April 15, 2019

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It didn’t take much to wow the public with a concept car back in the 1950s and ’60s. Take an aircraft-inspired shape, insert a jet engine—or just the illusion of one—fit a glass bubble top, put a Doris Day look-alike in the driver’s seat, and voilà—you’d stolen the show and set thousands of impressionable minds to dreaming. Those days were fleeting, however, as the social/political/economic climate would soon take a turn for the worse, replacing hopeful optimism with bitter cynicism and ushering in the practice of pairing brown corduroys with brown shoes. Those were dark days, friends.

Thanks to the promise of modern technology, the concept of concepts has returned. Although the hyperbole remains, the modern examples are (usually) much closer to production reality than their ancestors ever were.

Take the Genesis Essentia concept coupe revealed at the New York auto show. Unveiled amid a flurry of buzzwords and phraseology including “electrifying escapism” and “athletic elegance” and “marrying power and precision through artistry,” the Essentia is nonetheless rooted in reality.

GV80 concept. Just behind the front wheels are functional air outlets that help reduce pressure buildup and drag.

The profile is dominated by the Essentia’s low 50-inch roofline and what’s described as an “anti-wedge” parabolic character line. It’s a modern take on a classic shape, echoing GT designs of the past while still displaying a degree of originality. Butterfly doors are unlocked and actuated by a fingerprint sensor and a biometric facial-recognition system hidden on the B-pillar. The base of the greenhouse is encircled by a thin copper-colored accent that extends towards the nose, with the hue echoed in the wheels. The concave rear design houses modern lighting elements, while the offset carbon-fiber diffuser manages air flow.

For all its modernity, the Essentia concept does share one trait with the concepts of yore: the complete lack of powertrain specifics. All Genesis will say is that it features “multiple electric motors” and an “I-shaped battery pack.” However, it also estimates a 3.0-second zero-to-60-mph time.

And while it’s highly unlikely that the Essentia will see production in its current form, we love some of the detailing as well as the tech and the low-slung two-door shape. Because if a concept car isn’t uncompromising and optimistic, what’s the point?

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