Will dazzling concept cars really hit the road?
A Chevrolet Tru 40S is displayed at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition on April 24, 2012. / AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan
(MoneyWatch) In the glory days of Detroit, auto company designers would create spectacular concept cars to entertain the crowds at auto shows with no plans for really producing or selling those cars. In recent more frugal years, concept cars have moved closer to real-world vehicles that could be on the market within the near future. At the Beijing Auto Show this week, General Motors had one of each kind of concept car on display.
The show features an array of luxury SUVs and other hot rides from all the major global auto makers. Even in that company, it is worth a look at GM's throwback open touring car called the Cadillac Ciel and the sleek small-car coupe known as the Chevrolet Tru 140S. The Ciel is strictly for show, while the Tru could appear within a few years aimed at young buyers. Here is a closer look at each:
Cadillac Ciel The Ciel (French for sky) shows some flashes of the big, showy Cadillacs of the 1960s. Happily there are no tail fins, but the big solid presence and 22-inch wheels give a retro feel. Meanwhile, the sharply creased fenders fit neatly into today's design style at Cadillac.
In another throwback touch, the rear-hinged , back seat "suicide" doors are a concept borrowed from Ford Motor's Lincoln convertible of the '60s. Once inside the Ciel, passengers see an elegant combination of burgundy leather and handsome olive wood trim. And of course, there is plenty of modern technology, like the touch pads on the doors for each passenger's individual climate control. The Ciel is powered by a twin-turbo V-6 plus an auxiliary electric motor that can drive it at low speeds.
Clues abound that the Ciel is not headed for production, and GM executives have said as much. It would be very expensive to produce and hard to fit into the tightening federal gas mileage standards. Those suicide doors would probably never pass muster with today's safety regulators. The concept car isn't even equipped with a convertible top. But GM, which first showed the Ciel last year at the Pebble Beach festival of classic luxury cars, is aiming to show world buyers it can still come up with head-turning elegance.
Chevrolet Tru 140S Like all car companies, GM is trying to attract younger buyers. The Tru 140S concept is potentially part of that plan and could be produced within a few years.
When Chevrolet first showed this concept in January at the Detroit auto show, executives said it embodied features that research showed would attract buyers around 30. That includes the sleek front-wheel drive coupe styling still with sufficient interior room to seat four people. Based on the same mechanical set-up as the compact Cruze, the Tru would have a four-cylinder, 1.4-liter turbocharged engine that the company says is capable of being rated for gas mileage of 40MPG in highway driving.
With features increasingly crucial to younger shoppers, the Tru also would feature full connectivity for linking phones, music players and other devices.
The Tru is being shown with a second Cruze-based concept called the Code 130R. That is a rear-wheel drive coupe with similar mechanical features and electronics. Either or both of these concepts could evolve into a stylish compact entry within the years ahead. If so, their list price would likely be around $25,000 -- just above the top range of the popular Cruze.
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