Hyundai Makes a Great Big Genesis Coupe
Hyundai pulled the covers off a new, pillar-less full-size coupe last night at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Based on the second-generation Genesis sedan platform, Hyundai hopes the new Vision G Coupe concept will give customers the size, visual impact, and accouterments of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe without the nosebleed price and associated badge snobbery. Before evaluating whether the Vision G will work for Hyundai, a little back-story is needed.
Hyundai, the little Korean industrial behemoth that could, shocked a great many people in 2008 when it rolled out the Genesis, a large luxury sedan. They can’t do that, some people said, Hyundai’s a bargain brand! Yes, but the premium segment is where the big profits are made. Business case in point, the original Genesis was successful (read: profitable) enough to warrant a second-generation car, introduced as a 2015 model. As you can see, although the notion of “stealth wealth” may not have worked out so well for the short-lived (in this country) Volkswagen Phaeton, Hyundai had better luck.
Given Hyundai’s success in the low-cost luxury segment (a second-generation full-size Equus will debut in the spring of 2016 at the New York auto show), there aren’t many good reasons to think that a production Vision G will fall flat on its face. Hyundai designer Chris Chapman told the gathered press at LACMA that the key word used while working on the Vision G was “chivalry.” It’s an odd word to center a car’s design on, and since they showed the car at LACMA, I’m going to posit the use of “chivalry” as further proof that artists should never be allowed to title their pieces. The idea is that the Vision G is a full-spec luxury car that’s respectful of others, with the unspoken implication being that big coupes such as the aforementioned S-Class are middle fingers in your face.
I’m not in love with the Vision G concept’s exterior design. It’s bold and brash, but there are too many odd pieces of flare. The biggest piece I simply could not accept is the door handles, which are not in fact on the doors! When you have doors over three-feet long, Hyundai tells us, you have to take a few steps back while opening them in a conventional fashion. With the handle on the body panel behind the door, you simply push (or in this case swipe, like a McLaren 650S), wait as the automatic door opens, and then step inside. Fair point. But I asked, why not put the handles on the door, stand in the same place out of the way, and then get in the same way? The answer was basically, “But ours goes to eleven.” Call me old fashioned, but it seems to me that if you’re a door handle, job one is to be on the door. As Angus MacKenzie wrote in a 2008 blog, to quote legendary GM design majordomo Bill Mitchell, “Walking through the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria with your fly undone is different. But it’s not good.”
As for the rest of the Vision G’s exterior, the hard side view of the greenhouse with the windows down is excellent. Of course, that’s the magic of coupes without B-pillars. They look fabulous. Find me an example that doesn’t. I’ll wait. However, viewed from the front or the rear, you notice that there’s not enough glass. The relatively small windows make those views bunkerish; tight and confined, not vast and expansive. The next best angle is the front end, with its strong pewter-looking chain mail grille and decorative headlights. The weakest part (aside from the misplaced door handles) is the rear end. The creases in the trunk are just odd, and the taillights look like a Jaguar XJ when viewed from the side, and a Cadillac ATS when seen from the rear. The interior is good, but far too slavishly copies the S-Class. Dual flat-panel digital displays and the drilled-out Lexicon speaker grilles look copied, rather than something new, exciting, and different. But hey, as Woody Allen says, if you’re going to steal, steal from the best.
The major issue I see with the Vision G is what to call it. The obvious name is Genesis Coupe. The issue is, there’s already a Genesis Coupe and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Genesis sedan. Vision G is a bit generic, and doesn’t exactly scream luxury. Vision Coupe? Genesis Vision? Something else entirely? One thought would be to bite the bullet, call the Vision G the Genesis Coupe and rename the current, slow-selling Genesis Coupe something else. Maybe the Hyundai Vision? Just a thought. Whatever the name might be, the production version of this big, just arrogant enough, V-6/V-8 powered RWD/AWD coupe should have no trouble finding customers.