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Paris auto show: Wacky, futuristic concept cars

Published September 28, 2012

You can always count on the French manufacturers to bring a few fanciful automotive creations to their national motor show. That is not to say other nationalities didn’t do their part. The over-arching theme here was electrification and urban mobility. Here are some of the more fascinating concepts that will make you think, drool, laugh or gag.

Peugeot Onyx – The French maker debuted this stunner of a two-toned supercar done in flat black carbon-fibre with real copper sheeting on the doors. Powering the rear wheels is a diesel hybrid powertrain featuring a 3.7L V8 and a combined output of 680 horsepower.

As a nod to sustainability and the environment, Peugeot says the Onyx was made with materials processed as little as possible. The passenger compartment is a one-piece pod made from felt (inspired by the lowly egg crate), and the “wood” dashboard is actually compressed newspapers.

Citroen Tubik – Called a “multi city project” by the automaker, the Tubik is probably the wackiest looking concept here. And while the rig is decidedly space age, the Edsel-like snout is a nod to the classic Citroen utility vehicle of yore. They bill the Tubik as a high-end, high-tech shuttle that carries nine people in the “lounge” spirit focused on comfort and relaxation. Power comes from a diesel hybrid powertrain.

BMW i3 Concept – Here is another urban people mover that opens up and says “Ahhhh”. The cabin, er “Life Module”, is trimmed in renewable fibres and the naturally tanned leather of the seats is set to create a lounge-style ambience. The dash panel and door elements are clear and “floating”, and in the words of BMW, “the two front and two rear seats are connected with each other by a continuous seat surface”. Jeez, my Dad’s ’65 Falcon had bench seats, too.

The 170 hp electric motor sits over the rear axles and powers the BMW i3 to 100 km/h in under eight seconds.

Smart ForStars – This concept with a bubble roof made from transparent panels hints at a new direction for the smart brand. Dubbed a “Sports Utility Coupe,” the car’s increased ground clearance and cargo space could appeal more to North American buyers looking for a small car that is not quite as small as the ForTwo.

The coolest feature of the Forstars is its video projector built into the hood. Like having your own personal drive-in theatre, the projector syncs to an iPhone, with the idea of parking in front of a flat surface on which the movie is projected. Theatre grade audio inside the ForStars completes the experience.

Powering the ForStars is a 60 kW motor linked to a 17.6 kWh lithium-ion battery.

Nissan Terra – Nissan debuted this concept as its take on a zero-emissions people mover. The all-wheel-drive fuel cell vehicle uses the Nissan Leaf drivetrain to power the front wheels, while the rear wheels each get their own electric motor for added thrust. A hydrogen-powered fuel cell generates the juice.

The Terra looks like a Nissan Juke with a thyroid problem … oh wait, the Juke already has a thyroid problem. Someone call the doctor. Thieves will note the instrument panel can be taken away and be used as a tablet.

Bentley Continental GT3 – While Bentley is calling this full-bore racecar a concept, it hints very strongly as to what the British luxury car maker will be campaigning in next year’s GT3 series. Designer David Hilton drew the carbon composite body that drapes over the tube frame. The car adheres to all the strict FIA GT3 guidelines and as paying homage to the Le Mans-winning Bentley of a few years back, the 1295 kg W12-powered Continental GT3 wears the number seven and the same paint colours, but just in reverse – “silver white” with British Racing Green and black trim.

Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo Concept – While the most significant element of this executive luxury tourer is its plug-in hybrid drivetrain, it could be argued that the new shooting brake body work is equally marvelous. It has managed to transform the Panamera from polarizing hunch-back to beauty queen.

Nissan Pivo3 – This wacky little city car has a few tricks up its sleeve. The two sliding doors enable the car to squeeze into super tight parking spots, as does the four-wheel steering which allows the Pivo3 to nearly spin around on its central axis. Flanking the driver’s chair are two rear mounted seats. The little EV uses in-wheel electric motors and features a Jetsons-worthy Automatic Valet Parking system that sends the Pivo3 off to find a spot, and then returns it to you at the parking lot entrance when called for. This, of course, will only work in AVP-friendly parking lots, of which we’ll see in the GTA when Rob Ford rides a bike in the Gay Pride parade. It’s fun to dream though.

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