Design

By Design: Genesis Essentia Concept

The Car of Tomorrow. Maybe.

In terms of physical appearance, this flashy, highly attractive all-electric sports car is as pure a dream car as it’s possible to make. Practicality is sacrificed to style everywhere, but I suspect that was intentional. Witness the sublime all-glass roof, exquisite in profile and plan, unblemished by ordinary details like rain gutters, rearview mirrors, or windshield wipers. There’s ample structure within, but it’s all well hidden with no external manifestation. Rear-seat headroom is severely restrained, but who cares? It’s magnificent visually, and that’s certainly what was desired. Bumpers, marker lamps, license plate brackets, locks, all those real-world necessities distributed over the whole body, are simply ignored for the Essentia. Aesthetically, that’s all to the good. Practically, not so much.

When I started work for a major manufacturer 64 years ago, stylists were told by the best body engineers in the business that side windows had to be a couple of inches inward from the nominal body surfaces, and they had to be flat because curved windows were too expensive to even think about. But we could sketch and factories could make extreme wraparound windshields just two decades after the first curved windshield in a production car (1934 Chrysler Airflow Imperial).

Ten years after we were told it was unthinkable, curved side glass was featured on 1964 Ramblers. Curved glass, later generalized throughout the industry, was still set in from the ideal surface, though. Engineers couldn’t do flush glass, or so they thought, until Audi showed the way 20 years later. So maybe a lot of what we see here will be with us sooner than we expect.

In fact, perhaps we should consider the Essentia as the Car of Tomorrow (though it is not fully autonomous), because many of its deviations from today’s normal practices could become standard soon. Consider its lack of regulation-height bumpers and the fact that the rear spoiler is vulnerable to damage from truck front ends. Bumpers will be unnecessary if self-driving cars all but eliminate crashes, and as more of the total human-driven fleet becomes computer-aided, even those cars will (probably) stop themselves before they hit anything. But that has no bearing on the fleet on the road today, many of them half of a century old and totally without driver aids.

So we’ll just get rid of them. Older (and not very old, at that), primarily diesel cars are being restricted and soon might be banned outright in many European cities, including Mercedes-Benz’s home town of Stuttgart. Someday soon we Americans may find our cherished early Mustangs, Camaros, and their ilk banished from urban areas, too. If that happens, in-town fender-benders will become rare indeed. But that doesn’t mean we’ll all travel in bland, characterless pods. Instead, many of tomorrow’s cars—like this one—can, and probably will, be gorgeous objects precisely because they’ll be impervious to (or at least unthreatened by) traffic damage, if not to acts of God. But electronic protection won’t stop falling trees or rising flood waters. Not yet, anyway.

Worth Noting: The images here are not retouched photographs. They’re not photos at all, actually, but instead computer-generated renderings, made from the same data set that formed the tooling for the body panels.

1. The lower lip of the nose, derived from the lower corner air scoops, is really nicely modeled. Why those big air inlets are there at all is another question.

2. This hard line defines the separation of external lower body surfaces and the bubble canopy roof from the interior panels of the complex front end, with its transparencies allowing a look at the front suspension components.

3. The glass extension of the windshield, which might nominally be considered the hood, is depressed from the principal envelope, dropping down sharply behind the grille, which is itself set behind the triangular main air inlet.

4. This elegant crease represents the fender profile and disappears in the rear deck in the same way it rises from the body skin here.

5. You get a clear impression of the depth of the side indentation in this view. There is a passage from the front corner inlets to the leading edge of the side cove.

6. It’s hard to believe that these two tiny light bars are capable of providing adequate headlight illumination, but LEDs and computer-controlled reflectors are able to do amazing things today.

7. The main blade of the lower lip runs into the corner inlet; a separate blade finishes the fender form behind it. Beautiful modeling, but any aerodynamic benefit is not discussed.

8. Three Layers back, this textured grille closes off the part you can see.

9. The nicely modulated triangular inlet shape, with a softly curved upper bar and a pair of kinked straight sections joined by a nice radius at the bottom, makes a pleasant composition.

10. Just behind is a parenthesis-shaped grille frame with a single horizontal bar running the full width and a pair of bars above the outer ends. It’s all a little complicated.

1. The entire roof shape is elegantly aerodynamic, a perfect fastback profile.

2. The rear-seat headrests are visible and suggest this cabin is meant for two adults and two children—not two couples.

3. It might have been good to have a little more rise in the fender profile over the rear wheels, but this is smooth and subtly graceful, hard to fault.

4. Back up to a wall, and it’s the spoiler trailing edge that will touch, not the nominal bumper strike face.

5. The curve at the rear of the door is superb, though the front door cut is unusually convoluted. Door length is exceptionally long, tough for access in tight quarters.

6. A curiosity is the ending of the upper side lamp so that a line tangent to the two light blades is not parallel to the panel edge behind them.

7. The intricate wheels are a visual mixture of old-fashioned wires and thin-ribbed alloy designs, milled from solid billets. Exceptionally impressive objects, however made.

8. A nice bladelike nose leans rearward both above and below the strong peak line derived from the lamps. No bumper protection at all for this dramatic concept car.

1. The sharp crease on the front fender peak carries on all the way past the end of the roof glazing.

2. The subtle hard line generated by the leading edge of the hole in the top of the nose carries all the way around the car.

3. The fluidity of the glass “hood” flowing up into the windshield can be appreciated in this high rear view.

4. A particularly nice detail is the small, flat band described by the hard line on the nose that is just a bit behind the intersection of the backlight and the painted skin, making a slight—very slight—break in the fastback profile.

5. Another reasonably hard line defines the break from fastback profile to full-width rear spoiler.

6. The central round-bottom V-shaped feature occupies some space below the oval indent described by the spoiler edge, above, and the diffuser surface tapering forward and down.

7. The upper edge of the diffuser panel runs below the nominal bottom of the body, leaving a gap so the diffuser seems to be completely detached.

8. The side cove, very much like that on 1956-62 Corvette C1 models, has no trim outlining its shape but does have a rib to catch the light that runs from behind the rear door cut into the big front fender outlet just ahead of the door.

1. Thumbwheels in the spokes are practical. Someone has seen a Tesla Model 3, it would appear.

2. The fat, leather-covered steering wheel rim looks sharp and is flattened at the bottom to signify “sport.”

3. The square-cornered digital data panel looks out of place amid the voluptuous curves and soft materials. A soft surround with internal corner radii would be nice.

4. The manner in which the layered side treatment carries all the way around to the toe board is aesthetically pleasing and should be good for cabin quiet. Not that electrics are noisy.

5. Likewise, the diagonal pleating at 45 degrees from the seat centerline aesthetically successful, providing directional thrust visually and suggesting comfort.

6. The texture of the cockpit sidewall changes slightly at the front door cut.

7. The joining of the door side-panel upholstery coming away from the armrest to the seat cushion leaves no gaps for pens or glasses to fall into. It is an impressive detail that promises excellent comfort.

1. The rear edge of the spoiler is described by a flat band, the lower edge of which outlines the rear fascia oval encompassing the rear lamps.

2. The lower surface of that oval is in opposition to the underside of the spoiler. Well sculpted.

3. The two-bar taillights recapitulate the front-end theme and are wonderfully simple and thus elegant.

4. This hard line softens a bit toward the center of the car, but the rear panel is clearly defined.

5. Four pendant fins in the rear diffuser suggest racing intentions.

6. The bottom edge of the rear fender sweeps upward dramatically.

7. The lower profile of the sill flows upward from the rear wheel opening then turns downward to parallel the bottom edge of the cove.

8. This rib curves upward from its origin at the end of the side cove then thrusts forward into the black hole at the back end of the front fender.

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