It’s incredible to witness Hyundai’s growth in the North American auto sector. The South Korean giant recently debuted its Ioniq 5 EV and the curvaceous Ioniq 6 “streamliner” electric sedan, both underpinned by the brand’s E-GMP (Electric Global Modular Platform) architecture jointly developed with sister company Kia and currently in use for the stylish EV6.
In 2017, Hyundai launched its high-performance N subsidiary with the i30 N to add credibility to the humble automaker’s sporting intent. What followed is a collection of N-tuned Hyundais like the hot hatch Veloster N, Elantra N, and Kona N. But as the industry switches from fossil fuel to electrons, Hyundai went soul-searching and found the ideal recipe for a banging good time behind the wheel.
Setting The Stage
The result is two sports car prototypes Hyundai calls “rolling laboratories” to test, hone, and verify the automaker’s latest advances in greener propulsions: The Hyundai RN22e and the N Vision 74. The former is a high-performance derivative of the Ioniq 6, while the latter is a retro-styled hybrid car with an advanced hydrogen fuel cell.
“N is moving forward to set new standards in sustainable high performance,” said Till Wartenberg, Vice-President of N Brand Management & Motorsport Sub-Division at Hyundai Motor Company. “We enthusiastically start this new chapter of electrified high-performance and will pursue this goal using our creativity, engineering expertise, and competitive spirit.”
Hyundai’s first-ever all-electric N car, the Ioniq 5 N, is debuting in 2023, which means the RN22e you see here is not far from production reality. Let’s unpack everything to see what’s in store for the future of the N brand.
Hyundai RN22e: Performance Streamliner
Despite its odd name, the Hyundai RN22e is essentially the high-performance version of the new Ioniq 6. The concept has a front and rear electric motor pumping out 577 horsepower and 546 lb-ft. of torque. The motors draw power from a 77.4 kWh battery on a 400V/800V rapid multi-charging architecture. No performance numbers were made available, but Hyundai said the concept has a 155 mph (250 kph) top speed and could replenish from 10 to 80 percent in under 18 minutes.
Performance goodies include four-piston brakes with monoblock calipers, an electronic locking differential (e-LSD), and an innovative twin-clutch torque vectoring system. Hyundai is also developing its N Sound + feature with the RN22e concept, where the vibrations and shifting feel are part of the audio-visual experience. We still find the regular Ioniq 6’s styling a bit bland, but splashing on some N colors and N branding has made it easier on the eyes.
N Vision 74: The Future Was Yesterday
Hyundai played its cards right when it decided to give the Ioniq 5, its first all-electric car with E-GMP, a retro body style. Whereas the Ioniq 5 pays homage to the Hyundai Pony (the brand’s first-ever production car that debuted in 1975), the N Vision 74 concept also harks back to a previously unknown Hyundai concept car with a similar Pony name.
The iconic Giorgetto Giugiaro designed the original, first-generation Hyundai Pony at Italdesign. If the name rings a bell, Giugiaro penned some of the world’s most gorgeous art pieces on four wheels like the Ferrari 250 GT SWB Bertone, Aston Martin DB4 GT (also called the Jet), Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT, and Fiat 850 Spider, to name a few. In 1974, Hyundai asked Giugiaro to design what purportedly was the brand’s first sports car. The Hyundai Pony Coupe Concept was born and made an impressive debut at the Turin Motor Show.
For some reason, the Pony Coupe Concept never got the green light for production. Giugiaro continued refining the concept’s shape until it caught the eye of a particular John Z. DeLorean during the late 70s. It’s fascinating what happens next, as Hyundai’s concept car became the unforgettable DeLorean DMC-12.
Pony or DeLorean?
Hyundai claims the DeLorean vibes were intentional, but there’s no mistaking the N Vision 74 is pretty much a Pony on steroids and a high-protein diet. It’s evident on the N Vision 74’s wedge profile, thick B-pillars, and rear side glass that remind you of right triangles. It also has massive rear quarter intakes, 20-inch front/21-inch rear turbine-style wheels, an aero body kit, and a rear wing big enough to generate enormous downforce at higher speeds.
Powering the N Vision 74 concept is a dazzling mix of electric and hydrogen technology. Utilizing both eliminates range anxiety, said Hyundai, and you can squeeze out maximum performance without spewing a single gram of CO2. The vehicle has a pair of hydrogen storage tanks in the trunk and a fuel cell under the hood. It also has a 62.4 kWh T-shaped battery pack between the front seats.
Hyundai claims the hydrogen fuel cell can directly power the two rear-mounted electric motors or recharge the battery pack. Those two motors could churn out 580 horsepower and 664 lb-ft. of torque. Drive it like a loon, and it’ll rush from zero to 60 mph in four seconds. But drive it timidly, and you’ll get 373 miles (600 km) of range with a full tank (9.26 pounds) of hydrogen.
N is for Now
Given Hyundai’s penchant for turning concept cars into actual production models (except the Hyundai Prophecy/Ioniq 6 misstep), the N Vision 74 and RN22e are proof that the N brand’s future is steady and bright. The incoming Ioniq 5 N will give us a taste of what the N brand offers to a new breed of driving enthusiasts.
“RN22e and N Vision 74 play an important role in the strategic development of our entire product lineup, especially our electrified, high-performance vehicles,” said Thomas Schemera, Executive Vice President and Head of Customer Experience Division at Hyundai Motor Company. “This unique approach makes us ready for the challenges of the future by empowering us to push ourselves to the limit.”
Alvin Reyes is an Automoblog feature columnist and an expert in sports and performance cars. He studied civil aviation, aeronautics, and accountancy in his younger years and is still very much smitten to his former Lancer GSR and Galant SS. He also likes fried chicken, music, and herbal medicine.