Yes, Hyundai is considering a supercar inspired by its 'Vision N' concept
The former boss of M is now in charge of 'N'. TG chats to Hyundai’s new performance arm chief
“Our future model line-up will include performance-oriented and race track-capable cars that will be full of energy,” explains Hyundai’s Albert Biermann. His official title is head of performance development at the Korean carmaker, but you might know him better as the former head of BMW’s M Division.
Biermann moved to Hyundai late last year. And in his new role as the head of performance development and high performance vehicle division at Hyundai – the ‘N’ sub-brand which we saw at Frankfurt – Biermann told Top Gear that his vision for high performance Hyundais will yield its first fruit in two year’s time, and could one day feature a proper, fully-fledged supercar.
When asked about a potential halo supercar to spearhead Hyundai's N campaign – like the BMW M1 did way back when – Biermann told TG: “Yes. When you look at the Vision N 2025 on our stand at Frankfurt, that’s our vision point. At some point the future we will get closer to that, yes.
“We have to be ready for everything between now and the Vision N 2025. It’s a long road to go there, but we are going,” he added.
That name also hints at a potential time frame, too, so don’t hold your breath. For the time being, it’s all baby steps, but Biermann and his team are plotting an ambitious journey for Hyundai’s new performance arm.
“We don’t define our ‘N’ brand by horsepower or acceleration times,” he told us. “First of all it has to be fun to drive – the ‘thrill of driving’, as some people say. The way you feel in the car, the response, the way it talks to you… you can enjoy it.
“We don’t go in for having two horsepower more than someone else, we don’t care about that,” he said. “But it has to be track capable. It needs substance. We have our own expertise in high strength steel, and the torsional stiffness of our cars is growing which is great for our NVH and refinement. I don’t care about a few kg more. For the N sub brand cars, this is what we need, a strong basis.”
Biermann didn’t disclose which will be the first Hyundai to wear the N performance badge, but did note that it won’t be applied across the entire range. “We will not do the N procedure on all of the cars,” he told TG. “It depends on where the customer is heading.”
So, there’ll be N cars that will sit in the middle of ‘established high performance cars’ (he wouldn’t say which ones), and others elsewhere. “Once they’ve driven [an N car], it will be clear that though the horsepower might not be there, the fun is there. That’s all that counts.”
The N experience, Biermann said, is about ‘educating’ the customers. “Our customers are just starting out in high performance. We have to educate and grow them, and we have to guide them into our way of performance."
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That performance could eventually tackle the likes of BMW’s M Division, Merc’s AMG and Nismo... but likely for less cash. “The recipe works for many in a different way,” Biermann explained, “but we will have high performance on a more affordable level for a broader audience, not just for the very few that can spend so much money. I mean, how much horsepower do you really need to have fun?”
There’ll also be a greater crossover from Hyundai’s WRC programme, too. “As you know WRC is already on a pretty high level of performance,” he said, “but the physics are pretty much the same, and working in a motorsport environment is very good training and education for our engineers. We’re definitely using our rally history and activity to learn more.”
Not that Biermann needs to learn much: during his 31-year tenure at BMW – during which he took over as head of M in 2008 – he oversaw projects including the old V8 M3 and 1M Coupe, and ushered in the turbocharged era of BMW’s M cars.
“We cannot go too wild and too crazy for the first step,” he tells TG. “Jump one is a warm up. Then there’s more to come.”
The countdown to that wonderfully ludicrous N 2025 is one. Roll on 2017, and the first of the ‘N’ cars. Tell us below what Herr Biermann should do to the Hyundai range…