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If you’re not familiar with Hyundai’s mid-engine ambitions, it all started in 2014 with the Veloster Midship concept. As the name suggests, Busan’s showcar was based on a Veloster with a mid-engine driving the rear wheels with almost 300 horsepower. The RM15 and RM16 concepts followed with various updates, culminating with the RM19 with nearly 400bhp for the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show.
The South Korean marque has strongly suggested that a production version will follow, and while nearly two years have passed, the sports car has yet to be revealed. Fortunately, Jean Pierre Kraemer (from the JP Performance tuning house) had the chance to familiarize himself with the work in progress RM19. Not only that, but he sat down and chatted with Albert Biermann, the head of research and development for Hyundai and Kia.
The man in charge of R&D said two prototypes had been built, one being tested at his home in Korea and the other in training in Europe. Interestingly, the test vehicle featured in the video has a larger 2.3-liter engine rather than the 2.0-liter unit that all previous RM concepts had. In its current state, it develops around 350bhp, but the final number will be different as Hyundai is still tweaking the four-pot to comply with EU emissions regulations.
That’s a 40bhp drop from the RM19 concept, which had the 2.0-liter engine adapted from the Veloster N TCR race car. Still, 350 hp is not to be sneezed at, especially in a mid-engine package with probably close to ideal weight distribution. Besides the different engine, the updated prototype has an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox rather than the six-speed sequential of the original RM19.
Biermann says the engine + gearbox combo gives the sports car “enormous charm” before mentioning that the production version won’t necessarily have the big 305 rear tires. The fully electric RM20e with its peak horsepower of 750 horses need it, according to the R&D manager. The video continues with JP hopping behind the wheel of the car and learning from a member of the development team that the 2.3-liter engine was primarily developed for the updated RM19.
It pumps 460 Newton-meters (339 pound-feet) of torque from 2,000 rpm into a prototype bearing a license plate and rolling on public roads, meaning it can’t be too far away of a production version. The man in charge of the engine in terms of handling mentions the speed of the turbocharged four-cylinder engine up to 7,000 rpm, thus confirming a rumor in late 2020 that Hyundai is working on a 2.3-liter engine at high rpm.
It cost the company around € 500,000 (almost $ 590,000) to build this one prototype and a production model would be worth the money of the Porsche 718 GTS while still delivering the performance of the 718 GT4. It took 4.3 seconds on a 100 km / h acceleration test, but the Hyundai employee said his best performance was a sprint of 3.88 seconds.
As to when we’ll actually see the final variant in a Hyundai showroom, that could happen in the next couple of years.