Hyundai’s new concept car Le Fil Rouge embodies the brand’s desire to discover perfect harmony between feeling and function
Embracing the intersection of fast-changing technology and elegant design, Hyundai’s bold new concept car, Le Fil Rouge, synthesises beauty with innovation to create a route map for tomorrow’s transport. Hyundai’s ethos has always been about the driver experience, but the arrival of zero-emission cars and fully autonomous driving modes is set to bring a radical shift in our relationship with our cars. Tomorrow’s range of Hyundai vehicles will give the driver a tactile and sensory relationship with their machine, as well as an ever-evolving relationship between car and user, road and machine, information and destination.
Le Fil Rouge symbolises the connectivity between Hyundai’s past and present, while also previewing the ethos of the production cars of tomorrow. The concept embodies Hyundai’s spirit of ‘sensuous sportiness’, developed over a decade’s worth of design evolution, from the naturally inspired exterior forms, through to the progressive cabin architecture and the technological, spatial and cultural innovations promised by electric powertrains and autonomous driving. Luc Donckerwolke, head of Hyundai design centre, describes the concept as ‘expressing the potential within the brand for the perfect harmony between emotion and function’. ‘It’s about establishing a strong relationship between customer and the brand through a product that will change their way of interacting with the world,’ he explains. SangYup Lee, head of Hyundai styling, has helped shape this emotional, progressive interpretation of the company’s brand identity.
Dubbed ‘light architecture,’ the car uses golden ratio-based proportion to create a forward motion effect, with front and rear pillars and roof treated as a single, sinuous line that runs from front to rear. ‘Proportion is like the backbone of the body; we believe it’s the most important element of all in designing a vehicle,’ says Lee, who describes harmonising four key design elements – proportion, architecture, styling and technology. ‘Sensuous sportiness is our next step of design,’ he says, ‘a car is no longer a form of transportation; it’s becoming individualised and could be used for different purposes, both as a living space and a driver’s space. Our mission is to take the brand to this next level.’
Le Fil Rouge has a long wheelbase, large wheels and short overhangs at front and rear, with Hyundai’s signature cascading grille incorporating parametrically- shaped jewel lighting that gives the car a poised and formidable presence. Intricate geometric designs also adorn the unique aerodynamic wheels, which pair with the crisp, clean creases along the shoulder line. Elsewhere, the key exterior surfaces are formed of generous curvatures, which seamlessly intersect as they envelop and embrace the passenger space.
The opulent, flowing exterior is mirrored in the spacious, contemporary cabin of real wood and high-tech fabrics, a deliberate design strategy that Hyundai calls ‘tube architecture’. Seats appear to float above the floor of the vehicle, with a pillarless design emphasised by the coach rear doors. The seats are pared back to elemental shapes, with curving seat backs that reach around to form both the passenger infotainment screen and storage area.
Le Fil Rouge also represents the apex of current thinking about autonomous drive systems. ‘When the car is in autonomous mode, the headlamps don’t need to be as intense as they are in driving mode,’ Lee explains. ‘And we use an ambient lighting system instead to save energy.’ LEDs embedded in the flanks pulse softly when in autonomous mode, giving the appearance of the car being a living, breathing thing.
To celebrate this fusion of design and technology, Hyundai and Wallpaper* have collaborated with designer Moritz Waldemeyer to create a unique light installation. Waldemeyer, who has worked with the likes of Zaha Hadid, Yves Béhar, Ron Arad and Hussein Chalayan, says, ‘The two most striking aspects of the car are its elegant flow of lines and the parametric jewel surfaces. These were the starting point for the creative process.’
Waldemeyer and his team rigged up a ribbon of LED lights, anchored to six winches via slender wires, setting the stage for drawing in 3D space. Each winch is precisely computer-controlled, allowing the lights to make flowing journeys through 3D space. ‘The LED line creates a surface and draws it into the air,’ he explains. ‘Depending on the graphic design we generate, we are able to draw different graphics and patterns on a carpet of light. We used parametric 3D design software during the preparation of the shoot and the set-up allowed us to ‘paint’ in high resolution within a very large volume in space.’ The result is a shimmering sculpture that is only revealed through long exposure photography.
Waldemeyer has seamlessly spliced technology with elaborate forms, translating the fast-moving fields of LED lighting, mechatronics and sensors into pure artistic expression. There’s no such thing as a typical Waldemeyer installation, but one signature quality is the fusion of the mechanical and the organic, using technology to explore the fluidity of light and space. This LED-driven installation blends his inspirations, influences and fascinations, especially the worlds of automotive design, architecture and consumer electronics.
‘The curved spaces evoke the aerodynamic form and beauty of Le Fil Rouge,’ says Waldemeyer. ‘It’s by far the most elegant interpretation of an electric car I’ve ever seen. There’s a whole new elegance in the design language because new cars will have to be aerodynamic so they can achieve their range.’
Le Fil Rouge introduces forms and spaces that were once the realm of science fiction, bringing them within tantalising reach of today’s drivers. With a unique character created from the intersection of technology, artistry and design, the car represents a future where function is integrated with emotion.
Emotional value doesn’t just come from driving dynamics, but the holistic experience of being in a car. ‘In the past, vehicles competed over their performance, design, fuel efficiency – very physical things,’ says Minsoo Kim, head of Hyundai’s marketing division. ‘But we believe that what’s even more important are people’s feelings when they are in the car. We are more focused on the experience itself.’ Hyundai’s fluid styling, classic proportions, innovative architecture and next generation technology all come together through Moritz Waldemeyer’s futuristic expression of the sculptural potential of light.
Cho is intent on changing perception of the Hyundai brand around the globe. ‘The car is evolving’ says Cho. ‘It’s no longer just about transport to move people from A to B. The advancement in digital technology is supporting the new role of the car, but people are expecting new experiences inside and outside the car. We are going to reposition our brand to be a more innovative and creative space in the future, and there will also be extended mobility services. We want to make it an easy process at every single customer touchpoint, offline or online, and provide quality time through a seamless experience.’
Luc Donckerwolke, head of hyundai design centre
Donckerwolke believes car design needs to be more culturally distinctive. ‘We are creating a unique character for our brand and all our models,’ the Belgian designer explains. ‘Today, we are all interconnected, synchronised, we all read the same magazines, we all receive the same information in real time, and this tends to universalise things like car design.’ Donckerwolke, a former design director at Bentley, Lamborghini and Audi, describes Le Fil Rouge as the ‘consistent line which will bind all the cars of the future of Hyundai. We will be a multi-faceted company and Le Fil Rouge is there as the uniting element of all those facets.’