At this year’s New York auto show, Genesis wowed the crowds with its first electric supercar concept, Mini went old school for its own EV dreams, and Volkswagen dipped a toe in the pickup pond – but New York has delivered plenty of concept delights in the past.
Here are ten of the best from the last 20 years deserving of a second look.
While some missed a production slot entirely, others helped build hype for future production cars – although we can’t help but wish the concept versions were the ones that made it through.
2001 Lincoln MK9
America’s domestic luxury brands love to stake a claim at New York and Lincoln declared its return to form with the sharp MK9 concept in 2001, reintroducing the idea of land-yacht American motoring.
The huge, monolithic exterior styling cloaked a V8 engine, fully independent suspension, and a simply breathtaking minimalist interior harking back to the best of Lincoln’s 1960s-era wood, leather, chrome, and more chrome styling.
While the luxo-coupe concept did point to the brand’s future styling language, sadly the MK9 itself was merely a glossy way of attracting attention to Ford’s domestic luxury division.
2003 Lexus HPX
The Lexus RX SUV has become synonymous with middle-of-the-road family motoring, but things could have been very different. Instead of the tarted-up Kluger underpinnings of the RX, the 2003 High Performance Crossover (or HPX) went for a more performance oriented approach.
There’s a V8 engine and rear-wheel drive under the HPX’s smooth surfacing, which shows considerable restraint when compared to Lexus’ current angry and angular styling. The interior too is a masterwork of uncluttered simplicity.
Looking at a concept like this makes us wonder what went wrong at Lexus between then and now. Here’s hoping the Japanese brand can find its feet again soon.
2009 Hyundai Nuvis
Designed in the US as a preview of Hyundai’s eco aspirations, the Nuvis set tongues wagging at the 2009 show with a stunning form factor that suggested crossovers could be dynamic after all.
Despite wearing a grille only a mother could love, the rest of the concept looked more sports car than sports utility, helped by 22-inch wheels and massive butterfly doors hinged from the A-pillar.
While the 2.4-litre hybrid powertrain may not seem like much now, it was a bold statement of intent in 2009, albeit one that never quite materialised in such a seductive form for the road.
2013 Subaru WRX Concept
Subaru has developed a bad habit of introducing jaw-dropping concepts that morph into homely production cars, and the 2013 WRX concept is a perfect example.
The sleek four-door coupe styling had Subie fans foaming at the mouth at the prospect of what was to come for the brand’s performance hero, but alas by the time the taller, narrower, and less dramatic production car arrived in 2014 the only thing linking the concept show-stopper to the production version was its name.
Insanely wide haunches, a stance like a wildcat ready to pounce, and a rear diffuser any boy racer would be proud of made the WRX Concept unmissable. Too bad Subaru didn’t see its own vision through.
2008 Scion Hako Coupe
Somewhere underneath the outrageous Hako Cope lies a Scion xB – Toyota’s attempt at capturing a more youthful market in the US. This one bins any semblance of practicality and instead takes on a hot rod meets Tonka truck style all of its own.
The upright windscreen and wraparound side glass make the Hako Coupe hugely distinctive, while the interior is packed with monitors, configured for easy access to Bluetooth sharing as an early attempt at connectivity in a social setting.
It’s probably for the best that this thing never made it to production, but you’ve got to hand it to traditionally conservative Toyota for going out on a limb.
2008 Suzuki Kizashi 3
The Kizashi 3 concept gets through on a technicality, seeing as Suzuki did put the midsize Kizashi into production, but the concept version’s design (and the two concepts that preceded it) were really something else.
Apart from the chipmunk-tooth grille the rest of the design stands out for its restrained and flowing simplicity. Better still, under the bonnet lives a version of General Motors’ 3.6-litre V6, another element that Suzuki never brought to the production car.
2016 Genesis New York Concept
As Hyundai prepared to spin its premium vehicle range into the stand-alone Genesis brand, the New York concept took centre stage as a tease of what to expect. While some of the themes made it through to the G70 sedan, the New York is an uncommon beauty.
Part thoroughbred performance car, part ultra-luxury express in its execution, the muscular exterior and contemporary interior showed that Genesis was serious about muscling in on a segment usually populated by Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus and the like.
Gorgeous copper detailing, a tech-fest interior, impossibly slim LED lighting units and twin-turbo V6 performance are just the icing in this concept cake.
2007 Chevrolet Groove, Beat, Trax
Chevrolet went small in size but big on numbers for the 2007 show, with a trio of compact concepts. The Beat went on to become the Spark for production, the Trax name appeared on an entirely different small SUV and the Groove simply disappeared.
The three-car set showed the GM still had a fun side, and the Trax in particular looked fresh and fun in a way its production counterpart never could, with a through-the-road hybrid system giving it the off-road ability to match its looks.
Chevrolet set up an online voting system to let the public decide which of the three would become a production reality, although we can’t help but think the Beat was already pencilled in as Chevrolet’s small car option, with the other two simply being too fun for the General.
2005 Nissan Sport
I bet you weren’t expecting to see a Tiida on this list, were you? This isn’t your nan’s Tiida, however.
With Nissan acutely aware that the average age of Tiida buyers was in the zimmer frame range, the brand set about changing opinions with the Sport Concept (Tiida badging, or Versa as it was known in the US, was curiously absent).
Exaggerated angular forms, huge 20-inch wheels, and carbon fibre exterior detailing made the swoopy three-door a standout, so naturally Nissan turned its back on the concept and instead focussed on cranking out even more SUVs.
2017 Toyota FT-4X
At this year’s show Toyota gave us the new RAV4 but just one year earlier the brand showed the fresh thinking behind the FT-4X, a chunky and rugged compact SUV.
Almost penned as the antithesis to the swoopy C-HR, the cubist-inspired FT-4X also went ultra-versatile with a multi-use interior that included a sleeping bag in the centre console and hot and cold storage in the tailgate.
Despite the ‘future Toyota’ name we’re still waiting to see where Toyota takes the FT-4X, but here’s hoping the compact off-roader finds a way into Toyota’s range.
What did you think of our list? Do you have any favourite New York concepts from the past that have stood out over time for you?
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