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The CAR Top 10: cars with superpowers

Published: 22 October 2013

Here’s a bunch of auto superheroes more suited to Iron Man’s lair than his shonky Cobra and those product-placed R8s. 

1. The flying car

It’s a car! It’s a plane! It’s super-ugly, whatever it is. Merc came close to perfecting the flying car with Peter Dumbreck’s somersaulting CLR at Le Mans in ’99, but US firm Terrafugia is the first to make flight intentional. Yes, the ‘Transition’ looks dreadful, but we’d probably say yes to a flying Suzuki X90 if it meant skipping the M25. Probably.

2. The Jeeps that climb walls

Everyone knows that Jeeps can climb kerbs and the odd rock, but this 4x4 has a go at climbing walls too, before driving around on its back wheels like a hound begging for scraps.

3. The 747-towing Touareg

Stump-pulling torque? I’ll see you and raise you with the plane-pulling might of Volkswagen’s mighty V10 Touareg TDI. Weighed down with 7000kg of ballast, the first-gen VW SUV used its 553lb ft of torque to haul the 155-tonne decommissioned plane for a publicity stunt in 2006. Now, if it had got off the ground, then we would have been impressed.

4. The Saab with the bionic ears

Once, like wearing a hat, getting the right grade of fuel for your car was critical. Tune it for 98 octane, then fill it with 95, and you’d be treated with a percussion solo worthy of the LSO, and eventually, melted engine internals. Then Saab fitted the first knock sensor to its 900, which listened for pinking and stopped it by retarding the ignition to the benefit of the retarded everywhere.

5. The shape-shifting BMW

BMW built the Gina concept in 2002 but didn’t show it to us until 2008. Or maybe we just didn’t see it: the polyurethane-coated Lycra skin was stretched over a moveable metal structure that allowed the driver to change the car’s shape on demand.

6. The aquatic Elise

James Bond did it on celluloid with the Lotus Esprit in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, then habitual motor show magicians Rinspeed did it for real with the Elise-based Squba 22 years later. CAR’s Ben Pulman drove it and failed to emerge in a perfectly pressed blazer. In fact he got drenched – unlike Rog’s sub, this one requires full scuba gear.

7. The all-seeing S–class

Not only can the latest Benz flagship see pedestrians ahead long before you’ve spotted them and apply the brakes when it spots an impending collision, it can actually read the surface of the road and adjust the air suspension settings to suit. It can also nip down the shop for a pint of milk. Probably.

8. The self-driving car

Actually the day when your car nips to the shops might not be too far off. In the noughties a competition for self-driving vehicles, funded by a branch of the US military, attracted teams from all over the world. The research might lead to self-driving cars, but fully autonomous ground troops are the real aim. Did someone say Terminator? Scary stuff.

9. The iron man Marauder

You need a tough truck to kick sand in the face of a Hummer H1, but that’s exactly what the armoured Marauder does. Machine gun, cannons and missile launchers can be fitted to target enemies, while the double-skin hull keeps occupants safe, because running is no option: this thing has a worse power-to-weight ratio than a 2CV.

10. The invisible Skoda

Skoda’s bland-looking Felicia had a knack of passing you by unnoticed, but artist Sara Watson went one further, painting hers to make it disappear into the background outside her studio. Well, when viewed from a certain angle. Any other vanatge point and it looked like a vandalised scrapper crying out for a Police Aware sticker. 

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

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