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NY 2018: The stunning Genesis Essentia

29 March 2018 | by Chris Maillard

Leaving the best until last, the undoubted styling star of the New York Auto Show must surely be the Genesis Essentia. It’s a bubble-topped, gullwing-doored,  long-hooded, cab-rearward electric grand tourer concept – a style that is starting to see quite a renaissance in concept car circles recently, partly thanks to Renault (Trézor) and Mazda (Vision Coupe). But the Genesis is easily their equal, thanks to some clever touches, a little adventurous engineering, a thoroughly well-crafted interior and a rather beautifully sculpted shape.

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We spoke to Genesis VP of design SangYup Lee and his close colleague Luc Donckerwolke, Head of Genesis Design, about their elegantly attention-grabbing concept, while trying, and mostly failing, to avoid the film crews and photographers swarming all over the marque’s show stand and the car itself.

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“This is a good clue to the future direction of Genesis design,” confided Luc. “The body has our parabolic line, which is an anti-wedge dropping line and makes the car very elegant, and also the four-lamp signature. It’s easy to make a headlamp big, but making it as small and bright as possible is tricky, but it’s very important for the brand identity. We also took it past the wheel arch. Why can't a headlamp go from the front round to the side, to give a really interesting light signature?

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“Another interesting element is the hood. Of course it’s electric so there’s no engine under there, but we used the space for a lot of airflow channels and also made it transparent so you can see the suspension under it. We made the whole car very aerodynamic, but in an elegant way rather than aggressively sporty. The two cornerstones of the design philosophy were ‘athletic elegance’ and they worked very well together.“

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That’s SangYup Lee, seen on the right explaining the Essentia

Why, we asked SangYup, was the grand tourer style making a comeback? “Well,” he mused, “we are all humans, and while we may be looking at a future of shared vehicles which are just  transportation, this shape gives humans an emotional response. It's not quite a traditional grand tourer, though – as it’s on an electric vehicle platform, the proportions are different. It’s fresh, but there’s also a beauty and timelessness to it.

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“Having an electric vehicle means that you have to rethink everything you do – what you do with the hood, or the roof, or the back, and what electric performance actually means as a grand tourer.”

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At this point, Luc Donckerwolke joined us on the stand, while, rather surreally, a very loud American TV presenter explained Luc’s own ideas without spotting him three feet away. However, Luc was able to cut through the confusion with some explanation of how the Essentia’s structure is put together. “It’s a carbon fibre matrix,” he said, “which can be printed using a rapid prototyping method. This is perfect for short production runs – you can 3D print almost anything now. We’ll probably be 3D printing food soon – it’s only molecules, after all.

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“We’ve been able to fill the usual gaps in a car’s bodyshell with structural latticework, which can also be used for airflow and ventilation. You wouldn't have door shuts – you’d want to see the framework. The thing about this car, unlike many other concepts, is that it looks perfect under the skin as well as on top. Some concepts are really ugly underneath, all filler and brackets, but because we were able to print these parts straight from our data, they came out so well.”

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“That structure carries on through the interior,” continued SangYup. “But we’ve made that feel quite different; there’s a little grey on the dash keying into the structure and the exterior, but we’ve used rich, classic materials like leather and velvet too. The dash display itself is deliberately calm and restrained. There’s so much information available now that you can feel like you’re piloting a 747, with all the dials and gauges and screens. We wanted to keep it simple and clean.”

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“This has been a real team effort,” chimed in Luc. “We have what we call our ‘dream team’ in our studios around the world – people like Sasha [Selipanov, ex-Bugatti] and Hans Lapine [ex-Porsche and VW] – there was never a feeling of ‘OK, we’ll stop there’, everybody was fighting to do better all the time.” Judging by the reaction in New York, they did.

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