All the excitement of a concept, resulting in one giant let down in production
Concepts can give us an exceptional insight to the future, or just help us celebrate the past with cars like the Miura concept and BMW M1 Homage. While some concepts reach production without much change, all too often they fall flat in production guise. We’ve gone through the concept archives to find ten example that looked incredible in concept form, but became dull and dreary in production format.
The Renault Captur is a compact crossover from the French brand that rivals the Nissan Juke and Kia Soul, underpinned by the same chassis as the brand’s compact hatch, the Clio. But when the concept Captur first debuted at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, it was underpinned by the running gear of a Nissan Juke, including the 158 horsepower 1.6-liter turbo engine. The concept had carbon fiber construction and butterfly doors, and looked spectacular. Sadly, the production version that debuted in 2013 had lost the plot. Gone were the Juke underpinnings, the gorgeous curves, carbon fiber construction, and butterfly doors, replaces by a boring, and frankly below par crossover offering.
This list could easily have been titled “Subaru Concepts That Failed In Production”, because if we’re honest, the brand lets us down every time they release a production version of a concept. The WRX concept debuted in 2013 to huge praise; it looked incredible with a sleek swept back A-pillar, narrow aggressive headlights, and flared arches front and rear that had us salivating for a production version. When that finally arrived, it had lost a lot of its spectacle. In fact it looked like a bad knock-off of the concept than a derived production model. While the WRX might have extraordinary safety and driving dynamics, it certainly lost the visual flare promised by the concept.
Jaguar concepts tend to look quite similar to their production counterparts, just look at the C-X16 and C-X17 that spawned the F-Type and F-Pace respectively. But one that didn’t live up to the concept when it reached production is the Jaguar C-XF that spawned the production XF. There can be no denying the XF is thrilling to drive, and in its current iteration it looks stunning too, but the previous generation looked a little dull compared to the sleek concept that predated it. Sleek flowing lines made way for bulbous headlights on the production model, but thankfully in all other aspects the XF lived up to the hype.
Toyota’s 86, also known as the Scion FRS and Subaru BRZ, set the world ablaze when it launched as a back to basics rear-drive sports coupe that prioritized driving joy over outright pace. It looked the part too, though it could’ve looked even better. Prior to its release, several concepts previewed the sports car, with changes made to gauge public reception before revealing the final thing. The FT-86 (Future Toyota 86) concept and FT-86 II concept looked lower, wider, and vastly more aggressive than the production car, with more aggressive head- and tail-lights and angrier body styling. The 86 on its own isn’t a bad looking car, but compared to the concept, it does seem a little placid.
The 1990 Pontiac Sunfire Concept looked incredible. It was a 2+2 sports coupe with sleek, futuristic lines, and suicide doors that we’d later see on the Mazda RX-8. It featured carbon fiber construction, fully independent suspension, and a heads-up display – truly ahead of its time. The production version that debuted just a few years later looked nothing like the concept, and lacked just about all the advanced technologies that the concept previewed. Even with a larger displacement engine in the production car, the lack of a turbo resulted in reduced power outputs. The production Sunfire really was a disappointing follow-up to a superb concept.
The Chrysler PT cruiser sure is a unique – and by that I mean ugly – and interesting vehicle, classified by the NHTSA as a truck, though by all other metrics it’s a car. The styling was said to take influence from hotrods of yesteryear, and if you squint, you can kinda see it. But whilst the production model never inspired anyone, the concept looked pretty badass with clear hotrod influence. The two-door coupe concept looked low and wide, and the cab-back design, paired with massive front arches and a huge front grille definitely exuded performance than the production model just never lived up to.
The new BMW 8 Series is by no means an ugly vehicle, few BMWs are, really. But the new luxury GT coupe from BMW, that replaces the 6 Series and revives a decades old nameplate, has lost a little something special from the concept that previewed it. The shark-like concept was low and sleek, with curves exuding finesse rather than sharp angles. It seemed to almost derive influence from the Z4, and yet the production 8 Series – despite narrow headlamps and aggressive bodywork – looks a little clunky by comparison. It’s a bit disappointing really that BMW would preview a massively important vehicle with a concept whose details would fail to make it to production.
Sleek head and taillights, a strong shoulder line, square front and rear styling and a sleek coupe-like greenhouse all made the 2015 Subaru Legacy Concept look like an absolute winner. It had us salivating, knowing that the all-wheel drive sedan would likely be great to drive and offer top notch safety to boot. But in 2017 when the production model was unveiled, the Legacy had gone from fine concept to frumpy production sedan. Sure, it’s safe, and it’s decent to drive, but Subaru couldn’t have gone any more vanilla if they’d tried. It’s the story of every Subaru concept, really.
Honda’s Civic Type R has always been an exceptional hot hatch, but the last two generations elevated its stature by incredible performance, and even more incredible Nurburgring lap times. But in the build-up to the nameplate’s revival – a long, long build-up – concept Type Rs got our hearts racing with their aggressive styling. Properly flared bodywork, rather than bolt-on flares, and an incredible rear wing housing the brake lights looked absolutely stunning. But when the FK2 debuted in production guise, it looked like a cheap origami imitation of the concept that left us all salivating.
Back in 1999, Dodge revealed a concept for the new Dodge Charger – the production version of which would only debut some seven years later. A low, wide nose and a sleek body made the coupe-like concept incredibly striking, seeming more like a proper sports coupe than a revival of a muscle car icon. The 2006 production Charger looked nothing like the concept; taller, squarer, and far less imposing. In fact aside from the family grill design, the concept and production Charger were so different you’d swear they were products of different brands altogether.