Chicago Auto Show

Concepts offer glimpse into alluring future

2014-02-07T00:00:00Z Concepts offer glimpse into alluring futureAndy Mikonis Times Auto Correspondent nwitimes.com
February 07, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Some of the most fun vehicles to look for at the Chicago Auto Show are concept cars.

Sometimes called dream cars, they can be anything from styling exercises to test reaction to a designer's new ideas to previews close to what an upcoming model will actually look like.

Some run and drive, some are just static displays. Some have interiors showing off design and new technology ideas, others have no interior at all.

Volkswagen probably wasn't thinking of Northwest Indiana when the automaker designed it, but what could be more perfect than the Dune concept? It's a new version of the Beetle with an off-road look inspired by the Baja Bug. The hood and front apron are redesigned. Flared fenders cover the Dune's wider track. A ski/snowboard rack uses the rear spoiler to keep the items in place.

Volkswagen suggests the Dune could go into production, citing the use of the Beetle R-Line's turbocharged 210-horsepower engine and a six-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Volvo stole the Detroit show with Concept XC Coupe, which is said to preview the new XC90. Inspired by sports gear, the concept looks ready for outdoor activities. Glossy paint with matte rubber trim is an experimental touch, but look for the shapes of the headlights, taillights, grille and hood to make it to the production car.

With a similar configuration, the Audi Allroad Shooting Brake concept surprisingly is an "idea" of what the next Audi TT compact sports car will look like. An all new interior is showcased as well drivetrain technology. By the use of a rear electric motor in addition to the gasoline engine in front, the concept would have 408 horsepower and Quattro all-wheel drive.

Two concept cars that made their debut at last month's North American International Auto Show in Detroit look like they were made to do battle with each other on the racetrack: the Kia GT4 Stinger and the Toyota FT-1. The GT4 Stinger is the result of six Kia designers collaborating on how Kia would build a sports car. The requirements they came up with were a two-plus-two configuration with rear-wheel drive. The designers envision power coming from a 315-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter engine backed by a six-speed manual transmission.

Toyota's chief designer in North America, Kevin Hunter, said the edgy FT-1 is "symbolic of a new chapter in Toyota global design," saying future vehicles will be "less reliant on consensus." But there's a hint the FT-1 is being considered for production since the name stands for "Future Toyota." This red racer's sculpted shape makes for a sharp contemporary super car while honoring sporting Toyotas of the past.

Two other competitors from across the Pacific debuted two luxury sport sedan concepts in similar shades of red. The Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge concept turns the Q50 premium sports sedan and turns it into a Formula One inspired performance car. Some of the design details could hint at future Infiniti models. Infiniti's president Johan de Nysschen hopes a limited run could be produced saying "it would likely feature a power output of more than 500hp."

Acura answered with the 2015 TLX Prototype, which previews the exterior look of this upcoming model, which Vice President Mike Acavetti said will be the "backbone of Acura's performance sedan lineup." Two drivetrain choices were announced, a 2.4-liter with a dual-clutch transmission with torque converter, or a 3.5-liter V-6 with a nine-speed automatic. It will also feature all-wheel steering.

Nissan also debuted it Sport Sedan Concept at Detroit. While looking very futuristic, Nissan says this concept shows off the "V-Motion" design theme that will be incorporated in future Nissan products. Other features to note are the "floating" roof that looks like it has no pillars, and the boomerang-shaped head and taillights.

It's finished in a deep amber color, a candy clearcoat over a gold metallic base to accentuate the sculpted lines. Nissan says the Sports Sedan Concept is front-wheel drive and powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 with more than 300 horsepower, coupled with a sport tuned continuously variable transmission.

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