The 2014 Beijing motor show was used by car makers not only to show off their latest showroom models, but also give clues to some of their future plans or to test new cars on customers before they launch them.
Here we round up some of the best concept cars from Beijing and put a spotlight on some of the more interesting cars destined for sale only in China for now.
VW Golf R 400 concept
There are very few people in the world for whom the VW Golf R is not fast enough but, crucially, there are some, which is why the VW Golf R 400 concept is on display at the Beijing motor show this weekend.
Most notable, then, is the 395bhp and 332lb ft of torque produced from its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. That’s a rise of 99bhp and 52lb ft over the standard Golf R, and enough to lop a whole second off the R’s 0-62mph time. The R 400 will cover that sprint in a supercar-baiting 3.9sec.
As well as mind-blowing performance, boosted by the car’s four-wheel-drive system, the R 400 concept is distinguished by its overtly sporty looks, inspired by motorsport, and the manner in which its engineers have made extensive use of carbonfibre body panels to save weight.
The VW Golf R 400 is expected to make production, rivaling the likes of the BMW M235i and Mercedes A45 AMG.
Audi TT Offroad Concept
You’ll note the concept tag attached to this Audi TT Offroad, which in car industry-speak means that it is testing reaction among potential customers.
However, you can be pretty certain that Audi will launch this sporty rival to the Porsche Macan and BMW X4, because the number of buyers demanding all the benefits of an SUV with rakish coupe looks is growing all the time.
The concept is a five-door model with individual seats, although a three-door version with a more flexible seating arrangement would almost certainly go on sale when the car is launched.
Likewise, the advanced plug-in petrol-electric hybrid system – which uses a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and a pair of electric motors – is expected to be just one of the powertrain options when the Audi TT Offroad goes on sale. Insiders suggest that a production version will be in dealerships by 2016 if it is given the green light.
Mercedes-Benz Concept Coupe SUV
This Mercedes-Benz Concept Coupe SUV shows how the firm’s BMW X6 rival will look when it goes on sale around 2015.
When it does reach production – which is regarded as a formality – it will be called the Mercedes MLC SUV.
As with the X6, the MLC will chase buyers who want the space and practicality of an SUV combined with the sloping roofline and sporty looks of a coupe.
Mercedes has not confirmed any engine choices yet, but they are likely to include units currently sold with the Mercedes ML. That would mean - at the very least - a V6 diesel as well as a V8-powered AMG model.
Bentley Mulsanne Hybrid Concept
Forget the body style of the car itself and concentrate instead on the hybrid powertrain. This Hybrid Concept car has been unveiled by Bentley in China to start the process of educating customers about the technology that lies beneath the metal.
By combining an engine with electric motors, Bentley claims that it can increase power available over an equivalent engine-only car by around 25%, while also reducing CO2 emissions by 70%.
Cars powered by the hybrid system, which is recharged by plugging the car into an electric socket, will also be able to drive around 30 miles on electric power alone.
Bentley officials suggest the hybrid powertrain will first appear in the firm’s upcoming new large SUV, which will rival the likes of the Range Rover LWB and Porsche Cayenne Turbo, and will go on sale in 2017.
The hybrid system will then be rolled out across the vast majority of Bentley’s range before the end of the decade.
Volkswagen New Midsize Coupé Concept
Described by its makers as a 'four-door coupe the like of which has never been seen before in this vehicle class', the Volkswagen New Midsize Coupé (NMC) Concept is likely to be destined for production in around three years.
Measuring 142cm high, 460cm long and 184cm wide, it is shorter than a VW Passat or VW Jetta, but wider than both.
Insiders suggest the NMC will most likely go on sale with toned-down styling and smaller wheels as a baby VW Passat CC.
Peugeot Exalt concept
Some have called this concept car Peugeot’s future Porsche Panamera rival, although its makers prefer to bill it as a future vision of the luxury saloon.
Measuring 470cm long, the five-door luxury saloon has a low roofline of 131cm, with its sleek shape 'concealing a cabin that is still spacious', according to Peugeot. The concept sits on 20-inch wheels, and weighs 1700kg.
It is powered by the same 1.6-litre THP engine found in the Peugeot RCZ R, but the petrol engine’s 266bhp is supplemented by a 67bhp electric motor mounted on the multi-link rear axle. It automatically selects which driving mode to use, choosing from pure electric, petrol only or petrol-electric hybrid options.
Most significantly, it puts the spotlight on the use of several alternative materials not currently found on luxury cars from market leaders such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes. These include unembellished wood in the interior, an exposed metal interior and a red microdot-covered fabric that is stretched round the rear of the car and which Peugeot says improves aerodynamic performance and fuel consumption.
Sophie Gazeau, colour and materials stylist for the concept, said: 'There is more than one way to do luxury. We hear a lot about authenticity, but what is authentic about a piece of wood that has 1000 layers of lacquer on it, or real leather that is treated so much that it looks like plastic, no matter for how many years you use it?'
BMW Vision Future Luxury
It might have exaggerated looks and a highly conceptual-sounding name, but this is the best clue yet as to how the next BMW 7 Series will look when it goes on sale in 2015.
As the BMW Vision Future Luxury is very much a concept car, you can expect some of the more extreme styling to be toned down when the car hits production, including the large front grille, the pillarless, rear-hinged doors and the oversized alloy wheels.
Perhaps the most innovative feature on the car is the use of carbonfibre in the side panels. BMW has already used this strong yet light material in its i3 and i8 electric cars, and its use is expected to drip-feed across to more mainstream vehicles.
The interior also appears to be largely conceptual, with insiders suggesting the design showcases the kinds of materials – including brushed aluminium and wood styles - 7 Series buyers can expect to see next year, as opposed to a direct indication of the car’s cabin. The touch-screen and new-look iDrive controller are expected to make production, though.
Citroen DS 6WR
This is the latest car to be revealed by Citroen’s luxury DS sub-brand and it will go on sale later this year. However, despite its good looks and obvious global appeal, it will initially be sold only in China.
It measures 455cm long, 186cm wide and 161cm tall, making it slightly longer, wider but lower than the Peugeot 3008. It will be offered with a choice of 1.6-litre engines producing 160bhp or 200bhp, mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox.
Other features include Grip Control, which it is claimed optimises two-wheel-drive traction without the need for a four-wheel-drive set-up.
This Hyundai i20-based baby SUV is not currently destined for sale outside China, although that situation could change quickly if sales of such cars continues to grow.
The Hyundai ix25 clearly takes styling inspiration from the larger Hyundai ix35, and is likely to be powered by a choice of 1.2- and 1.4-litre petrols, and a 1.4-litre turbodiesel.
Citroen C-XR Concept
The Citroen C-XR is another small SUV that appears destined for sales success - but initially only in China.
Like the DS 6WR, its compact dimensions and stylish looks mean that it enters this boom segment of the car industry at the right time, but the PSA Group (which owns Citroen and DS) simply doesn't have an appropriate diesel engine in its line-up to allow for a launch in diesel-dominated markets such as Europe. Watch this space.
No, your eyes do not deceive you: the Ford Escort is back, but it’s now a front-wheel-drive saloon that is for sale in China.
Small saloons are big sellers in China, and Ford is eager to expand its offering beyond the hatchback Ford Focus. It chose to bring back the Ford Escort name after market research revealed that it still resonated among Chinese buyers.