Hyundai N Brand Chief Sees i30 N As Possible Focus RS-Fighter
With the announcement of the Genesis brand earlier his month and with the planned launch of an entry into the compact, high-performance market, Hyundai has thrown down the gauntlet, announcing to the automotive world that it is ready to compete seriously in new and untried markets.
Hyundai Uses Genesis Label To Move Into Luxury Market
For example, Genesis brings a new, strong competitor to the small, but hotly contested luxury car market. Building on the Genesis name, Hyundai has created a competitive, standalone luxury division and has given it two ready-to-compete vehicles. The new unit is ready to go head-to-head with other marques.
Ford Focus RS-Fighter?
By the same token, Hyundai’s planned launch of the i30 N as a Ford Focus RS-fighter next year illustrates quite plainly that automaker is committed to grabbing its piece of the compact, high-performance market. That commitment is reinforced by the new powerplant that will populate the engine bay of the new offering. An automaker will not commit the resources needed to build a new engine from scratch for an unproven line of vehicles unless it is planning to stand solidly behind the new vehicle. It is quite obvious that Hyundai is serious.
Hyundai is making the same firm stand behind the new Genesis luxury division. Indeed, it launched the new unit earlier this month with two competitive offerings, the Genesis 80 and 90. The 80 is a somewhat older vehicle, having been developed about three years ago, while the 90 is pretty much new from the ground up. And, the automaker has plans for at least a luxury crossover and an SUV in the new subsidiary.
Meantime, the Hyundai has thrown down the performance gauntlet as it launches the i30 N to slam into some stiff competition, the Volkswagen GTI, and the Ford Focus ST. Its first model will feature front-wheel-drive. Later versions may offer all-wheel-drive, says Autocar. The AWD version will be direct competition for the Golf R and Ford Focus RS.
Albert Biermann, head of the Hyundai N division, told an interviewer that he was intrigued by the torque-vectoring rear axle of the AWD Focus RS. “We have been looking at this already,” he said. “I would not exclude for the future that we would do it, but it depends on how we grow.”
Biermann indicated in the Autocar interview, relayed by motortrend.com, that the automaker plans staggered introductions. It makes the most sense. “If we came up with a performance car on the highest level, it might be too fast for our customers and our dealerships. But I can see for the future that we will make a really high-performance car in the C-segment.”
Staggered Introductions Possible
The introduction strategy will let consumers become familiar and comfortable with the first N division product, the i30 N. Consumers will find a 2.0-liter, I-4, designed specifically to rock high-performance under the hood of the front-drive model. “For the base model, there is no all-wheel-drive plan[ned]. The i30 will not come with it,” the N division chief said. “But you know Hyundai: if we think something is right for our customers then we do it. We could create something at a very high-performance level, but first we need to test the waters and grow some fan base. Then we can reach higher and higher; it’s just a matter of performance level. If it goes up a lot, then obviously you need to have all-wheel-drive.”
For the moment, though, Hyundai customers will have to content themselves the front-drive version of the i30 N. The automaker is holding down the horsepower of the new four-cylinder powerplant. Early versions of the performance machine will crank out 255 horsepower. However, the engine development team built a block that can handle much more. For instance, if Hyundai takes the path Biermann wants and develops a Ford Focus RS-fighter, the new four can handle the stresses of 345 horsepower and 350 pounds-feet of torque. Indeed, the engine is now being wrung out at endurance races.
Whether the higher-performance version of the i30 N comes about depends on a number of factors, however, customer demand will be the chief factor that tips the scales. Launch of the i30 N is anticipated in 2017. If a hotter version is planned, its launch will be further out.