Motor industry followers know the routine all too well. Chasing headlines and brand publicity, car manufacturers gather at periodic motor shows to whip the covers off their latest concepts.
Sometimes these are impractical and highly styled 'design studies', stopping to shock and provoke reaction while not being remotely qualified to mass production. Only small design elements of these concepts tend to find their way onto a company's future cars.
Other times these concepts are proposals for actual models, accurate in size and general shape but typically with exaggerated styling features like larger wheels or front grille, bulging wheel arches and narrows lights or a slimmer window glass area.
The dramatized looks impress and often cause great excitement among potential buyers, but when the real model comes along disappointment can follow at the loaded-down showroom version.
However, every now and then, a company surprises industry commentators and its customers by revealing a stunning concept car that survives the journey from drawing board to showroom almost unchanged.
Just take a look at these five recent examples.
Range Rover Evoque – This new baby model in the Land Rover range first broke cover as the LRX 'cross-coupe' concept at the Detroit motor show back in January 2008. It aimed to offer buyers "a desirable, premium and coupe-like SUV "and was designed as a more compact and environmentally conscious alternative to the brand's large 4×4 models. The production version was disclosed at the Paris motor show in September 2010 ahead of first deliveries to customers earlier this year and stunned commentators by retaining near identical bodywork to the striking LRX concept. Now industry pundits are wondering whether Land Rover is about to pull the same trick with this year's DC100 concept, so far touted only as a "modern reinterpretation" of the company's classic original defender model. Will it also make it to production extremely unchanged? Only time will tell.
Jaguar XF – The XF made its debut back in 2007 as the C-XF concept, a proposed replacement for the company's retro-styled S-Type model. The design started commentators with its marked departure from Jaguar's long-held style language, in particular its recessed grille, sleek lights and far less curvaceous bodywork than the company's previous models. Thought to have only been a study previewing elements of a new design direction, Jaguar truly shocked the motoring world later the same year by revealing a production XF that was largely unchanged from the concept. Few could believe that the company was planning to smash its classic design mold so completely. This year's facelift has brought the XF even closer to its C-XF concept by adding the slimmer headlamps seen on the original motor show star. The XF has ushered in a new era in Jaguar styling that has been transported forward to the company's latest new model, the XJ, much to the classic British company's sales success.
Volkswagen Scirocco – VW's Iroc concept broke cover at the 2006 Paris motor show with a name that clearly evoked memories of the company's sporty Scirocco model made between the mid 1970s and early 1990s. Always expected to reach production, the Golf-based showroom version inherited the Scirocco badge and hit the road in 2008, but did surprise by retaining styling as aggressive as the original concept. The only major change to the car's shape was to the Iroc's bold front grille, which was toned down into a slim version complete with wraparound bumper to both make the car suitable for road use and match the corporate 'face' of the company's other models. The Scirocco's sporty styling and spacious, four seat interior have made it a popular addition to the VW line-up.
Nissan Juke – When Nissan's Qazana concept first appeared at the Geneva motor show in 2009, its unusual dimensions and quirky styling led few to believe it could be anything other than a design study. Yet when the company's Juke 'mini-crossover' model was unveiled in 2010, it was not just the broad shape of the Qazana concept such as the prominent wheel arches, high waistline and coupe-like appearance that were carried over without dramatic change. So too were some the concept's most striking styling features, particularly the unusual arrangement of front lights. Seemingly a popular choice with people looking for a distinct alternative in the small family car market, Nissan looks to have repeated the previous success of its larger Qashqai family crossover since potential Juke buyers now face a long waiting list.
Peugeot RCZ – debuting in 2007 at the Frankfurt motor show as the 308 RCZ, this sporty concept aimed at rivaling the popular Audi TT was a design departure for Peugeot and achieved critical acclaim for its attractive styling. Surprised by the public response, Peugeot took the decision to put the RCZ into production and, to avoid disappointing enthusiasts for the original concept, ensured that its show car looks such as the prominent wheel arches and sleek roofline with 'double bubble' rear window were carried over. The road-going RCZ went on sale in 2009 and so far over 30,000 examples have found homes.
Thankfully breaking the mold is a trend that seems to be growing for car makers, often in a quest for distinctiveness or 'halo' models that draw attention to the rest of a brand's range. Manufacturers will also have noted that recent examples, like those above, have proved popular and resolved in sales success. Let's hope that this trend continues, because who would not rather drive around in a head-turning, every day show car for the road?