Concept cars are, by far, the most exciting creations to come from automakers. They are the purest expression of form, sometimes at the expense of function, and they always generate buzz, be it positive or negative.
Concept cars can also be cruel at times. Often, the concept blows the doors off the production model and leaves everyone wishing the car that ends up in dealerships was more exciting. We can think of one such automaker that’s consistently elevated our collective hopes over the past decade, but we won’t name Subaru here…
Many of these concepts go on to become legends by shocking the status quo whether they see production or not. The great news, and bad, is that the past 10 to 12 years have seen quite literally countless concepts appear on turntables or stages globally, so it’s impossible to list them all.
We painstakingly enumerated as many as we could think of, sorted them, cut many out, and were left with dozens, only to finally pick the following 10. It’s almost inconceivable that our final top 10 reflects yours, but here’s why we selected them (listed in alphabetical order):
BMW Vision M NEXT
This concept, as it premiered in September 2019, is unlikely to ever see the light of day. Sometimes, a concept’s job is not to foreshadow a future model, but to inspire future designs and technologies. The Vision M NEXT is a modern blast from the past thanks to its M1-inspired lines and rear logo placements. It’s proof that BMW’s glorious past designs belong in the future. One new car that was most certainly influenced by the Vision M NEXT is the spectacular new M4 CSL.
Concept cars are meant to ignite conversations and passion. The Genesis Mint did exactly that back in April 2019. Though it will probably never be built as displayed, the small ultra-urban EV demonstrated that size matters little when it comes to a premium EV. The sporty two-door two-seater is a visual mix between a roadster and a hatchback with delightful proportions. The superbly welcoming cabin is deceptively large and devoid of over-the-top styling elements.
Hyundai N Vision 74
The N Vision 74 is, without a doubt, the hottest concept car of 2022 and may go down as one of the coolest from its entire decade. This concept draws on Hyundai’s past, specifically, the 1974 Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed Hyundai Pony Coupe concept, mixed in with crazy Group B WRC aero. Powering it is a very modern and ultra-powerful hybrid battery-electric combination FCEV system. Its hydrogen reserves and a 62.4-kWh battery both eventually feed a pair of rear-mounted electric motors that generate more than 670 hp and 665 lb-ft of torque combined.
Lamborghini Terzo Millennio
Penned and created in collaboration with MIT, the Terzo Millennio (which means third millennium in Italian) is meant as a glance far into the future. Introduced in 2017, it shined a light on Lambo’s future, as it was powered by four wheel-mounted electric motors fed not by batteries, but by supercapacitors. Design-wise, the Terzo Millennio sported perfect hypercar proportions with a body made from high-tech carbon. In fact, it can monitor its own structure for fissures and if found, can send a charge through the carbon fibre so that it will repair itself.
The RX-Vision concept, revealed at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show, may go down as one of the great design teases of the century. Despite that, it remains one of the coolest concepts introduced over the past decade. Sleek, low, and wide, the RX-Vision promised, or so we thought, the return of the rotary engine and the car-line famous for it, the RX – heck, it was in the name! Unfortunately, a new RX sports car has become little more than a fantasy for fans while the “rotating Dorito” will appear as nothing more than a range-extender in the very near future. Such heartbreak…
Looking over pictures of the IDx Freeflow and Nismo reminds us that small cars are awesome but dead. If there ever was one that should have survived and returned, it was this IDx that was inspired by the 1970s Datsun 510 and Nissan Skyline. Modern highlights like the floating roof and LED lights perfectly complement the urban Freeflow’s ultra-cool four-spoke wheels. And for heaven’s sake, the Nismo had side pipes, rivets in its fenders, and serious aero. It was first shown in 2013 and, at this point, it’s clear it will never be built, at least not with a gas engine.
Porsche Mission E
The precursor to what we know today as the Taycan was a huge deal for Porsche. The German sports car maker was extremely concerned that its customers and legions of fans would not take kindly to it building an EV, as there was a risk of compromising itself and its image. Realistically, Porsche survived the controversial Cayenne 20 years earlier, so it knew it would be fine. As we know today, the gorgeous and sleek Mission E spawned the Taycan, which has generated admiration and a newfound level of desire among not only diehard Porsche fans, but EV adopters who likely would not have considered a Porsche. Today, it’s become a performance EV benchmark for all to follow.
Subaru VIZIV Performance Concepts
Subaru presented a series of enticing concepts throughout the 2010s. Each more aggressive and visually impactful than the previous, everyone firmly believed that the Japanese automaker was about to turn over a new leaf design-wise. Unfortunately, the follow-up production vehicles maintained the brand’s mostly conservative styling. The most notable of the lot was the 2017 VIZIV concept, which birthed the current and new WRX, however, with debatable success.
This concept might not be as well-known as the others here, but had Toyota decided to build it a few years ago, it probably would have become a massive winner for the automaker. A cross between the C-HR and FJ Cruiser, the FT-4X (which stands for “Future Toyota 4WD Crossover”) was revealed in 2017 and was geared towards millennials who enjoy spending time in the city and getting lost in the woods on weekends. This concept, however, looked as though it could have seen the light of day, as its overall look was repeated in Toyota’s Compact Cruiser EV concept in late 2021. Sadly, it seems as though Toyota may have changed its mind recently.
Volkswagen ID. Buzz
Volkswagen has foretold the return of its iconic bus for more than 20 years, going as far back as 2001. Back in early 2017, the final Buzz concept broke cover and it all but broke the Internet. Had Volkswagen decided not to build the electric bus’ revival, it’s conceivable that company headquarters would have been burned to the ground. The really good news is that the German automaker stuck with the concept’s styling for the production model and it’s expected to finally land in 2024 in Canada.