In our final review article of the 2014 Mondial de l’Automobile, TCF writer Nick Smith looks at the concept cars which graced the stands and picks out his top five. The concepts on display ranged from production ready machines gauging interest to exercises in that dreaded phrase, blue sky thinking. Of the two there was a definite tendency towards dream world specials but at least one production ready effort made the top five.
#5 – MINI Superleggera Vision.
With the rapidly expanding MINI, not only in footprint but in range size, the Superleggera Vision takes the brand back to its roots while maintaining the work done under BMW’s stewardship. It is purely a pie in the sky idea which shows how a stripped out MINI could look though it also gives a strong suggestion as to the styling of the next generation MINI Coupe and Roadster.
Initially built for the Concorso d’Elegenza Villa d’Este, it is a collaboration between the Oxford car maker and Touring Superleggera, a desirable coach builder.
It is a return to the bare basics of motoring, though modern technology is carefully hidden under the throwback bodywork. An aluminium dashboard houses the traditional centre dial arrangement which differentiates a MINI from its rivals. The separate rev counter mounted on the steering column also features but that is the sum total of interior embellishment. The door cards, made of untreated polished ally, are styled on the Union Flag.
On the outside, intricately modelled door mirrors combine with a smoothed and softened MINI face to create a sense of movement even when the car is static. Moving further back, an aero fin reminiscent of the Jaguar D Type graces the boot lid as the car tapers towards a cut off rear and continues into the rear diffuser.
The main patriotic feature of the Superleggera Vision though comes from the tail lights which are crafted in the shape of the Union Flag.
Nick loved the modern take an a retro syle. The elimination of all distractions in the cabin also pleased, putting the driving back in the spotlight. Add in those Brit loving tail lights and the Superleggera Vision was a hit.
#4 – Nissan Pulsar NISMO Concept.
The first car to have in the original Gran Turismo on Playstation was the Nissan Pulsar GT. The first car to have in Gran Turismo 7 will undoubtedly be the Nissan Pular NISMO.
When Nissan bailed out of the compact market after the last Almera and chose to go down the crossover route, the motoring world heaved a sigh of relief. It wasn’t that the Almera was a bad car, it was just that after a succession of great hatches it was a disappointment. This year the brand returned with the Pulsar, which in terms of styling, kit and reportedly handing, took the fight to the class leading Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.
It was inevitable that NISMO would take a look at the new car and the Pulsar NISMO Concept is the result. As with the Civic Type-R Concept, it goes all out for shock value with a deep front splitter in contrasting red finish against a matte grey body. 19 inch split five spoke wheels surround impressive performance brakes while the red highlights continue through the side skirts to the rear bumper. Nestled in the centre of that rear bumper sit two impressive exhaust silencers in carbon fibre with red highlights. An aggressively styled rear bumper completes the look.
Inside is an alacantra clad haven with bucket seats and alacantra sports steering wheel alongside all the kit you would expect from a car of its class and spec.
There is no word on engines yet but expect the car to be powered by a Renault-Nissan Alliance power plant, probably the 2.0 turbo from the RenaultSport Megane. That is of course if they opt to build the car as no-one on the stand could give me a yes or a no. If it does make it to the showroom though don’t expect it to change much, the NISMO philosophy says nothing goes on which isn’t performance relevant, which means all the red bits on the concept will make it go better.
Given that their alliance partners currently hold the lap record for a production hatchback at Nissan’s preferred playground, the Nordschlieffe, we would expect the company to go out and at least try to get into the sub-Eight club. That means they have to build it and have to sell it.
Nick selected the NISMO Concept as the only production ready concept to hit the top five thanks to the outrageous styling. Joining the 370z and GT-R in the performance range for Nissan, discounting the Juke which isn’t that hot to look at and isn’t that hot in terms of performance, the Pulsar NISMO Concept finally gives Nissan three cars that Nick would actually buy.
#3 – Toyota C-HR Concept.
We would love Toyota to put some of the information gathered at Le Mans into use making a proper Auris hot hatch but failing that the C-HR Concept would make a great new model. It won’t happen though, at least not in this form. Instead the concept is designed to preview a forthcoming crossover challenger to the Nissan Qashqai’s dominance.
It sets a new theme in the design of Toyota’s products, moving away from the sharply angled lines of the Avenis, Auris and new Yaris which also had its world premiere on the stand. Chunky wheel arches and flowing surfaces encase a body which will easily seat four in a three door bodystyle. Massive concept wheels with almost spray on tyres resemble a food blender blade more than anything that would make it onto the road. Then there are the light clusters, front and rear, which form the real reason for the Concept’s selection.
In a world of LED lighting on cars it is very rare for a manufacturer to be able to try something completely different. Not since the Mazda Furai has a marque gone completely nuts on the lighting. The feature image for this article is the rear light cluster of the C-HR illuminated, with the car blacked out in Photoshop so you can better see the detail. The headlights are equally impressive.
The concept car is apparently powered by an undisclosed hybrid power train. We would assume a low capacity turbo petrol to drive the front wheels and top up the batteries while the rear wheels would be powered by electric motors, granting part time four wheel drive. There are no confirmed facts though and we are pretty certain that the actual display vehicle was just a model and isn’t powered by anything. Again, that’s just supposition.
Nick loved the lights on the new concept and the outrageous wheels and tyres package. As for the rest of the styling it didn’t offend, which isn’t exactly the ringing endorsement Toyota were looking for. At a motor show where even Lamborghini were restrained, the bonkers lunacy of a giant purple faux-by-four was just too much to turn down.
#2 – Volkswagen XL Sport.
Volkswagen have already shown the futuristic XL concept, a sporty two seater capable of 313 miles to the gallon. Then they decided to put it into production, then they decided to charge the better part of a hundred grand for it. Then they decided that economy wasn’t everything and turned to a brand partner for help.
Would you go to Audi? How about Bentley or Lamborghini? VW decided to turn to their two wheeled cousins Ducati and set about making what they assure us is purely a concept car and will not be built.
The main difference is in the motive power which comes to the rear wheels of the XL Sport care of a 197 bhp V-Twin motorcycle engine. Revs hit 11,000 which is more than enough. A seven speed DSG gearbox makes it all useful, with a reduction gear between the engine and the cogs almost doubling the torque of the engine to 250Nm which is the only way that a motorcycle engine could move the weight of modern materials involved in a two seater sports car.
Other changes are more visually obvious, starting with the fantastic wheels with low profile rubber. An impressive front splitter and air ducts by the light clusters embellishes the front end while the rear is dominated by strip LED light clusters which mark the full outline of the car.
Nick was impressed even before he heard the full facts about the car. The thought of putting a Ducati V-Twin in a VW machine just confirmed the XL Sport’s place in the top five.
#1 – Lamborghini Asterion LPI 910-4.
Officially designated the LPi 910-4, the Lamborghini Asterion Concept is a sight to behold and came as a complete shock to the worlds assembled media in hall 2 of the Paris Motor Show. Behind that beautifully crafted but not particularly radical, (especially for Lamborghini) bodywork lies a two seat hypercar with 897 horsepower.
That is delivered by a hybrid drive train. Yes, I said hybrid. The conventional part of the arrangement is borrowed from baby brother Huracan which means a 602 horsepower V10. So far so Lambo. The second element in the drive train comes in the form of three electric motors which supply the remaining 295 horsepower.
It gives an electric only range of only 31 miles but in the combined European test it returned 68.6 miles per gallon. More importantly for a supercar company it also put out less than 100 g/km of CO2 which drastically drops the brand’s average, in line with European regulations. Even more annoying is the fact that anyone who purchases one of the limited run suggested at the show will pay no road tax, ever.
As we say, the arrival was a complete shocker with even the name kept tightly under wraps. Being fair it would have given the game away as Asterion is another name for a Minotaur. It sticks with Lamborghini’s bull based naming tradition in that a Minotaur is a man/bull hybrid.
Nick loved the styling of the car, especially the back end. The introduction of a hybrid drivetrain which some say could wind up powering the soon to be announced Lamborghini SUV was also a pleasant surprise. The only bad news for Nick is that £0 road tax, even his Adam costs £30 a year to tax and doesn’t go anywhere near as quickly!