Over its history, Volkswagen has set its own path. Unlike other brands focused on uncompromising performance vehicles, Volkswagen pushes innovation in a more conventional space.

What might shock you is just how far ahead of their time they often are. Today we’re going to take a look at four of the most avant-garde Volkswagen Concept Cars ever created.

These vehicles are forward-thinking, emotion-evoking, and sadly, never made it to production.

✅  Southern California’s Volkswagen HQ –> Ontario Volkswagen

A VW City Car From The Future

In 1986 the Volkswagen Scooter was unveiled.  This front-wheel-drive three-wheeled car is specifically for city life.

To get from place to place it used a 40 horsepower engine mated to a four-speed manual transmission.  While it might not sound like much, keep in mind that the two-seater only weighs 1,400 pounds.

1986 Volkswagen Scooter - car with seats

1986 Volkswagen Scooter

So its small size and efficient powertrain make it perfect for city life and tighter spaces. It also features flashy gull-wing doors. That makes it one of the most stylish and efficient vehicles of its day.

A Flexible Sports Car

In 2005, the hottest Volkswagen Concept Car was the EcoRacer.  In a way, it shared a slight similarity to the Scooter. That’s because it’s efficient.

In fact, Volkswagen’s intention was for it to be the most economical sports car of all time.  To achieve that, Volkswagen powers the EcoRacer with a 1.3-liter diesel engine making 134 horsepower.

yellow 2005 VW Ecoracer - Volkswagen Concept Cars

2005 VW Ecoracer

It also features some wild configure-ability.  It’s a coupe, a convertible, and a speedster in a single-vehicle.  The hardtop roof can be removed to turn it into an open-top convertible.

If that’s not enough wind in your hair, the windscreen and its frame.

VW XL Sport

The XL Sport (pictured atop this article) was a faster version of another concept.  And that was the XL1, which was innovative but, slow.  To remedy that, Volkswagen created another concept that still shared some DNA with the Scooter and the EcoRacer.

Thus the Volkswagen XL Sport was born.  It uses the same body and the same wild doors as the XL1 but with more performance.  0-60 happens in just 5.7 seconds – less than half the time it took the XL1.  Also, the driver information display continues the performance theme by drawing attention to oil pressure and lap times.

But what’s wild is that all that performance comes from a 197-horsepower two-cylinder Ducati motorcycle engine.  That’s thinking outside the box.

W12 Nardo Supercar

Ok, so Volkswagen has built one car that quit caring about anything but lap times.  It’s this, the W12 Nardo.  First introduced in 1997 and then re-introduced in 2001.  And it was named after the famous Nardo test track in Italy – the Nardo Ring.

Under the rear decklid is a 6.0-liter W12 engine making 600 horsepower.  This was a zero-compromise supercar that was developed for some five years before ending up as little more than a design study.

Volkswagen W12 Nardo

W12 Nardo – 600 HP

Notably, though, Volkswagen did end up using information gained from the W12 project in future cars with W12 engines like the Passat, the Phaeton, and ultimately in the W16 Bugatti Veyron. Imagine what Volkswagen would be today if they had put this kind of car into production.

VW Futura

Because Tesla wasn’t the first to come up with gullwing doors on a passenger car.  Volkwagen’s Futura was unveiled in 1989.

And there was a lot more tech packed into the snappy-sage name.  For instance, distance sensors, parking and braking assistance, and a navigation system – to name a few.

1989 VW Futura - Volkswagen Concept Cars

1989 Volkswagen Futura

Ugly?  Sure, but hey the Tesla’s Model X isn’t winning any awards for being a good-looking ride – at least not from iDriveSoCal. :0)

Also, it included an 82 HP engine with a mechanical supercharger.  Of course, the Futura never made it to production.  But interestingly elements of it did make their way into the ID.3 which was introduced in 2019 at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

Italdesign Machimoto

For sure the VW Italdesign Machimoto was not one of the coolest concept cars – in our opinion.  Rather a futuristic clown car would be a better description.

Volkswagen describes it as a cross between a motorcycle, convertible, and family car.  Steering the vehicle was done through a mechanism that could be converted into either handlebars or a steering wheel.   We can only guess it would allow for either depending on the driver’s mood.

Italdesign Machimoto - futuristic clown car with 5 or 6 riders in space suits

Italdesign Machimoto

Apparently, this contraption made it into a number of Italian movies.  We can only assume they were spoofs or comedies.  Because it’s hard to look at this vehicle and not chuckle.

Riders were encouraged to wear helmets.  More than likely that was for safety.  But the dual benefit had to also be so no one you knew would see you in it.

Atlas Tanoak

Truck lovers in the United States have been teased by this last concept for quite a while.  And we’re hoping this finally makes it to our shores.

Because the Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak debuted in March of 2018 at the New York International Auto Show.  The midsize pickup is based on VW’s MQB platform

VW Atlas Tanoak - Volkswagen Concept Cars

Atlas Tanoak pickup concept

Ironically Tanoak is a species of evergreens native to California’s coastline.  And the Atlas Tanoak concept is based on an extended wheel-base version of the popular Atlas SUV.

Reportedly there’s a Tanoak slated for European markets but no news of a US version.  However, I’m buying one as soon as it makes its way here.