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
Anyone that remembered the Jaguar XJ220 supercar of the 1990s was more than a little excited about the prospect of the 2010 Jaguar C-X75 concept reaching production, as Jaguar bosses had once planned. Sure, the C-X75 sports car concept’s call for twin gas turbines instead of a conventional engine was a little optimistic, but several running and driving C-X75s were actually built in conjunction with Williams F1 for use in the James Bond franchise film, Spectre, using a dry-sumped version of the F-Type’s supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 engine. Unfortunately, Jaguar sealed the C-X75’s fate by canceling the project in 2012, though some of the concept’s swoopy styling features lived on in a decidedly unlikely production vehicle: the Jaguar I-Pace electric SUV.
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
Increased safety regulations make it ever more challenging to create a truly interesting production car body, the likes of which might have been seen in the 1950s and ’60s. When Touring Superleggera launched its 2012 remix of its classic Alfa Romeo Disco Volante styling project, it sent our hearts aflutter even if we knew the striking aluminum-bodied coupe would never be produced in huge numbers. Based on the road-going Alfa 8C production chassis, Touring had mulled a limited production run, but that never really came to fruition. Instead, a 2016 open-top Disco Volante Spider was rumored to have seven production examples built based on the 8C Spider.
2014 Toyota FT-1
By 2014, Toyota was starting to get some of its sporting mojo back with the Scion FR-S (aka Toyota GT86, Toyota 86), but hardcore fans wanted something more, especially in the power department. The Toyota FT-1 concept, launched at the 2014 Detroit auto show, gave the world hope that a more serious sports car was coming in the not-too-distant future. As it would happen, the end result was a new 2020 Toyota Supra, launched in 2019 as a joint project with BMW. See? Sometimes concept dreams do come true.
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
It couldn’t have been made any clearer that we’d never see a production car based on BMW’s CSL Hommage concept when chief designer Adrian van Hooydonk told us bluntly, “This model is not earmarked for production.” Still, we did get a drive in the heart-racing 3.0 CSL Hommage, a concept that dared to ask what a contemporary version of BMW’s classic 3.0 CSL street (and track) racer might look like. Sure, some of the details were a little bit much (if you’re wondering where that massive “kidney grille” treatment on the new M4 got its start, look no further), but for a brief, fleeting moment we were hopeful that the brand known for building “Ultimate Driving Machines” was beginning to get its mojo back.
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.
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