Hyundai has spent years teasing enthusiasts with mid-engined hot hatches loosely based on the Veloster, but you still can’t walk into one of its showrooms and drive home in one. The former BMW engineer in charge of making Hyundais go fast shared insight with Motor Authority into why, and what’s next.
The bad news is that the RM19 concept (pictured) unveiled during the 2019 Los Angeles auto show isn’t a serious, immediate candidate for production. Albert Biermann, Hyundai’s head of research and development, told Motor Authority the recently-established N division needs to build up a reputation in the United States before it can think about releasing a halo model. That process is going to take time; as it stands, the only N-tuned model offered in America is the Veloster N released in 2018.
The good news is that Biermann and his fellow engineers are already brainstorming ways to make the concept a reality. The team has already decided the production model would use the same chassis as the RM19, which is essentially a track-only Veloster N TCR with a specific rear subframe and a redesigned suspension. It would remain rear-wheel drive because it would need to drift. Sticking a V6 in the back like Renault did with the also mid-engine, rear-drive second-generation Clio V6 is out of the question.
The concept’s turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine wouldn’t make the transition from the auto show floor to the showroom floor, either. Biermann told Motor Authority he’s already working on the next evolution of the mid-engined, Veloster-esque hot hatch and he plans to power it with an evolution of the new 1.6-liter turbo four available in the latest Sonata. Its displacement would grow to anywhere between 2.3 and 2.5 liters, and it would shift through a dual-clutch automatic transmission, so it might be a high-output version of the turbocharged 2.5-liter engine that will be in the Sonata N-Line and reportedly the Genesis G70.
The executive said Hyundai is also working on an electrified variant of the RM, a revelation which asks more questions than it answers. Does this mean we’ll see two mid-engined concepts in 2020, or will the RM20 receive a hybrid or a plug-in hybrid powertrain? And does Rimac, the Croatian start-up Hyundai invested $90 million into, fit into this puzzle? Your guess is as good as ours.
It sounds like Hyundai will continue having fun rummaging through its parts bin until it’s time to strike. The production variant of the RM — assuming there is one — will be worth waiting for, but it won’t be cheap. Biermann hinted the model would cost two or three times as much as the aforementioned Veloster N, which starts in the vicinity of $30,000. How much time you have to save up depends on how quickly the project moves forward, and how long N takes to build itself a reputation.
“I wish we could get it going, but there is no need for rush,” he concluded. Not that we want them to rush this car, but we also really hope it gets going sooner than later.