Using the Consumer Electric Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week as a showcase for its future technologies such as fuel cell and autonomous driving, the South Korean brand was quick to point out that while it powers ahead in that direction of future transportation, it is also foraying into the serious sports car world.
Speaking to Australian media at CES today, the brand’s chief designer, Luc Donkerwolke (designer of the Lamborghini Gallardo and Mucielago), confirmed his team’s current projects include a proper sports car.
"We are definitely doing it," Donkerwolke said.
“I am Reviewing a project this week after CES. Definitely, we are doing that, we are not going to go for autonomous for all the cars now.”
His comments were further backed up by Hyundai’s vice chairman of research and development, Yang Woong Chul, who initially suggested the project was yet to be confirmed, however, his comments grow more encouraging.
“When we talk about that [sports car project], the first thing is the design; design can go far ahead before committing,” Chul said.
“[Confirmation of the project] is something I cannot say for myself. As far as I am concerned, I would like to have that promoted, that’s something our brand probably needs at this point of time.”
What sort of sports car the company is building remains unanswered. It would be unlikely that it will compete with the supercars of the world, given Hyundai’s image of being an attainable brand for the masses. However, an affordable, yet serious sports car, such as one that will compete with the likes of the Nissan 370Z, Ford Mustang and Alpine A110, is the more likely candidate. That should see it look something like the Passocorto concept pictured here.
Nonetheless, some inside Hyundai admitted that cars as pricey as a Porsche 911 have been used for testing, though that doesn’t necessarily mean Hyundai is building a 911 competitor as the Korean brand uses high-end German cars for benchmarking its regular models as well.
The two-seater sports car will be ‘serious’, according to Chul, suggesting that its electric and internal combustion powertrain setup is likely to power the rear wheels at the very least and potentially also the front wheels. It’s yet to be decided whether or not the company will badge it as an “N” car (like the i30 N hot hatch) or if it will sit further up the hierarchy.
“The people working on N will be working on that, but where do we put it? The N or above N? [We don't know] … it’s really high performance, it's a serious sports car. We cannot say just hybrid [powertrain], we will use some electric motors and batteries to give it more performance.
"Some areas we can’t just overcome by putting big internal combustion engine. We would like to minimise [that] as much as possible and use the best application of electric motors, and in many ways not just for efficiency but performance, to be very much optimised for both powertrains.”
The N division at Hyundai is headed by the former head of BMW’s M division, Albert Biermann, so the seriousness of Hyundai’s first proper rear-wheel-drive sports car cannot be underestimated.
There is no timeline for the project as yet, but given the design is still to be locked down, it is likely a few years away yet.