Driveable dreams: VW concept vehicles draw big crowds in Frankfurt

Being a car designer is one of the coolest jobs around. You get to use French curves and computers and fancy drawing pads any time you want, and when your project is done, you can drive it down the street and—quite literally—toot your own horn.

But sometimes, car designers just want to stretch their wings—think outside the chassis, as it were. Enter the concept vehicle, where designers get to see their dreams come to life, one vehicle at a time. At the 64th International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Volkswagen unveiled a number of new concept vehicles, most notably, the NILS and the Beetle R.

The futuristic-looking NILS is a single-seat electric vehicle designed with urban commuters in mind. It’s easy to park because it takes up less space than most cars and easy to love because it has a top speed of 80 mph—with zero emissions or noise. The NILS also features imaginatively stylish touches like polycarbonate gull wing doors and individual fenders for each 17-inch aluminum alloy wheel.

Another concept vehicle made its debut in Frankfurt, but this one looked a little more familiar to Volkswagen aficionados. The Beetle R (the “R” is for “Racing”) Concept takes its cues from other racing-inspired Volkswagens, like the upcoming 2012 Golf R. At first glance, the changes may appear to be cosmetic, but the designers didn’t add things just for show; every new design element has a functional component, too. The wider bumpers improve aerodynamics, the redesigned instrument panel puts the most important information front and center and the pair of chrome dual exhaust pipes feature a rear diffuser to improve handling and keep the Beetle R grounded at top speeds.

And while it’s true that most concept vehicles are just that—concepts—there is the occasional outlier that makes its way to the production line. Enter the Volkswagen up!, which made its own debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 2007. At the time, it was just a concept vehicle, but starting this December, three production models of the up! will be available in Europe. It blends style, practicality and luxury in an affordable vehicle that’s perfect for urban environments. Its spacious interior belies the fact that it’s only 11.6 feet long, and best of all, it gets up to 56 mpg with very low emissions.

Let the up! serve as inspiration to fans of the NILS and the Beetle R. It’s proof that dreams really can come true, so remember that when your head hits the pillow tonight.


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