Hyundai’s N division proves sports cars can do it all

The Hyundai brand was gaining momentum in America in 2012. Ace designer Peter Schreyer had taken over and a solid lineup of affordable and good-looking products was the result. The Korean company founded its luxury arm a few years earlier with the Genesis brand, but sports car enthusiasts were still waiting for something to get excited about after years of half-hearted attempts.

Enter N

Hyundai’s sporty N brand is inspired by BMW’s M brand. The company even hired former BMW engineer Albert Biermann, who retired last year, to lead the company. The brand’s soft launch came in 2012 with the completion of the i20 WRC concept for the World Rally Championship racing series.

Hyundai Motorsport was incorporated in Alzenau, Germany shortly thereafter.

In December 2013, Hyundai established its technical center at the Nurburgring circuit and presented the first N logo on its 2014 WRC car. In 2015 it presented two N concepts and in 2017 the company launched its “first high car performance”, the i30 N for Europe.

“N stands for three main things,” said Derek Joyce, senior product PR manager for the N brand. Newsweek. “First of all, our technical performance center in Germany is at the Nurburgring circuit. It’s an impressive facility, and it’s where many of our engineers do extensive testing and development. There is a similar facility at the R&D center in Namyang (the second N.) Many of our engineering experts are also on hand to test the products. [the final N] is the carousel, a famous corner at the Nurburgring.”

Most Americans discovered the N brand in 2019 when the Hyundai Veloster N debuted. The hatchback was designed for enthusiasts, arriving with a six-speed manual transmission and 275 horsepower. It was followed by the Kona N crossover and the Elantra N sedan, both featuring the same turbocharged engine. However, all N Street cars take their spirit from the company’s motorsport teams.

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“I’ve been racing for Hyundai since 2018, with Bryan Herta Autosport,” said team driver Michael Lewis. Newsweek. “So it’s been a great relationship and Bryan is a legendary guy in motorsport, winning the Indy 500 a few times.”

“And that’s when I found out about N. Since then I’ve tried to tell everyone about it because once I smelled all those cars I thought to myself, ‘These are race cars for the street. Obviously they have road tires, but the chassis is the same. And we bolt on some race parts, and that’s what we use,” Lewis said.

But as much as he loved autocrossing the Veloster N and riding the Elantra N on the track. It was the Kona N’s aggressiveness that surprised him the most at an event at Atlanta Motorsports Park, where all N cars were available to drive.

“I like the Kona N just because it’s rowdy,” Lewis said. “It has a different sporty look. I like the style and feel on the street, but it’s also a great time at an autocross event or track day. They’re really fast.”

And after a day of driving the N versions of Hyundai’s cars on and off the track and on an autocross course (a short, tight conical course usually in a parking lot), they turned out to be dual-purpose cars with stiff suspensions and tight, aggressive steering.

Veloster, Elantra and Kona N cars feature the company’s N Corner Carving Differential, an electronic limited-slip differential that sends power to the front wheel with the most grip (all Ns are front-wheel drive). This means that when the car leans into a fast corner, the outside wheel, the one that is pushed into the curb, will provide the power.

They also land with a launch control feature, variable exhaust and the N Grin control system. This is what Hyundai calls its Drive Mode Select system with Eco, Normal, Sport, N and Custom modes. They change engine settings, electronic stability control, exhaust note and steering feel.

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Still, Hyundai can read the part. He understands that most of the time these cars will be commuters.

“They’re efficient, they’re reliable. The brakes don’t make noise. They’re quiet,” Joyce said. “They’re fun to ride every day. They’re fun. You put them in normal suspension mode and there’s no reason someone can’t ride them every day to work and get good economy. fuel and have a good audio system. They all also have advanced driver assistance equipment.”

A rigid options list simplifies things in the business and gives it an edge over automakers that offer sporty models with tons of options for interior and exterior equipment.

“We don’t have many models of these because it becomes too complicated to stock them at dealerships. In the case of the Kona N, it only comes one way. So we gave it a lot of safety equipment for this buyer. to enjoy everything they need. In the case of an Elantra N, you have a manual and an automatic and that’s it,” Joyce said. “We know what buyers will want and we’re going to offer them everything in one package.”

For example, in addition to forward collision avoidance, lane keeping assist, blind spot indicators and rear cross traffic alert, Kona N buyers get Bluetooth with voice recognition, automatic climate control, heated front seats, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, proximity key with push-button start, Harman Kardon audio and two front USB sockets for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

All of this is displayed in N cars like a video game, with digital screens, graphics and animations, changing with driving modes and other tweaks. It even has flames on the gauges when drivers switch to N mode.

The Elantra N sedan rides on a new platform called the K3, which makes it a bit smoother, faster and more controlled than the Veloster N or Kona N. It’s the one that Lewis and the rest of the team Hyundai IMSA are now using on the track.

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The Elantra N is also most practical when you’re looking for a fun car with enough size for the family, enough pace to turn heads and enough spirit to be fun for drivers who want a little excitement. in their journey.

Ten years later, Hyundai considers the N experience a resounding success.
“Absolutely. We’ve had very positive reviews across the board from some of the major publications on the planet. So yeah, it’s earned a lot of respect, especially for its price tag,” Joyce said.

“And his purpose. I think anyone looking at him has to look at his price and his purpose when evaluating him. And I think when they do, there’s very little compared to him in the market, especially in terms of minimal modification, full track capability and tons of visceral excitement.”

Joyce didn’t mention sales, but that’s not the important part of the N brand. This is a new space for enthusiasts.

“N’s success can be measured in many ways. I don’t know if N is still making money, but its value to Hyundai potentially goes beyond the immediate return on investment in monetary terms,” ​​said Ed Kim, President and Chief Analyst at AutoPacific. Newsweek.

“It is a tool to show Hyundai’s growing maturity and talent in producing world-class powertrain and chassis hardware. Despite Hyundai’s massive progress since the turn of the century, it is still a hallmark. challenger in most markets, so it has more to prove Biermann’s input of expertise ensured that the latest Hyundai, Kia and Genesis vehicles would ride and handle with the best, but Hyundai N is the ultimate expression of business performance potential.

The three pillars of N, which Hyundai has repeatedly mentioned, are everyday sports cars, corner rogues and full racetracks. After a day of driving on and off the track, he succeeded in every way.

“When people ask me what N is talking about, I kind of repeat what Albert Biermann said,” Lewis told Newsweek. “We’re trying to show people that these cars are fun to drive if you want to have a great experience. If you feel connected to the car, that’s a win. It doesn’t have to be the fastest, we can’t not beat Lamborghini or Ferrari. But of course, when you get in this thing, you’re going to have a really big smile on your face, and you know, the value for money really can’t be beat.

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