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WELCOME TO HYUNDAI’S HAPPINESS MACHINE
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Driving

What is it like to drive?

It’s chiefly designed to perform on track, so let’s start there. It’s a different type of downforce hypercar than we’re used to, because it doesn’t carry a huge rear wing like say the McLaren Senna or the latest Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Yet while they both deliver around 800kg of downforce, the Valkyrie has 1,100kg, and develops it at lower speed (from 137mph) and with less drag. Instead of pulling a tall wing through dense air, the Valkyrie allows air in under the front and then thins it in those huge spaces. Same result, darn difficult to achieve because it requires so many packaging constraints.

Which is a very circumspect way of saying that the most remarkable thing about the Valkyrie is the way it accelerates at high speed. It’s relentless. I drove a very comparable car at Bahrain’s circuit a few years back: McLaren’s Senna GTR. From memory I think it managed about 180mph down the main straight. The Valkyrie punched well past 200mph. I then I remembered I’d forgotten to push the ERS electric boost button for another 143bhp…

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Is it as impressive around corners?

That depends on your contact patches. Michelin Cup 2 tyres, which feel very grippy on most cars, were completely overcome here, feeling squidgy and vague. The more track-focused Cup2Rs were much better, allowing you to exploit far more of the braking and cornering potential.

However, it’s a car with a few issues. It’s clear that development money has been tight on this project. The brake pedal has reasonable feel, but too much travel, it’s hard to get an accurate feel for what the hydraulic suspension is up to, the traction control is clumsy and the gearchanges are slow. A lot of it is a matter of calibration and managing algorithms – neither of which is quick or cheap to do in a car this complex.

Apart from in a straight line, the claim that it’s as fast as an LMP1 car is very wide of the mark – and we know this because Chris Harris and I went head to head in the Valkyrie and the Valkyrie AMR Pro. Which is an entirely different car, shorn of hybrid assistance and much hydraulic complication, but gaining slicks and bigger wings. In a straight line there was nothing in it, around corners the AMR Pro pulled out huge gaps.

Is it fun to drive though?

You have to manage the car. You can’t bully it, it likes to be driven a certain way – calmly and accurately. Take it by the scruff and it's choppy. It pushes wide through medium speed corners, and can get scrappy at low speeds. Always you’re waiting for the opportunity to unleash that V12. Which, it has to be said, is one of the all time great automotive experiences.

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Sounds better from outside though, but the sensation of being in this small cockpit, experiencing the car’s high speed acceleration and stability, with this savage noise shrieking through the bulkhead is very intense. It’s raw, unfiltered and dramatic.

And how about on road?

The noise undoes it. The whine of gears, the gnashing of components, the clatter and vibration coming back through the unprotected carbon tub all makes it very noisy inside. It’s emphatically not a car for a road trip. It has aircon, and you can stream media through the built-in intercom system, but it doesn’t take the sting out of things.

Which is a shame, because once above a crawl it rides more than adequately. The suspension is frighteningly complex, using torsion bars and hydraulic actuators to separate out the forces imposed on the car from beneath (potholes, compressions etc) and above (downforce). But as we said earlier, the system needs more finesse.

Over speedbumps (yes it has nose-lift so will clear them) it feels loose, and even once moving you’re not quite sure of it’s behaviour. It’s a hard car to get your head around and to trust because it’s doing so much in the background – adjusting ride height, stiffness at each corner and so on.

Is the engine temperamental?

We spent a day on road with it, and it never missed a beat. The fact it uses e-power to get itself going takes all the stress out of dealing with a third pedal and sharp clutch, and the engine is tractable at low speeds. It’s a masterpiece – together with the design, it’s the standout element of the entire car.

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