With the anticipated release of the IONIQ 5 N quickly approaching, we gain an interesting insight into the N-divisions philosophy and approach towards developing high-performance EVs.
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With the discovery of the prototypes buzzing around Hyundai’s testing center in Nürburgring Germany, and its home ground Namyang Korea, where the letter N moniker is taken from, it’s no secret that ultra-high-performance N versions of the IONIQ series of dedicated electric vehicles are being prepared, to provide supercar-like performance at affordable prices. A pair of such EVs expected to be unveiled soon is the IONIQ 5 N crossover hatchback, and IONIQ 6 sedan. Known to be sharing the internals with the already exposed Kia EV6 GT, with 577 hp and 546 pound-feet of torque that propels the low-slung crossover from standstill to 60 mph in under 3.5 seconds, which is expected to be released at the end of the year.
While EV6 GT is really an extension of the GT car spirit of Kia Stinger, focused on maintaining composure and comfort while going fast, the N-division’s approach will be to turn a Santa Fe-sized sports utility vehicle into a hot hatch
The anticipation for the Hyundai’s versions, which are still largely shrouded in mystery, is now higher than ever, with the exposure of the new prototypes that could very well be the N version of the IONIQ 6 electric sedan, and leaked information pertaining to the performance characteristics of the upcoming IONIQ 5 N, which is reported to be drastically different from that of Kia’s approach.
We will proceed to explore what we could expect from the most exciting automotive performance division recently with respect to its EV program.
Hyundai's N sub-brand is the long-time BMW M-division boss Albert Biermann's brainchild (For More Info: https://youtu.be/I-qNGL0i2u8)
Before the retirement of the legendary Albert Biermann, he laid down the framework for perhaps the most progressive performance division of an automobile manufacturer. With 30 years of experience as the BMW M-division boss with cars like M3, M4, and M6 under his belt, Biermann made history by giving birth to cars like Kia Stinger and Genesis G70 that have single-handedly changed the perception of Korean cars that suffered from a cheap car that’s also terrible to drive image. Genesis G70 became the first Korean car to be awarded the prestigious MotorTrend Car of the Year, and the Stinger became critics' favorite all over the world, becoming an instant classic for all car enthusiasts, that have longed for a stylish grand tourer that doesn’t break the bank, and comes with quality and reliability, which wasn’t a hallmark of the expensive German and American GT cars of the past.
And he didn’t stop at just mimicking the BMW by creating relatively high-end cars like G70 and Stinger but was given the full responsibility of creating the new performance sub-brand N, with a clean sheet of paper with hardly any strings attached, which is considered unorthodox for a highly bureaucratic organization that is a car company, especially for a very conservative Korean automaker, that people hardly knew about.
Award-winning cars like the Genesis GV70 changed people's perception of the once-stigmatized Korean brand. (For Mor Info: https://youtu.be/I-qNGL0i2u8)
That quickly changed as the Hyundai Motor Group emerged as the world’s leading manufacturer, with the help of Biermann and his German compatriot Peter Schreyer, who has also retired at the same time last year, that forged a new image for the once mediocre Hyundai and Kia brands, as the builder of quality cars with high style and performance. Through the N performance division, Biermann created masterpieces such as i30 N and Veloster N, performance cars that people can actually afford. Not just go-fast cars with bigger turbos and displacements, but genuine performance cars that are more focused on generating fun-to-drive quotient than simply faster 0-60 times.
The prolific N-cars like the i30 N, i20 N, and Kona N made history by putting Koreans on the map of automotive high-performance. (For More Info: https://youtu.be/I-qNGL0i2u8)
Although Biermann is now no longer active with the company, his legacy is expected to continue even as Hyundai is transitioning over to the full electric era. The Korean auto giant has already announced that its latest N branded products Kona N and Elantra N, would be the last of their kind, as far as the internal combustion variety is concerned, however, the tradition is expected to continue into the age of the full-electric cars. In fact, Biermann and N division has been working towards the electric transformation for years, even before hardly anyone knew about the Korean dedicated electric car program, as it was Biermann’s RM or Racing Midship project that was instrumental in making the 800-volt charging system the marquee feature of the new E-GMP dedicated EV platform, that in turn made the likes of the award-winning and class-leading IONIQ 5 and EV6 what they are today. The electric RM20e, and the subsequent racing version Veloster N E-TCR, were actually testbeds for the integration of the state of the art 800-volt architecture, that was derived from the Rimac electric supercars, making the new dedicated EVs of the company a few of the fastest charging, and the most sophisticated EVs on the market, with the addition of advanced features such as V2L and V2G bidirectional charging system.
Furthermore, as a race-car-derived platform and technology, IONIQ 5 and EV6 are already known to be a couple of very performance-oriented cars that are extremely fun to drive. As tested by Edmond’s and compared with the similarly equipped key competitors’ performance versions such as Ford Mustang Mach-E premium and Tesla Model Y long-range, both IONIQ 5 and EV6 performed superbly, by posting specification defying performance figures. For example, the 321 hp dual-motor all-wheel-drive IONIQ 5, out accelerated more powerful and lighter Tesla Model Y long range, and with the nearly 4,700 lb of weight, it also pulled incredible 0.91g on the skidpad, easily beating out other competitors. Furthermore, what is the most impressive is not what’s on paper, but how the huge and relatively heavy car is well behaved and composed on the tarmac, with very predictable and linear handling characteristics.
Even the standard IONIQ 5 is proving to be a highly capable performance car with its performance car pedigree. (For More Info: https://youtu.be/I-qNGL0i2u8)
Many things may have contributed to this outstanding performance, including just honest to goodness chassis and suspension tuning by the N engineers, led by Albert Biermann, but with race-inspired technology such as the Integrated Drive Axel, in which the drive shaft, wheel-hub, and bearing have been developed into one integrated drive axle. This is beneficial in terms of withstanding extreme lateral g-force, weight reduction of 1.7 kg, noise reduction, and better power delivery. This technology was born as a result of the Hyundai’s WRC success, which found its way into N cars such as the Elantra N, and is now available in all of the new-generation EVs.
And not surprisingly, this technology transfer from racing will continue to flow even more so, into the N-branded electric cars.
The IONIQ 5 N prototype shows off its 21-inch wheels and lowered suspension. (For More Info: https://youtu.be/I-qNGL0i2u8)
Expected to be unveiled at the end of 2022 is the company’s very first N-branded electric car, the IONIQ 5 N. Unlike the sibling EV6 GT, which has already been exposed from the outset, at the same time as the pedestrian versions of the EV6, the N version of the IONIQ 5 has largely been covered in secrecy, with only vague acknowledgment of its existence by Biermann occasionally.
Even as prototypes filled the streets, flaunting its glorious 21-inch performance wheels, with the planted down suspension, there wasn’t much information available on the car.
That is until now. It has been recently discovered that although the basic drivetrain will be similar to the EV6 GT’s 577 hp dual motor power electric system, the tuning approach, and therefore the end result, is reported to be drastically different. While EV6 GT is really an extension of the GT car spirit of Kia Stinger, focused on maintaining composure and comfort while going fast, the N-division’s approach will be to turn a Santa Fe-sized sports utility vehicle into a hot hatch of the sort, consistent with the characteristics of the other ICE based N cars such as i30 N and i20 N, well known for their tight body control and extreme agility. To accomplish this, it’s revealed that the N engineers are concentrating on tuning the chassis and suspension for the optimal rebound rates, and recalibrating the electronic limited-slip differential for more aggressive settings, compared to the one found in the EV6 GT.
Kia's high-performance EV6 GT is known to have a different personality compared to the IONIQ 5 N. (For More Info: https://youtu.be/I-qNGL0i2u8)
As for the external modifications, the changes from the run-of-the-mill IONIQ 5 will be very minimal. The most noticeable change will be the unique wheels and tires that measure 255/40 R21, same as the Kia EV6 GT, but whereas the Kia wears the ultra-high performance Michelin Pilot Sport 4S, the IONIQ 5 N has been seen wearing just as potent Pirelli P-Zero HN, which is designed specifically for the full-fledged Hyundai N cars. Other give-away will include red accent trims throughout the vehicle, as well as the N-badged red brake calipers. Also, the latest prototype seems to be wearing slightly restyled and deeper bumpers and side claddings, but they are not hugely different from the standard version.
However, the exterior cosmetic enhancement for IONIQ 6 N seems to be a bit more noticeable, as the latest spy photos reveal the enhanced version of the IONIQ 6 showing seemingly more purposeful side skirts and a front air dam, with drastically improved wheels compared to the standard model.
It was also the first time that we got a glimpse of the interior of the IONIQ 6 performance model, with the steering wheel clearly being different than the conventional type. In addition to the sport steering wheel, consistent with other N cars, the interior modifications will include sport bucket seats, colored seatbelts, and placement of N button to draw out the maximum performance, and other N exclusive features to finely tune specific performance attributes of the car, such as the suspension setting, steering ratio, and the engine sound, albeit being 100% synthesized, unlike the unmistakable crackling and popping exhaust tune of the ICE N cars.
The external modification on the high-performance version of the IONIQ 6 seems to be more significant. (For More Info: https://youtu.be/I-qNGL0i2u8)
Similar to the N-Grin over-boost function, in the DCT versions of the internal combustion N cars, which provides roughly 10% more power for a short period of time, there is also to be a boost mode with essentially the same functionality in the electric N cars.
In the case of the sibling Genesis GV60, the boost mode provided an additional 50 hp and 77 pound-feet of torque from base 429 hp and 446 pound-feet of torque, for 10 seconds for instant power surge, we expect a similar boost in power for the IONIQ N cars as well.
Finally, and most importantly, even with all the performance, it fully fulfills its duty as economical transportation with the estimated range of 250 miles or 400 km WLTP, paired with the 77.4 kWh battery, as is the case for the Kia EV6 GT.
The expected release date for IONIQ 5 N is in 2023 after the unveiling in late 2022, at the price similar to the Kia EV6 GT, which is 72-million Korean Won. That’s equivalent to roughly $60,000 US, and could be the bargain of the century for the level of performance you can get. The IONIQ 6 N should be available in 2023 as well, with the price expected to be a couple of thousand dollars more than the hatchback version.
The next-generation Kona / IONIQ 3 is to be receiving the N-treatment. (For More Info: https://youtu.be/lZaslUHIF1A)
Additionally, before 2027, there are expected to be a couple of smaller N hatchbacks that are to likely succeed the ICE models such as the Veloster N and Kona N, with up to 400 hp, and an even greater value proposition. For more information, please check out our other feature presentation.
WATCH THE FULL VIDEO: https://youtu.be/I-qNGL0i2u8