Concept cars are the famous-for-being-famous celebrities of the automotive world. There's very little reason for them to exist, they seldom serve a purpose and they suck up an obscene amount of wealth. But, like Paris and Kim, we love them anyways.
The concept car is the motor vehicle as art, unbridled with the trappings of the real world, and these are the best concept cars of the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show — in a town that knows a thing or two about cool for cool's sake.
BMW i3 Concept Coupe
The latest installment of BMW's i eco sub-brand is the i3 Concept Coupe, which debuted today at the 2012 Los Angeles International Auto Show.
As BMW's vision for the future of urban transportation, the i3 focuses more on renewable sustainability than on being the ultimate driving machine. Powering the concept is a rear-mounted electric motor producing 170 horsepower. The lithium-ion batteries are good for 100 miles of range and a max speed of 56 mph.
The BMW i3 Concept Coupe has a unique, exaggerated hatchback shape that emphasizes function well over form. Headroom in the two-door appears ample from the two front seats, and the rear has enough space for a weekend's worth of stuff. The i3's interior also gets some special attention with a new minimal design that, unlike most concept car interiors, still looks functional. We fully expect the floating flat-panel displays to go away for the production version.
Hyundai Veloster C3
Whether it's designers, engineers or product planners, somebody out there loves the roll top. It's not quite a convertible, but it's not quite a sunroof and it's not quite an El Camino, but the Hyundai Veloster C3 Roll Top Concept is the latest vehicle to feature this, uh, innovative design cue.
Following in the footsteps of the illustrious GMC Envoy XUV and Fiat 500C, the Veloster C3's roll top is marketed less at those looking to move antiques and more at the people who want to show off their single-speed fixie bike without having to actually ride one of those deathtraps.
The project took Hyundai more than six months to create and uses an abundance of repurposed materials, including skateboard decks for the rear floor. Part of the roll top conversion sees the hatch replaced with a fold-town tailgate (which we support).
On the possibility of production, Jim Trainor, product PR senior manager says "We've had people asking about a convertible Veloster anyway so we're gauging opinion, but it's mostly just a fun project. We never say never."
We'll say it: Never.
Let's get this out of the way right away: The Mercedes-Benz Ener-G-Force is not — we repeat not — intended as a replacement for the beloved G-Class. In fact, the Mercedes-Benz Ener-G-Force isn't a replacement for anything, nor is it intended to enter the product cycle at any level. This concept is "pure science fiction" according to Mercedes-Benz.
The Mercedes Ener-G-Force concept was designed as part of the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show Design Challenge, which was to envision a police car in 2025. (We all know cops; they'll still be driving Crown Vics.)
Mercedes saw this challenge differently than most, designing a hugely capable off-road SUV that, thanks to its hydrogen fuel cell, can recycle water — collected in tanks on the roof — and convert it to hydrogen. The concept also features a "Terra-Scan" topography scanner that could, if this was a real thing and not "pure science fiction" automatically adjust the suspension settings to compensate for the vehicle's surroundings.
We're not sure what sort of post-apocalyptic wasteland Mercedes is expecting in 2025, but we're hoping it won't be the one where a water-powered 4x4 is the most reasonable police vehicle. Oh well, we'd rather have that than this replacing the G.
Nissan's Hi-Cross concept isn't new. We saw this one at the 2012 Geneva Auto Show, and Nissan's trotting it out again for L.A.
Nothing's really changed from Geneva. The seven-seat Hi-Cross concept is still powered by a 2.0-liter direct-injection gasoline motor paired with an electric motor. The Hi-Cross previews the new direction that Nissan will take with its crossovers going forward.
In terms of size, the Nissan Hi-Cross concept rides on a 109-inch wheelbase and fits in between the Juke and the Murano. This sort of one-size-fits-one method of car building is getting more and more popular as carmakers scramble for every bit of volume they can find, and in the ever-growing crossover segment, it will almost surely be a hit. If you're looking for something that's not too big, but not too small that is.