Pininfarina unveils the boldly designed HK GT supercar
John McIlroy is Deputy Editor of Auto Express and Carbuyer. The views expressed here are solely his own.
The established players in the global automotive industry like to call them "disruptors." They're the new kids on the block -- fresh money, bold ideas, an empowering lack of legacy to hold them back. And that makes them dangerous to the regulars, but plain exciting to everyone else.
At this year's Geneva motor show, though, there's a fascinating mix of old and new on the stand of Pininfarina. There, a hi-tech grand tourer called the HK GT has been drawing admiring glances, not just from the general public but also a number of big-company executives and engineers.
The car is, in fact, the fourth concept created on behalf of Hybrid Kinetic Group, a fast-growing automotive and tech brand from Hong Kong.
But if its client is a fresh arrival on the scene, Pininfarina is not. This classic Italian design and engineering company was founded in 1930 and has some of the most beautiful Ferraris in history in its back catalog, along with work for the likes of BMW and Alfa Romeo.
And yet the relatively unknown HK is a crucial client at this juncture because its work is helping Pininfarina -- which was hit hard during the global financial crisis -- to recover under its Indian owner, Tech Mahindra.
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As long as a limo
The HK GT is not pure fantasy. It has an all-aluminium chassis and a cutting-edge powertrain with a 38kWh battery and a microturbine generator that can run on a variety of fuels to keep the electricity levels topped up.
The total output through the car's four in-wheel motors is more than 800kW, equal to 1,073 horsepower, so the performance figures are akin to those of many supercars. It can reach 60mph, or 100km/h, in just 2.7 seconds, and go on to a top speed of 350km/h (218mph). If required, it can drive on electricity alone for more than 100 miles.
It is the design that grabs the eye more than the raw data, though. The GT is 16 feet, or five meters, long -- about the same as a standard-length limousine -- and mixes a classic grand tourer shape, with a long bonnet and a cabin set back in the profile, with concept elements like spectacular gullwing doors.
"The brief was to create a bold shape that could be a flagship," explained Pininfarina's Vice President for Business Unit Design, Carlo Bonzanigo. "We have been working with HK for some time now, not just on vehicles but on their entire aesthetic universe. This is the latest step of our journey."
It seems odd to say something so vast (it looks spectacularly long) could be intricate, and yet the level of detail on the GT is spectacular.
The reason it looks so stretched, for example, is some clever design tweaks, such as a single 'pin line' that runs the full length of the flanks, before tapering downwards as it gets towards the rear of the vehicle. And what Bonzanigo calls an "arrow shadow" -- effectively a deep scallop in the side of the car, running from just behind the front wheel all the way to the rear. It's the only real bit of surfacing in a timeless shape that is remarkably free of fussy, fast-aging embellishments. In many ways, classic Pininfarina.
The front leaves you in no doubt of the GT's electrified powertrain, thanks to an illuminated grille that features bent vertical lines that point out to each side, emphasizing width. The rear takes this further still, with slim taillights and powerful haunches over the tires.
Inside, there's seating for four, and beautiful experimentation with materials. "The leather on the seats uses a process to make it look slightly aged, like a well-worn bomber jacket," Bonzanigo explained.
"Then there's a wool carpet to give the feeling underfoot of a comfortable lounge." Not to mention Pininfarina's 'HK pattern,' a diamond stitched quilt that covers the two deeply bucketed rear seats.
There's plenty of technology, too, with a huge touchscreen in front of the front passenger, and touch panels on the center console to control everything from heating and ventilation to the gearbox. There are even screens on the inner door panels, allowing information to be sent to and from the two rows of passengers.
Will they make it? As recently as five years ago, you could easily have written off the HK GT as a flight of fancy. But electric powertrains, advances in small-scale manufacturing and, crucially, the overarching desire of the uber-rich to have something exclusive could yet make it happen. Perhaps even as a limited-run showcase for HK's own technical prowess.
Bonzanigo is non-committal, when asked if production is even feasible. "This is for Hybrid Kinetic to decide," he said. But then he added, "We have been asked to take the HK H600 sedan concept from last year through to production spec and we are working on that. For now."