SEOUL, South Korea — Although Hyundai will kick off its N performance sub-brand with an i30N never to reach U.S. shores, head of performance development Albert Biermann nonetheless promises he hasn’t overlooked the crucial North American market. “[The U.S.] can expect to be very happy and satisfied for what’s coming,” said Biermann, speaking at Hyundai’s Namyang test facility. “We won’t let you down, don’t worry.”
Biermann also confirmed that America’s first N model will arrive in 2018, underscoring the product timeline we saw indicating something to come in the first quarter of that year. When asked if the still-unannounced vehicle will be a Veloster N, he merely smiled and said we’d have to wait and see. Speaking generally about the next Veloster, Biermann noted that while the design will be recognizable, the car has been completely overhauled. “It will have a whole different driving character and performance. Expect it to be a lot more grown-up,” he told Automobile.
While at the Namyang research and development facility, we saw several versions of the upcoming Veloster zipping around, all cladded up and camouflaged. We managed to poke our heads inside a prototype what is almost certainly the next Veloster Turbo, complete with a six-speed manual, updated interior including contrasting red stitching, flashy new wheels, and dual center-mounted exhaust tips. Other prototypes, possibly for the Veloster N, with a much louder exhaust note featured dual exhaust ports each positioned at the edges of the bumper.
There is an internal road map of N-branded vehicles for years to come, but right now that does not include an SUV or crossover, and not every Hyundai will get an N model. Dual-clutch transmissions and all-wheel drive are possible from an engineering point of view.
While acknowledging that the sports car market is narrow, Hyundai is open to future sports-car development with other automakers, particularly if the technology incorporates EVs. “It’s just a matter of time [before electrification comes to N],” said Biermann. “We’ll do it when we think there’s a market for it or a need based on regulation.”
Now several years in development alongside racing in several series, Hyundai N is hoping to draw first blood with the i30N, which will be targeting the Volkswagen Golf GTI in Europe. Biermann and his team were clear that N’s mission is to provide genuinely track-capable vehicles at an affordable price point. To keep that cost of entry in a comfortable range, N will not utilize “fanciness” like Brembo brakes or carbon fiber, nor will it demand customers shell out for add-ons to make their vehicles viable on the track. In brand strategy director Min Soon Kim’s words, “We want N to be measured not lap times and horsepower, but in feeling. BPM, not RPM.”