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Hyundai HCD-14 Genesis Concept

January 18, 2013 by Matt

Hyundai HCD-14 Genesis Concept Detroit Auto Show 2013 Gray

Well, it should have been the main attraction at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, rather than that vulgar, glitzy, warmed-over American icon that hogged all the publicity.

This is the first time in over a year and a half that this blog has highlighted a vehicle made by the South Korean giant, but with their HCD-14 Genesis Concept, they’ve earned some attention. A fascinating blend of American, British, German and Asian design themes, the HCD-14 takes styling cues from many different sources and fuses them into something that stands confidently on its own four tires.

Hyundai HCD-14 Genesis Concept Detroit Auto Show 2013 Gray

The influences are obvious. The nose treatment and return on the back edge of the rear window are lifted from Aston Martin and the slope of the decklid very much resembles that of Audi’s gorgeous A7. Furthermore, most of the (few) chrome details draw from Asian design history and the whole car’s slab-sided “pillbox” proportions pay homage to classic American cruisers like late-’40s Hudsons and Buicks and more recently, cars like the Chrysler 300.

Hyundai HCD-14 Genesis Concept Detroit Auto Show 2013 Gray

All that said, the HCD-14 creates an identity beyond the pastiche of influences by virtue of its emphasis on proportion over decoration (a common refrain around here), an achievement remarkable given the incredibly overwrought and at times head-scratching designs Hyundai has produced lately. It’s distinctive without being tacky, and exaggerated enough, in classic show car fashion, such that elements like the front end design and overall shape would hit the bullseye if toned down just enough for the production line.

Hyundai HCD-14 Genesis Concept Detroit Auto Show 2013 Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

For its part, the interior fails to break any new conceptual ground, but is understated (for a concept car) and quite inviting-looking, with themes that could translate easily to a road car.

Hyundai HCD-14 Genesis Concept Detroit Auto Show 2013 Interior Inside

Most significantly for Hyundai’s future design direction, the HCD-14 features a number of elements that could be easily incorporated into cars of different sizes and proportions, in the same way that BMW’s signature kidneys are versatile enough mesh with a variety of bodystyles. Take the simple, near-vertical grille shape and the way the inside apexes of the headlights relate to its upper corners—that design detail is very “portable” in the sense that, say, a sports car’s low, rakish shape could feature headlights of nearly the same shape paired with a similar, but lower and wider grille. The family resemblance would be present, and the sports car’s styling wouldn’t be compromised by having to graft an out-of-context “corporate identity” onto the fascia. The HCD-14’s shapes and details represent the first real, golden opportunity for Hyundai to build a long-term brand image. For that reason, among others, it’s a true standout.

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Hyundai HCD-14 Genesis Concept

Is The New C7 Corvette
the Most Boring Car on the Road?

January 11, 2013 by Matt

Chevy Chevrolet C7 Corvette Vette 2014 New

So the 2013 Detroit Auto Show is coming up, and the introduction overshadowing all other activity is that of Chevy’s 7th generation (C7) Corvette. It’s automaker’s halo car and bonafide proof that in spite of the general lack of quality of American cars compared to most of our rivals around the globe, we can create a world-beater when we put our minds to it. The C7 will undoubtedly exhibit pavement-buckling power from its signature pushrod V8, and astonishing capability around a circuit.

Chevy has announced a figure of 450 hp for the C7’s heavily revised LT1 6.2l mill. The new engine’s output complements updated suspension (still sporting transverse leaf springs at the rear) and a thoroughly reworked interior to address longstanding criticism of that aspect of the Corvette. The trip from a standstill to 60 mph is expected to take less than 4 seconds, while the car’s price is likely to comfortably undercut just about anything with remotely the C7’s level of capability.

Chevy Chevrolet C7 Corvette Vette 2014 New Engine Motor LT1 SBC Pushrod OHV V8

So, completely void of sarcasm, it’ll be a fantastic car. The automotive press will burst into spontaneous applause when the veil is lifted Sunday night as scheduled, and wax lyrical over its specifications and abilities, amply hyped by the GM press machine.

And I couldn’t be less interested.

Let’s look at the formula: Front pushrod V8, rear drive, shark-y looks. That’s the Corvette template, and it hasn’t changed in the past 50 years even as Chevy has refined, perfected and polished it to its current state of brilliance. Again, I’m not arguing the car’s capability, or even how exciting it is to drive—I’ve no doubt it would utterly blow me away—but the concept of the car is beyond uninteresting at this point. The execution is near-flawless, but I (and many other enthusiasts) place a premium on creativity, and engineering adventurousness—and those two qualities are completely absent the C7’s specification.

So the idea of the Corvette bores me. But the most boring car on the road? Really? More so than, say, an Accord or a Camry? Well, yes. Consider: The Accord or the Camry’s laundry list of technological features is probably equally as uninteresting as the Corvette’s—but the Accord and Camry aren’t created to be exciting. There’s little contrast between the creativity invested in either their concept or execution; they’re thoroughly competent, full stop. The Corvette, on the other hand, was designed with driving excitement and excellence as an end goal, and as such the dramatic difference between the lack of originality in its layout or details and the dominant nature of its performance is front and center. I really can’t think of an less interesting car that does what it does so well.

But that’s the Corvette way. I really don’t expect anything to change when the curtain is drawn Sunday night.

12 Comments on Is The New C7 Corvette
the Most Boring Car on the Road?

An Hour At The Vintage

May 27, 2012 by Matt

The Vintage Old Salem Winston Salem BMW Show Classic 2012

Dragged the kids to a local BMW show for a bit Saturday morning. An annual gathering of vintage (pre-E32 7 series) BMWs the show was a cornucopia of classic German performance machinery. Dominated by 2002s, E30 M3s and E9 coupes, there were a scattering of E28 5 series, E24 6 series and other types mixed in.

Click on the jump to view the photos!

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Captivatingly Curvy:
New Alfa Romeo Disco Volante

March 7, 2012 by Matt

Alfa Romeo Alpha Disco Volante Concept Carrozzeria Red

Okay, as a designer, I can’t not discuss this one.

That name, too… If only it had one of these so I could tell people I drove a Disco Volante with a Laycock de Normanville overdrive, my life would be complete.

But I digress.

Technically, the new car isn’t a real Alfa Romeo, owing to the fact that the Italian automaker didn’t actually design the car (design consultancy Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera did), but simply donated the foundation in the form of the chassis from their sadly limited-run 8C Competizione, including that car’s 444-hp, 4.7l V8 engine. So the Disco Volante is more than just a pretty face—it can move and groove.

Alfa Romeo Alpha Disco Volante Concept Carrozzeria Red

When it comes to the styling, Alfa has no shortage of jaw-droppingly gorgeous cars from which to draw inspiration. For their latest effort, though, Carrozzeria decided to pay homage to perhaps the quirkiest of the legendary racing Alfas: The 1900 C52, affectionately known as the original Disco Volante, or flying saucer. The Jalopnik article links to this page featuring photos and a description of the original; do yourself a favor and visit the page just to soak in the fascinatingly rounded body.

So, on the one hand, it’s a shameless ripoff of the original; on the other hand, the original was so otherworldly-looking (literally!) that any homage can’t help but look fresh amid the modern-day crop of bland and stale automotive shapes. I particularly love details like the way the beltline extends through the front wheel arches, and the classically-Alfa-like resolution of lines in the rear into a sort of boattail. In a weird way, especially given its quasi-supercar underpinnings, it fits in perfectly with the recent rash of “re-engineered classics” like the Singer Porsche and Eagle Speedster, despite the fact that the Disco Volante’s bodywork is bespoke and the others are more directly lifted from their forebears. And if this latest Alfa is a typical example of the trend of fusing old-school style with modern running gear, I hope the fad continues.

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New Alfa Romeo Disco Volante

New Acura NSX Concept:
Worthy of the Name?

January 13, 2012 by Matt

Acura Honda NSX NS-X Show Car Concept New Silver Gray Grey

It’s not the bolt from the blue its predecessor was. The original NSX literally redefined the supercar, introducing the notion that blistering performance and prestige didn’t have to come at the expense of usability, ergonomics and reliability, and sent Ferrari and Porsche, among others, scurrying back to their drawing boards. The new NSX concept, on the other hand, slots rather quietly into the burgeoning crowd of alternative-propulsion supercar concepts such as the Porsche 918 or Jaguar C-X75. Mid-engined shape festooned with corporate design themes? Check. One internal-combustion engine augmented by two or more electric motors? Got ’em. Shameless plundering of its marque’s history while incorporating as many trendy concepts as possible? Yessir. And so on…

Acura Honda NSX NS-X Show Car Concept New Silver Gray Grey

Forgive my cynicism. In spite of its same-ness, with respect to the raw ingredients, the NSX Concept certainly carries its namesake’s torch in key areas: It’s a usable, range-topping halo car that delivers the expected levels of performance and elevates its brand’s image accordingly. And yet—there’s something missing… The shock of the original, perhaps? But how can you engineer a revolution? And anyway, the first-generation car was an easy answer to a surprisingly obvious question; what do modern supercars lack or overlook that could bestow a point of distinction on a new arrival so ingenious as to shore up those oversights? User-friendly, reliable supercars are all around. It’s been done.

I don’t have an answer. What say you? Are you pleased with Acura’s update of the NSX concept? If not, what could they have done differently to better distinguish the car from its rivals?

And whilst you ponder, check out the promo video after the jump, put together, appropriately enough for such a technological wundercar, by the Polyphony Digital team, the same crew responsible for the Gran Turismo series:

Watch the clip!

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Worthy of the Name?

New Lincoln MKZ Concept: Staying the Course

January 11, 2012 by Matt

Lincoln MKZ Concept Red

In a recent editorial for Jalopnik, Matt Hardigree offers an insightful take on the new Lincoln MKZ concept, unveiled at this year’s Detroit Auto Show. Here’s the takeaway quote:

So long as Ford continues to build upscale, cheaper cars on the same platform, why buy an MKZ when you can spend less money and get an equally attractive 2013 Ford Fusion? What’s the compelling case for Lincoln?

There is none. Almost none of Lincoln’s arguments were about product. They were about image. The didn’t even commit to building this car because that would mean talking definitively about Lincoln’s future.

Late last September I wrote a post in which I brainstormed a few paths to Lincoln’s revival. Unfortunately, as the Jalopnik post points out and the MKZ concept itself gives evidence for, it seems the automaker has decided to double down on the style-over-substance-based, badge-engineered-Ford approach.

Lincoln MKZ Concept Red

It’s difficult to understand how parent company Ford could have any reasonable expectation that this strategy would lead to Lincoln’s success. All evidence points otherwise: The automaker has used the same product planning and marketing strategy for years, and has experienced a decline in sales to the point where the brand is barely afloat. In one magazine comparison test after another, the cars generated by this approach have been utterly trounced by the competition, building a negative brand perception in enthusiasts’ minds which eventually trickles out into the larger car-buying population. And just across the way, Cadillac, which had adhered to a remarkably similar image-based marketing game plan for years, has experienced a near-miraculous reinvention by focusing more attention on the dynamics and details of their cars than on creating some kind of illusory image in a would-be buyer’s mind about “the kind of man/woman who drives a Lincoln.” It would be charmingly archaic if it weren’t pitched with a straight face.

The evidence is all around that the “new” product development scheme has little chance of success. At this point, it’s difficult not to think Ford deliberately wants to kill Lincoln.

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New Cadillac ATS:
A Shot Across BMW’s Bow

January 10, 2012 by Matt

Cadillac ATS Red 2013

Behold, the Great American Sports Sedan. The long-awaited indigenous usurper of the BMW 3 series throne. The convergence of all of our uniquely American know-how and expertise into a stunning, compelling car that is…as European as it can be.

Yep, only 40+ years after the arrival on our shores of the BMW 2002, it’s now safe to say that Cadillac has “gotten it,” in the sense that they understand that car’s appeal and have developed a product to match its modern incarnation, the BMW 3 series. It’s not like they didn’t “try”—each successive generation of luxury import-fighter from Cadillac has seemed like an incorrect answer to a question BMW aced way back in the ’60s. And after first trying smaller size, glitz, even smaller size, power and gadgets, by virtue of the process of elimination, the American automaker has come full circle and finally, finally realized it’s the chassis and the drive that enthusiasts crave. So they’ve made something small-ish, nimble, RWD and optioned it with a three-pedal manual transmission. I can hear the collective exasperation of American car buffs: “YES! Yes, that’s the combination we’ve been wanting for ages… What took you so long?”

Cadillac ATS Red 2013

So now that it’s here, what’s it like? Having only just been revealed, full road tests by independent publications are forthcoming; however, Cadillac put together a series of teaser videos showcasing the development time poured into chassis tuning. Also, Cadillac has finally proven it can build a car which actually handles in the latest CTS and CTS-V, so there’s good reason to believe they’ll do it right with the ATS as well. A good sign Cadillac’s priorities are straight is the commendably low weight of around 3400 lbs, lighter than its ballooning German rivals the 3 series and Merc C-class. The distribution of that weight relative to the wheelbase is close to 50/50 as well, and the chassis tuners would have to be ham-fisted indeed to screw up that combination of ingredients. Power for the ATS comes in a few flavors, including a 2.5l NA 4-cylinder, a 2.0l 270-hp turbocharged 4-cylinder, a 3.6l 318-hp V6 and an efficient diesel further down the line. 6-speed automatic or manual transmissions will be offered; which engines the stickshift will be available with hasn’t yet been revealed. Hopefully all of them.

Cadillac ATS Interior Inside Cockpit Dashboard

As much a BMW fan as I am, I really hope Cadillac pulls this off. Not only out of a sense of national pride (though admittedly that’s dampened a tiny bit by the car’s very European-ness), but strong competition makes all competitors stronger, and a excellent ATS will only mean a better 3 series; the Bavarian car certainly isn’t going anywhere. Also, I feel BMW has lost their way in the past decade or so, perhaps growing complacent atop the sports sedan podium, and has allowed weight and an excessive amount of gadgetry to creep into their whole lineup. If the ATS is a more straightforward, “honest” sports sedan, as I very much feel it will be, maybe it will help talk performance automakers down from the ledge of electronic trickery they’ve been teetering on for some time. Might it be that the ATS isn’t just the Great American Sports Sedan, but the Great Sport Sedan Enthusiast Hope, irrespective of nationality?

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A Shot Across BMW’s Bow

New Lexus LF-LC Concept: A Design Analysis

January 4, 2012 by Matt

Lexus LF-LC LFLC Concept Red

Well, it’s not pretty.

At least, the fascia isn’t, not in the classical sense. Straining so hard for a new theme, like a rock band trying to play the same four chords in a new way after countless bands have done the same, the Lexus LF-LC concept’s nose ends up looking merely different for the sake of being different.

Now, I can’t fault the incredibly rakish proportions, but the traditional distribution of visual masses in the LF-LC’s profile just reinforces the contrived nature of the front end styling. Being a product of Toyota’s California-based design studio, the same crew who penned the original’s Lexus SC coupe’s flawless lines, I had high hopes for the new concept. Let’s just say my expectations weren’t entirely satisfied.

Lexus LF-LC LFLC Concept Red Profile Side View

As mentioned above, the car’s proportions are classically correct and right on the money. They also pay considerable homage to those of the first generation SC coupe, eschewing the second generation’s truncated boulevardier stance entirely in favor of the first-gen’s traditional GT shape. There’s more than a hint of the big-brother LFA as well in the impossibly low greenhouse, rocker panel intakes and straight line across the rear haunches. And I even detect a touch of Ferrari 599 GTB in the way the C-pillars become notable styling elements as they tango with the fenders and rear glass.

That said, I can’t help feeling that it’s a uneven mismash of ideas, holding a kind of uncomfortable tension between the classic and avant-garde. In a way, the LF-LC presents interesting similarities and differences to the recent Jaguar C-X16 concept. As I pointed out in my analysis of that car, its automaker produced a crumpet-collector to nearly rival the original E-Type, but given Jaguar’s recent production-level design decisions, the concept hewed far too closely to the classic Jag shape, trapping the company in the past, visually. Lexus, on the other hand, attempted to push the envelope with the Remington-shaver-meets-funhouse-mirror proboscis of the LF-LC; however, the Japanese automaker has no long and tired association with the classic GT shape or styling cues. Unlike Jaguar, they’re unencumbered by the past and could have created something arresting, showstopping, timeless, free from a concern that critics (like myself) would dismiss it as a retread of old themes—and they almost did, as evidenced by the car’s proportions, but… Then they grafted on the corporate front end, dashing hopes of a completely pleasing shape. So close, Lexus, so close.

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3 Cars to Look For at Detroit 2012

December 26, 2011 by Matt

Cadillac ATS Teaser Profile Concept Detroit

Opening in two weeks on January 9, the 2012 Detroit Auto Show promises to be one of the more exciting in recent years. Here are 3 concepts or new car introductions to look out for:

Cadillac ATS. Shown at top in a teaser photo, Cadillac’s long-awaited BMW 3 series fighter is set to be announced with nearly as much fanfare as the Corvette ZR1; that is to say, with “special feature sections” aplenty in every major automotive publication, loads of technical cutaways of the car and soul-searching interviews of every last engineer involved, all thrust forward in a kind of “look what we can do!” quasi-patriotic dog-and-pony show. Color me cynical, but I’d have a lot more respect for many of the products that emanate from GM if each new one wasn’t hailed as the Second Coming in its respective category. I understand they’re hawking their wares, but a little discretion would go a long way, especially for a car intended to compete with one of the all-time great “substance over style” dynasties. In any case, now that the admittedly-nice CTS has grown into a 5 series opponent, a niche previously occupied by the STS, the ATS arrives to fill the void further down in the lineup. As stomach-churning at the marketing machine can be, oftentimes there’s an actual good car underneath the hype, and I’m eager to see what Cadillac has cooked up.

Honda Acura NSX Concept Iron Man Avengers Purple

New Honda/Acura NSX Concept. Bandwagoning on the company profile-raising success of the Lexus LFA and Nissan GT-R, Honda will retract the veil ever so slightly on their plans for a resurrection of the much-missed NSX namplate. Teased in Iron Man 2 and the upcoming Avengers movie, Honda looks set to reveal a concept showing basic design and engineering direction, if not a production-ready vehicle. I think I speak for a lot of enthusiasts when I say after well-nigh 10 years of rumors and smoke signals, we’ll take anything.

Lexus Design Concept Red Detroit

Lexus Design Concept. Perhaps stung by dual criticisms of the astronomically high price of their excellent LFA and the lukewarm reception of their new “pinched mouth” styling theme, Lexus commissioned their studios in California to whip up a new design direction for their entry-level IS range. I’m optimistic about this for a couple of reasons: One of my all-time favorite Japanese designs, the first-generation Lexus SC coupe, was penned by Toyota’s California facility, and it’s a potential sign Toyota has recognized the oh-so-trendy “tortured fascia” look—sported by at least one car from seemingly every east Asian automaker, from Hyundai to Nissan—is a non-starter. Show us something classically gorgeous, Lexus.

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