Hyundai Grandeur Concept: Yesterday’s future, today.

Every website from Attic Insulation Digest to Yak Fondler Weekly has covered the Hyundai Grandeur; the internet is awash with facts and figures about the Korean brand’s latest concept car, so I’m not going to put any here. Frankly, none of that minutiae matters – it’s never going to be series-produced anyway. More important, from where I’m sitting, is that they thought to build it.

The Hyundai Grandeur Heritage Series EV makes me nostalgic for an exciting future, one quite different from the arguably more exciting one we actually ended up with. A time when there were endless possibilities to come – rather than everything is possible right now.

You could see the GHSEV (as nobody is calling it) as a continuation of the 1986-launched Mitsubishi Debonair clone original. An extra-top-of-the-range, flagship-plus Grandeur that’s crammed with features that weren’t possible then but are today. “No, I’ll hold off for now and not order the 1986 Grandeur GL (or whatever the top trim level was), I’ll order your Heritage Series EV and accept the 35 year wait for it to be built. What’s the rush?”.

This thing is tuned directly into my mind. Back in the 80s, concept cars were pretty much the meaning of life. More or less my religion. I’m 40 now, so when I was a kid, concepts like the Nissan CUE-X (infinitely more interesting than its Nissan QX homonym) enthralled me, with features like electronic air suspension, drive-by-wire control, anti-lock brakes, a laser/radar based cruise control system, a colour touchscreen infotainment screen and matching digital instrument panel, and much, much more. All of that seemed like science fiction. Of course, today, none of those features are anything special. In fact, they’re pretty mundane.

In fact, technology is now so advanced that we’ve reached a point where it’s really hard for me to imagine an interesting automotive fantasy concept car. Once upon a time, the idea that a car would be able to look after the steering, acceleration and braking on your behalf seemed like the most incredible, Knight Rider-esque fantasy. Now it’s arrived, I tend to switch it off. Even going really fast has become mundane.

The Hyundai Grandeur Heritage Series EV reminds me of a time where we were used to suspending our disbelief. A time when Disney animations were still at least partially hand-drawn, and the computer-animated bits stood out and the whole cinema went “whoa” in unison. 

Think of Flight of the Navigator. That bit where the Dymaxion drone ship flies over the Everglades at many times the speed of sound, at low altitude, with bits of Florida reflecting on its chrome flanks. That was one of the few computer animated bits in the whole film, because the technology was so expensive. And it was amazing, blending seamlessly with the live action.

Back to the Future used hardly any of what we’d call computer animation today. Universal did the best they could with the technology they had at their disposal, and they did an amazing job. We didn’t question a thing. The same with the obviously hand-drawn and /or puppet-based beasts in Ghostbusters. We turned a blind eye to the oddly limp, proportionally dubious creatures. We suspended our disbelief.

Nowadays, something akin to perfection is possible in digitally animated films. In fact, such a standard is so easy to attain that the technology is thrown around with gay abandon. To such an extent that it’s so ubiquitous as to become tedious. Witness Transformers. Yes, there’s an awesomeness of spectacle, but once you’ve seen five minutes of the impossible and gone “wow” a bit, the next hour of basically the same becomes something to endure. 

I loved Star Trek, The Next Generation. I loved that the main console of the Bridge of the Enterprise was trimmed in wood veneer, which made it relatable to the current, but how the touchscreens they were using – while feasible – used a technology that was just beyond the horizon. Yet the three year-old smartphone I have in my pocket is actually wildly advanced compared with anything they dreamt up in TNG.

Back to the Hyundai. I suppose what I like about it is how it defines what progress actually is. By using the anachronistic, oldentimes shape of the Grandeur, the concept delineates what already exists and what’s new and exciting. Whereas the innovation in the Ioniq 5 – which seems to be specced almost identically –  is kind of lost in a sea of white noise, it stands out starkly in the Grandeur.

It’s fucking awesome, too, seemingly channelling Bladerunner in all the right ways and posessed of an interior that I would quite happily spend the rest of my life in. It is, for me, by far and away the most appealing concept I’ve seen in years.

And imagine if the concept behind this concept car is Hyundai offering to retrofit its latest EV tech to existing cars, with the Grandeur merely offered as a serving suggestion? If this were the case, I’d sure as hell be taking my Rover to a Hyundai workshop.

About RoadworkUK

RoadworkUK is the online persona of Gianni Hirsch, a tall, awkward gentleman with a home office full of gently decomposing paper and a garage full of worthless scrap metal. He lives in the village of Moistly, which is a safe distance from London and is surrounded by enough water and scenery to be interesting. In another life, he has designed, sold, worked on and written about cars in exchange for small quantities of money.

12 Comments

  1. As another soon-to-be-40-year-old, this concept is quite exactly what I am dreaming of as a commuter. The simple, clean, very original exterior with Hyundai’s signature LED-lighting. A warmer, but still futuristic, practical, neat interior, and all on a basically maintenance-free, silent and powerful, modern EV platform. I love it! The Grandeur is the godfather of the spaghetti-like mess of Korean executive sedans. For Hyundai to plop this concept out now is perfect timing, and perfect branding. This really just is a concept that makes me happy.

    Personally, I am still waiting on my authorities here confirming that I can import a long version of my Centennial and dump a Leaf motor and some batteries in it. This is still something very few people do, but the want is strong. If we don’t buy an all new car now, I could even afford it, and not just dream about it, ha!

    1. I think that would be a fantastic idea, but aren’t you having a difficult time finding qualified personnel to keep your Centennial running well? The degree of difficulty with a one-off non-ICE kludge is going to be off the charts unless you can find a Norwegian counterpart to Rich Benoit.

      1. You remember well, that’s the challenge. I was trying to find someone on the quite far-reaching EV forums to even discuss a conversion, but people who do this professionally seem to be located in the UK (which disqualified itself with Brexit; lots of extra paperwork), Sweden, NL. In any case, it gets more complicated and more expensive. But I keep thinking about this idea all day long and can’t seem to shake it.

  2. “I’ll order your Heritage Series EV and accept the 35 year wait for it to be built.”

    Cough! Ford Bronco Cough!

  3. I’ll take mine as the original Mitsubishi Debonair, but in AMG form.

    Talk about suspending disbelief.

  4. Don’t quite get the internet excitement over this. A warmed over Mitsubishi Debonair was meh then, it’s meh with LEDs and Touchscreens now.

    1. It’s not a meh badge engineered car anymore. It’s turned into a cool looking, retrograde one off and shouldn’t drive all that differently from some of the industry-leading products Hyundai/Kia is churning out.

      1. No edit function…it reminds me of retro futuristic movies like Gattaca, imagine an electric, silent, fast Citroën DS. Just different.

      2. I even mean aesthetically…. still a pretty generic looking 80s boxy saloon in my view. It wasn’t exactly brilliant looking then, it just has LEDs now.

        Less Blade Runner (Syd Meads designs were more imaginative) and more Cyberpunk 2077 crashing out on your Xbox.

          1. Clean doesn’t equal good of course.

            Yeah, it’s personal taste, but I can’t help feeling this is the nadir of 80s Rad/Synthwave-esque nostalgia. Interiors alright, bit bubble era Japan Karaoke bar.

  5. The vintage Hyundai logo is stirring up just enough nostalgia to my dad’s old Sonata (the interior wasn’t quite a lush burgundy velour, but it was dark blue and something with a bit of fuzz to it). Hopefully they got the perfect plastic off-gassing smell too. For some reason, it’s also resurrected my inexplicable desire for a restomodded Chrysler M-Body.

    Also, this even made enough of a splash that the morning show on one of our local alt-rock stations was talking about it (they were all for it as non-car people, which was neat to hear).

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