The Concours d'Elegance at Pebble Beach has long been known as the place for serious collectors to congregate every August to race, swap, buy and sell vintage cars, from Fords to Ferraris.
But the show has also been drawing automakers who like the venue for showing off what they consider to be the future of luxury driving.
Indeed, Lexus, Infiniti, Shelby and MINI all showed cars that consumers will be able to buy as early as next Spring. Cadillac, BMW and Rolls Royce showed concepts for cars they are pondering to make available to the public.
Have a look at the future. One warning: if you haven't got at least $50K to spend on your next ride, this will all be Fantasy Land.
BMW 328 Hommage
For those in the dark, the original 328 was the "It" car in Germany during the 1930s, and the vehicle that put Mercedes-Benz on notice that the upstart from Bavaria was coming to play.
The man with the little mustache interrupted BMW's rise, of course, but some of the original roadsters have survived. Indeed, there were a few at the Legends of the Autobahn display at this month's Concours d'Elegance weekend at Pebble Beach where this new 328 Hommage made the scene.
The Hommage, created by BMW to mark the car's 75th birthday, is a svelte 1,720 pounds thanks to its carbon fiber body, passenger tub and wheels. Power is provided by a 3.0-liter inline-six of undisclosed output, while a single set of gauges and a pair of contoured leather buckets make up the spartan interior.
BMW 328 Hommage
The crossed-out headlamps and leather hood ties smack of nostalgia-infused kitsch, but the silver carbon fiber wheels, exposed weave, double bump rump and – yes – even the elongated kidney grilles give it a presence.
This is probably just a styling exercise. But we'd love to see BMW make 100 of these babies to actually sell. Better yet, come up with a street-legal version that would represent a real step up into real money with Bavarian machines that are worth the Euros.
The GS 350 is Lexus's bid to create a driver-focused mid-size sedan aimed at the hearts, minds and wallets of would-be 5-Series and E-Class buyers. We haven't driven this new beast yet, but we think it has a chance with an impressive interior: including an extra-large Nav and entertainment screen.
The chassis is all-new, the interior is more spacious and it's all powered by a 3.5-liter V6 putting out 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque through a six-speed sequential shift automatic gearbox. In the rear-drive (non AWD) version, Lexus claims a 0-60 mph time of 5.7 seconds and a run from 30 to 50 mph in three seconds flat. An optional electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system can vary the power split between 50/50 and 30/70, but a torque-vectoring rear differential is notable in its absence.
The interior is more driver-centric for sure, with all the major controls kept closely at hand, including a new Remote Touch system for the adaptive climate control system -- dubbed S-Flow -- which can detect how many occupants are in the GS and tailor the HVAC accordingly. Wood and leather abound, the seats appear nicely bolstered and the cabin is several steps above the outgoing model.
Infiniti's new seven-passenger, three-row luxury crossover. The JX was first shown in concept form at Pebble Beach this month before the production model debuts at the LA Auto Show in November. It goes on sale next Spring.
The JX is powered by a V6 fitted with a CVT. It comes in either 2WD or AWD. In addition to the automaker's Blind Spot Intervention, the JX will come equipped with a new Backup Collision Intervention system, which can detect objects when the crossover is reversing and automatically engage the brakes to avoid a crash.
Other amenities on the Infiniti JX include a 14-speaker Bose stereo system, Infiniti Connection Telematics and the recently launched Personal Assistant program, which provides owners with 24-hour access to a team of living, breathing reps that can do everything from supplying navigation instructions to booking a hotel.
Shelby SuperCars (SSC) first showed off its forthcoming supercar, the Tuatara, last month in Shanghai, and now we've gotten our first look at the car here in Monterey.
Designed by Jason Castriota of Ferrari P4/5 fame, the Tuatara is SSC's second supercar. While the car you see here is a design model, the production version will feature a bespoke twin-turbo 7.0-liter V8 producing 1,350 horsepower, a carbon fiber sub-frame chassis, and one-piece carbon fiber wheels. While the car seen here lacks a full interior and isn't a complete runner, the design has undeniable presence, with a futuristic yet organic look that is miles ahead of its predecessor, which looked far more kit-car than supercar.
Company founder Jerod Shelby informed us he already has five pre-orders for the car, which will be built in Washington state. Shelby is hoping to build about 16 units per year, but the facility will have a capacity of 40 units should the demand be there. He estimates that deliveries will start in the first quarter of 2013, with each example going for "just in excess of one million dollars."
Rolls-Royce 102 EX
When Rolls-Royce wheeled out its 102 EX Phantom Experimental Electric at the Geneva Motor Show we were told that the vehicle, a 6,000 pound behemoth that started life as run-of-the-mill Phantom, is propelled by a pair of UQM electric motors that puts out a combined 290 kilowatts. Those motors get juice from a 71 kWh battery pack that consists of 96 cells arranged to resemble the donor vehicle's original 6.75-liter gasoline engine and six-speed automatic transmission.
Rolls-Royce 102 EX
Even though the 102EX Concept is fitted with a receptacle for conventional plug-in charging, the massive electric sedan also features HaloIPT's inductive technology. The 102EX is equipped with an inductive mat on its underside, allowing Halo's wireless, in-road system to shoot a charge across an air gap of up to 15.75 inches, filling up the vehicle at a speed that matches most plug-and-cable setups.
This car is a one-of-a-kind that is making the rounds at places like Concours d'Elegance at Pebble Beach to see if Roller buyers are interested in driving politically correct.
Frankly, we are doubtful it will get produced. Even management admits that it doesn't work for fancy hotel fleet buyers who constantly shuttle big-wigs back and forth to airports. And the individual buyer usually takes it on weekenders well beyond the electric range of about 100 miles.
Slowly but surely, Infiniti is climbing up into consideration with BMW, Mercedes and Lexus. It only took them 22 years.
THis IPL G convertible is a nicely styled cabrio that will do a good job of rounding out the showroom that has long been dominated by the very nice and sprite G coupe.
The open-air performance-tuned G is powered by a 3.7-liter V6 delivering 348 horsepower and 276 pound-feet of torque through either a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic gearbox.
The body of the Infiniti G IPL Convertible has been festooned with the same angular front and rear fascias as the coupe, along with 19-inch wheels and a reworked suspension with stiffer springs at all four corners.
It goes on sale in the spring of 2012.
My God, but we hope that this Ciel concept is not another tease from Cadillac. We remember when the Caddy Sixteen concept hit the Detroit Auto Show one year. We all drooled and begged for it, and then...nothing.
The Ciel is just plain gorgeous--almost a throwback to pre-war decadent sheetmetal, dripping with style and capital gains.
The four-seat, four-door drop top was designed to be the ultimate carriage for a drive up the California coast, and may, in fact, hint at Cadillac's aspirations to offer flagship luxury products in the future. If they build it, they'd better advertise it on the Super Bowl for a solid two minutes.
The Cadillac Ciel concept is powered by a 425-horsepower, twin-turbocharged version of GM's 3.6-liter V6 engine with direct injection that's augmented by a hybrid system using lithium-ion batteries. Those massive 22-inch wheels may not look that large because the Ciel itself is a big boat with a wheelbase 12 inches longer than a CTS sedan and overall length cresting 200 inches.
$52,000 for a MINI Cooper? Let's explain. As the name implies, MINI has loaded up its cutesy, hot hatch with goodies from its Rolls Royce cousin. BMW AG owns both MINI and Rolls. I wonder if Churchill could of imagined such a thing.
Included in this ultra-premium package:
-Walnut burl on instrument panel and door pulls
-Cornsilk biege leather lined interior including seats, fascia, door panels and pillars
-Deep lambswool fleece carpets
-Black gauge faces with Rolls Royce font
-Black napa leather dashtop
-The full complement of MINI options are standard
-Exclusive exterior and interior badging
-181 HP MINI S turbo engine standard