Mercedes Project One

Surrender, friends of Dorothy! Your automotive future is just over the rainbow

CASEY WILLIAMS  |  Auto Reviewer

The automotive future we’ve all been promised has nearly arrived. From fully automated crossovers to electric supercars and sculpted compacts, these delicious concept cars point to entirely new ways to explore the world. Think 2020–30. Here are our favorites.             


Nissan IMx Concept

Nissan IMx Concept. You’re looking at the automobile of 2025, recently unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show. It’s an all-electric crossover with 370 miles driving range, but it’s also autonomous. When the system engages, the steering wheel retracts, and seats recline for an elegant cocoon of leather, light wood and OLED instruments. Passengers use eye movements and hand gestures for infotainment control. Late for a flight? No worries; the Imx delivers and retrieves you curbside.

Mercedes Project One. Project One sports a Formula One racer-inspired body of smooth forms and flip up doors. The basic interior continues the racing theme with rectangular steering wheel, F1-style controllers and twin flatscreens. Under the suave skin is a 1,000 horsepower hybrid system with 1.6-liter turbo V6 engine and lithium-ion batteries. It runs 0-120 miles per hour in 6 seconds, tops out at 217 miles per hour and offers 15.5 miles all-electric range. It costs about $2.7 million, but even if you’re flush with cash, all 275 are spoken for.

BMW iVision Dynamics Concept. Here’s BMW’s answer to the Tesla Model 3. Sliding between the i3 city car and i8 supercar, the all-electric “i5” sedan has a range of 370 miles and a top speed exceeding 120 mph. It accelerates to 62 mph in just 4 seconds! Four-door coupe styling with reimagined BMW twin-kidney grille and quad headlamps reach for the future. A production version is expected by 2021. BMW will offer 25 electrified vehicles, including 12 EVs, by 2025.

Audi Aicon Concept. Presented as an autonomous electric sedan, the racy body with chiseled flanks and turbine-like grille accommodates a large interior bereft of a steering wheel or instruments. Front lounge chairs swivel to enhance conversation. The powertrain features four electric motors (two each front/rear) for 349 total horsepower. Audi hopes to one day achieve 500 miles range. No dumb drone, the car features voice control for infotainment and has a Personal Intelligent Assistant to anticipate your desires.

Smart Vision EQ Fortwo. Designed for a car-sharing future, the fully autonomous two-seater could become commonplace in urban areas. It’s summoned by smartphone; doors pivot wing-like over the rear axle to save space. Inside, touches of rose gold add elegance while white faux leather seats are easy to clean. The dashboard is replaced by a widescreen; functions are controlled by voice. When not used, the car recharges inductively. Smart discontinued all gasoline versions of its tiny two-seater, leaving only the EV. Consider this the next phase.

GM SURUS. It’s not an ancient reptile but the basis for future autonomous trucks. GM engineers envision SURUS as the foundation for vehicles as varied as cargo haulers, fire trucks and ambulances. It starts with a hydrogen fuel cell and lithium-ion batteries that run an electric powertrain with a 400-mile range and emitting only water. That fuel cell can also generate electricity for in-field applications. It’s ideal for military use. When you see a driverless dump truck next decade, don’t be surprised.


Honda Sports EV Concept

Honda Sports EV Concept. In Tokyo, Honda unveiled the Urban EV Concept electric car that looks like a ’75 Civic evolved forward. It will launch in Europe/Japan by 2020. But, the more exciting concept was the Sports EV that uses the same underlying electric powertrain as the Urban EV. It embraces the old Civic’s fascia and AMC Javelin in the front fender bulges, but the side profile is dominated by a long hood and rear-set passenger compartment. The powertrain is still under development, but imagine a 250-mile range and 0-60 mph in under 4 seconds.

Mazda Kai Concept. During the Tokyo show, Mazda showed a gorgeous four-door coupe, but the Kai was the more attainable stunner. Proving small can be beautiful, you’re looking at much of the next-generation Mazda3. Alfa Romeo should produce a car so beautiful. The Kai’s interior is a case study of simplification for supreme elegance. Powertrains are likely to evolve from today’s car, meaning 200-plus horsepower and 40-MPG for top models. Of all these futuristic dreamsicles, this is the one most likely to arrive in affordable form.

Subaru VIZIV Concept. Subaru needs to invigorate its boring Legacy sedan and this is the first hint of rising muscles. Looking like a next-generation WRX, the VIZIV sports bulging fenders, aggressive stance and hawk-eye headlamps. Carbon fiber in the hood, fenders and roof reduce weight and enhance style. When a car like this debuts circa 2020, it’ll pack around 300 horsepower and standard all-wheel drive. Expect semi-autonomous driving from the enhanced EyeSight system utilizing stereo cameras, radar and highly accurate GPS.