Hispano Suiza Carmen Boulogne 2021 review

The design was, loosely, inspired by that of the 1938 H6C Dubonnet Xenia, and although it’s more reverential than retro, the rear three quarter view over the heavily faired rear end bears a clear resemblance. (The regular Carmen will also be available with the option of drag-reducing rear-wheel covers like those of the Xenia, but the Boulogne doesn’t get them.) And while EVs are often criticized for fake grilles, the Carmen does actually have radiators behind its sizeable front aperture, for cooling the motors and the battery.

The interior is accessed through power-operated butterfly doors. These don’t open especially wide, so it’s something of a scramble to get through them. But once you’re installed, the cabin feels reasonably spacious and, although the prototype’s bronze-heavy finish won’t be to all tastes, it’s trimmed to an impressively high standard. 

Idiosyncratic details include a triangular push-button gear selector, with Park in the centre and Drive, Neutral and Reverse all set at 120deg angles.

The Carmen is claimed to be a luxurious grand tourer, while the Boulogne I drove in near-finished form is pitched as a more track-suited version.

My drive was limited to the track at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain, an experience that proved the Boulogne is capable of delivering at least brief doses of serious speed, overall velocities being limited by a pace-setting Tesla.

Starting out in the power restricting Eco mode denied full acceleration, but it did confirm that the Carmen’s cabin is quiet and well-insulated at a cruising speed. Turning to Normal and then Sport mode brought more power, although I was allowed to experience the unrestricted peak output only for the length of one straight.

As with the prototype Lotus Evija that I drove earlier in the year, there’s a disconcerting disconnect between the seriousness of the g-forces the Carmen creates and the lack of combustion sound and fury to accompany them.

The size and position of the battery means that 60% of the car’s static weight sits over its rear wheels. This felt obvious in the circuit’s tighter turns, where the front end needed to be shepherded to apexes and optimistically early power application resulted in understeer. Yet this could be neutralised by easing the power, and it proved possible to easily adjust the cornering attitude through weight transfer.


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