Automotive

Hispano-Suiza is back, with a retro-tacular electric hypercar worthy of the badge

Hispano-Suiza is back, with a ...
With a thousand horsepower on tap, this is the view most other cars will get of the Carmen
With a thousand horsepower on tap, this is the view most other cars will get of the Carmen
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Scissor doors lift themselves up at the touch of a button 
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Scissor doors lift themselves up at the touch of a button 
A large front grille feeds air to the radiators for the liquid-cooled battery and motors
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A large front grille feeds air to the radiators for the liquid-cooled battery and motors
Retro aeros: rear wheel covers recall the fast autos of old
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Retro aeros: rear wheel covers recall the fast autos of old
The roof tapers down to nearly meet the upward-curving diffusers
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The roof tapers down to nearly meet the upward-curving diffusers
The Hispano-Suiza brand is being resurrected, but the founder's great grandson
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The Hispano-Suiza brand is being resurrected, but the founder's great grandson
1000-horsepower electric hypercars never looked like this
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1000-horsepower electric hypercars never looked like this
Aggressive front profile is almost conservative
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Aggressive front profile is almost conservative
From above, it looks like a rolling Batman logo
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From above, it looks like a rolling Batman logo
How's that for a back end?
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How's that for a back end?
Aggressive wheel arches recall oversized fenders
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Aggressive wheel arches recall oversized fenders
A sharp back end
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A sharp back end
With a thousand horsepower on tap, this is the view most other cars will get of the Carmen
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With a thousand horsepower on tap, this is the view most other cars will get of the Carmen
The roof slopes straight back into an abrupt halt
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The roof slopes straight back into an abrupt halt
Concentric cones in the wheel hubs look very art deco
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Concentric cones in the wheel hubs look very art deco
The Carmen's lightweight carbon monocoque chassis
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The Carmen's lightweight carbon monocoque chassis
Hand-sewn leather/Alcantara seats
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Hand-sewn leather/Alcantara seats
Old-school steering wheel meets digital display
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Old-school steering wheel meets digital display
Hispano-Suiza Carmen at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show
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Hispano-Suiza Carmen at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show
The interior looks highly snazzy, and fits with the luxury grand touring concept of the car, as much as you can expect to grand tour with an electric at this point
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The interior looks highly snazzy, and fits with the luxury grand touring concept of the car, as much as you can expect to grand tour with an electric at this point
Hispano-Suiza Carmen at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show
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Hispano-Suiza Carmen at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show
Where Koenigsegg made his latest car a tribute to his dad, Suqué Mateu decided to kick the new Hispano-Suiza company off with a shout-out to his mum.
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Where Koenigsegg made his latest car a tribute to his dad, Suqué Mateu decided to kick the new Hispano-Suiza company off with a shout-out to his mum.
The Carmen will roll with a fully electric powertrain, boasting two motors for a rear-wheel-drive 750 kilowatts, or 1,019 horsepower.
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The Carmen will roll with a fully electric powertrain, boasting two motors for a rear-wheel-drive 750 kilowatts, or 1,019 horsepower.
Welcome back, Hispano-Suiza, we like your style
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Welcome back, Hispano-Suiza, we like your style
Hispano-Suiza Carmen -  one of the most eye-catching efforts we've seen in years
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Hispano-Suiza Carmen -  one of the most eye-catching efforts we've seen in years
Hispano-Suiza has put this prototype together in just nine months, with a design and build team of just 25 people
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Hispano-Suiza has put this prototype together in just nine months, with a design and build team of just 25 people
Hispano-Suiza Carmen at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show
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Hispano-Suiza Carmen at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show
The steering wheel is retro deluxe, and the dash is wood veneer, but the clocks are digital on glass, and somehow it all kind of works together
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The steering wheel is retro deluxe, and the dash is wood veneer, but the clocks are digital on glass, and somehow it all kind of works together

Hypercars are really converging on a particular look these days – a look dictated by the necessities of ultra-high speed driving. Function dictates form when you're talking about speeds over 400 km/h (250 mph), and while we're glad we live in a world where cars like the Koenigsegg Jesko can push the limits of engineering in search of magical numbers like 300 miles per hour, let's be honest. Nobody's going out and driving at those speeds.

So the door is open for some fresh, new design ideas. Or, perhaps, some really, really old ones. Hispano-Suiza (which translates as Spanish-Swiss) can trace its roots right back to the start of the 20th century, and this Barcelona-based company was responsible for some of the most stunning and iconic automobiles of the age when people still called them "automobiles."

Aggressive wheel arches recall oversized fenders
Aggressive wheel arches recall oversized fenders

The Spanish Civil War more or less put an end to the company's beautiful V12 luxury cars in 1938, when the Catalonian government decided to seize control of its factories and use them for aircraft engines and other war supplies. But old Hispano-Suiza cars are still in hot demand by collectors, inextricably linked with the sepia-tinted royalty that once drove them.

And now, it seems, the brand might be back. A new car, and a new effort to resurrect the marque, has just been unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show, with Miguel Suqué Mateu (great-grandson of the original founder Damian Mateu) at the helm. Where Koenigsegg made his latest car a tribute to his dad, Suqué Mateu decided to kick the new Hispano-Suiza company off with a shout-out to his mum.

Scissor doors lift themselves up at the touch of a button 
Scissor doors lift themselves up at the touch of a button 

Hence, the Carmen. The company is presenting this as the vanguard of a new "hyperlux" segment in the "cars for really rich people" market. Hypercar-adjacent performance, with exquisite luxury is the goal here, so let's see how they've done on the former.

Not bad! The Carmen will roll with a fully electric powertrain, boasting two motors for a rear-wheel-drive 750 kilowatts, or 1,019 horsepower. That's clearly enough to earn a hypercar sticker, and it's also enough to hurl the Carmen from 0-100 kmh (0-62 mph) in less than three seconds, much like a nicely specced Tesla. Top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h (155 mph), which is a perfectly loopy speed to attempt in real-world driving and more than enough to reduce you to a lightly smoking set of dental records if you cock things up on the road.

The liquid-cooled battery is a T-shaped unit, running up the spine of the car and sprouting out sideways behind the seats much like the pack in the Pininfarina Battista. The Carmen's battery is designed around volume rather than capacity, taking up 560 liters of precisely-positioned space designed to help the car mimic the weight balance of a mid-rear engined supercar. Using current battery technology, it'll carry about 80 kilowatt-hours of energy. By 2020, when the car will hit the road, Hispano-Suiza expects it to roll with denser cells, giving it a 105 kilowatt-hour capacity and a range over 400 km (250 mi).

The Carmen's lightweight carbon monocoque chassis
The Carmen's lightweight carbon monocoque chassis

The Carmen will boast one of the most carbon-intensive auto bodies in history, with carbon composites used for "the vast proportion of vehicle structures." This begins with a carbon monocoque chassis, and extends to some unusual carbon crash structures as well as a carbon rear subframe.

The body panels are carbon, even if they've been painted to look like aluminum. The seats are carbon. The upholstery support panels are carbon, and they've even used composites in electrical insulation and sound and vibration damping. The result is an ultra-lightweight chassis that Hispano-Suiza claims is stiffer than that of any other hypercar. The whole car weighs in at just 1,690 kg (3,726 lb).

Suspension is double-wishbone at both ends, with adaptive damping and variable roll stiffness distribution. There's traction control, stability control and ABS braking – and it's worth noting the Carmen uses a brake-by-wire system that activates the regen braking for the first part of the pedal travel before troubling the whopping six-piston hydraulic brakes on their 380-mm carbon ceramic discs.

Old-school steering wheel meets digital display
Old-school steering wheel meets digital display

The interior looks highly snazzy, and fits with the luxury grand touring concept of the car, as much as you can expect to grand tour with an electric at this point. You enter via upward-opening scissor doors and nestle your booty into hand-trimmed, hand-sewn, electronically adjustable, heated leather and Alcantara seats. Breathe in, driver, and enjoy the pleasant pungency of your very own custom interior perfume. Personally, I'm going for Alpine Glade, like the spray in my toilet.

The steering wheel is retro deluxe, and the dash is wood veneer, but the clocks are digital on glass, and somehow it all kind of works together. There's a Swiss watch buried in the dash panel and LED mood lighting throughout. An art deco triangle for the gear selector sits by a 10.1-inch navigation touch screen with Bluetooth audio and a parking camera. The whole thing looks like it was designed by a futurist from the 50s or 60s.

And that certainly carries over to the exterior design, which is one of the most eye-catching efforts we've seen in years. The front looks familiar enough; since the motors and batteries are liquid-cooled, there's space for a radiator and a chunky front grille. The front hubcaps are the first indication things are gonna get weird, concentric art deco silver circles receding into a cone shape. An aggressive wheel arch gives a tip of the hat to the huge fenders of the 30s and 40s, and initiates a sharp, low line toward the back.

A large front grille feeds air to the radiators for the liquid-cooled battery and motors
A large front grille feeds air to the radiators for the liquid-cooled battery and motors

The cabin is relatively composed with its tinted glass, but when we move to the rear wheels with their aerodynamic covers, it starts looking like a space ship. The Carmen's rear proportions are Kardashianesque – a smooth roofline flanked by wing-like wheel arches tapers back to an abrupt halt. This is mirrored from beneath by a curvaceous set of rear diffusers, and these two silver lines sandwich a blacked-out inner layer with stark red tail lighting.

The Hispano-Suiza brand is being resurrected, but the founder's great grandson
The Hispano-Suiza brand is being resurrected, but the founder's great grandson

It's a peach. There's nothing on the road that looks even a little bit like it. I want to see it painted yellow and used in a gritty Dick Tracy reboot, where Dick Tracy is played by Scarlett Johannsen.

Hispano-Suiza has put this prototype together in just nine months, with a design and build team of just 25 people. After it leaves Geneva, it'll go back to Spain for testing and development at the Institute for Applied Automotive research, as well as the racetracks and mountain roads of the Iberian peninsula over the next six months. And then, hopefully, we'll get the good news that it's going into production for the lucky few who can afford its multi-million dollar pricetag.

Welcome back, Hispano-Suiza, we like your style.

Source: Hispano-Suiza

10 comments
highlandboy
A very like it or hate it design. A move away from design follows function of most modern cars. The author seems to like it but it seems like too many conflicting parts put together to me. And as for wanting my car to smell like my toilet - that’s a step too far.
KaiserPingo
Looks like an uglyfied Audi, trying to be Pagani'sh in the interior. This ugly car has nothing to do with Hispano-Suiza !!!
JimFox
Too conventional for an EV hypercar.
DavidB
I see I'm not alone thinking this comes across as an oddly mismatched collection of beautiful individual elements. Kudos to the designer for a round steering wheel, though. What's with all the ovals and rounded-corner squares, these days!?
Venetian
This is what the soccer mom's Chrysler 300 will look in 100 years. Rarely has a car been designed with such a great rear end and an absolutely horribly ugly front. Pretty sure they got the grill from a Kia reject spare part department.
Koolski2
Highlandboy has it right -- love it or hate it. It get's my "fugly" award from the grill on back, inside and out. I do like the doors though.
nazza
Rear half is a tribute to the Hispano-Suiza Xenia.
Nik
They dont seem to have achieved much more in the design than the original 1938 Xenia. In fact they have 'uglified' the front end. I prefer the original. As the air cooling requirement of the original is redundant, they could have used the same shape, but just smoothed out the radiator inlets, which in my opinion would have resulted in a more pleasing form. Pity! However, the performance is promising;-).
Martin Hone
Like most , I love the rear end and hate the front end styling treatment. Despite extensive use of carbonfibre it still weighs a bomb, but blame the battery for that I guess. Such extensive use of carbonfibre though will prove a serious to the driver and passengers, not to mention first responders should it ever catch fire, as burnt CF is similar to asbestos.
John Gochnauer
"I want to see...Dick Tracy...played by Scarlett Johannsen." Now we're getting weird.