For those disappointed by the news that Hyundai is killing off the sporty Veloster N, the news out of Seoul today should provide some reassurance the South Korean carmaker isn’t giving up on performance — it’s just going electric.
Hyundai confirmed it will launch a more muscular version of its battery-powered SUV, the Ioniq 5 N, for 2023. Meanwhile, the automaker rolled out two distinctive concept vehicles that broadly hint at what’s to come from the high-performance Hyundai N brand.
“RN22e and N Vision 74 play an important role in the strategic development of our entire product line-up, especially our electrified, high-performance vehicles,” said Thomas Schemera, executive vice president and Hyundai’s Customer Experience Division chief. “Rolling labs represent the continuous development of our most advanced technologies. This unique approach makes us ready for the challenges of the future by empowering us to push ourselves to the limit.”
N Vision 74: the future draws from the past
Of the two show cars, the N Vision 74 is the most extreme and, it seems, the one drawing the most attention. It’s likely to immediately trigger a sense of déjà vu. While designed in-house by the team led by styling chief SangYup Lee, the N Vision 74 draws from Hyundai’s long-ago link to Giorgetto Giugiaro.
The Italian designer was responsible for Hyundai’s very first vehicle, the Hyundai Pony, as well as a never-built follow-up, the Pony Coupe. When the latter project was scrapped, Giugiaro went on to evolve the design into what became the DeLorean DMC-12.
“Please don’t say there’s a resemblance to the DeLorean, because we did it first,” Lee said on Friday.
Whomever you want to credit for the lines of the N Vision 74, it’s a retro-futuristic look that’s meant to underscore the Hyundai N brand’s theme, “Never just drive.”
It’s classic, sharp lines are offset by modern touches, including the pixelated headlights that are becoming a signature on electrified Hyundai models like the Ioniq 5. Add flared fenders, a deep front splitter and a huge rear wing and you are left with the feeling that the N Vision 74 is constantly in motion.
But Hyundai has some surprises underneath the skin. Officials are referring to it as a “hydrogen hybrid,” the show car drawing primary power from a hydrogen fuel-cell system paired with a 72.4 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. It’s an extreme take on the fuel-cell technology found in the distinctly mild-mannered Hyundai Nexo SUV.
Twin electric motors are mounted on the rear axle and could punch out as much as 671 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque. While the automaker curiously left out its 0-60 launch spec, it did note that the Vision concept tops out at 155 mph. It also teased that the drivetrain layout is perfect for torque vectoring, something that should make for some serious fun in tight corners, whether on the road or the track.
With a tank capable of storing up to 4.2 kilograms if hydrogen, meanwhile, the show car offers a maximum range of 600 kilometers, or 373 miles. Refilling the tank would take about 5 minutes, though topping off the battery would be a bit slower. But the 800-volt system is similar to what’s in the production Ioniq 5, which should mean reaching 80% of capacity in as little as 20 minutes or so with a quick charger.
RN22e: a peak at the Ioniq 6 N?
As for the RN22e, it looks like it could readily slip into a Hyundai showroom today. Indeed, while officials declined to lay out specific plans, they declared the second show car offers “a glimpse of an upcoming EV N.”
It doesn’t take much imagination to see it as a high-performance version of the sleek new Hyundai Ioniq 6, the coupe-like sedan that was introduced earlier this week.
That said, while some concept vehicles are just thinly disguised production models, Hyundai appears to be serious about using both the N Vision 74 and RN22e as “rolling labs.”
Three performance pillars
“RN22e is tested to maximize N’s three performance pillars, starting with ‘corner rascal,’” the automaker explained in a statement. “N has been developing cornering capability since the brand launch and has been providing e-LSD, Corner Carving Differential, for most N models. RN22e elevates the corner carving feel with inevitably heavier weight, by exploring torque vectoring by twin clutch.”
The use of 3D printed parts, meanwhile, addresses N’s focus on reducing weight — an issue that becomes all the more important with a vehicle lugging around a hefty battery pack.
As to the third N pillar, the RN22e lets a driver select different drive modes that shift torque between the front and rear wheels to optimize traction and handling, as needed.
This is a vehicle designed, as much as anything, for the track. It gets seriously upgraded braking and cooling capabilities. That starts with four-piston monoblock calipers and 400-mm hybrid discs.
“Hyundai N will use RN22e to study how to deliver dynamic movement with regen-braking that precisely controls yaw and corner attack,” the automaker noted.
Enhancing the drive
To “enhance the driving experience,” the concept’s N Sound+ system generates artificial sound from both interior and exterior speakers. And the N e-shift creates an artificial shift feel.
The twin-motor drivetrain — one on each axle — produces a combined 577 hp and 546 lb-ft of torque. It draws power from a 77.4 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack.
Like the two concepts – and the standard-issue Ioniq 5, the concept will go from a 10% to 80% state-of-charge in about 18 minutes using a high-power quick charger. Credit its 800-volt electrical architecture.
The RN22e rides on the same E-GMP platform as the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and upcoming Ioniq 6 – a platform also shared with the Hyundai Motor Group’s other brands, Genesis and Kia.
Ioniq 5 N
And that leads us to the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N that the automaker will introduce for the 2023 model year. It’s designed to take things to the next level from a performance perspective.
It will share the twin-motor layout of the RN22e — and the Kia EV6 GT that will debut late this year. It will match the concept’s 577 hp and 546 lb-ft specs — and, according to Hyundai insiders, should deliver 0-60 launches in the mid-3 second range.
What’s yet to be confirmed is whether the Ioniq 5 N will pick up some of the new features showcased on the RN22e, the twin-clutch torque vectoring system, in particular. But it’s a certainty it will beef up the base electric SUV’s cooling and braking systems to handle the added stresses.
Expect to see the Ioniq 5 N reach showrooms sometime early next year, according to insiders, likely just after the Kia performance model. Pricing is expected to push into the $60,000 range.
A production version of the RN22e, meanwhile, will likely be at least another year away, Hyundai set to first reveal the more mainstream version of the new Ioniq 6 sedan.