Automakers use the concept car to introduce near-production models, showcase new technologies or design directions — and, often, for blurring boundaries of how we think about cars. They typically roll out these concepts when they have access to the biggest stage: auto-show season.
The 2016-17 auto-show season was no exception. The 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show, the 2017 Detroit, Chicago and New York auto shows, along with the Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas and the 2017 Geneva International Motor Show, were home to out-there concept cars that activated our imaginations and enticed our automotive appetites.
Here are the most ridiculous concept car features we saw this year:
10. Mercedes-Benz Concept A Sedan
The headlight pods stretch wide and are distinguished by a futuristic grid structure in the lamps coated with ultraviolet paint and exposed to UV light so that it can emit different Day-Glo colors — in other words, black-light headlamps. Far out, man, but that car's never gonna fit in your college dorm room.
9. Subaru Ascent Concept
Calling this production-ready full-size SUV a concept at all constitutes a ridiculous feature. At least if they'd called it the Subaru Ascent "Concept," the quotation marks would've connoted irony.
8. Infiniti QX80 Monograph
The squinty headlight assemblies wrap around and extend well into the fenders, terminating in side-view cameras in lieu of side mirrors. Progress by way of technological advancement is wonderful, but some inventions got it right the first time. Like, say, the mirror. It's reflective. You can see stuff in it. You stick a couple to the sides of your car. Boom! Done. This feels a little like reinventing the wheel as a complex machine with lots of moving parts and electronic intricacies that ... makes stuff roll.
7. Lexus UX Concept
Inspired by Lexus' own Kinetic Seat Concept, the webbed seating surfaces of the front seats look like what Spider-Man would sit on if there were such a thing as the Spider-Mobile. And they look about as comfortable as a full-body Spandex onesie, too.
6. Nissan Vmotion 2.0 Concept
There are no B-pillars in this futuristic sports sedan, and the rear-passenger doors are hinged at the back like an old-timey horse-drawn carriage. Retro stuff is cool and all, but they used to call these things "suicide doors" — and they were about as good for promoting auto safety as "Suicide Squad" was for legitimizing DC Comics movies.
5. Audi Q8 Concept
Touchscreen everything. This luxury SUV — said to be gunning for the assembly line next year — has a massive widescreen with a touchpad on the console that integrates the interface, instruments and multimedia system. A second screen for backseat infotainment and seat and climate controls is perched on the full-length console. Oh, and there are touch-sensor doors instead of handles. It's as if the whole world is becoming one big, smudgy iPad screen.
4. Toyota FT-4X
The rear end of this subcompact SUV is dominated by a blacked-out "picture window" along with starkly contrasting white panels centered on the hinged double cargo doors that swing open from the center. A large Toyota logo adorns the right-side door, and a massive, circular mechanism unlatches the doors by rotating the bisecting handle. It looks like you're opening up a bank vault —which is funny, considering the target market for this vehicle is persistently cash-strapped millennials.
3. Sedric, the "SElf DRIving Car"
The prospect of an all-electric living-room-on-wheels is awesome, but this thing looks like a cross between V.I.N.CENT from Disney's "The Black Hole" and the Shaggin' Wagon from "Dumb and Dumber." Wait, actually, that sounds awesome.
2. Toyota Extreme Sienna
If this low-riding, tricked-out and tuned-up minivan makes it to the streets, you'll have the other parents nervously moving over to let you through in the morning drop-off lane at school and your kids crying, "Mommy, no!"
1. Mercedes-Benz Generation EQ Concept
This all-electric SUV's front end is dominated by a rounded, reflective, glasslike (functionless) grille adorned with a series of blue LED lines that surround a large Mercedes star in the center, with wedge-shaped LED headlights at the flanks. Not since Nelly rapped about "Grillz" has ya-ya grille, ya-ya-ya grille been so ostentatious.