5 Steps Hyundai Will Take To Match German Luxury Car Ride And Handling Characteristics
A mere 25 years ago, Hyundai Motor Company was viewed as a maker of cheap, bland looking automobiles, but they have transformed into a brand that is on the cutting edge of style and quality.
That said, there is still one area where the Koreans are failing to meet the standards of their competitors, and that is in the ride and feel of their cars.
Never one to shirk from a challenge, Hyundai are setting out to change that!
About 3 years ago, Hyundai hand-picked a team of skilled engineers to work at their Namyang technical center in Seoul, with the goal being to improve the brand’s car performance characteristics.
The engineers were asked to develop a series of technologies that could be implemented in production vehicles by 2017, with performance and handling the most important factors.
Changes being made that might help include reducing weight, lowering center of gravity, and improving rigidity.
With these changes starting to take shape, the new technologies have started making their way into concept cars that can serve as real-world test laboratories.
The changes made so far are just the icing on the performance cake that is being made at both Hyundai and sister company Kia.
Automotive New have been keeping track of the progress, and highlighted 5 things Hyundai has done so far:
- Hyundai cranked up their motorsports division by entering the World Rally Championship.
- Lotus engineers were brought in to assist the Korean engineers while working on the Genesis in an effort to deliver a driving feel that would appeal to US and European consumers.
- A European technical center was created in order for cars to be put through their paces on the iconic Nurbrugring test track.
- Hyundai are believed to be working on a performance “N” sub-brand.
- The Koreans pulled off a major hiring coup when they convinced BMW AG veteran Albert Biermann to join the fold. Biermann is best known for overseeing BMW’s M performance unit. Biermann took the reins on April 1, and is well aware that he has been brought in to try and emulate the performance magic he performed at BMW.
These are all major steps, but is it enough for Hyundai to be successful in their efforts?
The answer will be a resounding “YES” if they can get close to replicating the BMW M formula.
It’s one thing to deliver that level of quality to a luxury model like the Genesis, but quite another to carry it over the mainstream models. Hyundai knows that this will be a tough task, especially since their first proprietary engine only arrived in 1991.
The carmaker has done a stellar job of improving every other part of their vehicles, from exterior design to technology.
The last major frontier for the Koreans is to deliver a level of ride, handling, and performance that matches the other elements of their vehicles.
Poaching Biermann from BMW may well be what makes the dream a reality.
This feels exactly like the change that Kia and Hyundai made when they hired designer Peter Schreyer from Audi back in 2006. The design of their vehicles improved dramatically after that.
Hyundai RM15 concept car
The newest changes can now be seen in an RM concept vehicle.
The work done at the Namyang center was put on display at the Seoul Motor Show in the form of the RM15 high-performance coupe concept.
The exterior is made from the same sheet metal as the incredibly sporty Veloster hatch. Styling aside, this is a totally different beast, with the RM in the name standing for “Racing Midship.”
A midship-engined production car has never been made by Hyundai, but the expectation is that they will use these concept models to get a better handle on weight distribution.
Kim Dae Seung, engineer in charge of lightweight body development for the RM15, said that other than the exterior styling, there were challenges to overcome with every aspect of the RM15. He said that the lessons and ideas learned here would serve them well with production models.
Further enhanced RM16 concept vehicle coming in 2016
This is the second concept with the RM label. The first, simply called RM, was shown off at the Busan Motor Show last year.
The third in the series, the RM16, is expected to arrive sometime next year.
Under the hood, the RM15 comes equipped with a 2.0-liter GDI engine wrapped in an aluminum frame. Carbon fiber has been used for the roof and hood panels, while the doors are constructed of lightweight, high-tensile steel. The engine delivers 296-hp, and goes from 0 to 62 mph in 4.7 seconds.
The RM concepts created a major challenge, and it all began with the raw materials.
Engineers wanted to reduce weight while increasing rigidity. Not an easy task with traditional materials, hence the use of carbon fiber and aluminum.
Adding these more exotic materials meant shaving 430 pounds off the weight of the steel architecture. The RM15 weighs in at a very trim 2,778 pounds.
Kim explained the difficulty of finding material suppliers in South Korea, whilst also saying that doing so was only part of the challenge.
The team had to build components from scratch, and then fasten them to the aluminum and carbon fiber parts to create what Hyundai calls a hybrid lightweight body structure (HLBS). This showed off a potential issue for Hyundai.
Kim explained how this wasn’t just all about one car, but rather building an entire supply chain.
Road manners is another weakness that Hyundai engineers are looking to take care of. The Koreans know that US and European drivers prefer a firmer, more precise steering feel. This need mostly stems from the fact that these drivers spend more time on high-speed highways, where that type of steering is better suited.
Analysts at Kelley Blue Book believe that Hyundai are competent, if a little dull, in this area. They are on a par with the likes of Toyota, Subaru, and Chevy, but fall behind Mazda, Ford, and Honda when it comes to steering.
Much of the problem comes from the tire choices that Hyundai makes for their vehicles. The tires on their vehicles are usually chosen for durability and ride quality as opposed to traction and handling. Since the latter traits fall under the category of steering, it’s obvious why Hyundai are falling short of some of their competitors in terms of inspired performance.
Hwang Injin is a senior engineer and the man in charge of the testing of the ride and handling of the RM15. He says that Hyundai is well aware of the critiques leveled at them.
He says this is why engineers have been given the task of damping excessive yaw in their vehicles. Yaw is best described as the wavering from left to right when a vehicle is trying to maintain a straight course.
As far as performance goes, Injin believes that body rigidity is the most important factor. Hyundai is looking at all the aforementioned elements, though, as they continue to try and deliver a better ride and handling experience for the driver.
They will get there eventually, it all just comes down to a question of time. (Source: Autonews.com)