It’s easy to criticize, but far more difficult to create. We love the excitement that a stunning new concept car brings to the automotive world, but automakers take huge risks in bringing their visions of the automotive future to the public eye. Get a concept car right and it can bring optimism and renewed energy to a product line. Get a concept wrong and the negative perception can be difficult to live down. Here are eight of our favorite 2010s sports car concepts—cars that not only look incredible, but make us want to climb inside and go for a long drive.
2010 Jaguar C-X75
2011 Cadillac Ciel
Though Cadillac experienced something of a brand resurgence in the new millennium with its properly engaging CTS sports sedan and a new “Art and Science” design language, by 2011 it was still searching for traces of its legendary past. The stunning Ciel concept was a look at how a modern Cadillac could reimagine its classic open-roof touring cars, from the classic V-16 Roadsters of the 1930s all the way up to the epically lengthy Eldorado convertibles through the 1970s. We knew the Ciel would never see the light of day, but this sports car concept got America excited for the future of one of its most important brands.
2012 Alfa Romeo Disco Volante by Touring Superleggera
2014 Toyota FT-1
2014 Volkswagen XL Sport
Though we’re car people at heart, we Automobile staffers love a good high-revving, mean sounding motorcycle engine, especially when it’s mounted in a small, lightweight sports car. YouTube is full of sketchy looking home-built specials, but in 2014 Volkswagen showed its XL Sport concept, which installed a 1.2-liter, two-cylinder, 11,000-rpm Ducati engine amidships in a small, carbon-fiber-bodied coupe based on the XL1 plug-in hybrid. The result was theoretically a sub-2,000 pound, 168-mph sports car with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and mini Audi R8 styling. Of all the 2010s concept cars we love, we still pine for a drive in this one.
2015 BMW CSL Hommage Concept
2015 Mazda RX-Vision Concept
Ever since the Mazda RX-7 left the U.S. market at the end of 2005, rotary-engine fans have been waiting with baited breath for a true successor. The RX-8 coupe, with its awkward rear doors and cramped rear seats, was too grand touring, too funky, despite picking up some genuine motorsports cred in the Rolex Grand-Am race series. Cue the 2015 Mazda RX-Vision concept, a breathtaking, long-nosed imagining of what a future RX-7 could look like. As the years continue on, we hear Mazda still has a small rotary engine research lab, but no new rotary-powered sports car has been forthcoming. For now, we’ll continue to enjoy driving the Mazda RX-Vision GT3 in “Gran Turismo Sport” on our Sony Playstation.
2017 Pininfarina H2 Speed
In 2017, our Concept of the Year was the Pininfarina H2 Speed, a hydrogen-powered look at the future of sports prototype racing, according to the legendary Italian design house. We liked this concept so much that we named it our 2017 Concept of the Year. Hydrogen is stored in externally mounted tanks on the sides of the car, while a vertical rear fin and large rear wing directs airflow back over the H2 Speed’s wide rear haunches. How can you look at this Pininfarina concept and not want to climb behind the wheel? That’s the true mark of a winning concept.