After a few seconds in the Mindset, I was thinking: Whoa, this thing is fast. And Goddamn, it feels good. And then I remembered a movie I hadn’t thought of in a decade, and it struck me: this doesn’t seem like 2009, this is more like Gattaca. You know: the sci-fi movie starring the Studebaker Avanti, Rover P6 and Citroën DS Décapotable—all running with electric motors. They are breathtakingly, inimitably beautiful cars. In the movie, they only make a whirring noise. It’s all very 2030, and, somehow, it works. Of course, if you had an electric droptop DS at your disposal, then why would you drive a Swiss-made, electric Mindset? But I’m getting ahead of myself. So, what is this car about?
It’s about Murat Günak, former head designer at Peugeot, Mercedes and VW, the man who styled the 206, the SLK and the Passat CC. It’s about Günak’s ennui with conventional cars and his desire to make something forward-looking. The result is a daringly sensible oddball. Of a oddly daring sensible car. Anyway, I liken it to the Citroën DS when introduced in 1955. Of course, conservative, quick-to-judge carmudgeons may call it ugly. I think it’s fantastic.
First of all, the wheels. Twenty-two inches with rather narrow tires. (They’re as wide as those on the original Golf GTI, but look narrow in proportion to the gigantic wheels). Narrow, says Günak, is neat: less rolling resistance, less wind resistance, less macho affectations, less prone to aquaplaning, lower unsprung weight. When the wheels are big enough, the contact patch is still large enough to ensure good deceleration.
Then, the body. The sheetmetal’s supposed to remind one of a 1930ish commuter boat. More to the point, it looks like a fuselage on wheels, sporting an entirely appropriate low wind resistance (with a drag coefficient under 0.25). Stephan Hartmann, Mindet’s Chief Engineer, told me the Mindset’s looks are also a product of his goal of a relatively high ground clearance, high seating position, yet low center of gravity. They’ve achieved the latter (at a height of around 70 cm) by positioning the car’s Li-Ion batteries centrally, below the cabin.
And now for the driving experience, or rather, the passenger experience. The Mindset’s a prototype; Hartmann drove during a recent demonstration through Zurich. Weighing-in at around 800kg, the aluminum-spaceframed electric car serves-up 220NM (1760 lbs/162 lb·ft) of torque. There’s addictive, neck-pulling, instantaneous and linear acceleration. AutoBild claim (in German natürlich) that the Mindset out-accelerates the 911 Turbo—for a few seconds anyway. The EV mule feels like a sorted, mass-produced car, with none of the creaks and groans you normally get in a prototype hard-cornering over bumpy urban roads.
The Mindset’s interior is roomy, at the same time iPodesque modern and bench-seated old-fashioned. It has a flat floor, great visibility and custom leather upholstery and luggage. Many people dislike it; the Mindset guys know that it (as does the whole car) polarizes. Apart from the glare-prone LCD instrument panel, I’m a fan.
Who would buy such a car? Mindset says they’re looking at the well-to-do person who finds conventional sports cars and luxury cars gauche, slightly embarrassing and old-fashioned; for whom the Tesla is just an expensive Lotus-with-batteries; and who want a more economical, everyday package. This target group sounds like me—and maybe fifty-seven other guys. If this company gets their financing together and proves me wrong, I’ll be glad.