Here are a few of our favourite concept cars from 2017, as selected by our journalists on their travels around the biggest motor shows in the world.
Honda Urban EV
Sorry if this isn't surprising – Mike Stevens has already professed his love for the cute Urban EV on the pages of CarAdvice – but this little electric car was simply too cool to ignore.
There are a few surefire ways to get motoring enthusiasts fired up. Lovingly executed retro design, a forward-thinking powertrain and compact proportions always go down well, and the Urban EV ticks all those boxes. The exterior is a delightful reference to the first-generation Civic hatch, with slim a-pillars and a delightful sloping tailgate, while the smooth flanks are miles removed from the fussy lines prevalent on modern Honda designs.
Power outputs and range (essentially, all the stuff you really want to know) about the car are yet to be confirmed, but we know a production version will be landing in 2019, based on the Honda Electric Vision strategy. That means it will use a high energy-density, lightweight battery pack, complete with an integrated heat management system. It will also be able to hook up to your house, as part of a wider energy management system.
But honestly, it could be powered by farts and kill puppies in its spare time – on looks alone, the Urban EV is a winner.
Subaru VIZIV Performance
In keeping with the Japanese focus, James Wong didn't hesitate when suggesting the Viziv Performance for our end-of-year wrap. In true Subaru tradition, it's just a concept at the moment, but all the design cues featured bode well for the next-generation WRX.
The front end is home to the company's signature grille, sitting above a trio of angry-looking air intakes and a bold splitter. The hawkish headlamps are a more aggressive take on those fitted to the current Impreza while, like any good Subaru performance car, the concept has a bonnet scoop as well. Down back, there's a cartoonish diffuser housing diagonally-stacked exhaust pipes, while the minimalist brake lights are in keeping with the graphics from the nose.
As for the engine? Well, we don't know specifics, but Subaru says the car is powered by a boxer engine. No, we weren't surprised to hear that either. Here's hoping the production car borrows heavily from the concept, and isn't watered down beyond recognition like most showroom-ready cars from Subaru...
BMW 8 Series Concept
The BMW 8 Series is making a comeback, and if this concept is anything to go by, it's going to be a real looker. Revealed at Concorso d'Eleganze Villa d'Este, the Concept 8 Series isn't an overt throwback to the original – much-loved – 8 Series. Instead, it's the most cohesive expression of the current BMW design language we've seen yet.
With swollen hips and a long nose, it certainly doesn't lack for presence, and the flowing tail-lights are statement pieces in themselves. Teasers for the M8 have since confirmed the production car will temper those lines slightly, for better or worse, but if even a dash of the drama from the show car is present, it's going to be a real looker.
The Elaine might share its name with middle-aged secretaries and nursing home occupants, but it's actually an incredibly forward-thinking concept. It's designed to showcase the latest autonomous technology from Audi, with proper Level 4 autonomous capability thanks to a more powerful version of the zFAS controller from the brand's semi-autonomous suite.
Where the road-going A8 is capable of Level 3 autonomy up to 60km/h, the technology in the Elaine extends that to 130km/h, along with dealing with lane-changes, overtakes and suburban driving on its own. It can also drive around without anyone on board, meaning you can get out at your restaurant and let the car park itself.
The interior is full of glossy touchscreen technology, while the exterior is a more aggressive take on the current Audi design language. Should the car make it to production, expect both of those things to be toned down.
Mazda Kai Concept
The concept doesn't contain any information about a powertrain – we know it won't be a rotary – and there are plenty of details that won't carry over to the real world. But swap the wing-cameras for mirrors, and trade the glass roof for a proper tin top, and you're pretty much there.
It's stunning inside, too. Both driver and passenger sit in sports seats, and the dashboard is almost entirely devoid of buttons or knobs. A triple-dial cluster sits in front of the driver, while the passenger is faced with what appears to be a widescreen infotainment display. There's no awkward floating screen here, folks.
If the production car looks even half this good, it's going to be a winner.
What were your favourite concept cars from 2017?
Listen to the CarAdvice team discuss the Top 5 lists of 2017, and catch more like this at caradvice.com/podcast.