Hyundai Revs Up High-Performance Ambitions | Edmunds

Hyundai Revs Up High-Performance Ambitions

MINNEALPOLISHyundai is taking a page from the playbook of BMW's M performance division as it revs up the effort to be known as a performance brand, the automaker told Edmunds.

Just 10 years ago, car shoppers in the U.S. considered Hyundai vehicles as value-oriented models. But the Korean automaker is working hard to change that perception, with moves that include recently hiring the top engineer of BMW's M performance group away from the German automaker.

"We have morphed into an automaker that offers premium brands," Dave Zuchowski, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America, told Edmunds at the launch of the 2016 Hyundai Tucson here. "Now we are talking about building more of the brand around crossover utility vehicles and becoming known for crossover utility vehicles.

"Ultimately we want to expand our brand to also be known for performance. So it is just a natural evolution."

But Zuchowski would not say when car shoppers can expect to see high-performance models in Hyundai or Kia showrooms.

Albert Biermann, who was vice president of engineering for BMW's M performance cars, joined Hyundai Motor Group in late 2014. Biermann was named head of vehicle testing and high-performance development for both the Hyundai and Kia brands.

"His appointment will accelerate the rollout of new high-performance vehicles and technologies, as well as help to improve the dynamic capabilities of cars across the range," the automaker said in a statement. "The company intends to become a technical leader in ride and handling, producing vehicles that lead their respective segments for driver engagement."

Zuchowski said it is too early to provide details and announce if Biermann will concentrate on the Hyundai brand's rear-drive vehicles or a mix of rear and some front-drive cars.

"It is unclear how that exactly plays out, other than to tell you that there is a pretty good group of resources that have been collected for the last couple of years that are concentrated on this performance brand," he said. "It is a growing group of individuals that are working on this and working on it very hard."

Hyundai's rear-drive cars are the Hyundai Equus sedan and Genesis coupe and sedan.

This is not the first time Hyundai has gone outside of South Korea for engineering assistance.

The Lotus Group, known for its expertise in racing, was consulted to fine-tune the handling and steering dynamics of the redesigned 2015 Genesis sedan.

Performance is defined by such characteristics as vehicle handling, chassis dynamics, braking, steering and acceleration. Generally speaking, an engine is turbocharged or supercharged to reach peak performance.

All-wheel drive is common in these vehicles. Future Hyundai performance vehicles may include a fast-shifting dual-clutch automatic transmission, but probably not a manual transmission.

The redesigned 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco and 2016 Hyundai Tucson are both equipped with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission designed and engineered by the Korean automaker.

Luxury brands for years have offered high-performance vehicles within their brand. AMG is the designation at Mercedes-Benz, for example. The Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG is the lowest-priced AMG model.

Depending on the model, Audi uses the "RS" and "S" designations for its top models, Cadillac's "V" series includes the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V sedan," while the Lexus "F" performance lineup includes such vehicles as the Lexus IS F.

Edmunds says: It's too early for car shoppers to put a Hyundai or Kia high-performance vehicle on their lists, but be aware that it's something the Korean automaker has in mind for the future.

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