Sporty ‘N’ a will­ing won­der at the track

The 2019 Hyundai Veloster N is all about fun, fast and af­ford­able

The Province - - DRIVING - DEREK MCNAUGHTON

Al­bert Bier­mann, the man who for many decades tuned BMW M cars into the high-per­for­mance, highly cov­eted ma­chines they are to­day, is talk­ing like a kid who just got off a car­ni­val ride. Ex­cited is an un­der­state­ment. The 62-yearold Ger­man ex­udes a pas­sion for cars — and an in­ti­mate un­der­stand­ing about how they work — more like some­one in the prime of their ca­reer rather than some­one who could be headed into com­fort­able re­tire­ment.

Lured away from BMW a lit­tle more than three years ago to head Hyundai’s fledg­ing “N” per­for­mance di­vi­sion, Bier­mann uses three words over and over again to de­scribe the 2019 Veloster N: fun, fast, af­ford­able. It’s a car he spent many months de­vel­op­ing with Hyundai engi­neers, much of it on the Nür­bur­gring’s Nord­schleife, the most chal­leng­ing road course in the world.

The ace up his sleeve is the price of this barn burner. It’s $34,995, be­fore fees and taxes, which in­cludes ev­ery­thing this car has to of­fer; there are no op­tions, no au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, no up­grades to amp the per­for­mance higher than what al­ready comes from the fac­tory.

That is not to say this car needs op­tions. Straight off the back of a trans­port truck, the N is a track dar­ling, a will­ing won­der, a car that wants to please as much as it wants to clip apexes chas­ing Porsche Cay­mans.

Get­ting to this point was not easy. Bier­mann re­peat­edly pressed his tech­ni­cians and engi­neers for more, for sharper re­sponse from the en­gine, bet­ter han­dling, more steer­ing feed­back. All of this was in an ef­fort to pro­duce a car that not only would chal­lenge the Golf GTI and Civic Type R, but also shape the per­cep­tion of Hyundai as a brand that could be taken se­ri­ously when it comes to per­for­mance cars.

The work has paid off. At Cal­i­for­nia’s Thun­der­hill Race­way Park, a me­an­der­ing, three-mile track in the Sacra­mento Val­ley, the Veloster N sears its way around cor­ners, charg­ing so hard around bends that the front tires spin eas­ily with too much throt­tle early in the apex. A nicely-weighted, N-ex­clu­sive heated leather steer­ing wheel with good feed­back eas­ily points this 1,409-kilo­gram car ex­actly where the eyes are look­ing. So far, so good.

Ap­proach­ing each turn, the Veloster N’s brakes elim­i­nate speed with plenty of force and a firm pedal, never feel­ing as though more stop­ping power is needed, de­spite re­ly­ing on fac­tory, sin­gle-pis­ton calipers on 13.6-inch front ro­tors, in­stead of more ex­pen­sive Brem­bos. At the end of the track day, the brakes did ex­hibit some light shud­der, but that could have more to do with the nu­mer­ous and var­i­ously skilled driv­ers rather than the brake set up, cooled as they are by an air guide on the lower con­trol arm to re­duce fade.

De­spite the hot day and re­peated track­ing, the Veloster N never went into limp mode for get­ting too hot. The en­gine revved beau­ti­fully and smoothly to the rev lim­iter all day long, cooled by op­ti­mized air flow to the en­gine and in­ter­cooler. A se­ries of lights crown­ing the in­stru­ment clus­ter blink from yel­low to red, as the 6,750rpm red­line ap­proaches dur­ing shifts of the six-speed man­ual. It’s a de­light­fully happy gear­box that clicks cleanly through the gears, helped along by down­shift rev-match­ing that can be shut off with a tap of a but­ton. Com­pared to a reg­u­lar Veloster, the N gets re­in­forced gears and a stronger clutch.

The en­gine it­self sounds ter­rific when N mode is ac­ti­vated. Some of the en­gine sound comes into the car via the speak­ers, but the ex­haust is all nat­u­ral, deep and uplift­ing, far su­pe­rior to the muted Civic Type R. There’s even crack­ling and “pops,” as ig­ni­tion tim­ing re­tards on throt­tle lift, sound­ing a lit­tle like a minia­ture stock car. But the res­o­nance helps to know what’s hap­pen­ing with the en­gine, and the ex­haust can be qui­eted sub­stan­tially when in one of the other driv­ing modes of Nor­mal, Sport, Eco or N Cus­tom. Thank­fully, full N mode is ac­ti­vated by one sim­ple but­ton on the steer­ing wheel, and trac­tion con­trol can be eas­ily dis­abled.

Most sur­pris­ing about the N, though, is the way the small car can carry so much speed around bends with­out trig­ger­ing un­der­steer, build­ing con­fi­dence and quick­en­ing lap times. Some of that comes from the in-line four’s 260 pound-feet of torque. And the power is deep, from 1,450 to well past 5,500 rpm.

An elec­tronic lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial also helps. And some comes from an elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled sus­pen­sion that con­tin­u­ally ad­justs the damp­en­ing rate of the shocks, re­duc­ing dive dur­ing brak­ing, lim­it­ing roll while cor­ner­ing and re­duc­ing rear sus­pen­sion travel un­der ac­cel­er­a­tion and brak­ing.

The N felt com­fort­able on the track, not too stiff and raw, a feel­ing that would get tire­some on the street very fast. The many struc­tural re­in­force­ments plus ex­tra weld­ing and re­in­forced front shock ab­sorber mounts helped make 200 km/h feel com­pletely sta­ble.

While the in­te­rior is not as so­phis­ti­cated as a Golf GTI, the stock, heated cloth sport seats are very good, and its ex­te­rior doesn’t over­com­pen­sate like the Type R. True, the three-door setup of the Veloster will not work for ev­ery­one. But the 19-inch wheels, spe­cially made P235/35R19 Pirelli P Zero tires, ag­gres­sive front spoiler and unique rear wing all con­tribute to a car that will, in short or­der, turn many young driv­ers into very fast track ad­dicts.

Thank you, Al­bert.

— PHO­TOS: DEREK MCNAUGHTON / DRIV­ING

The Hyundai Veloster N is de­signed by Al­bert Bier­mann, who was lured away from BMW a lit­tle more than three years ago.

The nicely-weighted, N-ex­clu­sive heated leather steer­ing wheel gives good feed­back.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.