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a cute puppy chewing on a red KONG chew-toy, inspired by a car-part.

Chewable Volkswagen

Cool Concept Cars - by Volkswagen

VW Italdesign Machimoto with a bunch of guys in overalls and helmets riding in it.

Eight of the most interesting Volkswagen ideas

The Thing, the Rabbit, the Squareback, and the Microbus... Through the years, Volkswagen has brought us a bunch of interesting car (names). Yet it's their wide range of concept cars that more often raised an eyebrow - and gave some insight into the future of car design.

By The Editors

Wed, Sep 15, 2021 01:58 PM PST

Full disclosure: This report is based on a press release we got from Volkswagen. We found the release to be ntersting, so we thought you might too!

What Is A Concept Car?

Over the years, the car company that brought us the Thing, the Rabbit, the Squareback and the Microbus has debuted a wide range of concept cars that have raised an eyebrow on the future of car design. These dream machines are often built to test an idea or a vision, or showcase features that may one day end up on the road. Some of these vehicles – like the new VW ID.4 EV, born from the ID. CROZZ – have made their way to the company’s line-up, though many others were seen once on an auto show floor and then never again.

Why do such outlandish ideas exist at all?

Each represented a unique vision of the future, and some of those visions later became real products. Through concept vehicles, Volkswagen pushes the boundaries of what’s possible, and gets its customers and stakeholders thinking about what could come next.

Eight Of The Coolest Volkswagen Concept Cars

Here’s a look at eight of those conceptual influencers that VW has so many of.

Italdesign Machimoto

(see featured image) 

Resembling more of an amusement test car than a road vehicle, the 1986 Italdesign Machimoto was a mélange between a motorcycle, convertible, and a family car. Based on the Golf GTi 16V platform, the open-top roadster had a flexible seating system for six or nine passengers, using tandem motorcycle-style saddle seats. The car’s steering was controlled by a special wheel that could transform from a handlebar style into a traditional steering wheel. Passengers were advised to wear a helmet while cruising in the prototype, which was powered by a Golf GTI 4-cylinder engine with roughly 139 hp. Though never put into production, the Machimoto concept was featured in several Italian movies.

Volkswagen Scooter in studio photo.
The 1986 VW Scooter


Designed for city driving, the 1986 VW Scooter concept was a three-wheel, front-wheel drive car with an engine located in the front and a two-door coupé body. The prototype was influenced by the styling of the 80s and featured gull-wing doors. A featherweight at just 635kg, power was delivered to its wheels via a four-speed manual box that reached 40 hp. After the Scooter, Volkswagen was not done with “scooter” concepts and unveiled a pair of two-wheel scooters at the 2019 Geneva auto show exploring the concept of zero-emissions and city “micromobility.”

The 1989 Volkswagen Futura concept car in studio photo
The 1989 Volkswagen Futura Concept


A futuristic minivan with gullwing doors, the Volkswagen Futura was unveiled in 1989 as an IRVW (Integrated Research Volkswagen) and featured technology ahead of its time. Equipped with distance sensors, parking and braking assistance functions, a navigation system, an on-board computer, and an electric parking brake – the car received some acclaim. The Futura featured doors that opened up, not out, and offered easy access to both the front and rear rows of seats. It had a measly 82 hp engine, an evaporation cooling system and mechanical supercharger. While it never made it to market, elements of its original design could be seen in the production ID.3 at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show.

a black VW W12 Nardo with racing decals.
The VW W12 Nardo exuded speed before hitting the Nardo testtrack

W12 Nardo

The W12 Nardo is a supercar unique to Volkswagen, designed to test a new type of engine, the W-configuration, that ended up breaking a few records. First introduced as the W12 in 1997, the Nardo was re-introduced in 2001 and named after the famous Nardo test track in Italy. An Italian design team was entrusted to design a vehicle to accommodate VW’s Syncro 4WD system and integrate a 12-cylinder engine in a W-configuration, which had never been done before. Weighing in at 2,646 lbs., the 600 hp W12 could go from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds. In February 2002, the W12 Nardo concept set out to break records and drove for 24 hours straight covering 4,909.8 miles—further than any other car had managed to travel in the same amount of time. The W12 Nardo never hit the production line, but it helped Volkswagen establish a new type of engine that would be used in the Passat, multiple European Volkswagen models and most notably, the Bugatti Veyron.

A 2002 VW Magellan concept car, driving on an off-road track in mountains.
The 2002 Volkswagen Magellan was designed for outdoor enthusiasts.


Designed for the outdoor enthusiast, the Magellan was part car, part SUV and part truck. Created by Volkswagen’s Design Center in Spain in 2002, the Magellan concept was revealed around the same time the first Touareg hit market. The all-wheel drive concept had 19-inch wheels and an air suspension. Its interior could comfortably hold six passengers with three rows of two seats in a 2+2+2 layout built on monorail frames. Named in the spirit of the great explorers before it, the rugged, one-off, oddball car’s notable features included a removable navigation system, dubbed “G.P.S. to Go,” that could be used outside the vehicle for biking and hiking.

a 2005 VE Eco Racer, totally yellow in studio lighting.
The 2005 VW Eco-Racer in transition from coupe to convertible.


Built in 2005, the featherlight EcoRacer diesel sports car concept checked multiple boxes – coupe, convertible and speedster— in a quest to be the most economical sports car of all time. Debuting at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show, EcoRacer was a unique looking vehicle with a carbon fiber body and a powerful diesel engine mounted in the middle of the frame that could reach 136 hp and 62 mph in 6.3 seconds, with a top speed of 142 mph. The roof of the EcoRacer was its most unique feature—the driver could transform the EcoRacer from a coupe into a convertible by removing the hard top and then convert it to a speedster by removing the windscreen and frame. With the EcoRacer, the intention was rather to create a research vehicle that united the elements of economy and performance under a styled “roof.”

a blue 2004 VW XL Sport in a photo-studio
The 2014 VW XL Sport was a VW speed-enthusiast's dream.

XL Sport

A car built for enthusiasts of the eco-minded XL1, the 2014 XL Sport was a hyper-efficient sports car designed for speed. Propelled by the world’s most powerful two-cylinder engine, the two-seat coupe could go from 0 to 62 mph in roughly 5.7 seconds. The XL Sport had a characteristic dashboard specially designed for motorsports, with an individual lap time and oil pressure display.

a red Volkswagen Atlan Tanoak driving on the shores of what could be Southern California.
The Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak

Atlas Tanoak

Having hinted for years at bringing a pickup to the U.S. market, the Atlas Tanoak finally debuted at the New York International Auto Show in March 2018. The midsize, dual-cab pickup truck was powered by an efficient V6 petrol engine and was the world’s first pickup to be based on the ubiquitous modular transverse toolkit (MQB). Following VW's propensity to come up with funny names like Touareg and Tiguan, the Tanoak is named after a species of evergreens native to the California coastline, the car boasted 276 hp, 266 lbs-ft of torque, eight-speed automatic and 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system. It was based on an extended-wheelbase Atlas SUV, only longer, and could seat up to five passengers.

This article was compiled by the editors of LACar.

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