“What we have always tried to do in Pininfarina is a car which is trying constantly to balance two aspects: Character and Harmony. It’s easy to do something with a lot of character that is strange, is disharmonious. Less easy, but more accessible, is a result which is quite harmonious – but then you say ‘hmm… boring…’
“So, the right balance between character & harmony is probably the quintessential recipe of Pininfarina; interesting in terms of personality, but not strange.”
So says Carlo Bonzanigo, design director and vice president of the Italian design consultancy. Their latest attempt at hitting this balance is a flowing 2+2 for Hybrid Kinetic, the Hong Kong-based brand who became a client in 2016 (starting with the H600 sedan).
Called the GT, it retains the electric drive and micro-turbine range extender under the skin, but gains new fastback proportions, dramatic full-length gullwing doors and a fresh approach to the interior.
“What Pininfarina is doing with HK is building up a range of products, creating the brand identity and the aesthetic universe,” he explains further.
“We have tried to apply a form language which is very rich, conveying premium-ness – not hollow, not dry, but quite voluptuous – which is also perfectly in keeping with the traditional Italian volumes.”
When faced with the GT for the first time, the full-width DRG dominates. Initially established for the H600, the angular graphic which takes in the lights and grille is vertically narrower than before, swallowing the headlights which are now merely a triplet of LEDs on each side.
Rippling out from the central badge are white LED boomerangs, inspired by the HK logo, which each sit on the leading edge of guide vanes sending cool air to the turbine inside.
Said air is then vented out the side and through two vents far up the bonnet, which allowed the exterior team “to sculpt the body, mix functionality with sensuality and fullness.”
Above them, the same chrome waistline highlighter that appeared on the HK600 stretches to the rear pillar, wraps around the DLO and ends just above the base of the A-pillar, leaving a blacked-out section to avoid the line intersecting with itself and create a feeling of lightness (a theme that runs through the car’s whole design).
Alas, the aluminium-effect silver paint means this chrome highlight struggles to stand out as much as on the brown HK600.
Thankfully, the side profile isn’t relying on mere chrome to add interest.
“The main bone of the car is the beltline which is slightly flowing towards the rear, compressing the cabin over rear wheel – which is a very common yet very efficient formula of the old GTs,” observes Bonzanigo. “Everything contributes to compress the car onto the rear part.”
Also contributing to this effect is the exact size and placement of the heat vent behind the front 22-inch wheel.
When we wondered aloud that the vent could’ve been taller for a fuller proportion, Bonzanigo countered with two points: not only would larger vents be too aggressive for an elegant GT, but the vent’s placement generates the starting points for the only two character lines in the bodyside (one crisp, the other soft) which together lead the eye towards the rear wheel, while also adding a sense of direction as they gradually separate from each other towards the rear.
The falling upper line deliberately isn’t running parallel to the beltline, so as to avoid the aforementioned risk of being ‘harmonious but boring’.
All this compression towards the rear creates a rounded tail with no excess fat, the rear surfacing created almost entirely with horizontal lines to add visual width.
A modest, necessary diffuser features a red highlighter line, flanked by short, aligned strips of chrome.
The cabin of this 2+2 coupé doesn’t merely pay lip service to the idea of rear seats – as is common for this bodystyle – instead aiming to use aesthetic and technological devices to connect the two rows.
Head of interiors, Matteo Piguzzi, explains: “On the first day we were already sketching, and then suddenly we stopped and decided to start in another way. The idea was to start from the user experience to create this interior. Who’ll own this car; what do they do? This question was very interesting and we decided to create a history.”
The story revolves around two parents and their two children. First the driver enjoys the car on their own in ‘GT Mode’, with simplified performance-focused IP graphics and orange ambient lighting (chosen instead of an aggressive red, adding a slightly more furniture-like aesthetic inside).
Then they pick up the family in ‘Cruise Mode’, wherein the lighting turns blue and an infotainment touchscreen appears, previously hidden under a lid of grey oak trim on the passenger side.
More screens activate in the centre console and along the doors, allowing front and rear passengers to ‘sweep’ images and information fore and aft as they plan or enjoy their trip.
If that isn’t warm and cuddly enough, the theme goes further: the split between white and black leather pieces is described as two distinct ‘hugs’. The lower, black one embraces the whole cabin, while the white one on top wraps around the front seats, flowing across the centre console and along the doors, plus a wing across the top of the dash.
To keep the white ‘hug’ together, the seats are fixed and the controls adjust towards the driver.
“This connection is starting with the first step we did with HK last year [see the H600’s T-formation pair of long screens] and now we are improving, bringing it to another level. All the passengers need to be able to share the emotions of being in this car, not only in the front but also in the back. We tried to make this connection through technology,” Piguzzi adds.
The rear bench is missing a large section of its backrest, creating a ‘wing’ that carries the headrests above the lower back support (it’s never been easier to pack your skis…). We were told the resultant shape was “perfectly comfortable” by the boss. We sat in it ourselves and weren’t so sure.
While the greyscale leather and oak panels blend cleanly with the silver paint, they are punctuated by orange highlighting, which also rings around the peculiar, almost hexagonal steering wheel (apparently a round one didn’t fit with its surroundings) and creates a very Hollywood colour contrast with the blue Cruise Mode lighting.
Equally noteworthy is a ‘capitone’ diamond pattern in the rear seat, incorporating the HK logo and inspired by those boomerangs seen outside.
Bonzanigo tells us, “we have introduced a pattern, like Luis Vuitton or Gucci [or – ahem – DS…], because a pattern is something which immediately projects a brand into a certain level, something that often helps to establish a certain set of values.”
The pattern changes size to follow the contours of the seat, then reaches forwards and fades out as it nears the white ‘hug’.
Having worked for over 50 brands in its 87-year history, the iconic little Pininfarina logo adds a certain credibility to the design of any car it adorns. That, perhaps, is what start-up companies like Hybrid Kinetic and Vietnam’s VinFast are banking on when they go halfway around the world to collaborate with the storied carrozzeria.
Will they ignite the next era of famous, successful Pininfarina designs? Only time will tell…