Monterey Car Week takes place every August in and around scenic Monterey, California. Anchored on Sunday by the historic Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the week of automotive-centric events includes a half-dozen auctions, numerous car shows, historic racing events and much more.
During the week driving around the streets of Carmel, California, the surrounding vicinity is a car show in and of itself. Countless classics share the roadways with late model exotics. A vintage brass-era vehicle, like the 1908 Ford Model T Roadster, will stroll along nonchalantly in the right lane while a supercar like the hybrid-powered 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder overtakes it on the left. Monterey Car Week provides an unforgettable car enthusiast experience even if you avoid every ticketed event.
Classic, collectible and historically significant vintage vehicles provide the centerpiece for much of what makes Monterey Car Week important, but automotive manufacturers have recognized the value of having thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, diehard automotive enthusiasts together in one central location; almost every manufacturer is represented somewhere in the Monterey Bay area. Acura’s presence was particularly strong this year as they worked to roll out the new NSX hybrid supercar. BMW was also monumental; the German automaker used the event to celebrate its 100th birthday.
One of the traditions of Monterey Car Week is for prominent carmakers and relative newcomers to showcase the latest and greatest concept cars at Sunday’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. While not on the main show field, Pebble’s “Concept Lawn” is a strong component of the Sunday show. The oval, situated on a finely manicured putting green behind Pebble Beach Lodge, conjures visions of “what could be” and what is “coming soon to a dealer near you.” Many of these concepts are from historic marques that are represented just 100 yards away on the shoreline.
Quite a few of the concept vehicles have been seen before at major media-jammed circuses like the New York International Auto Show or the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Sometimes a manufacturer with a strong tie to the concours will actually use Pebble’s Concept Lawn as the staging ground for a world debut.
The 2016 Concept Lawn was filled with well over 20 new and daring vehicles, a few of which stretched the boundaries for what is currently expected of a passenger vehicle. While digging into each and every one is beyond the scope of this article, there are a few that stuck out as significant new designs. Hopefully these concepts will influence the vehicles arriving on dealer lots for consumers.
Genesis New York Concept: A New Beginning
If you asked me whether Pontiac or Hyundai would have an eye-popping concept on the Pebble Beach lawn 20 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to conjure a world where the Genesis New York Concept existed (never mind the disappearance of General Motors’ performance division).
In 1996, Hyundai was a company primarily known for building affordable entry-level vehicles that were often regarded as subpar alternatives to well-established vehicles from Toyota, Nissan and Honda. Fast forward to the 2009 North American International Auto Show and the Hyundai Genesis sedan won the coveted North American Car of the Year trophy, besting efforts by established competitors and putting Hyundai on the map as a legitimate contender. The success of the Genesis was so profound that Hyundai has launched a new line of premium luxury vehicles under the Genesis brand name.
Similar to the path that Toyota, Honda and Nissan forged with the Lexus, Acura and Infiniti, the premium Genesis marque utilizes the hard-earned reputation that Hyundai has forged over the past decade with hopes to escalate itself as a German luxury brand contender. The newly rebadged Genesis sedan is now called the G80 and a flagship model, the recently launched G90, takes the stretched four-door formula to another level. The full-size luxury sedan is loaded with standard features, and in my short time checking it over in person I can fully attest to the premium standard that Genesis represents. The G90 is a serious new contender among flagship sedans.
The Genesis New York Concept shown on Pebble’s Concept Lawn represents a new design direction for the company. Dubbed as “athletic elegance,” the New York Concept (fittingly named as it was originally shown at the 2016 New York Auto Show) was built by the upstart to help define the “soul” of the company. With well-balanced proportions that could easily translate into a street car, the Genesis New York Concept certainly appears to be far more than a styling exercise for the company. Apart from the over-the-top touches like a steering wheel straight from a Sci-Fi channel serial, the New York Concept could be at home on the streets of any city in the United States.
Cadillac Escala Concept: GM Rises to the Occasion
Obviously pouring over 20-plus concepts and taking in the rest of the Concours show is impossible. Every concept car represented at Pebble shows signs of brilliance, but one new vehicle from Cadillac truly drew me in. I recently spent a week reviewing the all-new 2016 Cadillac CT6 and fell in love with the full-size luxury sedan’s styling, performance and comfort. The Escala, Spanish for “scale,” is Cadillac’s effort to showcase a “larger more expressive companion to the recently released CT6 prestige sedan, the brand’s remarkable new flagship model.”
According to Cadillac, the Escala concept “introduces the next evolution of Cadillac’s design language, and previews the craftsmanship and technology being developed for many new models the brand will introduce.” Spending a few minutes staring at the Escala won me over to the brand’s new direction. Rather than being revolutionary, the Escala (which can also be translated as “ladder”) appears to be an evolutionary step upward for the company. While it would certainly garner attention, the Escala wouldn’t seem out of place if it was parked in an upscale shopping district.
Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6: Peering into the Future
Sitting just outside of the Concept Lawn’s primary oval was the day’s true show-stopper. If the Genesis and Cadillac concepts tease at the immediate future of each brand, the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 stares into the looking glass and sees well beyond. With a total length of about 20 feet, the aptly named “6” stretches the imagination in more ways than one. The conceived electric power plant would propel the epically proportioned luxury coupe over 300 miles on a charge, which is a testament to the Vision’s future relevance.
Last December I had the opportunity to spend a week with the Mercedes-AMG GT S, a radically designed sports car powered by a raucous 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine. The response to the bright yellow GT S was overwhelming. Strangers would flag me down in parking lots; the neighbors asked if I needed help with my job. The GT S garnered more attention than any other vehicle I’ve reviewed. To gain perspective, the new Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 makes the GT S look like it is straight from the rental car fleet. The outrageous grille, ridiculously long hood, hilariously small rear windows and 24-inch wheels are straight from a cartoon; an animated series that I would love to be drawn into.
While we may not see a Vision 6 production car in the next decade there is a good chance that we see hints of the beautiful concept in future Mercedes-AMG releases.
Well, here is to hoping anyway.