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The Hyundai N Series

Hyundai Plots a High-Performance Brand

Though Hyundai has yet to say much about future offerings from its nascent performance sub-brand N, it has explained the significance of the letter. It is a nod to Namyang, the South Korean site of company's global research and development headquarters, and to the Nürburgring, the German race track and proving ground where many automakers – including Hyundai – test and develop their latest technologies.

AMG … M … RS … F … V.
To the casual observer, this series of letters would appear to be some sort of code – or maybe a text from a teen seeking more gravitas than the usual OMG and LOL fare. But to automotive enthusiasts, these letters are serious business.

This particular serving of alphabet soup refers to the high-performance divisions of Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Lexus and Cadillac, respectively. Vehicles wearing these badges typically represent their respective brand’s pinnacle of power and prestige – racing technology distilled into world-class road cars. Now another automaker is poised to enter this fast and furious fray.

Hyundai, which has its U.S. headquarters in Fountain Valley, recently unveiled a trio of cars to tease its forthcoming high-performance N sub-brand. The company expects the cars to appear in showrooms starting in 2017. Assuming this happens, it will mark another significant milestone in the Korean brand’s ascent from ’80s econo-box afterthought to serious industry player.

Hyundai has never been heralded in the motorsports or enthusiast driving arenas. But the company has taken a series of recent steps to bolster its performance relevance. Perhaps the first was the 2009 introduction of the Genesis Coupe – a most un-Hyundai-like offering, with its sporty handling and rear-drive configuration. Next, after a decadelong hiatus, Hyundai re-entered motorsports in 2013 via rallying, a form of racing that takes place on treacherous rural roads and dirt tracks over hundreds of miles.

That same year, the company opened its own testing facility at the Nürburgring, becoming one of a handful of automakers to have a dedicated private facility at the famed German track and testing ground. Last December, Hyundai announced that Albert Biermann, then vice president of engineering at BMW’s M performance division, would take the helm of its own performance development and high-performance vehicle operations.

Hyundai’s greatest show of performance-oriented force to date came in September at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show. The company presented two concepts: the RM15, a lightweight, mid-engine, high-performance coupe; and the N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo, a fighter-jet-inspired 871-horsepower supercar packing hydrogen fuel cell technology. Hyundai also showed the latest iteration of its i20 WRC, which will compete in the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship series.

To this point, Hyundai has remained rather cagey with details about its N division offerings. It is worth noting that none of the three vehicles shown at Frankfurt is a street car. The most audacious and inspiring of the three – the N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo – is currently available, however; it is a free download for the popular PlayStation “Gran Turismo” racing game. So for now, amidst the AMGs, M’s, RSs, F’s and V’s of the motoring world, Hyundai’s future remains TBD.

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