The 21st century has been particularly kind to the Hyundai Motor Company, though this was hardly a matter of chance. Originally known in the West for providing bargain automobiles that were surprisingly competent, it wasn’t long before the South Korean brand was giving Japanese mainstays stiff competition. By the early 2000s, Hyundai was working hard to differentiate itself from the recently acquired Kia and opted to make its products more luxurious and saw massive gains in the U.S. market that have more-or-less continued until today.
Now, Hyundai arguably has some of the best-looking cars in their respective segments and has muscled in on Kia (which it technically owns) by offering legitimate performance variants via its “N Brand.” While this was originally limited to gasoline-powered models, the company has begun offering handsome EVs that it would also like to turn into sporting models using the fourteenth letter of the alphabet. It even showcased a couple of concepts at “N Day 2022,” one of which looks like something Giorgetto Giugiaro might have whipped up during an erotic fever dream — the N Vision 74 concept.
Inspired by the Hyundai Pony — South Korea’s very first mass-produced automobile — the concept actually looks like the offspring of those glorious, wedge-shaped concepts from the late 1970s and some of the best-looking production imports from the 1980s. We’re detecting hints of Lancia 037, DMC DeLorean, Nissan Silvia S12, Lotus Esprit, Ferrari Testarossa, Mitsubishi Starion, and just about every other sporting model from that era with angular bodywork that makes the car look like it’s going 200 mph when standing still. Meanwhile, its Hyundai DNA seems limited to the 1974 Pony Coupe Concept that was drafted (like some of the other models mentioned above) by Italdesign-founder Giorgetto Giugiaro.
Sadly, it doesn’t look as though we’ll be able to buy one.
While Hyundai has proven angular whips can still be mass produced in 2022 with the Ioniq 5 EV, designs with edges this sharp will probably bump into regulatory issues regarding pedestrian safety on loads of markets that already killed pop-up headlights for the same reason. The N Vision 74 concept is also probably not quite as aerodynamic as its shape would lead one to believe. However, it’s the powertrain that’s most likely to keep this baby off the streets.
The two-seat, rear-drive sports car comes with a hydrogen fuel-cell/electric hybrid powerplant. That effectively limits its H fueling to Japan, Western Europe, the State of California, and small pockets of its native South Korea. It’s also powered by electric motors on either side of the vehicle’s rear end, rather than having them mounted centrally on the front and/or rear axles. Combined, the duo produces a lofty 671 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque and works in tandem with new items for Hyundai to play around with. The company says the Vision N 74 boasts an ultra-precise torque vectoring system to make this work, in addition to the 62.4 kWh battery pack with 800-volt capability, 85 kW fuel-cell stack with a 4.2 kg tank capacity, three-channel cooling system, and the ability to run the car exclusively on battery power when you’re trying to reduce your hydrogen budget.
The fuel cell stack is mounted under the hood, while the battery pack is a T-shaped design that runs where you’d expect to see the driveshaft. Dual electric motors are placed within the rear wheels and are cooled by the massive air inlets along the 74’s haunches. Additional cooling is routed to the battery. Twin hydrogen tanks are also located in the car’s back half, just above the motors.
Hyundai sees the model as a test bed for new performance technologies and has said the car is capable of hitting 60 mph in less than four seconds. Considering the claimed numbers being put out by the 74, it sounds like the vehicle may be a bit of a pig thanks to the obligatory battery pack. But there’s a lot of wiggle room in the below-four-second range and this still makes for a seriously fast automobile. The target range is said to be 600 kilometers using the WLTP testing cycle Europeans find acceptable. So that’s going to work out to less than 315 miles once the EPA has deployed its own math.
But the N Vision 74 wasn’t the only vehicle announced in Hyundai’s annual celebration of acceleration. The automaker also let loose the N version of the Ioniq 5 it says will become its very first high-performance EV. Coming in 2023, the manufacturer gave nothing about the vehicle away. However, we can safely assume it’ll be based on the existing Ioniq 5 (one of the brand’s best-looking models) and come with an array of enhancements.
N Day also included the RN22e, which happens to be another test bed. But this one is based directly on the Ioniq 6 sedan and is less experimental that the N Vision 74. The E-GMP dual-motor platform has been retained and offers up 577 horsepower and 546 pound-feet of torque thanks to some serious tweaking at the factory.
Unlike the concept 74, the RN22e is a clear attempt to probe the limits of E-GMP and may foreshadow an N variant of the upcoming Ioniq 6. Both are all-wheel drive and the RN utilizes the same 77.4-kWh battery — just with loads of modifications.
Electric motors have been beefed up to surpass the standard 6’s collective 321 hp and 446 lb-ft of torque. Hyundai has also tapped dual-clutch torque vectoring to better wrangle the RN22e’s upgraded 577 horsepower and 546 pound-feet in the corners, tossing in some additional regenerative braking to boot.
The styling is also noticeably different. While many of our readers found the standard Ioniq 6 to be quite handsome, I joked about it ushering a return to egg-shaped cars. However, the GT-style rear wing, opened grille, widened fenders, rear diffuser, and lowered stance have really done the model a lot of favors. Even a skeptic like me has begun to see the light, and that’s before I learned about the 275/35ZR-21 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, four-piston monoblock calipers, 15.7-inch two-piece ventilated rotors (front only), and vastly upgraded suspension.
Even if you’re not an ardent EV supporter, these cars sure do make Hyundai’s development team look like they’re on the correct path. The Vision N 74 is such an attractive vehicle that I’d wager people would scoop it up regardless of powertrain and the RN22e is showcasing what the company can do with technology it already has at its disposal. Still, it’s important to remember that the Ioniq 5 N is the only model that’s slated for production and most people living in the U.S. still prefer cars with combustion engines — for now.
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