Concept cars, or dream cars, are some of the most popular exhibits at the Chicago Auto Show. Automakers show concepts either to gauge consumer reaction to new ideas, show off new styling, or preview an upcoming model already in the pipeline. Since Chicago is the largest consumer auto show in the country, expect to see a lot of concepts on display. Here are a few to watch for hot off the auto show circuit, plus expect a few surprises. You can vote for your favorite concept vehicle while you are at the show.
Buick stole the concept car spotlight at last month’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit with the Avenir. Buick basically invented the concept car with the 1938 Y-Job, and even though Avenir means “future” in French, you will also recognize hints of famous Buick designs of the past. At the same time, it showcases new styling ideas and the latest technological features. Buick officials hinted the grille marks a new look for the brand. Whether or not it will be built as a new flagship car remains to be seen, but Buick has seen growth for the last five years and is now GM’s second largest international brand. Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive here, but a lot of Buick’s success has been in China. The Avenir looks like it would appeal to wealthy people over there who like to be driven in a larger car. “They kept that car under pretty good wraps” said Tom Van Prooyen, vice president of Schepel Buick in Merrillville. “We were totally blown away, not just because we were surprised, but because it is so awesome. As a Buick-GMC dealer we are really excited. It looks very doable. They can build it and it’s something we could definitely sell.”
Just when you thought interest in electric cars was waning, Chevrolet made news in Detroit with the Bolt EV concept. With a very contemporary mini-crossover look, it’s designed to maximize interior space on a fairly small footprint. But the ideas go past looks here, as the Bolt EV is intended to have a 200-mile all-electric range and be priced around $30,000. Also, unlike a lot of limited-release electric vehicles, the Bolt EV would be targeted to all 50 states as well as overseas markets. The Bolt EV is a also the platform for a concept technology called automatic park-and-retrieval; the driver could exit the car, which would then park itself and return on command. Chevrolet isn’t releasing details on the battery specifications, but if they can make it work, the Bolt EV looks ready to go.
Hyundai has been toying with the idea of making a pickup truck for a while now, but the Santa Cruz crossover truck concept may be the one that makes it to reality. Targeted to Millennial buyers, the Santa Cruz is a vehicle that is at home in the urban environment, but still useful for active lifestyle pursuits. Rather than building on a truck chassis, Hyundai worked off of a crossover utility with all-wheel drive. It keeps the overall size down for better maneuverability and easier parking. Yet, the cabin still seats five with access through rear-hinged doors. The open bed has a tailgate extension that increases cargo capacity to that of a midsize pickup for carrying larger items. With a 2.0-liter turbo diesel, the Santa Cruz would have fuel economy in the high 30 mpg range. Hyundai thinks the Santa Cruz has all the qualities to fill the gap in declining small truck sales among young people.
Watch for the Lexus LF-C2 concept, which debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show. This sporty open 2+2 concept is said to show a new design direction for Lexus. Current Lexus design language is made bolder with more edges and curves to catch the light. The trademark Lexus spindle grille is made more dramatic, and framed in by functional air scoops and triangular lights evoking Lexus sports cars. Twenty-inch wheels make for an aggressive stance. Beyond seeing these styling cues in future models, will we see this car built? The concept is a roadster, meaning it has no roof, but considering the Lexus IS convertible is nearing the end of its run, we could see a replacement convertible based on the LF-C2 down the road.