Hyundai unveiled a gorgeous new concept car at the New York International Auto Show this week, the Genesis “New York” Concept. It not only hints at future design direction; it will also result in a real car within the next 18 months, according to Hyundai insiders.
Sized in between typical D-segment and E-segment cars (3-series and 5-series BMW sedans, for example), the New York is decidedly not a moonshot that dares to redefine design. Rather, its proportions and form factor follow the well-understood “three-box” convention (a hood, a cabin, and a trunk). But, as with anything worthwhile, the devil’s in the details and we think Hyundai’s beaten the devil.
Hyundai is spinning off its Genesis cars into a new brand—think Nissan/Infiniti, Honda/Acura, or Toyota/Lexus. The Genesis brand currently has but one car production car, the G90, and is aiming for BMW’s M division with its own N division. Judging by the New York Concept, the competition should be on alert.
“This car is not really a show car,” Hyundai and Kia chief designer Peter Schreyer told us. “It’s much more a glimpse into the future of Genesis. For us, starting from scratch as we did with the New York is a designer’s dream. We can build from a clean sheet; we don’t have to adapt to a prior work.”
While the New York is aggressive, it is simultaneously slim, a difficult achievement. With a very low roof, the DLO (day light opening or side window space) at the sides appear shallow. Painted dove grey with a hint of blue, the New York’s color reminds us of classic 1950s German hues. The tapered derriere is even more elegant than the front, using very slim and jewel-like taillamps and four exhaust pipes visually offset by copper trim, itself a corporate color of the company’s.
Hyundai and sister company Kia have been home to one of the auto industry’s finest designers, Peter Schreyer, for many years and recently picked up Luc Donckerwolke from Bentley to succeed Schreyer as head of design for the corporation. And at Hyundai Design North America, Chris Chapman is Hyundai’s chief designer, the man chiefly responsible for pushing the concept and eventual production BMW X3, X5 and Z4 models while a key player at BMW Group’s DesignworksUSA in California before heading up new vehicle and concept design at Hyundai N.A. in 2012.
I asked Chapman about the New York’s guiding principle.
“What you see must feel natural, pure and at ease in it’s own skin,” Chapman says. “Everything must instinctually be in the right place, and that begins with proportions. Highly complex or intellectual design doesn’t normally work to most eyes. If it looks and feels natural, you know the design team has taken the time to cook it properly.”
In this regard, the New York is not complicated. It uses simple surfaces. The proportion, its volume, and the car’s stance are all well-understood and conventional.
At the very front, the New York is bracketed by dimples that look to be inspired by F1-inspired barge boards or a race car’s front wing end plates. This may seem far-fetched and fussy, but it works brilliantly to make the front seem even wider and offer a kind of architecture. Simultaneously, the rear echoes this design with smaller dimples than the front, which still accentuate the width of the fenders at the rear.
We asked Chapman what primary or single theme he’s most proud of on the New York Concept.
“A car’s C pillar is the prime real estate for design,” he says. “That’s the place where the car lives or dies design-wise. The beauty of a good C pillar makes or breaks the car. If it’s too thick or thin, if it leans too much or too little; those are the critical questions. On the New York, it’s just right. When the C pillar works you don’t have other battles to fight.” Chapman also cites the classic BMW Hoffmeister kink and the Lamborghini Miura (technically, a B Pillar) as paragons of C pillar achievement. Interestingly, the little wind splits at the B pillars also give the DLO a new kind of detail.