How to make electric vehicles as pleasant to drive as sports thermal models. This is the challenge that Hyundai has tackled.
August 2022. 32°. Bilster Berg Circuit, Bad Driburg, North Rhine-Whestphalia, Germany. Several dozen engineers and technicians are busy in the padocks, as on the eve of a Grand Prix. The atmosphere is all the stranger as all this sweeping is done in silence. Which is suddenly interrupted by a shrill hiss that seems straight out of Stars Wars or a video game, which travels at lightning speed on the track. Are we dealing with a spaceship? Nay, it’s about the N Vision 74, one of two electric concept cars from Hyundai. A veritable rolling laboratory equipped with a hybrid engine, unique in its kind, combining 62.4 kWh batteries and a fuel cell. Which feed two electric machines delivering just over 500 kW, the equivalent of 680 of our good old horses, for a torque of 900 Nm. All on the rear wheels. Beyond these values, the beast surprises with the beauty and purity of its design. Signed by the in-house designer Beomsoo Cho, its lines pay homage to the Concept Hyundai Pony C74, de 1974. Or, more precisely, as this young and talented designer reveals, “to the childhood memories” that he kept. Adding “if its design is inspired by the past, it is at the same time open to the future”. If the filiation with the Pony is obvious, we can also find him false airs of de Lorean, which only reinforces this impression of Back to the future ! Among the innumerable details that abound on this sober but very elaborate bodywork, two caught our attention: the white wheel flanges recall those of the fascinating Audi Group B from the years 1985-1987, while the yellow LEDs of the front lights are not only a nod to the Pony concept but also refer to the world of video games of which the designer is a fan. But the most impressive part of the story is that we are going to take the wheel!
A potential close to that of a racing car…
After a short ride as a passenger during which our test driver did not hesitate to drifter to make us understand that he has full confidence in his mount, we become aware of the potential of the beast, closer to that of a racing car than the car of Mr. Everybody. Without transition, nor particular recommendation, here we are in control. Our first lap barely allows us to familiarize ourselves with the very technical layout of this circuit which is inspired by that of the Nürburgring, in reduction, with even more relief and many turns in slope! In short, the ideal to go to the fault. Which would be unfortunate with concepts whose value is counted in billions of South Korean won… The rhythm is given to us by an i30N opener, whose pilot does not really amuse the ground. So we follow the movement. If the chassis is ultra-incisive and rigorous, we quickly put the grip of this heavy – very heavy (well over 2 tons…) – propulsion to evil. And since our instructor visibly trusts us absolutely – unless it’s unconscious – we catch ourselves arsouiller like driving a vulgar GTi. With its ultra-biting front end, its very direct steering and its rear torque vectoring, the N Vision 74 pulls itself out of curves, drifting slightly, with incredible vigor. Offering a very racing pedal touch, its brakes are also big like that. What we particularly appreciate at the end of the small straight line which ends in a pif-paf, while the tachometer displays more than 180 km/h. Back to the pits where this real gas factory is the subject of all the care and whose brakes are cooled using blowers!
“80%” the future Ioniq 5 N
Our day is far from over. We jump into the second concept, the RN22e, much closer to the series since it is “80%” of the future Ioniq5 N. A model – “classic” electric, which will benefit, from next year, from the famous sports brand of Hyundai. A label that appeared 7 years ago, in 2015, and of which we have already been able to appreciate all the know-how at the wheel of the i20 N & i30 N. The whole challenge of the Korean brand being to succeed in declining sportiness and pleasure driving code (a letter that pays homage to both the famous Nürburgring circuit and Hyundai’s R&D center in Namyang) on future electric models. A label co-developed with Thomas Schemera, by the former boss of BMW Motorsport – excuse me – Albert Bierman, who has since become a consultant. An authentic “car buff” who, during the lunch break, will talk to us about his childhood memories at the wheel of his Simca 1000 Rallye and another Sunbeam Lotus!
Against all expectations, and despite less power – 585 hp and 740 Nm all the same – our first round as a passenger is dispatched even faster than on board the N Vision 74! At the wheel, we notice a much better grip thanks to the 4-wheel drive with electronic differentials and torque vectoring wheel by wheel, via a double clutch. Sensations heightened by the NSounda noisemaker, indoor and outdoor, which reproduces the sound of an engine, or rather a kind of turbine, through loudspeakers. This sound may be artificial, but it actively contributes to driving pleasure.. Especially since, supreme refinement, not only does it change intensity depending on the engine speed, but also when changing each of the false reports of the virtual gearbox, controlled from paddles on the steering wheel, like on board a car. thermal. Better still, false vibrations are retransmitted with each gear change! The only downside is that we don’t really know when it’s time to upshift… Our engineer reassures us that there’s a little “rev counter” animation planned for better orientation! At Hyundai, engineers think of everything!
We suffer the g’s inflicted on us by the 680 hp of the mount…
Icing on the Yaksik (Korean sticky rice cake!), we end our tests with a few laps in the right seat of Kevin Ceccon, young Italian driver of the Hyundai Veloster N in the ETCR championship, the Electric Touring Car World Cup. Crammed into the tub, strapped in the harness, and suffocating in our overalls, we suffer the g’s inflicted on us by the 680 hp of the mount and its talented pilot which manages the line trajectories with infinite cleanliness, constantly playing with left foot braking to compensate for the absence of engine braking. When braking at the end of a straight line, the tachometer indicates 239 km/h; we came very close to returning our modest meal! Once recovered from our emotions, we realize that the Hyundai N team is on the right track to succeed in offering, on its future electric models, driving pleasure and performance approaching those of thermal sports cars. Let’s add that trying a concept car is already exceptional, being able to try it as a production model is quite simply a first in our career. Thanks to all the staff at Hyundai for their blind trust. And can’t wait for the tests of the future Ioniq 5 N!
To read/see also on auto-moto.com:
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On board the future Hyundai Ioniq 6 – video