We're going to be perfectly blunt here: We're not sure what you are looking at. What appears to be a mysterious large Hyundai mule has been caught on Korea's Bobaedream website without any apparent disguise.
Shot both on public streets and in a parking garage, this mule appears to be Genesis-derived, with what looks like an identical greenhouse, mirrors, and doors, but distinct front and rear sheetmetal, along with unique fascias, light clusters, and a different grille. While the shots make the car out to be shorter and chunkier, looking at the size of the doors and the amount of sheetmetal between their leading and trailing edges and the wheel well openings leads us to believe that this is almost assuredly a reworked Genesis. The mystery machine certainly isn't terribly pretty, but it is less timid about its Hyundai branding, and the grille treatment does have some familial resemblance to it. Its size and shape would also seem to discount the much-anticipated Equus sedan, of which (very different looking) official sketches have already been released.
So what gives? The Genesis sedan hasn't been on sale anywhere for a full year yet, so it's probably too early to start prototype testing of the model's inevitable first facelift. Further, some of the changes appear to be sheetmetal-level, which is very expensive and less common, and new lights aren't exactly cheap, either. Could its more traditional grille point toward a new domestic-only model?
We also thought about the possibility of this being the upcoming Sonata replacement, but its proportions scream rear-wheel drive, and besides, we hear that Hyundai is going to veer more toward the increasingly-popular "four-door coupe" aesthetic for its next iteration, and this vehicle certainly isn't reaching in that direction.
Suitably mystified, we reached out to our friends in Hyundai North America, and they bluntly professed to not know what it is, either. Judging by the direction and tone of our conversation, we have no reason to doubt that they honestly don't know what this is, either. Usually when we stumble onto future product that they aren't allowed to discuss, they simply repeat a variation on the theme of: "We can't comment on that," or they try to give us roundabout answers that lead us in the right direction without betraying company secrets. Not this time. Showing them these images appeared to yield genuine surprise and curiosity – so much so that our sources have agreed to run these images "up the flagpole" to see if they can learn more. Click on the gallery thumbnails below for more pictures before heading over to the jump for more details and speculation.
The possibility of this car being an early mule for the Genesis with later-discarded styling cues was one of the main lines of discussion we investigated – after all, to this very day, we still see Genesis sedan prototypes making the rounds near the company's Ann Arbor, Michigan offices, and not all of them wear what came to be the final production grille. In fact, in discussing the mule around the virtual campfire, Alberto Ballestin at Autoblog Spanish correctly noted that this car shares an awful lot with a mule spotted Stateside last year. Automakers typically mock up a number of different looks before they decide on a final design, and rather than sending the alternates to the crusher, such packages are occasionally re-used as mules for powertrain development and so on. However, give what looks to be production-ready lighting, we tend to think that this is in fact a new and distinct model destined for the assembly line.
Another possible explanation for the car shown here is that there has been some talk of a Genesis livery model (read: limo) for Asian markets. However, if anything, this mule looks shorter than the current car, which if true, doesn't exactly fit the segment's marching orders.
As it is with many global companies in other industries, it's entirely possible that not every arm of the parent automaker is fully aware of the vehicles they are developing for other markets. Said another way, we wouldn't be at all surprised if Hyundai Korea is off developing new models without telling Hyundai North America about what they are up to. In our experience, this lack-of-transparency is something of a common theme, particularly among Asian automakers. After all, why bother bringing up issues (and products) that are not expected to appear in that arm's portfolio?
So there you have it. A mystery Hyundai that kinda-sorta looks like a home-market Genesis with bespoke sheetmetal. Leave your best guesses in 'Comments' and we'll get back to you when we learn more. Thanks for the tip, JB!