Best concept cars from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show

Will Kinton

While the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit introduced many exciting new production cars and trucks, some manufacturers also used the Detroit Auto Show to introduce new concept cars to show off what the future of the brand could be.

From Acura to Volkswagen, we saw concepts that challenged the way we perceive their respective brands. These concepts ran the gambit between something you could see in neighbors driveway to something that looked like it just arrived from the year 2050, where door handles or headroom may no longer be needed.

Here is a rundown of what concept cars from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show we liked the most.

See also: Our 5 favorite new cars and trucks from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show 

Volkswagen Tiguan GTE Active Concept: Best concept from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show based on reality points

Best concept cars from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show

Concept cars generally fall into two categories. The first category is what you think of when you think of concept cars: design exercises unfettered by regulation, safety, practicality or even reality. These concept cars generally are closer to works of art than an actual product, and have very little chance of making it into production. Their only purpose is to spark the public's imagination and to encourage consumers to think of the brand in a new way. The second category comprises cars that are actually not too far off from being a real automobile. Car companies create these more-down-to-earth concept cars to gauge the public's reaction and see if a market may exist. If their concept car is well received, there is a good chance that it may make it to the streets. The Volkswagen Tiguan GTE Active Concept falls in that second category.

In that case, Volkswagen, if you're listening, please build this!

From the integrated rooftop light bar and fender flares to the skid plates and beefy BF Goodrich all-terrain tires, this VW looks like it's ready to blast through the desert, or drive through suburban streets. Underneath the rugged-looking exterior, there is actually an ultra-high-tech hybrid system based on the euromarket plug-in Golf GTE hybrid. Electric motors can run the front and rear wheels separately, with the default mode powering only the rear wheels up to 70 mph for up to 20 miles. A turbocharged 2.0 L four-cylinder gasoline engine supplements the electric motors, giving the GTE Active Concept a total of 220 HP, propelling the mid-sized crossover from 0-60 mph in 6.4 seconds.

Best concept cars from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show

Best concept cars from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show

Buick Avista: Best concept from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show based on generational-shift points

Best concept cars from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show
When most people think of Buick, they think of slowly moving septuagenarians. Buick hopes to challenge that established notion with the stunningly beautiful Avista coupe concept. Exuding elegance, and draped in a wonderfully dynamic blue paint, the Avista may be the most beautiful new concept in Detroit. The lines on the car are said to evoke a feeling of motion, and we think it performs that task well.

Not only does this car look fast, it would probably be fast, too. The Avista shares its chassis with the fantastic new Chevy Camaro and the Cadillac ATS, and GM says it would receive a 400 horsepower, 3.0 L turbocharged V6. The Avista would be a classic 2+2 grand touring coupe that would be a welcome addition to the roads of America. Well done, Buick.

Best concept cars from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show

Best concept cars from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show

Acura Precision Concept: Best concept from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show based on experimental points + bonus headlight points

Best concept cars from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show
This Acura Precision Concept is pure art, from the creases in the hood, to those amazing headlights and metallic red paint. The interior is dominated by four two-toned bucket seats, a racing-inspired steering wheel and paddle shifters. At the center of the interior is what Acura calls the "Human Machine Interface" or HMI, which "becomes your personal assistant." The HMI display retracts into the dashboard and will scan its occupants to determine their personal preferences. At the end of the day, this is a design experiment through and through, and is not bound by realism. There is no powertrain yet specified, and the suicide doors are unlikely to ever be put into production.

Even if the Acura Precision Concept is the just a design concept, it's still significant. Acura is in a bit of a quandary right now, because the RDX SUV is the only car they build that has maintained relevance. The Acura NSX has not been nearly as well received as Acura had hoped. The brand is desperate to separate itself from the crowd, and this could be a key.

"This is not a concept car, it's a vision of the future of Acura," is how an Acura product specialist described the car. It would be a good thing if Acura followed through, especially with those fantastic headlights.

Best concept cars from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show

Best concept cars from the 2016 Detroit Auto Show

About the writer: Will Kinton thinks life is too short to drive boring cars, and enjoys sharing his passion for them. For more, follow him on Twitter:@willkinton247.

See also: 2016 self-driving cars: Google, Daimler, Audi, Tesla lead pack

Plus: Apple CarPlay: A smarter brain for your car

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