You might remember rumblings of a mid-engined Hyundai a while back. The Korean automaker even released photos of such a concept named the RM19, confirming its interest in building a true-blue performance machine. Now we know that a road-going sports car with its engine in the middle was once part of the plan, but as former President of Hyundai's R&D division Albert Biermann revealed in an interview, the project has since been canned.
Recently, Top Gear sat down with Biermann, the former BMW M chief engineer who became the father of Hyundai's N performance brand. Biermann announced his retirement late last year, so while his full-time position at the company has come to an end, he's still a wealth of knowledge about the automaker's inner workings. That includes Hyundai's now-canceled super sports car program that took place under his watch.
Hyundai's effort was pretty impressive, going off to the few details Biermann provided. The most important ingredients were the planned carbon fiber monocoque and mid-engine layout, both of which made the recipe for a true driver's car. The team reportedly planned for some sort of combustion engine but was also open to a hybrid option. That's important when you recall that rumors of an electrified, Hyundai-built supercar were circulating the web during Biermann's tenure, along with allegations that it would tap Rimac for its future high-performance EVs.
“We had plans for a petrol [engine] with or without hybrid, or [it could’ve have accepted] a hydrogen fuel cell,” said Biermann.
It's unclear if Hyundai ever settled on a power plant or if the development was cut off before a decision was made. Regardless, putting together a program like this couldn't be any more unlike Hyundai. A mid-engined semi-exotic with a monocoque and possible hybrid option? That sounds a lot more like the Acura NSX than something with a Hyundai badge. Indeed, Biermann affirmed the project's likeness to the NSX but fired some rather controversial shots by boasting that Hyundai's offering would be "not boring."
The hyped-up Hyundai would've had another thing in common with the NSX: an expensive price tag. Being such a bespoke offering means low-volume production and high costs, which ultimately persuaded leadership to ax the project and kill off the car that could have been.
“The problem was the car would have cost over $150,000," said Biermann. "And at that time it was thought a Hyundai could not have this price.”
Hyundai instead shifted focus toward affordable enthusiast cars. N variants of the Elantra, Kona, i20, i30, and Veloster were born, making the average commuter car that much more attractive to enthusiasts who weren't being served elsewhere in the market, all while inflating Hyundai's sales.
So take solace in knowing that while the Hyundai supercar died, the affordable enthusiast car lives in its memory. And with electrification becoming more prevalent than ever, expect Hyundai's production performance EVs to make a huge impression.
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