Prototype

How likely is Hyundai to produce the RM halo car and what might it look like?


Mid-engine may be the way to go for automakers that want to build great sports cars. The Chevrolet Corvette made its tectonic shift to mid-engine design and now Hyundai is considering a halo sports car based on the RM19 (Racing Midship 2019) prototype.

As mentioned in our drive of the RM19, the RM program dates back to 2012, and Hyundai has touted a halo car for its performance-oriented N brand for some time. We’ve also seen spy shots of the car testing at the Nurburgring-Nordschleife. But will Hyundai actually build a mid-engine halo car?

To get to the heart of what an RM halo car might be and look like, I spoke to Hyundai’s head of research and development, Albert Biermann, at the RM19 prototype drive last month.

Hyundai RM19 prototype

Hyundai RM19 prototype

Hyundai RM19 prototype

Hyundai RM19 prototype

Hyundai RM19 prototype

“We are just in the market in the U.S. now for one year with the Veloster N. I think we need to grow more basis, more fan basis, more enthusiasts, and then at some point later we can be ready for such a vehicle, which of course has to be a lot more expensive,” Biermann said. He noted it might take a few more years to grow that base.

He also said the point of the RM19 was to develop the chassis, which starts as the Veloster N TCR race car and features a unique rear subframe to mount the midship engine as well as a new double-wishbone rear suspension. Biermann said a production version of the car would use that chassis.

The RM19 is powered by the 2.0-liter turbo-4 and direct-shift gearbox from the TCR race car, but that won’t be the case for any possible future production car. Biermann said the next version of the RM, which is expected next year perhaps as the RM20, will use a 2.3-2.5-liter version of the new turbo-4 from the Sonata as well as a new dual-clutch transmission with wet instead of dry clutches.

Biermann also hinted at advanced powertrains.

“This is our rolling lab where we prepare future solutions,” he said. “The challenge of the future is to have crazy driving fun with electrification.”

A turbocharged V-6 is not in the cards. All-wheel drive likely won’t be part of the formula, either. Biermann said the idea behind the RM was to be a drift monster, and “you don’t need a front axle for that.”

Hyundai RM19 prototype

Hyundai RM19 prototype

Biermann said an electrified version of the RM will come next year, though he didn’t say if that would be a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, or a fully electric vehicle. Biermann confirmed that Hyundai is working with EV supercar maker Rimac, so that electrified version could be a full EV.

As far as what it might look like, that’s not yet determined. Biermann said he would be fine with the way the car looks now, though the rear splitter and tall wing wouldn’t work for a road car. However, Biermann said there are different ideas within the company that include a different body. The company has some design sketches but isn’t ready to decide on a final look.

If it is built, it won’t be cheap. Biermann said a production RM would cost at least double—if not triple—the price of the Veloster N, which starts at $28,320 and tops $30,000 with the Performance Package. That would put the price anywhere from $56,000 to $90,000, which would butt up against the V-8-powered 2020 Corvette, which starts at $60,000.

Still, Biermann doesn’t seem concerned.

“One core thing of N is to be king of fun per dollar. Nobody should ever beat us in fun per dollar,” Biermann said. “I think we can do this even with the RM19 at a higher price level, but then also of course we have to deliver tons of fun more.”

When asked what his hopes are for the RM project, Biermann said, “I wish we could get it going, but there is no need for rush.”

There may be no rush, but it does appear at least one version of a mid-engine Hyundai N car is in Hyundai’s product plan, though that mid-engine design may become a mid-motor design for an EV.



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