It never fails. Every auto show season, there's at least one automaker who rolls out a concept version of a new SUV that is — although they vehemently deny it — bound for production. That's all well and good, except when they somehow manage to lose the back two doors on the way to reveal day.
Okay, okay, I can already hear you out there. "But automakers always emphasize form over function with concept cars. That's a part of what makes them concepts. You're just complaining to complain here, so shut your trap already and enjoy them like the rest of us."
I guess I can't argue with you ... unless we're talking about concept cars that are really just heavily modified or over-styled versions of what automakers already have coming down the pipeline, in which case I'll just sit here, cross my arms, and stubbornly shake my head left to right.
Why? Let's sit down and think about concept cars for a second. Manufacturers these days really aren't much on rolling out concepts without having some intent to actually build them. Sure, you'll get a fanciful mid-engined something or other with a billion turbochargers and a massive engine thrown your way every now and then, but few concept cars are pure and simple show cars anymore. The days of when stuff like the Cadillac Cien or Jeep Hurricane ruled the auto show circuit are just as gone as the economy that spawned them, as much as it sucks to say it. Concept cars now are used solely as marketing and development tools so that automakers can build enthusiasm for and gauge the press's and public's opinions on an upcoming model. And that's where I take issue with all of these three-door SUV concepts automakers have been forcing on us lately.
At the Geneva Auto Show this week, there were two sport-ute concepts that more or less previewed an upcoming production model — the VW T-Roc (pictured above, under my scathing caption) which will spawn a new model below the Tiguan, and Hyundai Intrado which likely previews the next-generation Tuscon. Previously, at the Detroit Auto Show, Volvo rolled out the Concept XC Coupe concept which will likely be turned into the upcoming redesigned XC90. All of them had one thing in common: they only had three doors.
So what's the big deal about that? Is there a big deal? Yeah, there is.
Each production model those three will spawn will all have five doors instead of only three, ruining the styling in the process. With the exception of Land Rover and the Range Rover Evoque, I can't think of a single automaker who has flaunted a three-door SUV concept in the past that's managed to keep the styling completely intact for its five-door production counterpart. It's actually rare that a vehicle initially designed only for two or three doors looks good when you add a set of back doors and call it quits (see almost every awkward sedan ever from the '50s, '60s, and '70s).
So why not design the concept version to have five-doors from the start? What's the point in more or less lying about it? We know we'll be able to buy one of the damn things shortly after it's debuted. After all, even with the cost of fuel about as reliable as Chevy Cobalt ignition switches and Lindsay Lohan's sobriety, people still buy tons of sports-utility vehicles and automakers can't say no to the temptation of sending yet another face to a crowded party where the beer ran out about three hours ago.
Considering that we know the role concept cars now serve, what's the point showing something that you're going to totally muck up and drastically alter in the process of homologating it for showrooms? It also isn't like automakers don't build concept versions of upcoming sport-utes with five-doors, either. Or — here's an even better question — why not just build a few more three-door SUVs? At least taking away two doors makes more sense and looks way better than putting a hunchback roofline on one (looking at you BMW X4 and X6).
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