Under the leadership of former BMW M mastermind, Albert Biermann, Hyundai’s N performance division is turning its attention to the production of a formidable supercar. This new supercar, wearing the RM19 nameplate whilst under development, will follow the original Nissan GTR philosophy – that is to say, it will strike far above its relatively modest price tag in terms of performance.
Just how high will it strike, and for how much money? Hyundai has yet to release any production car specifications or pricing, but they’ve published a few performance specs for the RM19 prototype upon which the production car will be based, and we’ve gone out on the proverbial automotive limb to envision the RM19 in production form.
To fully appreciate what Hyundai N aims to accomplish with the RM19, it’s important to first recognize Albert Biermann’s accomplishments, and why Hyundai no doubt paid Beirmann extraordinary amounts of money to jump ship and head up the development of their performance cars.
In brief, Biermann was largely responsible for the success of BMW M’s race and road cars through the decades, having joined BMW M way back in 1983. He’s considered the father of the E30 M3, which is the winningest tin-top road race car of all time, and he had a hand in creating our favourite M cars through the ages, most notably the timelessly beautiful and high-revving E46 M3.
Biermann is a sports car aficionado to the core, and was once a competitive racer himself. His unwavering commitment to driving dynamics guides his decision making as an engineer, and with the RM19, we’re confident that the culmination of his decades of road car buiding and racing success is coming into play.
This commitment is self-evident in the fundamental layout of the RM19, which sports an uncompromising mid-engine framework. The RM19’s clean-slate design goes to the very basics of vehicle dynamics, placing the drivetrain behind the driver, just aft of the rear wheels, thus gifting the prototype with an ideal weight distribution. This exotic engine placement is costly to accomplish, but it results in otherworldly handling, in the realm of mid-engine supercars. Biermann, dear readers, is not messing around.
RM stands for “Racing Midship,” and the RM 19 will presumably spawn a series of mid-engine performance cars over the coming decades at Hyundai N. Complimenting the engine placement is an aluminium-extrusion front subframe, further reducing weight over the front axle while shifting the weight bias rearward. The rear subframe consists of high-strength tubular steel and torsion plates, which add incredible rigidity to the structure.
The RM19 is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder borrowed from Hyundai N’s Touring Car Racing program. It’s a thoroughbred, high-strung motor sporting an incredibly high specific output of more than 195 horsepower per litre. Hyundai is tight-lipped about its nominal output, but states it stands at more than 390 horsepower. We’re guessing the production car’s output will similarly nip at 400 horsepower with more than 350 lb-ft of torque twisting the driveshaft.
Power is sent to the rear wheels through a 6-speed sequential gearbox, also borrowed from Hyundai’s racing program. Gear changes are actuated via steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters; it’s not clear if Hyundai will offer the production car with a proper manual transmission, but given the availability of stick-shifts in other N performance cars, and Biermann’s respect for the third pedal, it’s likely we’ll see one available.
The RM19’s steering assist specification is listed as, “Rack-mounted Motor-Driven Power Steering,” which, if we’re reading this correctly, tells us the N division has eschewed now commonplace electric steering assist in favour of a traditional engine-powered, hydraulic-assist system. Praise be to Hyundai, for valuing steering feel and feedback over the minisucule fuel-savings offered by an electric assist system.
Lightweight one-piece forged aluminum alloy wheels sit at all four corners, wrapped in 245/30R20 rubber at the front and 305/30R20 at the rear. The reduction in unsprung mass made possible by utilizing forged one-piece wheels will greatly enhance the RM19’s damping capabilities.
Finally, we arrive at this N car’s aerodynamics. Check out that glorious rear diffuser – it’s colossal! And it’s highly functional, working in tandem with the large rear wing to push the RM19’s rear tires into the asphalt. A large front splitter provides aero-balance at high speeds, likely resulting in predictable and confidence inspiring aero-understeer once the bodywork, splitter, wing and diffuser are all in full play.
At lower speeds and complimented by the aero at high speeds, MacPherson front and double-wishbone rear suspension mountings will provide prodigious mechanical grip; knowing Biermann’s former flare for cars capable of long, lurid drifts, we suspect the RM19 and its successors will be highly capable of sideways fun, with handling characteristics that are fundamental to drifting.
The Veloster N, upon which the RM19 prototype is loosely based, sports a curb weight of 2,899 lbs (1,315 kg), which places it firmly in featherweight sports car territory. While much of the performance hardware affixed to the RM19 adds weight, many of the components will be lighter than those used in the Veloster N. We suspect the final production curb weight of the RM19’s supercar successor will hang closely around the 2,900 lb mark, though it’s possible that via exotic material use, the N division could render its halo car even lighter. Think carbon-fiber roof, spoiler and hood, with aluminium fenders and body work. Of course, such exotic materials drive the price up, so we may see these materials reserved for special edition performance versions, or we may not see them proliferate across the car.
What happens when you strap a manic 2.0-liter race engine into a lightweight, mid-engine chassis? Hyundai tells us the RM19 is capable of accelerating to 60 mph (96.5 km/h) in 3.9 seconds or less. Cornering speeds and braking performance should be similarly impressive, taking aim at Porsche’s 718 – a car which the RM19 has undoubtedly been benchmarked against.
For all that the RM19 offers, we’d expect Hyundai to position its production version as a cost-competitive alternative to the mid-engined Porsche 718 and Chevrolet Corvette, meaning a sub-$60,000 base price, likely starting closer to the $50,000 mark. The sports car market is red hot and Hyundai would no doubt like to put its future supercar on the market as soon as possible as it intends to establish the N brand as a feared and revered sports car maker, thereby capitilizing on its investments on the spicy side of its portfolio.
“The RM19 sports car signals future brand aspirations for Hyundai’s high-performance N brand, solidly moving N into the prestigious arena of supercar-level performance,” said Thomas Schemera, executive vice president and head of Hyundai Motor Group’s Product Division.
The RM19 is clearly a love-child of Biermann and his Korean engineering team. Its massive wheels and wide track have forced the bodywork to stretch wildly over the wheel wells, creating a cartoonish profile somewhat akin to the BMW 1M, which, interestingly, was also a love-child project influenced by Biermann. But unlike the 1M, the RM19 hasn’t been constricted by typical design limitations inherited from its utilitarian analogue. Its mid-engine design renders it a tour de force in the affordable sports car market, and if Biermann’s racing and design pedigree is any indication, the production car it foreshadows will be a sports car to be reckoned with.
[Photos and source: Hyundai]