Hyundai is getting better and better at manufacturing their vehicles. All the praising reviews from global rating agencies and media outlets prove it so. In particular, changes in driving performance, stability, and ride comfort are becoming more impressive. Sonata, Grandeur, Avante(Elantra), and Santa Fe, which have been released since last year, are good examples. The story goes on; Hyundai’s improved driving performance can also be seen through mass-produced high-performance vehicles, such as i30 N or Veloster N. The Hyundai N models feature racing car-like performances as if they are participating motorsports.
The remarkable improvement in Hyundai’s driving performance is closely related to its rejoining the WRC in 2014. The automaker used the technologies they learned on building their mass-produce models after years of experience in WRC. The WRC racing car run at an unbelievable speed in various extreme terrains, including paved roads, off-roads, and even snowy fields. In these circumstances, participants need much better cars with much-improved performances than regular street vehicles. Of course, it is not easy to build a high-quality WRC race car. However, since returning to the WRC in 2014, Hyundai has been building its own race car and steadily building its own skills to do so. And finally, the automaker became the manufacturer’s champion in 2019.
Since returning to the WRC, Hyundai has, directly and indirectly, applied the technology gained from the races to their mass-produced models. The results are Hyundai’s latest models and the high-performance N model. In particular, high-performance mass-produced vehicles, such as i30 N and Veloster N, reflect a variety of technologies that have been brought directly from or inspired by WRC racing cars. Here are examples of Hyundai’s motorsports-related technology that are used for the company’s latest mass-produced vehicles.
WRC-related technologies improved the durability of the high-performance engines
The four-cylinder 1.6-liter turbo engine of a WRC race car and the four-cylinder 2.0-liter turbo engine used in Hyundai’s mass-produced vehicles might look similar, but they are different. The types and structures of these engines are similar, but not the rest. The race car has a maximum rpm of 8,500 and usually works around 7,000 rpm on average throughout the race. Because the race cars need to stand such harsh conditions, the engine of the WRC race cars can travel for only about 7,500 km.
As such, the WRC race car engines must endure extreme situations and perform well at the same time. And while doing so, the entire engine area, including the crankshaft and the valve train, gets highly stressed. Lots of experience and know-how are needed for survival. Over the years, Hyundai has been successfully able to design and create engines for their own WRC race cars.
The finished technology was partially applied to the four-cylinder Theta 2.0-liter turbo engine used in the i30 N and Veloster N. Specifically, the technologies for the cylinder head, strengthening of the cylinder block, and optimizing cylinder head gasket were the key features. Of course, ultra-strength lightweight materials used for race cars would also be the best choice for mass-produced cars. However, this would cost too much. This will eventually not look good on the price tags, and the majority of people will not be able to experience the technology the company achieved from the motorsports. Therefore, the company did their best to wisely use the technology for mass-produced models while not making them too expensive.
Overboost of the Turbo Engine in a WRC Race Car
One of the things drivers expect when driving high-performance mass-produced vehicles such as i30 N and Veloster N, would be powerful acceleration. The 2.0l turbo engine used for the i30 N and Veloster N can offer strong acceleration, thanks to a maximum torque of 36.0kg.m between 1,450-4700 rpm. Moreover, Hyundai has added another feature called Overboost, to create a stronger sense of acceleration and enhanced sportiness.
Overboost is based on the technology gained from building the WRC race cars. It is a feature that increases output by momentarily increasing boost (pressure) of the turbo engine beyond the original setting. The Veloster N DCT, which was released in April, has even added an “N Green Shift” feature that allows maximum use of engine boosts for about 20 seconds when the driver simply pushes the button. This feature changes the logic of the transmission to optimize acceleration so that the driver could use the maximum performance Veloster N DCT can offer.
In addition, Hyundai’s technology and know-how in developing the WRC racing car engine are significant. The technologies the company gained from WRC are not only used for the current four-cylinder 2.0-liter turbo engine of N models but also for the four-cylinder 2.3-liter turbo engine in high-performance models. The engine will feature improved performance at high rpm, more effective heat management, and improved durability.
Electronic Control Suspension inspired by WRC race cars
Currently, vehicles such as i30 N and Veloster N house Electronic Control Suspension (ECS), which can change suspension characteristics depending on the various driving environments. Thanks to this, the suspension attenuation force can be dialed to one of the options – normal/sports/sports plus, – depending on the menu setting in the infotainment or the driving mode. The technology was inspired by the suspension flexibility of the WRC race car in various driving courses. In fact, the suspension tuning of the WRC race car varies from time to time depending on the road friction coefficient of the course, the type of road surface (tarmacs, gravels, etc.), the atmospheric temperature, and the driver’s characteristics. Such pre-tuning is to ensure that race cars can perform well by utilizing all the information before the race.
However, it is actually impossible to change the suspension settings for mass-produced cars to suit different climates like racing cars. This is when the ECS is needed. This allows drivers to change suspension settings to suit driving conditions, like WRC race cars, and furthermore enjoy the optimal driving performance, and driving itself. It will make your car feel like a WRC race car that changes suspension settings for all different driving conditions.
Prestigious Steering performance Learned from WRC race cars
Steering is what the mass-produced car has improved the most, thanks to the experience of WRC races. It is clear that the strict standards of the WRC race car to ensure the best steering performance have greatly improved mass-produced vehicles. It may sound strange that the steering performance of the WRC race cars and regular cars could be the same. The steering system of WRC race cars and the latest mass-produced cars are not even the same. The latest mass-produced cars use electric power steering, while race cars use traditional hydraulic steering.
Interestingly, however, the WRC drivers and ordinary drivers usually want the same when it comes to steering: quick and sophisticated response with sufficient feedbacks. Knowing this, Hyundai wanted to apply the steering features of the WRC race cars to the mass-produced cars as much as possible. As a result, the steering performance of regular cars could feature much-enhanced steering performance. In short, the owners of Hyundai’s mass-produced vehicles now can experience a whole new steering performance, much more agile and intuitive.
In addition, Hyundai Motor Company has added a feature that allows some high-performance mass-produced cars to move like WRC race cars. It is a variable steering device that can completely change steering performance and feel with a single button. When you drive i30 N or Veloster N, you can experience dramatic changes in the steering mode using these modes: normal/sports/sports plus.
Wheel Materials May Enhance Ride Comfort and Handling Performance
In terms of ride comfort, WRC-related technology has been partially used, too. There seems to be pointless to discuss ride comfort when talking about the crazily-powerful and rigid WRC race cars, but it is not true. The application of WRC race car’s Unsprung Mass(the mass of the suspension and other components directly connected to them) lightening technology alone can greatly improve the ride comfort. In general, lower Unsprung mass improves traction, which in turn leads to improved ride quality and handling. The easiest way to achieve this is to reduce the weight of wheels and tires, which take up the majority of the Unsprung Mass. WRC race cars use forged lightweight alloy wheels for this reason. Using such forged wheel manufacturing technology on high-performance mass-produced vehicles can reduce Unsprung mass and improve ride comfort.
One good example is the i30 N Project C released back in September for the European market with a limited production of 600 units. The car is equipped with a 19-inch forged wheel that weighs much less than a regular casting wheel. It was an unusual choice for mass-produced cars, but it alone was able to reduce body weight by 22 kilograms. The N performance parts of the Veloster N in the Korean market also include 19-inch cast lightweight wheels that house similar technology. Each wheel reduces the weight by 2.1 kilograms per unit compared to the ordinary wheels, reducing the Unsprung mass and improving ride quality and driving performance.
As such, Hyundai’s mass-produced vehicles house years of motorsports technologies that have been helping the automaker throughout the WRC courses around the world. This is why Hyundai has performed well since its return to the WRC, and the quality of its mass-produced vehicles has begun to get improved. In other words, the better Hyundai does in WRC races, the more likely the company will make faster, more interesting high-performance cars.
Hyundai’s passion for the WRC is likely to continue this year. The starting point will be the 4th of September in Estonian rally, which will resume after the Corona 19 Pandemics. We hope that Hyundai Motor Company will also perform well in the WRC in the 2020 season, including the Turkish rally, the German rally, the Italian rally, and the Japanese rally.
The next articles will cover the following topics: Head researchers revealing why Hyundai is participating in the WRC, and the application of chassis and engine-related technologies reviewed by the researchers in charge.