By the time the 2013 concept cars had made their debuts, the future seemed closer. From hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicles to body-steered innovations, the daring design pieces from the world’s top automakers stole auto shows throughout the year. Here are the 10 concepts that truly pushed the envelope in 2013.
1. Honda FCEV
The FCEV will actually be the second hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle by Honda (NYSE:HMC) when the automaker releases this car in 2015. Unlike the FCX Clarity, which is already available for lease in Southern California, the FCEV sports the design language of the future. Both run on hydrogen fuel tanks that power electric motors, a system that provides more range than lithium ion battery vehicles. Best of all, refueling a hydrogen car takes just a few minutes. A lack of fueling infrastructure is their chief drawback.
Ford (NYSE:F) has put up an incredible number of F-Series sales in 2013 — over 700,000 units by early December — but it proved that it had a vision for the future with the Atlas pickup it debuted at the Detroit Auto Show in January. Declared the “most significant vehicle” by Autoweek following the show, the Atlas delivers superior economy and performance for a future when carbon emissions have much stricter limits.
3. Nissan Friend-ME
Nissan (NSANY.PK) tipped its hat to the Faceboook generation with the slick Friend-ME concept it debuted at the Shanghai Auto Show in April. The automaker says this four-door night crawler is aimed at Chinese millennials, of whom there are 240 million. Nissan wanted to add a sporty quality that would not prove too bold to be mainstream. In the attractive Friend-ME, they appear to have the hit the mark. The only thing the car might need is a name-change.
Toyota (NYSE:TM) was in the news for much of the year with its envelope-pushing concept vehicles. The FV2 Toyota debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show is a body-steered machine the driver maneuvers in a semi-standing position. Toyota has been trying to address issues of overcrowding and carbon emissions with its new vehicles, and the FV2 does that and more. The biggest innovation? Toyota says the FV2 will gauge the mood of the driver through image and voice recognition.
GM (NYSE:GM) appeared intent on doing what Cadillac does best with the stately and stylish Elmiraj the automaker debuted at the Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach in August. A “two-door sedan” capable of generating 500 horsepower on 500 pounds-feet of torque, the 17-foot Cadillac Elmiraj is a rear-wheel-drive luxury cruiser that will be highly coveted if GM ever puts it into production.
Nissan raised the bar with several concepts from its design department in 2013. Among the most notable was the BladeGlider that debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show in November. Featuring one front seat and two back seats, the triangular vehicle features rear-wheel electric motors that have engineers and drivers curious about Nissan’s “hyper-agile” concept.
Toyota also brought the noise to its luxury division in 2013. The ferocious Lexus LF-NX hybrid crossover appears to be something futuristic (yet green) villains will drive into battle. Aimed at the growing crossover market, Lexus sees young buyers in mind for the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that combines with an electric motor to deliver utility and operation in electric-only mode at low speeds.
While Porsche (POAHY.PK) was busy wowing the planet with its 918 Spyder hybrid supercar, McLaren flashed an even more powerful hybrid vehicle at the Geneva Auto Show in March. The McLaren P1 offers drivers a powertrain capable of generating 903 horsepower and sprinting from 0-60 in under 3 seconds. Top speeds will hover around 217 mph. Take that, Porsche.
9. Toyota FCV
Toyota made clear it has a wide-ranging approach to zero-tailpipe emissions vehicles of the future. The hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle it debuted in Tokyo was a look at a sporty green car Toyota says will be released by 2015. Like the Honda FCEV, the Toyota FCV will face challenges in fueling, but long-range hydrogen cars are gaining traction in the automotive industry.
To steal the L.A. Auto Show in November, Mercedes (DDAIF.PK) went to the tremendous trouble of creating a real-world version of the supercar it designed for the Gran Turismo video game. It succeeded in astonishing crowds and keeping the focus on the Mercedes AMG performance unit as it continues its spectacular run. Should this car ever make it to production, it will feature an engine capable of 577 hp on 590 lb-ft of torque.
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