-S illustrates the direction that the company expects to bring to reality within the next 2 years, says Don Swearingen, who is Mitsubishi’s executive vice president. If Mitsubishi remains in the U.S. automotive market, then this concept is likely to become a reality as early as the 2016 model year.

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