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Gaze into the depths of Genesis GV60’s Crystal Sphere and find joy

May 25, 2023

By Patrick George

“All electric vehicles drive the same.” That’s a criticism I hear pretty often lately, especially from car enthusiasts who are none too happy to lose things like engine noises and manual transmissions. It’s not exactly accurate; a Porsche Taycan will deliver a pretty radically different experience from a Volkswagen ID.4, for example, and they come from the same parent company. But that assessment isn’t completely incorrect, either.

The truth is that there probably are fewer ways EVs feel different from one another compared to internal combustion cars. And the general auto industry consensus seems to be that cars of the future will be less defined by individual driving dynamics and more by software-driven functions and special features.

Those things don’t necessarily have to be off-the-charts ostentatious or seemingly designed to land you in traffic court. Sometimes they can be small and beautiful and just unique for their own sake.

Take the “Crystal Sphere” in the Genesis GV60. It’s my latest design obsession, and now, I’m sad when I get into any car that doesn’t have one.

For the record, that would be all other cars. The Crystal Sphere is exclusive to the GV60, the luxury EV crossover that launched from Hyundai’s upstart Lexus- and Mercedes-fighting luxury division. Even the other electric Genesis models, like the Electrified G80 and Electrified GV70, cannot lay claim to this delightful and seemingly useless feature.

Maybe it’s not useless; it looks cool, impresses your passengers, and makes you happy whenever you see it. Doesn’t that have value on its own? Additionally, Genesis describes this as a kind of safety feature: when the Crystal Sphere has retracted, you can easily recognize that the car is on and ready to drive. If the car is charging, the Crystal Sphere won’t rotate, preventing you from ripping an electrical cord away from a public fast charger when you drive away. That would be bad.

Maybe it’s not useless — it looks cool, impresses your passengers, and makes you happy whenever you see it

On the GV60’s center console, you will find a glass ball that glows when you approach the car with key in hand or unlock it. It may even be the first thing you notice when you step inside. And when you hit the start button (the GV60 actually has one, unlike many EVs) the sphere rotates inward and transforms into the rotary-knob gear selector — the center of which glows the same color as the sphere.

Just try not to be impressed by that. In the week I recently tested the GV60, I never tired of looking at it.

The GV60 itself is kind of a unique animal. It’s possible you haven’t seen many of them on the street yet; Genesis’ EVs are only currently for sale in 15 states, though that number is quickly growing. But it’s bound to catch your eye if you do see one.

Riding on the same electric platform as the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6, the GV60 eschews the angular looks of those cars for an elegant, flowing design that echoes the kind of European sport compacts that are usually forbidden fruit to us Americans. Of that trio of cars, it’s the most powerful one, offering 429 horsepower in the Performance model. It even comes in fun colors, like a funky mint green or a highlighter yellow.

Between the power, the looks, and the budget Bentley interior, the GV60 really feels like something different in the growing EV market. It’s got an offbeat but upscale character that sets it apart from other appliance-like electric cars.

But the Crystal Sphere is certainly the pièce de résistance, as it truly drives home the unique spirit of this car. Each sphere is a single solid piece of glass etched with a pattern of spires that shift and change depending on your perspective. Arguably the best part is that those spires change color on command. The Crystal Sphere’s color can be adjusted in the car’s infotainment screen to a number of preset hues or whatever you desire. That’s right: it can be any color you want.

In the week I recently tested the GV60, I never tired of looking at it

I can’t remember if I’ve ever just sat in my garage staring at a piece of a car interior, but I certainly did here. It looks absolutely dazzling and is sure to impress any of your passengers.

Understandably, Genesis — and fans of the sphere — have gotten blowback from skeptics who worry it may not be safe or may not function properly over time. Why overcomplicate something as important as putting the car into motion? What happens, for example, if you spill a gas station burrito all over the thing? Would it still work? (As a side note, why are you eating a gas station burrito in front of the Crystal Sphere? Show some respect.)

As if to preempt such questions, Genesis engineers say they subjected it to various endurance trials and high- and low-temperature tests. It still works when bearing a heavy load. Liquids, apparently, also pass through it entirely: “Because of the nature of the location, Crystal Sphere is designed so that various other substances can be naturally passed through to the floor of the cabin. To test this, we used a wide variety of liquids, including cola, hot coffee, ketchup, yogurt, and honey,” Genesis’ engineers say.

“To test this, we used a wide variety of liquids, including cola, hot coffee, ketchup, yogurt, and honey.”

The sphere also detects if things get stuck in it and will try to rotate twice with greater force. If that doesn’t work, it advises the driver to clear or clean the area and will eventually stop to protect the motor inside. Finally, the car’s own user manual indicates the sphere can be rotated manually in the event of an emergency.

Certainly, safety and durability are valid concerns. It’s hard to know for sure how the Crystal Sphere will hold up over time. Motorized parts can certainly fail after many years, too — anyone with a sunroof on a car more than 20 years old may be wary of opening it up in case it won’t close again. (Ask me how I know this.)

The GV60 is a brand-new car that’s barely been on sale a year, although Hyundai and its Genesis division have been nailing it on the quality front lately. A Genesis spokesperson told me he thinks it’d be hard to determine how much the Crystal Sphere would cost to replace but that it would be covered under warranty.

But to me, some of the unease here feels tied to edge cases, not the car’s normal operation. And besides, with a heavily software-driven EV like the GV60 that uses a lithium-ion battery and a charging port that could eventually become irrelevant, I think that, decades from now, the Crystal Sphere would be the least of your problems.

All I know is that the Crystal Sphere worked perfectly, even beautifully, in the week that I drove the car. And I was bummed not to have the Crystal Sphere in another Genesis EV I tested afterward.

I missed the Crystal Sphere when the GV60 went back to the press car fleet. I longed for it. I got some good professional news while I had the Crystal Sphere in my possession; I began to wonder, Was this because of the Crystal Sphere? Was it the source of all of the good things in my life? What will happen to me now that it’s gone? Who has it now, and what happens if they misuse its power?

Eventually, I came to my senses. But such is the power of the Crystal Sphere. And all admiration aside, I do think it’s a stellar example of modern car interior design, where little details make a lot of difference and go a long way toward establishing character when EV driving dynamics begin to blur together. There are plenty of things to be concerned about in our electrified, digital, and connected car future. We may as well have some fun along the way.

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