Explosive performance, sharp cornering, and a loud exhaust are some of the factors that draw enthusiasts to high performance cars. Recently, driving mode which allows the driver to adjust the performance characteristics has also become important. The Hyundai VELOSTER N boosted its appeal further with an integrated driving mode, which allows the driver to make the most out of its performance. Let’s hear how the N brand performance models were first created. The developers of the high performance N brand shared its history and vision for the future.
It seems like every type of cars including family sedans, small hatchbacks, large SUVs and even subcompact cars are equipped with a driving mode selector. Just 10 years ago, it was a rare feature, so why is it in every car today?
We think the need for fuel efficiency improvements was the biggest reason. Companies have had to respond to demands for fuel efficiency improvement but then performance generally suffers when fuel efficiency is improved. There was therefore a need to create a driving mode for good performance. Thanks to advancements in electronic control technologies, it became possible to offer different modes of operation in the same car system. As a result, driving mode which provides drivers with a choice was widely adopted.
Isn’t there a different reason for driving mode in high performance rather than fuel efficiency improvement?
Overall the performance of automobiles has improved significantly with the increase in automobile power output. Yet, customers want different things in their high performance cars. Some want both high fuel efficiency and high performance while others just want maximum performance. Consequently, companies are obliged to find a way to fulfill the demands of different types of customers by providing a choice.
High performance cars are positioned somewhere between race cars and everyday cars. A high performance car is expected to be suitable for a commuter during the week and then to be able to deliver a great performance on the tracks at weekends. Fuel efficiency still matters but it needs to perform well in two different environments while satisfying the preferences of drivers with different tastes, which makes driving mode particularly important. Performance car enthusiasts have very different taste compared to regular customers so having different driving modes is essential.
The high performance N driving mode offers a lot of fun for drivers. Other sports cars have drive mode selectors but VELOSTER N is unique with its two buttons on the steering wheel, which allow the driver to make the switch instantly. What led to the development of this feature?
The development team all recognized the market demand for a multi drive mode when we first developed i30 N, our first high performance N model. We therefore decided to create four drive modes: which are Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+. We then quickly realized that it would be good to add a custom mode which allows users to finetune all the parts and subsystems to their exact preferences. We then took a step further by creating “N mode” which tunes all the powertrain components and chassis parts to Sport+ mode for superb track performance. The addition of new modes made it cumbersome to switch between the modes using a single button. We also wanted a unique feature for our N models so we added another button for the drive mode change, one button for the two N modes and another button for the other modes. This is how the two button drive mode change system, which became an important design element, was created.
People new to high performance cars will find VELOSTER N quite intriguing and exciting with its suspension firming up, steering becoming heavier and even exhaust sounds changing all just with the touch of a button. How can the vehicle characteristics change with such a simple command?
Customers can simply change the vehicle settings using the touch screen but it is a complicated system. The steering system and engine system are two independent systems, yet they can both be controlled through another system called the integrated safety control system. When the driver makes changes on the screen, the system checks the vehicle status and sends a command for adjustments to the different parts of the vehicle such as steering, engine, suspension and transmission. Communication between systems can get tangled up without a centralized command center. For example, a command to adjust the suspension to the Sport+ setting could be communicated when the car is not in a condition to make the change. The command center can oversee the system and prioritize which command can be fulfilled and when.
How was the degree of difference between the different drive modes set? What was the thinking and criteria behind the right degree of change between Sport mode and N mode?
High performance cars must deliver on the name “high performance”. We created the i30 N and VELOSTER N so that all the components can perform well in all conditions, such as when the car is generating maximum torque or at maximum speed. Driving in a maximum circuit performance can be harsh on the drivers and the other people inside.
Asking “Why a car with a great performance on a track feels difficult to operate on a public road” might help us understand the difference. Usually, it is impossible to make a car for track performance work great as an everyday car. For example, allowing roll can make driving more comfortable yet it makes the car slow to respond and body movement will be unstable.
Although VELOSTER N is designed for great performance we tried to make it behave adequately for everyday driving on public roads in Normal mode by adjusting the settings of its electronically controlled suspension, steering sensitivity and engine response for maximum comfort. In summary, N mode is set for maximum track performance disregarding comfort level and Normal mode is set for maximum comfort. This does not mean that Sport mode is set at exactly the middle of the two modes. It is still a very sporty setting which allows sporty driving on public roads for enthusiasts. The N models are created to achieve three key qualities which are; Corner Rascal (great cornering capability), Everyday Sports Car and Race Track Capability.
How the different modes feel is surely dependent on the individual driver. The steering wheel setting can feel heavy for some people but not for others. What were the challenges in setting the different modes?
Different settings can be measured quantitatively and classified accordingly. However, it is the people who ultimately make the final decision. The technologies behind part settings are rather complicated and the same setting can feel different depending on the road conditions. Fortunately, we had a full range of experts gathered at the high performance vehicle development center when we were working on i30 N and VELOSTER N. This allowed us to have an on-going discussion with expert engineers on which components are out of sync with the rest, what parts needed to be strengthened and how the two subsystems needed to be balanced after reviewing the results after each test drive session. Having a center filled with enthusiastic expert engineers made a real difference.
What makes VELOSTER N stand out is its “custom” mode which can be set using the touch screen. It has an intuitive graphic interface making it user friendly. What led to the development of the N custom mode?
We tried using the existing Hyundai’s infotainment screen layout and quickly realized that it took away from the high performance appeal of the N brand noticeably. The N models are built to be special and we wanted to preserve and boost this appeal. The development team started to think that a special interface to fit with the image of a high performance car was needed.
It is important to remember that high performance car enthusiasts enjoy working on their cars, tuning the car and even replacing the suspension before going to a track. So we searched for ways to recreate the sense of vehicle tuning while sitting in the car and came up with the idea of a custom mode setting screen menu with graphics of the different parts. The menu screen is divided by slanted lines, inspired by the N logo and ‘Performance Blue’ was used as the background color.
More N models will be released in the future and this could lead to more options for the user interface using graphics, what is the plan?
We plan to increase the customization options within the touch screen interface. The design or background color can be changed to match the driving mode for example. The screen already displays turbo, torque, power output, lap time and G-force but we can certainly put more information on the vehicle status. We might provide a custom screen setting which allows the driver to create their own set of information for the display.
Considering the pace of automobile performance improvement, the N brand models will boast even greater performance in the future. This should create more room for vehicle customization in the future. How much more performance customization will be possible in the future?
It is difficult to say how many different drive modes can be created but there is certainly room for more customization for high performance cars. For example, new modes could be interlinked with the air conditioning system or with the lighting system. Likewise, the seat positions could be adjusted for different modes. There is room for customization from both functional and emotional perspectives. The possibilities for customization are limitless. We can add variable rear or front spoilers, typically found in race cars to reduce the downforce when the vehicle is at high speeds and increase the down force during cornering. During high speed driving on the race track, every little thing can lead to a significant difference.
There are a huge number of things that engineers can do but customer reception is what ultimately determines what we end up implementing. We can create many different modes but that may not be beneficial. By contrast, there could be people with insight who can suggest ways that we can do better. Anyway, creating new customization options is not difficult, what matters is how much fun and joy can be provided with the options.
Last question. What should the next step be for the drive modes of high performance N brand models to ensure that drivers make the most of the cars they drive?
We will continue to make improvements while preserving the high performance N brand DNA as a core quality. We may come to a point where it is necessary to abandon some of the features in the future. We certainly do not think our i30 N and VELOSTER N represents our best effort ever. We will continue to refine the identity of high performance with more drive mode customization options. We think we can push N mode to be more extreme, satisfying customers, satisfying demands from true enthusiasts and hardcore fans of high performance cars. All types of technologies including DCT, rear wheel drive or all-wheel drive can be incorporated as long as it makes driving more fun. We are certainly ready to respond to the demands from patrons of our N brand models.