How Hyundai performance starts with “N”

Joonwoo Park is a car enthusiast. Growing up with a passion for everything four wheels, he found it his mission to bring the same level of high-performance vehicles to Hyundai. Carrying immense pride in both his country and his work, he didn’t want to settle on making the same cookie-cutter, dull-as-appliances cars that the Korean industry has been churning out in the past. In 2012 at Hyundai’s Namyang R&D Center, Joonwoo selected a team of engineers who began to turn their dreams into a new kind of performance car. This was the start of Hyundai N.

This dedicated team was let loose, pushing the limits of what was possible with Hyundai vehicles. The team treated the Namyang R&D Center as their own version of a mad scientist’s laboratory, perhaps to the chagrin of the finance department. It was also here were Joonwoo crafted a so-called performance pyramid for Hyundai with the core models at the base and purpose-built racecars at the top. In the middle is Hyundai N, with the experimental Rolling Labs above it and the Hyundai N-Line below it.

Hyundai Elantra N

This meant Hyundai had to start at the very top for the Hyundai N brand to be successful. In 2012, they unveiled their first dedicated motorsports vehicle—the i20 WRC Concept. By 2014, the first Rolling Lab series cars were introduced and served as a testbed for possible technologies be it powertrain, aerodynamics, or suspension.

Anticipating the development of Hyundai N models, the carmaker opened a dedicated test track in 2015. Dedicated solely to the development of Hyundai N models, it contained chicanes and hairpins which are reminiscent of the demanding Nürburgring Nordschleife. Eventually, development moved to the actual Nürburgring Nordschleife itself for real-world testing and validation. This resulted in the first two Hyundai N models—the i30 N and the Veloster N.

Hyundai IONIQ 5 N

After the first series of Hyundai N vehicles, Joonwoo then realized they had to go beyond the spec sheets or lap times. Going back to his fondest childhood memories, he realized that, ultimately, fun-to-drive isn’t dictated by which car goes fastest around the racetrack or which car is quickest to the quarter mile. It’s all about evoking emotions and seeking engagement every time a driver, regardless of skill level, gets behind the wheel. It’s about developing cars that transcend facts and figures; it’s all about giving the widest smiles per mile.

This has led Hyundai N to summarize what fun-to-drive means in their so-called N DNA. The first pillar is called the Corner Rascal which means that any driving enthusiast can enjoy the taste of ferociously, and safely, going around corners. The second pillar is Everyday Sports Car. N models aren’t just made for high-performance car fans, but for everyday drivers too. Rather than focusing on output, responsiveness to different driving environments is more important. Lastly is Race Track Capability. For N, it doesn’t stop at just having performance fit for the track; it’s also built ready as-is, there’s no need to reinforce your car or do other modifications. It’s these qualities that make N even more attractive to the track day racer.

Born in Namyang, raised and honed at the Nürburgring, Hyundai N has since adopted the tagline of “Never Just Drive.” It perfectly encapsulates what this dedicated and passionate team of engineers have sought to create in a period of just 12 years. The “N-engineers,” as Hyundai likes to call them, continue to wonder and create truly driver-centric cars regardless of propulsion—be it internal combustion, electric, or even hydrogen. Their never-ending quest has certainly put Hyundai on the world stage when it comes to high-performance vehicles. And it’s something Filipinos will soon get a taste for themselves.

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