The Hispano Suiza Carmen is a 1000bhp EV like no other | Top Gear
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Wednesday 27th September

The Hispano Suiza Carmen is a 1000bhp EV like no other

An awkward battle surrounds this striking, 1930s inspired electric coupe

Published: 06 Mar 2019

“Will the real Hispano Suiza please stand up?” we asked before the Geneva show doors swung open. Well, all logic suggests this is the real Hispano Suiza, given its styling unsubtly nods to a 1930s classic and much of the founder’s family were in attendance to help whip off the covers.

Meet the Carmen, named after the current president’s mother, Carmen Mateu – who’s also the Hispano Suiza founder’s granddaughter – and possessing styling quite unlike anything else on the Swiss show floor. And indeed any other £1m+ electric supercar that it initially appears so similar to on paper.

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It uses Formula E developed battery tech to send 1,005bhp to the rear wheels only, and with its top speed curtailed at 155mph. “I don’t want to compete with the performance of a Koenigsegg or a Rimac,” says technical directior Lluc Marti. “We limit the top speed because we don’t think there’s sense in any more.”

It’s a bold statement when Marti’s CV includes three years at Koenigsegg itself, working on the One:1. “Even though I came from Koenigsegg this is a dream job. There, we had the old chassis and engine and suspension, here I was given a white sheet of paper and told ‘create the car’. I was like ‘really, I can put everything I’ve learned in this chassis?’”

There’s also a lot of pride in the 40-strong development team to return to Spain to work on a brand that may not have made anything new for 70 years, but which they all hold pretty close to their heart.

“Several people in this project have been around the world working on things but it was our choice to come back home and work on something we love. It’s a great opportunity for us.”

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It’s a proudly hand-crafted thing, with meticulous detailing, exquisite carbon weaving and an annual production run of seven cars (with the total limited to 19). While there’s a carbon tub at its core, this isn’t a honed hypercar that’s aiming to out-handle its contemporaries.

“It’s been developed in Barcelona at Catalunya, as well as some less busy circuits,” says Marti. Not the Nordschleife? “No, no, no, not at all! We are closer to visiting Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach than the Nürburgring.

“I know where Koenigsegg, Rimac and Pininfarina are in that regard, and it’s a lot for us to achieve in two years. We’re after a new market; collectors mainly and perhaps fewer young people, and instead those who know what Hispano Suiza is.”

The styling is heavily inspired by the 1938 Hispano Suiza Dubonnet Xenia, so they really won’t be young if they remember that. The teardrop shape, covered rear wheels and round headlamps are all a direct nod to a car from 81 years ago, a unique attitude in the electric car segment.

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