Volkswagen has teased the world with two concepts that drew inspiration from the original Type 2, best known to Americans as the “Microbus.” The first concept in 2001 was dubbed with the obvious moniker “Microbus Concept.” A good ten years passed and no return of the beloved Microbus appeared. Instead VW gave us the “Bulli” concept which was a small MPV with styling again reminiscent of the original air-cooled hippie van. Alas, this concept would not come to fruition either and American customers were offered a rebranded Dodge Caravan dubbed Routan instead. Now in 2017 VW debuted the oddly named I.D. BUZZ concept that closely mimics the original Samba bus. I.D. stands for “identity,” “idea,” “individual,” “intelligent” and “iconic design.” BUZZ, VW claims, is a phonetic word play on “bus” and the “buzzing” of the van’s electric drive system. Sorry, Volkswagen, but Bulli was a much more endearing name. Officials insist that the I.D. BUZZ isn’t a retro design, but that the original van’s shape was so iconic and efficient that it is the intuitive package that houses an all-new all-electric vehicle architecture. That may be the case but there is no mistaking the pronounced beltline that dips down toward the front fascia with a massive VW logo proudly displayed front and center. Four little hockey-pucks on the corners of the roof provide sensors for autonomous driving and a 111 kW battery provides energy for propulsion while stowed below the cargo floor. A perfectly flat load floor provides for seemingly limitless interior configurations. While VW hopes this electric, autonomous concept would satisfy forward thinking Americans, many of would just be happy if the storied German brand would just offer this heritage inspired van to fill the van void in its portfolio.
Audi claims that 54% of premium new car sales are actually crossovers. It is no wonder then, that Audi unveiled a concept version of a future crossover, the Q8. Painted in a bright Bombay blue, the Q8 slots above the Q7 in status, but sports a chopped cargo compartment rather than a cavernous cargo hold good for transporting occupants in a third row of seats. The Q8 looks like pure Audi featuring a massive octagonal grille and vintage-Quattro inspired boxed fenders. The interior features an enormous black panel incorporating all gauges and infotainment screens. Motivation is provided by hybrid combination of a 333 horsepower 3.0L V6 and a 100 kW electric motor. Audi claims fuel efficiency of a 102.3 mpg an CO2 emission of 85.3 g/mile. Batteries are able to be recharged in about two and a half hours. Audi executives stated that the Q8 concept is a preview of a production vehicle. We expect that vehicle will share the concepts powertrain since the internal combustion portion of the package is a parts bin component. Now, will the production vehicle come in Bombay blue?
Not wanting to hear the letters TDI, Audi made sure we were talking about some other form of fuel when it rolled out the h-Tron concept that uses a 5th generation fuel cell to provide 148 hp to electric motors on the front and rear axles. Combined with a lithium-ion battery on board that can provide another boost of 134 hp when needed, the h-Tron could handle itself well in the real world. Three storage tanks take only 4 minutes to fill and the total range is 373 miles. That’s highly commendable for a fuel cell. Useful technology like a solar panel sunroof that could give a driver 621 miles of free range each year and a 60 mph run of less than 7 seconds makes this a future concept worth developing. With low gas prices hydrogen fuel cells aren’t going to be displacing petroleum anytime soon, but it’s nice to see automakers still developing the technology.
Buick followed up last year’s well-received Avenir concept sedan with an even prettier concept coupe called the Avista that was the talk of the show. Once you’ve seen the car in person it’s easy to see why. Handsome from every angle and coated in the prettiest dark blue to ever come out of the paint shop, the Avista is a 2+2 luxury sport coupe that makes good use of the Camaro’s platform. Officials said that it was rear-wheel drive, powered by a twin-turbo V6 with 400 hp and an 8-speed automatic was doing the shifting duties. Sounds like a winning package to us. Hey Buick, build it.
Volkswagen seems determined to convince America that the brand can provide precision German engineering while appeasing America’s desire for larger, more powerful vehicles. The Cross Coupe GTE concept is VW’s interpretation of just such a combination. Intended to preview the brand’s upcoming 7-seat crossover the Cross Coupe differs from that production model by hacking down the wagon portion of the green-house into something far less practical. To our eyes it still doesn’t look like a coupe but it seems that our friends in Wolfsburg are eager to associate themselves with such spectacularly low volume hardware as the Acura ZDX and BMW X6. Even if buyer’s aren’t willing to give the abbreviated crossover bodystyle another chance, we can expect the full-fledged 7-passenger version to wear the same square jawed face of the GTE concept. Production for the 7-seater begins in Chattanooga, TN by the end of 2016. The GTE is powered by a plug-in hybrid drivetrain which produces 276 horsepower by means of a 3.6L VR6 and two electric motors (54 and 114 hp). It is capable of traveling 20 miles on electrified propulsion alone and is estimated to achieve a fuel economy rating of 70 MPGe. While it remains to be seen whether the production 7-passenger crossover will employ the GTE concept’s powertrain we can expect that Volkwagen will finally have a legitimate 3-row crossover to offer stateside coming late 2016.
Infiniti is bringing the pretty with its Q60 Concept and it’s backing it up with twin-turbo power. Half the time Infiniti shows off wild concept cars that won’t be a tenth as dramatic when they reach production, but we’re glad to say that the Q60 Concept seems 80% of the way to the showroom. With a beautiful interior in place let’s hope Infiniti doesn’t waste any time getting this one to showrooms.
Buick has managed to sneak a surprise into the 2015 North American International Auto Show and what a beautiful surprise it is. We can only hope the Avenir (French for “future”) is true to its name and shows us what a flagship Buick will look like in the next year or two. With sculpted flowing lines, chrome everywhere and a dramatic boat tail rear, the Avenir proves that automotive design is alive and well inside GM. We know that the concept features a new V6 and a new 9-speed automatic, plus all-wheel drive. Inside there is luxurious seating for four and a 12″ screen for the latest Buick infotainment system. With the Cadillac CT6 coming soon we fully expect that this Buick would share that platform and we hope GM officials have the same plan and push this into production soon. Buick has been without a flagship for too long.
Chevrolet followed up the new second-generation Volt with a good look at what kind of full electric vehicle it intends to offer in just a few years. The Bolt Concept is targeting a $30k price (after government subsidies) and a 200-mile range from an all-new GM developed battery pack. The Bolt certainly looks ready to transport a young family around with good space for four and an easy to access hatch for cargo. We’re glad to see the styling isn’t nearly as off-putting as the BMW i cars and we’re glad to see GM hasn’t let soft sales of the first gen Volt slow down its plans for electric development.
Covering an International Auto Show is hard work. Sleep gets pushed way down the to-do list, and inevitably between press conferences on the second day an unhealthy combination of little sleep and lots of caffeine conspire to produce a generally unusable burst of creativity. For an example of what that can look like we submit the above Automotive Trends exclusive detailing the future of Lincoln.
There aren’t many surprises in the world of auto shows these days but Toyota managed to keep the FT-1 sports car concept off the radar better than most. Drawing heavily on F1 design, the FT-1 (for Future Toyota, we were tantalizingly informed) aims to inject some passion back into a lineup that current boss Mr. Toyoda has deemed too vanilla. Although the concept isn’t a runner and the engine sitting under the windowed hood is just a styling piece, we can imagine a great Supra reincarnated with the 5.0-liter V8 serving in the Lexus IS F. In person the concept is an absolute stunner with classic proportions but completely modern surface detailing and an interior that is all business. We haven’t been this excited about a future Toyota in a long time and we were reminded today how sometimes surprises can be worth the wait.