For years, Hyundai has teased a new performance division called “N,” analogous to in-house tuners like Mercedes-Benz AMG or Ford Performance. The brand was officially launched a year ago at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, but hasn’t put a car on sale yet.
Hyundai didn’t bring any “N” production models to the 2016 Paris Motor Show, but it did bring this attention-grabbing RN30 concept. It’s the latest in a line of “N” concept cars hinting at future production models. But like those previous concepts, the RN30 itself won’t go into production. The letter “N,” incidentally, represents both Namyang, South Korea, home of Hyundai’s main R&D center, and Germany’s infamous Nürburgring racetrack.
The RN30 concept looks like it would be right at home on the set of a Fast & Furious movie. The basic car is a small hatchback, on top of which Hyundai added spoilers, flared fenders, and gaping air intakes. These are the same styling moves a tuner might use to give an ordinary compact car more attitude, or a race team might use to transform it into something track ready. The body uses new “high-performance” plastics, jointly developed by Hyundai and BASF, to save weight.
Backing up the aggressive styling is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that Hyundai says is intended for “N” production models. It produces 375 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, which is sent to all four wheels through a dual-clutch transmission. The RN30 features a rev-matching system that holds the engine at optimal speed during gear changes, as well as a variable exhaust system that gets louder as the car accelerates, and an electronic limited-slip differential.
When most designers set out to create a car interior, they emphasize things like materials and ergonomics. But Hyundai’s designers took their inspiration from race cars, so the RN30’s interior is starkly furnished. It includes a roll cage, a pair of bucket seats, and a small digital display for the driver. Cameras on stabilizing gimbals are mounted on each of the A-pillars to capture the driver’s reactions, and an external camera captures YouTube-ready race footage.
While the RN30 is an impressive show car, the first “N” production model will be the i30N, based on the redesigned i30 hatchback also unveiled in Paris. The current-generation i30 is sold in the U.S. as the Elantra GT, but it’s unclear whether this new model, or the i30N variant, will make it to the U.S.