The Best Concept Cars from the 2012 Detroit Auto Show


Will any of these concepts reach production? Only time will tell. Words by Jay Traugott

Concept cars have always been something of a conundrum for automakers. On the one hand, they often have no intention of producing them because they're supposed to only be design studies. But what happens when the public embraces a particular one and would love to see it reach production? In that case, the automaker may relent in order to satisfy buyers and prove they have the best designers in the industry.

Other times, too many great concepts remain just that and never see production. And from the CarBuzz editors, here are the best concepts from Detroit. If all goes to plan, each will reach showroom floors, in some form, sometime in the near future.

Acura NSX Concept: Ever since the original NSX ceased production in 2005, fans and enthusiasts have practically begged Acura to build a replacement. The Japanese automaker was always keen to do it, but various obstacles (global recession, natural disasters in Japan) delayed development. But that's all in the past as the NSX Concept is everything we hoped it would be and so much more. Powered by the next-generation VTEC V6 with direct-injection and mated to a dual-clutch transmission, this mid-engined hybrid supercar comes equipped with Acura's Super Handling All Wheel Drive system.

It can instantly generate negative or positive torque to the front wheels during cornering. Also new is an electric motor that provides an extra boost in power. Pricing hasn't been announced, but it will be in showrooms in only three short years.

Lexus LF-LC Concept: With the exception of the LFA, Lexus has been in desperate need of a performance and styling revival for some time. And in an industry where styling is increasingly vital, Lexus has finally come up with something that may just do the trick. The LF-LC is a 2+2 grand coupe that we think is the most stunning thing ever to come out of the Lexus design studio in Newport Beach, California. Featuring bold and aggressive styling throughout, the LF-LC is anything but conservative with its sleek profile and pronounced front-end grille.

Its interior is also a significant upgrade from before with an abundance of polished wood trim, leather, and suede. The only question remains is whether Lexus will actually build it. Five years ago, we'd say no, but with ever growing competition and a need for brand definition, we wouldn't be surprised to see a production version in the near future.

Honda Accord Coupe Concept: After the mini debacle that's become of the newly redesigned Civic and some other models, Honda is desperate to show they still have style. The current Accord sedan is a bland example of their current lack of design ambition, but the Japanese automaker is out to fix that for the car's 30th anniversary. The Accord Coupe concept seen here is an early preview of the upcoming ninth-generation model. Although at first one may mistake it for the current car, a closer look will reveal that this concept has more aggressive lines and shorter overhangs.

Power comes from a new 2.4-liter four pot with direct-injection that produces 181hp and 177lb-ft of torque. Honda also announced that they'll be bringing back the Accord Hybrid, which hasn't been on sale since 2007. This next generation hybrid will have a 2.0-liter inline four gasoline engine paired up with a 120kW electric motor that receives power from a lithium-ion battery.

Lincoln MKZ Concept: Oh Lincoln, where have you been for so long? That's the exact question the automaker has been asking itself lately. With the end of the long-running Town Car, Ford's luxury division is in desperate need of a product and design revival if they ever want to match cross town rival Cadillac in the quest to become a global luxury brand. Enter the MKZ. Penned by former Cadillac Chief Exterior Designer Max Wolff, the new luxury sedan represents everything Lincoln wants and needs to become within the next few years.

Featuring a panoramic glass roof that's integrated into the body, the MKZ's overall proportions are bold and fresh, two words that Lincoln has nearly forgotten. Overall, the concept is an elegant and dynamic preview of what we hope Lincoln will be producing in the next couple of years. The question is, however, is whether this design direction is fully transferrable to a production version? We'll have our answer soon enough.

Chevrolet Code 130R Concept: This one was an unexpected surprise. Dubbed the 130R, Chevrolet is clearly intent on luring in younger customers looking for a true performance coupe. Powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-banger with 150hp and mated to either a six-speed manual or auto gearbox, the rear-wheel-drive concept also features advanced technologies such as eAssist tech. This includes shutting off its engine at stops, regenerative braking, and the use of smooth torque while accelerating. Although the interior is still in the design phase, Chevrolet claims they're intent on bringing the car to production.

They also stated future buyers will be able to have high-tech toys such as WiFi, MyLink, and smartphone connectivity. With a target price somewhere around $20k, the Code 130R could very well be the performance bargain of the near future in addition to being a technological display for today's social media-obsessed youth.

Toyota NS4 Concept: Ok, just go ahead and say it: Who needs yet another Toyota plug-in hybrid? Most car enthusiasts are not a fan of this genre simply because there's no performance fun. All very true, but we can't deny the relevance of this rapidly growing segment. Toyota clearly feels the same way and much of their future lies within being the leader in green cars. With the phenomenal success of the Prius, the NS4 concept is actually an early preview of what the next generation Prius may look like. One of the biggest criticisms of the Prius is its bland styling.

If Toyota is truly serious about improving its design image, they shouldn't tone down the NS4's lines too much when heading to production. With its sleek lift back profile and trapezoid grille, we like where Toyota is heading. Along with advancements in extended range and charging time technology, the NS4 concept could turn into a Prius actually worth taking a closer look at.

Honorable Mention - Volkswagen E-Bugster Concept: The arrival of the third generation Volkswagen Beetle last year was a big deal and worth the wait. The German automaker corrected the many wrongs of the previous model by adding more aggressive styling and improved performance options for its iconic model. So we weren't surprised in the least when VW revealed their E-Bugster concept. It doesn't take much to figure out how the name came to be, but VW was clever to give it a unique design to further separate it from the production car.

With its low roofline and shallow windows, this EV is loaded with the latest of VW's green technology. Sitting three inches lower to the ground than the regular version, its interior features EV-specific gauges that display energy consumption fluctuations with vehicle acceleration along with a screen that shows the battery's charge status and regeneration intensity. Sitting on a set of 15-inch aluminum wheels, the E-Bugster is an intriguing example of what may be in store in the coming years for the Beetle.

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