Whether you think of them as "fantasies in chrome," in the words of former Ford chief designer Jack Telnack, or as the shape of things to come, concept cars have traditional been a favorite of show-goers, industry insiders, and the automotive media alike. And the best of the year's breed were honored this week by a jury of more than two dozen auto writers from across North America.
A total of 40 concepts and 12 "production preview vehicles" - thinly disguised versions of products soon coming to market - were up for this year's awards, and the judges ultimately honored an array of domestic and import offerings, including Cadillac's CTS Coupe, Land Rover's LRX, and the Saab 9-X BioHybrid (shown above).
Think of the Production Preview category as a "reality check," award organizers suggest, falling somewhere between the fantasy of traditional concept vehicles and the cars, trucks, and crossovers that eventually roll into showrooms. In recent years, these preview vehicles have expanded greatly in number, giving makers a way to measure the likely public response to an upcoming offering.
In a striking showing its first time at the awards program, Hyundai took home honors in the Production Preview category for its Genesis Coupe, a very close peek at what's to come to market early next year. "The Hyundai Genesis Coupe is a stunning rear-wheel drive performance coupe with a pleasingly slippery shape," declared judge Arv Voss.
In the more traditional Concept Car category, General Motors took home the gold with the Cadillac CTS Coupe. "Anyone who classifies this car as a two-door version of the sedan has a vision problem," said jury member Kevin Kelly. "The unique roofline and aggressive stance make the CTS coupe stand out from the crowd and the rest of the Cadillac lineup."
The Coupe was also declared "Most Significant Concept Vehicle of 2008."
GM also snatch the win in the Specialty Concept category with its Saab 9-X BioHybrid, which combines both a futuristic design with intriguing, enviro-friendly technology.
In the fourth and final category, Truck and SUV, Land Rover took top honors with its LRX Concept. According to juror Thom Cannell, "Land Rover's LRX proves lust can have a practical side."