Paris motor show: 10 past concepts we wish made production

A road-going future eluded these Paris highlights. How we wish it wasn’t so…

Some concept cars never come close to a shot at production, either failing to pass the approval process or having never really been in the running at all.

Now that the lint has settled from the parade of curtain-raising on concepts and production cars at the 2018 Paris motor show, we take a nostalgic look back at some of the most memorable concepts from previous Paris shows.

These are the concepts that didn’t make it through to production – or if they did, were so drastically changed that their impact fell by the wayside. Some were fairly wild, putting production out of reach, while others were simply struck out at the hands of killjoy accountants.

Being Paris, there’s no shortage of utterly gorgeous design statements – and of course the home brands, Peugeot, Renault, and Citroen are heavily represented – but even some overseas brands managed to convey a Parisian sense of style in time for the Mondial de l’Auto.


2006 Renault Nepta

Any concerns over Renault’s strengthening alliance with Nissan were soon forgotten when the Nepta took to the stage. Japan supplied the 309kW twin-turbo 3.5-litre V6 and rear-wheel-drive platform, but France clearly took the lead on design.

The result is a single sweeping body line that begins above an incredibly short front overhang and descends elegantly to form a rolling shoulder and long decklid atop a long, floating rear overhang. The Nepta’s open-topped presence is undeniable, but that’s nothing compared to seeing it with the doors open.

One massive door on each side (longer than an entire Twingo, no less) runs from the centreline of the car at the leading edge of the bonnet to behind the passenger compartment. The gigantic gullwing structures swing up to reveal a lavish red inner skin overlaid with conjoined ivory bucket seats.

Sadly Renault’s vision of grand touring never saw the light of day. A lack of practicality seems a logical reason why, but honestly, who needs practicality?


2002 Citroen C-Airdream

Catch it from just the right angle and the Citroen C-Airdream concept is a fascinating blend of seductive style and aerodynamic perfection packed into a dramatic shooting brake-style coupe body. It even pre-dated ‘shooting brake’ as a design buzzword.

Production cars to receive the C-Airdream influence include the 2004 C4 Coupe and 2005 C6, but neither was as squat or dramatic as the 2+2 coupe concept.

Citroen’s history of revolutionising interior design also resurfaced, thanks to a pedal-free interior allowing the car to operated via by-wire hand controls connected to the steering wheel.

Was it perfect? Not at all. A long front overhang mismatched the otherwise sporting shape, creating an unflattering caricature of the classic Citroen SM from some angles and a wheezy naturally aspirated 3.0-litre V6 barely seemed to live up to the C-Airdream’s alluring potential.


2010 Jaguar C-X75

Jaguar signalled a potential return to the supercar league with the C-X75, making an ideal spiritual successor to cars like XJ220 and XJR-15. Dramatic wedge-form proportions were only part of the story, though.

Under the surface, the C-X75 featured a drivetrain of the future, developed in part by Williams F1, using a pair of diesel-fuelled micro gas turbines to power four independent electric motors at each wheel. Yes, a jet-powered hybrid supercar that runs on diesel.

That’s all very exciting, and it was claimed the 582kW Jaguar concept could run from 0-100 km/h in 3.4 seconds.

Even if power had only come from a grubby old lawnmower engine, the C-X75 still would have made a dramatic impact though, thanks to a fine balance of supercar drama and unmistakable Jag-ness.


2000 Hyundai NEOS

As unlikely as it seems, Hyundai makes the list with the New Evolution Open Sports (or NEOS) concept. Although not traditionally elegant, the motorcycle-meets-roadster NEOS promised bags of open-air fun.

Under the outrageous bodywork lay a mid-mounted 2.0-litre engine rated at 186kW at a screaming 8200rpm, sending power to the rear wheels via a six-speed semi-automated sequential transmission.

It’s hard to see a bad side to any of this, yet Hyundai’s dramatic open speedster was purely a vessel to introduce the latest Beta series of engines that would go on to power much less inspiring cars like the Elantra, and Tucson in less powerful, lower-revving configurations.

Almost two decades later, Hyundai still has no challenger to the Mazda MX-5, despite previewing one with this intriguing aluminium and carbon composite concept.


2008 Lamborghini Estoque

Heartbreaker. That’s the only way to describe the Lamborghini Estoque concept. Four-door Italian supercars don’t come along often, and the on-again off-again production forecast for the seductive Estoque is only made all the more painful by the existence of the Urus SUV.

Looking like something straight off the streets of Gotham, the Estoque sedan promised a new direction for Lamborghini at at time when the brand only did mid-engined dream machines and did them well.

A 5.2-litre naturally aspirated V10 and all-wheel drive system ensure supercar brand hallmarks remain in place (although a hypothetical turbo V8 or diesel were also suggested) with the added option of being able to bring the kids along for weekends at the track, should you so desire.

Unfortunately, the world’s appetite for high-riders saw the Estoque project sidelined, with the Urus taking its place in the Lambo line-up as a brand-building expansion, in place of a more traditional GT sedan.


2014 Infiniti Q80 Inspiration

Only the most confident brands would dare tackle the French at their own game, but at the 2014 Paris show Infiniti did just that with the Q80 Inspiration fastback. Not content to just break ground in Paris though, Infiniti also gave the French a lesson in automotive style.

By blending pointedly futuristic design themes with hints of streamliner style, the Q80 Inspiration proved that not every Infiniti design need tackle the ugly stick on its way to reality. Better still, the brand hinted the concept was a preview of thing to come in the form of a future flagship product.

On the inside, a four-seater cabin divided into a sporty black-trimmed performance theme up front and plush white leather suite in the rear only furthers the longing for the Q80 Inspiration. Then again, anything would be better than the homely Q70 currently positioned at Infiniti’s sedan flagship.


2012 Peugeot Onyx

Peugeot has never built a production supercar, yet over the years the French brand has produced a number for supercar concepts including the Quasar and Proxima of the ’80s and later the V12-powered 907.

Nothing compared to the Onyx concept, though. Chiselled and angular, with a barely-there roof rising out of pure copper front wings and doors, contrasted against matt black carbon fibre bodywork.

A mid-mounted 507kW diesel-hybrid V8 only further spurred the Onyx’s intrigue. Impressive as it may be though, the single piece felt interior, with integrated seats, invoked more gasps than any potential performance claims.

At least Peugeot was upfront enough to explain the Onyx was never intended for production, but only as a vision of future designs and technology. Still, it can’t hurt to dream, right?


2016 Citroen CXperience

Citroen may have spun its iconic DS into a marque in its own right, but even the mainstream division needs a flagship. Enter the CXperience, designed as a tribute to the CX models of the ’70s and ’80s.

With a return to Citroen’s focus on comfort and innovation, the sleek and rounded 2016 CXperience blends aerodynamic expertise with a vibrant yet plush lounge-like interior detailed in wool and wood.

As the next chapter in a series of mould-breaking cars that include the DS, CX, XM and C6, it’s not hard to imagine the CXperience taking its place at the head of the Citroen range. Unfortunately yet another AirBump-clad SUV seems more likely to take the helm.


2010 Renault DeZir

As a preview of Renault’s then-new design language, the DeZir was tasked with creating a softer, more sensual design language for the brand, which design director Laurens Van den Acker described as having lost its way.

Stunning polished side blades, light emitted from perforated body sections, and alternatively front and rear-hinged butterfly doors signalled a French aesthetic in a market dominated by hard-edged Teutonic simplicity.

Balancing performance car sleekness and voluptuous sensuality can’t be an easy task, surely, yet the electric DeZir concept does just that. Obvious Audi R8 sideblade comparisons are unavoidable, but somehow the Renault’s organic musculature is just sexier, no matter which angle you view it from.

Although the DeZir’s design language survived to shape cars like the Clio and Captur, the two-seat electric supercar remains a Paris showstopper only.


Bonus round: No future? No worries

Not every Paris concept has the CarAdvice team longing for a production future, and as stunning as concepts from Renault, Citroen, and Peugeot can be, there’s been some right howlers over the years.

In 2000, Citroen turned a phone booth on its side, gave it wheels and called it the Osmose, giving a horrifying glimpse of what a ride sharing future might look like. In a pre-smartphone app era your destination was advertised on an electronic billboard on the side of the car.

The goal was to unite motorists and pedestrians in some kind of 21st century utopian love-in. You could wave down a driver or use a WAP enabled brick to load a destination’s page. If you’ve ever used a WAP phone, you’d know it’s quicker to walk. Gee we’ve come a long way.

Nissan also gets a thumbs down with the Nuvu concept of 2008. Targeted at Smart buyers, the tiny 2+1 seater Nuvu featured the kind of styling that causes you to wake up shrieking at 3:00 AM, and an easy-bake glass roof perfect for frying occupants on the go.

Hockey-mask face aside, the Nuvu attempted to innovate with a zero emissions electric drivetrain, organic materials and solar leaves in the roof that ran through a ‘tree trunk’ in the middle of the interior. A tree trunk  – ruining any potential for space efficiency the tiny little nightmare may have had.

MORE: Paris motor show coverage