At the core of any auto show are concept vehicles — those will-they-or-won’t-they prototype models that manufacturers perpetually tease us with. Some of these (occasionally outlandish) creations will eventually go into production in some form, but even those that don’t will have an influence on the shape of cars to come. Here’s a look at a few of our favorite concept cars on display at this year’s L.A. Auto Show.
The original rear-wheel-drive Acura NSX, produced between 1990 and 2005, retains a fervent cult following (and robust resale prices to match). Now a concept version of a long-rumored second-generation NSX has appeared. Despite its curvier, more futuristic silhouette, the new NSX maintains an unmistakable family resemblance and, like its predecessor, is powered by a V-6 power plant mounted behind its two seats. This NSX concept is an all-wheel-drive hybrid, its gasoline engine driving the rear axle while a pair of electric motors power one front wheel apiece.
Chevrolet Code 130R and Tru 140S
Chevrolet is exhibiting a brace of sporty coupe concepts aimed at younger drivers (and developed at GM’s North America Advanced Design studio in Los Angeles). The Code 130R looks like a fun, affordable application of General Motors’ new rear-wheel-drive Alpha platform (which also underpins the Cadillac ATS). With size and proportions similar to the BMW 1-Series — but resembling a downsized Camaro — the Code 130R’s 150 horsepower should be sufficient to deliver plenty of thrills.
The more overtly exotic Tru 140S shares the 130R’s inline engine but is a front-wheel-drive two-door hot hatch built on the same platform as Chevy’s Cruze and Volt models. Both cars, should they reach production, are expected to deliver up to 40 mpg highway and to carry MSRPs of around $25,000.
Lexus LF-CC and LF-LC
Lexus has been building LF (Lexus Future) concept vehicles in various shapes and forms since 2003. The Japanese luxury brand’s latest LF offering is the full hybrid LF-CC (Compact Coupe), which is making its North American debut at the L.A. Auto Show. With an elongated hood and short overhangs, the LF-CC is both radical and handsome. At least some of its design cues will end up on future vehicles (Lexus says the concept car “announces the market launch of a mid-size coupe in the near future” — most likely the all-new Lexus IS, expected next year).
Also on display at the show is the LF-LC, a jaw-droppingly gorgeous rear-wheel-drive hybrid 2+2 sports coupe styled by Newport Beach’s Calty Design Research facility. Lexus has always produced well-appointed, beautifully engineered rides, but these LF show cars suggest that the brand is now also seeking a more emotional connection with consumers.
BMW i3 Coupe
The latest offering from BMW’s sustainable-mobility-focused i sub-brand is a low-slung, sportier take on its all-electric i3 compact car. Making its world debut at the L.A. Auto Show, the i3 Coupe is expected to share its sister model’s rear-wheel-drive format and to similarly utilize a carbon-reinforced body and chassis to partially offset the considerable weight of its batteries. Experts expect the Coupe to sell for more than the expected $43,000 to $50,000 of the original i3 and to hit 62 mph from a standing start a second or two quicker than the sub-eight-second sprint claimed for the hatchback.
Nissan Hi-Cross Concept
Another North American debut is Nissan’s hybrid Hi-Cross Concept. Though strictly billed as a show car, its sober, street-ready aesthetics and close external resemblance to the existing Nissan Murano suggest that the seven-seater Hi-Cross — or something very much like it — will grace dealerships soon (Nissan currently lacks a hybrid in an otherwise comprehensive crossover/SUV lineup). The Hi-Cross draws its main power from a 2.0-liter direct-injection gasoline engine, with an electric motor intended chiefly to reduce emissions and boost fuel economy. Closer size-wise to Nissan’s Rogue crossover than to the larger Murano, the Hi-Cross Concept could fill an important niche for the manufacturer.
Infiniti LE Concept
Nissan’s luxury Infiniti division has dubbed its zero-emission LE Concept “the future of luxury electric mobility” and insists that, though this svelte five-seater is the brand’s debut EV effort, it will become a production reality by 2014. This would make it the first luxury electric sedan from a mainstream manufacturer (smaller California automaker Tesla released its four-door electric Model S this summer). The LE isn’t an all-electric version of an existing gas-powered car, but rather a standalone model (though it’s based on the Nissan Leaf, you’d never know it). Roughly the same size as an existing Infiniti G-series, its flowing, sculpted lines are at once utterly contemporary and distinctively Infiniti.
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