Ahhh, Paris. Known mostly for baguettes, striking workers, and the place where Tom Hanks solved a complicated mystery like it was the crossword in the back of an in-flight magazine, the French capital is also playing host to one of the biggest auto shows of the year.
The Paris Motor Show 2012 (or Mondail de l'Automobile for those who wear berets) is one of the biggest global car events of the year, and while many manufacturers use it as a launching pad for their 2013 and 2014 production models, they also use it as an opportunity to show off futuristic concept cars.
This is where things get fun for us mere mortals, because these mobile ideas give us a little glimpse into the future of motoring. Concept cars are just that: concepts. Some may go into production in the future, but many never see the light of day outside of auto shows. Sometimes, auto makers will take bits and pieces from these cars and introduce those aspects into future vehicles, but for the most part, concept cars are used to show off exactly how awesome cars you could never afford can be.
I'm getting away from the point, because this article is not about scathing jealousy. It's about the five most interesting concept cars at the Paris Auto Show 2012. Here they are, in no particular order.
BMW i8 Spyder
The boys from Bavaria have unleashed this open-top beauty. With no roof, the i8 Spyder exists in a world where there is no rain. I like that world. I also like the Tron-esque styling, and with 354 horsepower, the i8 Spyder can go from 0-60 in just under 5 seconds, but that's not all. It also gets an estimated 78 miles per gallon.
Surprise! It's a Hybrid! By paring a high performance electric motor with an internal combustion engine in what the company is calling "BMW eDrive technology," the i8 is a more environmentally friendly option that can be recharged using any socket. Any socket? Well, now there's no excuse not to get one if and when it comes out! In fact, get two!
From McLaren, the British automaker who made their mark in Formula One racing, comes another concept car from their road car division, McLaren Automotive. The P1 is the spiritual successor to 2011's MP4-12C. Right now, the P1 is a concept car, but McLaren has said they're set to reveal a production version in 2013, meaning, someday, you'll actually be able to buy this one. . .if you're the type of person who uses disposable gold toothbrushes.
McLaren is being pretty tight lipped about the specs at this point, but we do know a few things right now. Building on their F1 roots, the P1 will 1,320 lbs of downforce and it will definitely output well over 600 horsepower. Some experts are speculating that number could skyrocket to 800 hp in the production model. While the P1 is not expected to reach Bugatti Veyron type numbers, you might want to keep some glue handy to put your face back together if you plan on driving one. This thing is going to be fast.
Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Coupe Electric Drive
If you're looking for a daily drive to save you gas, look no further than the $500,000 Merc SLS AMG All-Electric Coupe! This isn't your mom's Prius. With 740 horsepower, this is the most powerful AMG to date and rivals the gas version of the SLS. The Electric Drive uses four different electric motors, one to drive each of the wheels, and it goes from 0 to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds. The car's top speed has been limited to 155 mph, because somewhere, somebody felt like being a jerk.
As for the striking exterior, that would be the AMG Electricbeam Magno paint, which is alluring to say the least. Imagine pulling up silently next to some boring, plastic coffin in this glowing ninja of a supercar. The other drivers are going to think you just arrived from the future, and will squeal with delight as they ask you if in by 2121 we have finally figured out how to make bread without the crust. Speaking of squealing, the Electric Drive doesn't make any noise since, it's, you know, all electric; however, Mercedes wasn't about to let this be an oversight. At the touch of a button, the car will play engine noises through the speakers, making your driving experience complete. A-mazing.
If I had a dime for every time I have been driving around thinking, "Man, my Saab is great, but I really wish it has a movie projector embedded in the hood so that I could open a portable drive-in whenever I pull up to a blank wall," I would have zero dimes; however, Smart would have at least one. The new version of the Smart Car, which they are calling a "Sports Utility Coupe," features a projector in the bonnet that can play video from an iPhone via Bluetooth. Finally, we're getting to some technology the public has been clamoring for!
Regardless, this all-electric next generation Smart ditches the Little Tykes design for something sleeker, lower, and more hip. It's also a bit bigger: 37.7 inches longer and 5.9 inches wider to be exact. With a top speed of up to 80 miles an hour, this model might help Smart cars change from urban grocery movers, into something a grown adult might drive, even though the front looks like an angry Muppet. While ForStars might not seem like the wittiest name on the planet, it's actually other worldly. It refers to the car's all-glass roof. Get it? It's for looking at stars. Whatever. Moving on.
While not that widely known in the USA, Peugeot is a French carmaker known for more economical cars and superminis. But this is the Paris Auto Show; cheap be damned! This concept car that will never see the light of day features a 3.7L V8 turbo diesel engine hybrid taken from the company's 908 Le Mans racer. Nice. It outputs around 680 horsepower, but gets the same MPG has a Prius. How's that, you ask? Well it's a combination of the diesel hybrid engine, and the fact that the entire freaking car is made out of carbon fiber. It's extremely light, and can go from 0-62 mph in 3 seconds. Goodness!
There's more than just what's under the hood, however. This car also looks fantastic, with beautiful copper overlays set against a matte black finish. While it will remain a concept car forever in our hearts and minds, and never on the road, looking at this beauty will make everyone want to say, SLAM! Er, I mean, "Vive La France!"