5 Concept Sports Cars
By Paul Anderson
3- Saturn Curve
Also released at the NAIAS, the Saturn Curve was a surprise to the thousands of people who patrolled the exhibition. Saturn is known (for the most part) as a family-friendly automaker that takes great pride in its safe, reliable cars and close relationships with customers. Thus, the Curve is a strong deviation from Saturn's roots but is in no way a chump car.
Naturally, you'll first notice this sports coupe's bold look. The two-seat cockpit is set toward the rear of the car, making for a stubby rear (a cool feature on cars but not on women) and longer front. The front fenders and rounded lines make the Curve look somewhat like a dog's muzzle and the small windows, front grille and sharp headlights add to this mean, powerful look.
Beneath the Curve's sculptured hood you'll find a 2.2-liter GM Ecotec four-cylinder engine, supercharged to meet the demands of a sports car driver. This set up is capable of producing 230 horsepower and 220 pound-feet of torque if you control the five-speed manual transmission properly.
Though the Curve shares the same patented Kappa platform as the Pontiac Solstice and Chevrolet Nomad (both concept cars as well), it has none of the same retro stylings of these two. Instead, Saturn pushes the envelope with its futuristic exterior and focus on handling: the 20-inch wheels and rear-wheel drive make for a curb-hugging, sporty ride.
Distinguishing Feature: The wood panel interior, which creates the illusion that the center console and door panels are floating in the car.
4- Audi Le Mans Quattro
Wishing to translate the years of success they have had on the rally car racing circuit to the highway, Audi came up with a concept car based on their successful R8, three-time winner of the Le Mans 24-hour race. The result is the very sexy Le Mans Quattro, first shown to the public at the 2003 Frankfurt Auto Show.
You'll notice that Audi's concept looks like a cross between a Porsche 911 Carrera and an Audi TT -- not a bad combination. The vent-like grilles adorning both the front and back are certainly unique additions, while the rear spoiler is both functional, claims Audi, and aesthetic.
When it comes to appearance, though, the award for creativity goes to the headlights and rear brake lights, which are made up of a matrix of LEDs (light-emitting diodes) and provide a very cool visual effect as well as pin-point illumination for night-driving. In a final flash of brilliance, the Audi designers added a tone-on-tone panel on both sides of the car, behind the doors. This eye-catcher means no one will forget what the Le Mans Quattro looks like.
Like a woman, a car is not all about looks, right? Under the hood of the Le Mans Quattro is a twin turbocharged 5.0-liter V10 engine, which can generate 610 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque. Drivers dictate the power with a six-speed transmission with sequential shifting.
Due to the presence of an electro-hydraulic system, you can take off in this baby without the use of a clutch and go from standstill to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. Even with this speed, you'll be able to handle the car easily thanks to Audi's four wheel-drive system, indicated by the "Quattro" in the name.
Distinguishing Feature: The driver-centric interior design, which includes a digital display, so that drivers can switch from oil-temperature information to a speedometer reading or GPS-aided map.
5- Honda Sports Concept (HSC)
The slow sales and rising cost of the Acura NSX prompted Honda, of which Acura is a part, to come up with a revamped, high-end sports car as a potential replacement. At the 2003 Tokyo Motor Show, the Japanese automaker released its Honda Sports Concept (HSC); a vehicle that sports car-lovers should hope reaches dealerships in the near future.
The HSC is not your average sports car. First, take a look at the exotic exterior. At first glance, most would label the car a Ferrari or other rich import because of its sharp lines, low skirt, oversized vents and circular lights. Finally, the nearly seamless bodywork and reflective aluminum paneling make the HSC look more like a spaceship than sports car.
Those impressed enough with the HSC's look to glance at its engine capabilities will be slightly disappointed, unfortunately. With a 3.5 liter, 24-valve V6 engine, this Honda is only able to generate around 300 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque.
These numbers are substandard compared with other exotic models in the HSC's class, but the drive is still fun thanks to a paddle-shifting six-speed transmission located on the steering wheel .
Not only do you get to use a Formula One-style transmission when behind the wheel, you get to enjoy great handling as well. The HSC's wide stance and suspension allow for tight turns while the occupants sit comfortable and safely in large leather seats. To top it all off, an excellently organized instrument display and dashboard make the HSC easy to drive, on top of being easy to look at. Every loyal Honda and Acura customer should now hope the NSX is soon phased out and the HSC brought in.
Distinguishing Feature: The HSC's aggressive body design, which proves that love between a man and a car is possible.