Hyundai Focuses on the Street, Calls Nurburgring Records 'Waste of Time'
The boss of Hyundai's N-division is focusing on making the Veloster fun on the roads, not on the 'Ring.
Most manufacturers set out to be the best at many things. The fastest zero to 60 miles per hour in class, the lightest platform with the most nimble steering, and—the de facto end-all of tests for sports cars—quickest around Germany's Nurburgring. Hyundai's Head of Performance Development and High Performance Vehicle Division called this a "waste of time" in an indication that the company is developing its N performance division to make cars enjoyable on the street.
Earlier this week, Hyundai showed off its boy-racer Veloster N at the North American International Auto Show. The hot hatch touts a respectable 275-horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque out of a small turbocharger four-cylinder, making it just a few ponies shy of the Honda Civic Type R. But unlike the Type R, which made strides to best all other front-wheel-drive cars around the Nurburgring, Hyundai thinks that it's simply not worth it, or at least the boss of its performance division.
Albert Biermann was the VP of BMW's M division after being with BMW for over 30 years. In 2014, he left BMW to take on a similar role in Hyundai, eventually pushing forward the movement and development of a similarly named performance division, N. The boss notes that although Hyundai arrived late to the performance game, it spares nothing in the name of driving. Focusing solely on what Biermann calls "dynamic response," the Veloster N was created with the fun of driving around town in mind, not the track.
"There are companies that spend like five months at the Nurburgring, with tons of people," Biermann told Road and Track, "For that amount [of money] we can almost develop a whole car. It’s just a waste of time. I don’t do that."
During the conversation, it was clear that Hyundai had trialed some higher horsepower configurations in the Veloster N during development, but ultimately settled on its current configuration. Street driving seems what the Veloster N was designed for anyway, allowing its full torque output at under 1,500 rpm. Though not as instantly torquey as an electric car, the quick output of its tiny turbo helps to create a near-instantaneous pedal feel, which seems like the part of the "dynamic response" Biermann spoke about.
So as long as your spirited driving is done without upsetting your local constabulary, the Veloster N seems like the pinnacle of Hyundai's research and development under Biermann's leadership. The company built a quick and spicy hot hatch that is meant to be fun for the average person to drive without needing to make their way to the track. If Hyundai can succeed at making the Veloster N an obelisk in the front wheel drive focused performance community, it may very well gain quite a bit of traction away from being just an economy car manufacturer.
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