The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is one of the most prestigious art museums in the country. This week, among the Chris Burden lampposts, the James Turrell installation, and masterworks by Robert Ruschenberg, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol, Hyundai introduced its Vision G concept, an ultra-luxury coupe that could take the Korean company to new heights, and announce to the world that it’s ready to run with the big dogs.
Despite solid offerings in the upscale Genesis and Equus sedans, Hyundai has had an uphill battle luring buyers away from established premium makes like Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. The cars have proven successful enough for the brand to continue moving upmarket, but at this early stage, while it has a lot going for it, there’s still a long way to go for it to become a real player. Recently, the company has been making noise about building a premium SUV, joining the growing luxury off-roader segment by offering premium accoutrements for thousands less than its competitors. And with the Vision G concept, it could soon have a contender to take on big two-doors like the Mercedes S-Class Coupe, and BMW 6-Series.
Like Lexus 25 years ago, the biggest strike against Hyundai’s premium offerings so far has been their styling, which seems to alternate between being too conservative and too derivative. Luckily, the Vision G coupe avoids these pitfalls, taking the lines of the current-generation (and much improved) Genesis sedan and making it both more muscular and more luxurious. The result is an instant brand image so strong, that if the Vision G went into production unchanged tomorrow, it would be proof that Hyundai has finally cracked the luxury car code.
The Vision G coupe was designed with input from all of Hyundai’s global design studios, styled in the U.S., and overseen by Peter Schreyer, the company’s design chief. Schreyer left Audi for Kia in 2006, and was instrumental in the Korean brand’s recent renaissance. Since he’s been at the helm (he became chief designer at Hyundai in 2012), Hyundai/Kia have blossomed into two of the most competitive brands in the world. Schreyer will step down in 2017, but the corporate cousins scored another coup by landing Luc Donckerwolke of Bentley to take the reigns, adding to the speculation that Hyundai has room at the top for more premium vehicles.
Adding to the Vision G’s desirability is the fact that this is no mere rolling concept. Hyundai says that it fits in with the brand’s “‘Responsible and Respectful’ Luxury Family of Products,” but the muscular coupe has a 5.0 liter Tau V8 good for an impressive 420 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, putting it within striking distance as the 449 horsepower S-Class coupe. While the coupe is naturally-aspirated, Hyundai has toyed with the idea of supercharged Tau engines before, so it wouldn’t be impossible to see an even more powerful version of the car taking on the likes AMG, and likely for thousands less.
Along with the 2014 Audi Prologue concept, the Vision G ranks as one of the best looking luxury coupes to come along in the past few years, and in keeping with Hyundai’s civilized, upscale theme, the car is heading to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where it will be displayed alongside some of the most beautiful cars ever built.
The last time a Pebble Beach concept caused such a stir was Cadillac’s gorgeous Ciel concept at the 2011 show. Since then, its lineup of cars have taken cues from the Ciel, and have gotten exponentially better. Even if the Vision G doesn’t reach production, it’s likely the car will have just as strong an influence on Hyundai’s next lineup of luxury models. Either way, it’s probably time to start taking Korean luxury seriously.
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