This electric super-coupe is a striking example of style and performance at an affordable price.
What is it?
Hispano Suiza is one of the few long-dead marques that has been revived.
Although the Spanish manufacturer made 12,000 cars during the first half century of the 20th Century, it hasn’t produced one since 1946. The arrival of the Carmen, an electric luxury vehicle (EV) that offers a unique combination of a high-powered output and a price tag of seven figures, is changing all of this.
Barcelona-based QEV Technologies has created this new car. However, there is a real family connection to Hispano Suiza’s original form, with Miguel Suque Mateu, the company president, being the great-grandson co-founder Damian Mateu.
It is planned to produce 19 examples of the regular Carmen with 1005bhp at EUR1.5 million before taxes, and five examples of Carmen Boulogne which boasts 1099bhp but has a more dynamic focus and will be priced at EUR1.65m.
The Carmen is as carbon-intensive a car can be. It has a bodywork, a central monocoque structure, and subframes to mount to it front and rear, all made of woven composite. Suspension components for the double wishbones are made from aircraft-grade aluminum alloy.
The Carmen is rear-driven, which is unusual for an EV with high output. It has four lightweight permanent magnet synchronous electric motors. Each rear wheel is driven by a pair through a single speed reduction gearbox. Although they are physically separate, both sides can be linked through what is called a “virtual difference” traction management program that allows for torque vectoring.
The car’s 80kWh T-shaped, 80kWh battery is the source of power. It sits behind the passenger compartment as well as in the central tunnel between the seats. The car’s maximum power rating is possible thanks to the 700-cell 700V lithium ion battery. It can also be charged at speeds up to 80kW using DC fast charging, which allows it to be recharged in as little as 30 minutes from 30% to 80%.
Hispano Suiza claims it is aiming for a 250-mile range using the WLTP protocol. The battery weighs 800kg. This makes the Carmen’s kerbweight of 1690kg very impressive.
First, let me say that the Hispano Suiza looks great in person. It is lower and more muscular in 3D than in 2D.
This design was loosely inspired by the 1938 H6C Dubonnet Xenia. Although it is more retro than retro, the rear view of the heavily trimmed rear end shows a clear resemblance. The regular Carmen will be available with drag-reducing rear wheel covers, like the Xenia. However, the Boulogne won’t have them. EVs are often criticized because they have fake grilles. However, the Carmen actually has radiators behind the large front aperture for cooling the battery and motors.
Access to the interior can be made via power-operated butterfly door. They don’t open very wide so it can be a bit of a struggle to get through them. Once you have it installed, the cabin feels spacious. The prototype’s bronze-heavy finish may not be to everyone’s liking, but it has been trimmed to an impressively high level.
A triangular push-button gear selection with Park at the center and Drive, Neutral, and Reverse at 120 degrees are some of the unique details.
The Carmen is a luxury grand tourer. While the Boulogne I was driven in almost-finished form, it is a more track-suited version.
My driving experience was restricted to the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya, Spain. This proved that the Boulogne can deliver at most brief moments of serious speed, despite overall speeds being constrained by a pace-setting Tesla.
Although I was unable to accelerate in Eco mode, it confirmed that the Carmen’s cabin was quiet and well-insulated at cruise speed. Although I was able to feel the full power of Sport mode and Normal, it took me only one lap.
Like the Lotus Evija prototype I drove earlier this year, there is a disconnect between the seriousness and lack of combustion sound and fury created by the Carmen.
Due to the size and location of the battery, 60% of the car’s weight is placed over its rear wheels. This was evident in tighter circuit turns where the front end had to be guided to apexes. An optimistically early power application led to understeer. This could be mitigated by increasing the power and weight transfer was able to adjust the cornering attitude.
The other side of the conservative chassis settings are the high levels of dynamic stability and impressive traction, given the enormous effort that is channelled through only two wheels. Both traction intervention and torque-biasing were subtle, so the Boulogne didn’t feel flinching even when it was pushing hard. Although the final car will be equipped with adjustable levels of regenerative brake, the prototype I drove did not have them. The car felt stable even at higher levels of retardation.
Hispano Suiza has paid special attention to details that are often overlooked by carmakers with limited budgets. Both the central touchscreen and digital dashboard have beautifully rendered graphics. The collision warning system, which sounds an alarm if there is too much speed differential between you and the car in front, also displays a visual indication of the gap in seconds.
Do I need one?
Even if Hispano Suiza sells all the cars, the Carmen will still have exclusivity.
The first impression suggests that while the car may not be as fast as the Rimac Nevera or Evija, it will have a luxury interior that is more luxurious than either.
Driving the Boulogne around a track was not an easy task. The near-silent powertrain, impressive refinement and ability to handle real roads will make the Boulogne far more adaptable.