The only real surprise of the Los Angeles Auto Show was the wacky GX3, the second small and athletic but eco-friendly concept to come from Volkswagen--the first was the EcoRacer from the 2005 Tokyo motor show. The roofless, three-wheeled GX3--which is essentially the lovechild of the EcoRacer and a street bike--is even more basic than the Tokyo concept, with motorcycle-style headlights, no windshield, composite body panels, and twin roll bars into which are set LED taillights. The GX3's two passengers sit shoulder-to-shoulder in the doorless, roofless cabin protected by racing-style harnesses but, um, no hint of air bags.
Wolfgang Bernhardt drove the GX3 out, proving that it is a runner. It is powered by a barely muffled, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine mounted transversely behind the seats that sends its 125 hp and 112.5 lb-ft of torque to the chain-driven, foot-wide rear tire via a six-speed manual transmission. Volkswagen claims the 1257-lb trike can accelerate from 0-62 mph in 5.7 seconds and get 46 mpg (presumably not at the same time). Even more impressive is the GX3's claim of 1.25g cornering capability.
As crazy as it looks, the GX3 is remarkably well wrought for a concept, which leads us to our favorite part: according to Bernhardt, it may actually be produced as soon as 2007, at a price that of less than $17,000, if customer reaction is positive enough. Furthermore, as a motorcycle-style vehicle, VW says, the GX3 would be cleared for solo driving in California's HOV lanes--a la hybrid cars--making it a commuter's dream come true. However, being in the motorcycle class, it would require a motorcycle driver's license to operate. And yes, one would have to wear a helmet in states with helmet laws; a small price to pay for such big fun.