The future coming soon
The contrast between the car market of today and how it might look tomorrow has never been starker at this year’s Frankfurt motor show.While there have been some great new production cars shown, the concepts are startling, numerous, and among the occasional flights of fancy there are many cars that truly represent the electrified and autonomous future that is closer than we think – here’s our pick of the best.
Audi AiconAre you looking at the Audi A8 of the future? Believe it or not, you might well be. This car shows the enormous packaging gains to be had from doing away with vehicle controls, turning this limousine into a modern luxury living room on wheels. This car features Level 5 autonomy; it drives itself by default. Its 5.4m (214in) length may leave you wondering how to park it, but that won’t be your problem.
Audi AiconAudi’s vision is that this car represents how its cars may look from 2025, around the time the next A8 is due to appear. Given the conservatism of the luxury car segment, we somehow doubt it, but by 2032? And although most of the luxury segment doesn’t seem to like radical change, the success of the Tesla Model S suggests fortune can favour the brave.
Audi ElaineBoth of Audi’s new concept cars feature A & I in their names, and that’s no coincidence. The Elaine SUV has been produced to show how AI might influence the coming generation of Audi models, aiding Level 4 autonomous driving technology; the new Audi A8 uses Level 3.
Audi ElaineIt includes remote parking that allows the driver to step out and watch as it parks itself in a parking garage – and very usefully positions itself in parking bays for inductive plug-less battery recharging.
BMW i Vision DynamicsWith no pre-show embargoed pictures available, this car was a genuine surprise, and a production version should be on the road in four years’ time. The interesting thing is how the concept of a mainstream electric BMW has moved on from the previous Vision 100 i5 concept.
BMW i Vision DynamicsWith gorgeous flowing curves, it is still recognisably a BMW - and very easy to imagine this as the 3 Series of the future. With a promised range of 372 miles, 2021 can’t come soon enough.
BMW Concept X7 iPerformanceWith all the focus on day-after-tomorrow cars among Frankfurt’s concepts, it was almost refreshing to see a car that relies on easily recognisable technology and drivetrain, which we will be able to buy in production form before 2018 is over.
BMW Concept X7 iPerformanceWith the X7, the X5 gets a big brother, and at 5m (198in) long, BMW gets a car to finally target the likes of the Range Rover and, in North America, the large SUVs from Lincoln and Cadillac. Engines will include familiar gasoline and plug-in hybrid units, with diesels in Europe, and the X7 will be manufactured in South Carolina, USA.
Borgward IsabellaWhile not necessarily the most beautiful of Frankfurt show concepts, the Isabella is certainly a striking statement. The German brand certainly needs it, as it hasn’t made a car since 1961. Now revived under Chinese-ownership, this Isabella - named after a Borgward ‘50s coupe - previews a range of ultra-luxurious electric cars, and the production version of this car will be its halo.
Borgward IsabellaDetails of engine or range are not available but what Borgward may lack in brand equity it compensates with ambition, aiming to make 800,000 cars a year in Germany by 2020; in comparison, Jaguar Land Rover with two famous and well-regarded brands produced 544,401 cars in 2016.
But Tesla after all came out of nearly nowhere. Tesla wasn’t at Frankfurt; it didn’t really need to be. Its influence can be seen one way or another in virtually every concept in this gallery.
Honda Urban EVHonda has previewed a new electric car that will be its first in Europe. With impish looks distantly reminding us of the Mk1 VW Golf – and none the worse for that – the concept is low and wide, which should accommodate five people if need be when it goes on sale in production form as soon as 2019.
Honda Urban EVNo powertrain or range details were given, but Honda said it would include a high-density lightweight battery pack, integrated heat management and energy transfer functions both to and from the vehicle.
Jaguar I-Pace RacerWe gather that Jaguar was originally going to show its electric I-Pace in production form at the show, but ducked the opportunity due to the fact that it has a full order book for it already and preferred attention going to other new JLR models like the Land Rover Discovery SVX. The new racer reminds us what a clever design the I-Pace is – truly a Crossover that doesn’t look like a Crossover.
Jaguar I-Pace RacerThis car will take place in I-Pace races that will happen in tandem with the weekend Formula E events in order to promote the I-Pace as it goes on sale; truly 'win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ for the digital age.
Kia Procee’d shooting brake conceptThe brand trajectory of Kia continues to be fascinating, and with striking cars like this one, its continued upward path seems assured. With the new Kia Stinger arriving soon in the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series space, conventional wisdom might be that the next car for Kia to take on the Germans should be a premium SUV.
Kia Procee’d shooting brake conceptIf Kia does produce a car anything like as good-looking as this in a medium wagon market increasingly ignored by car makers, conventional wisdom may yet be proved wrong.
Mercedes-Benz EQAWe reckon the new Mercedes EQ electric range is shaping up nicely if this svelte compact car is any guide. With a promised 249-mile range, we should see a production version by 2020.
Mercedes-Benz EQAPerhaps the cleverest aspect is that the car is designed to be built in the same factories as the company’s conventionally-powered models.
Mini John Cooper Works GP ConceptWe love the JCW Works range of hot Minis and enjoyed seeing the next one here in extreme concept form.
Mini John Cooper Works GP ConceptInspired by the Monte Carlo rally winning racing Minis from the ‘60s, we love the general madness and the rear light Union Jack is just the right side of wrong. We should see a production version in 2019.
Mini ElectricThis is not the first purely electric Mini; there was one launched in 2008, but just 600 were made. This time, Mini means business, and we appreciate the way the design has been tweaked while remaining every inch a Mini.
Mini ElectricAs with the JCW concept, those rear lights rock. And unlike some new Minis, this car will definitely be built in the UK, and should be on sale in 2019. No word on range, while BMW simply says power will come from a “powerful electric motor.” Which is nice.
Renault Reno Symbioz ConceptThis car imagines a future where the dividing line between your transport and your home is increasingly blurred. After all, in an autonomous future, a lot of what you do now at home you could carry on doing when you’re being driven.
Renault Reno Symbioz ConceptThis concept goes even further; the car connects to your home wirelessly, and can function as an extra room when parked up outside – or indeed inside if you want it (best to ask your landlord first). It can also act as a power supply for your home to smooth energy demand, or help in case of a power-cut. Is this the most radical concept of the Frankfurt show? We think so.
Smart Vision EQAs the world increasingly urbanises, Smart in theory is perfectly positioned to provide efficient, economical transport to allow everyone to get around. The EQ delivers on that vision, promising electric power and full Level 5 autonomy, with ‘swarm intelligence’ which will integrate the car with large fleets of similar cars to predict - and presumably avoid - traffic problems.
Smart Vision EQIt features a 30kWh motor with a range of ‘well over 300km (186 miles).’ When you don’t need it any more, it will go off and find a place to top-up. It will play a key role in Mercedes’ Car2Go car-sharing system that it hopes to have operating during the next decade. And it still looks Smart.
Toyota C-HR Hy-PowerWho said a green family car need be dull? The C-HR is Toyota’s most interesting-looking car in years, and this concept previews how a warmer version could look.
Toyota C-HR Hy-PowerNo word on what that warmth might actually feel like in terms of power, but the 120bhp of the current hybrid model shouldn’t be too tricky to improve on.
Volkswagen ID CrozzVolkswagen’s high-riding electric crossover aims to combine sports car lines with rugged off-road capability. We think it makes a pretty good job of doing that and what’s more, this car should be hauling children to school all over the world as soon as 2020 when it arrives in production form.
Volkswagen ID CrozzIt promises a range of 311 miles, and with combined power of 302bhp and 332lb ft of torque, it won’t be short of poke. It’s 4.6m (181in) long, slightly shorter than the current VW Tiguan Allspace.