Thursday, September 03, 2015

New High-Performance 'N' Division Shows How Ambitious Hyundai Is

BMW has its vaunted ‘M’ badge, and now the upwardly mobile Hyundai is taking the ‘N.’

Showing it is serious about establishing a performance pedigree, this tenacious Korean automaker is launching a new performance-oriented N division and bringing several vehicles to the Frankfurt Motor Show to celebrate.

Hyundai said that the N brand will build on the company’s motor sports heritage, particularly as a competitor in the World Rally Championship. Hyundai returned to the WRC in 2014 after a 10-year hiatus, with a racing version of its i20 hatchback sold overseas.

The company will preview a new version of the i20 WRC race car in Frankfurt as an emblem of its ambitions. This is the first prototype for the new rally car that’ll run in the WRC starting next year.

Hyundai also will showcase two concept cars at Frankfurt’s auto show in September.

The most radical one is called the N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo. This hybrid sports car — meant to highlight the future potential of N — will be featured exclusively in the Sony Playstation Gran Turismo video game.

The Hyundai RM15 concept car, which first debuted at the Seoul Motor Show in April, is the other one headed to Frankfurt. It is essentially a tricked-out Hyundai Veloster with a 296-horsepower 2.0-liter engine mounted in the middle of the car instead of up front for better weigh distribution.

Though the RM15 is only a concept, its engine is undergoing development for applications in future high-performance Hyundai road vehicles. The RM15 also showcases other driver-focused technology that could come into production via the new N division, Hyundai said.

But the company did not disclose details about any future performance vehicles that will wear an N badge.

Like Mazda, Hyundai has been getting more upscale in recent years. It said the N brand is about building new momentum for “exciting driving dynamics” — a phrase commonly used by the high-performance M division at the luxury brand BMW.

The Frankfurt Motor Show kicks off with several press days starting September 15. Among the many vehicles slated to debut there are the 2017 Kia Sportage, and some reports suggest, possibly the new BMW M2 coupe.

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