Instant icon of the year 2022: Hyundai N Vision 74

The car show is dead. It was already a wandering, drunkenly staggering pile of misery even before the pandemic, but the shutdown was also an admittedly involuntary but useful cost-cutting exercise for automakers.

Doesn’t it make a difference in terms of sales if you spend millions on a flashy booth with smiling hosts and rotating platforms where you can admire your latest models? Or how many hits your website gets?

The answer seems to be no, and the machines that kept the auto shows alive are being shut down one by one. Except for the Geneva Salon. It is now held in Qatar. The only thing sadder than that announcement is the fact that it’s not even a joke.

One would expect that the eyelids on the concept ‘concept car’ would also be carefully closed. But the mere fact that a design studio in an edition of one no longer has a rotating podium to feel at home on does not mean that it could no longer appeal to the imagination.

And this year, no car has done it more effectively than the sensational Hyundai N Vision 74. While BMW continues its self-sabotaging “Hold me, or I’ll design something else” design frenzy, Hyundai’s crayon department is going berserk.

The designer of the Year Instant Icon 2022

The man in charge there is SangYup Lee, the Seoul-born former head of design for Bentley and GM, who is responsible for the Ioniq 5 hatchback, the aerodynamic marvel called the Ioniq 6, the Tucson SUV – says every good-looking Hyundai since 2016.

Hyundai N Vision 74 designer SangYup Lee

He gives me a tour of the highlights from the ’74. We are at the Bilster Berg race resort, in the green hills of northwestern Germany. It is a haunted private circuit built on an old British munitions base from the Cold War. The N Vision 74 is unlike many other auto show stars, if only because it’s definitely not a statue.

He drives – and fast too. But before I get to chasing this priceless loner around the mini-Nürburgring, SangYup explains what prompted his stunningly beautiful creation. “It’s an amazing journey that Hyundai embarked on some 50 years ago now,” he says, speaking his carefully chosen words softly.

The inspiration for N Vision 74

“Most large companies have a history of about 100 years, but Hyundai has only been around for about half that time. And yet beautiful history has already been made in this company.’ The story that the N Vision 74 refers to is a concept car called the Pony Coupé, an angular two-door study created for the 1974 Turin Motor Show.

The Hyundai N Vision 74 runs on a track diagonally in front

The Koreans enlisted the help of Giorgetto Giugiaro to transform a standard Pony sedan into a car that would also put Hyundai on the map from a design point of view. “Giugiaro convinced Hyundai executives that if you’re going to an auto show, you need a sleek coupe,” says SangYup.

“At that time, Korea had a very poor infrastructure in terms of streets and highways, but the founder of the company always wanted to build a sports car. So there is already a good story in there. They also tried to put the pony into production, but that dream never came true. But now we have the design and the technology to make this car.’

Why does this Hyundai concept car work so well?

The cleverness of the Hyundai N Vision 74 lies in the combination: both referring to a ‘what could have been’ moment in its own history, and putting ideas about the future into practice High performance drive. It’s what engineers call a “rolling lab.”

SangYup repeatedly mentions the word “passion” as he walks around the car, pointing out details like the subtle badging (“We don’t need to shout”) and the pixelated LED lights (“A Hyundai signature – many big brands design according . to the principle of the Russian matryoshka dolls, not us. We want to build more of a chess game, where each car has its own function, but everything clearly comes from one team’).

Hyundai N Vision 74 steering wheel

I confess that I had never heard of a Pony Coupé until the N Vision 74, but there are also many references to other classics from the end of the twentieth century in the former. SangYup smiles and shows sketches on his phone dating back to 2016, showing how long this idea has matured.

Hyundai almost made movie history

Not many have heard of the Pony Coupé, but Giugiaro’s designs are known all over the world: DeLorean, BMW M1, Lotus Esprit – he is a master of design. Generation Z may not know that story, but see this as ultimate cyberpunk design. I like that element – ​​it’s modern with a cyberpunk strategy.”

Hyundai N Vision 74 brake light

The DeLorean reference is crucial, because in an alternate parallel universe it wouldn’t have been the damn American-Irish thing with gull-wing doors, but the first Hyundai sports car to star in one of the most successful movie franchises. of the 1990s. 80.

Giugiaro himself admits that the pony had a big influence on the DeLorean – since the pony didn’t come along, many of its lines went to the future movie star. Without the pony, there would have been no DeLorean, if any at all Back to the Future.’ Awesome Scott

“The sports car will never die”

But this is certainly not a case of nostalgia, despite the slats on the rear window, aero fanwheels and the semi-matt paint reminiscent of stainless steel. SangYup seems to get a little nervous when I use the word ‘retro’, though oblivious when I refer to his winged idea.

In fact, it is an object of national pride, tangible proof that Korea has now come full circle from ‘startup automaker’ to ‘design leader’. “I saw tears in people’s eyes when we unveiled this car in Korea.

This is their culture. Let’s face it: 10, 15 years ago, a Hyundai was a car you really only bought with your head, never with your heart,” he admits. “We’re not just trying to be a car brand, we want to build a fan base.”

Hyundai N Vision 74 diagonal rear view from above

Something keeps bothering me. Was he under pressure not to showcase Hyundai’s hydrogen/hybrid technology with a coupe, but with an SUV? Sports cars are not very popular these days. Everyone just seems to want to build bigger and higher, not lower.

“The reason is that a car is still an emotional product,” SangYup confidently replies. “It’s the second most expensive thing we ever buy, and we wanted to increase the emotional value. Sports cars will never go out of style because a coupe conveys emotion more effectively than any other car model. The sports car will never die.”

The N Vision 74 didn’t need a showroom to shine. His digital revelation has set jaws clattering on keyboards around the world and demonstrates the touching modest confidence that Koreans have so much today as the insecure European old guard struggles to stay relevant. It’s a showstopper in more ways than one.

He is alive! And we drove it!

I get three laps in the 74, with a non-English speaking engineer next to me, keeping a close eye on all the pressure and temperature gauges on the production-ready fuel cell behind my right ear. To be able to drive it, the car has a number of existing components.

The fuel cell comes from the Nexo crossover, the platform is a Kia Stinger and the engines are related to those in an ETCR racing car. Engines that unleash 340 horsepower at each rear wheel. The hydrogen tanks are made of bulletproof Kevlar and weigh just 4.2 kilos each, but thanks to a 62 kWh battery (it’s still a plug-in hybrid, after all), the car weighs 2.4 tons overall.

The Hyundai N Vision 74 runs on a track diagonally in front

You’ll never guess. It accelerates like crazy, of course, the response to the right pedal is as venomous as it is immediate, and thanks to the wheelbase that is a sports sedan, the operation is as light as it is friendly. The steering provides plenty of detail, and even the regenerative braking is as precise as you could wish for.

It feels like a racing car – a big one, yes, and one dominated by high-revving fans rather than the crackle of the exhaust. But if there is a zero-emission way to leave even bigger tire marks on a track, I haven’t come across it yet.

All this, developed in a period of only five months? The bar for concept cars hasn’t just been raised, it’s been rocketed into orbit.

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