- hyundai is developing a mid-engine sports car that we expect to arrive in the next two to three years.
- a turbocharged inline-four engine will likely produce well over 300 horsepower.
- the car is poised to be the most affordable way to buy a new mid-engine sports car when it arrives in two to three years.
this story originally appeared in the may 2020 issue of car and driver as part of our 25 cars worth waiting for package. our sneak preview of the most exciting cars coming in the next few years draws on knowledge from leaked product-development plans, spy photos, and loose-lipped insiders mixed in with information that has already been officially released. the reporting for this story was completed in february and early march, before the auto industry began feeling major effects of the coronavirus pandemic. as many automakers are now delaying or pausing development programs, the debut and on-sale dates reported here may change.
mid-engine cars are like assholes: everyone has one. having taken grip at blue-collar brands such as chevrolet and ford, mid-engine mania is now working its way into luxury marques known for putting the engine up front, such as maserati and aston martin. of all the newcomers, though, no vehicle highlights the current sports-car zeitgeist quite like a mid-engine hyundai. fortunately, unlike assholes and opinions, mid-engine cars rarely stink.
when it arrives in two or three years, expect the hyundai to bring mid-engine dynamics to a new level of affordability. that's the hope, at least. as we understand it, the decision makers in south korea are still weighing whether their car should be a $40,000 hyundai or a $70,000 genesis. in our minds, there's no question. it's too soon for genesis to challenge corvettes and porsches, but hyundai's n performance subbrand will be hamstrung as long as it's limited to modifying economy cars, family sedans, and crossovers. a proper sports car will validate both n and hyundai.
as an indicator of its intent, hyundai recently stuck journalists behind the wheel of its rm19 ("rm" for "racing midship"), a veloster modified to carry a transversely mounted inline-four between its rear wheels. wearing a massive turbocharger, its 2.0-liter engine puffs out 390 horsepower and routes torque through a six-speed sequential manual. this is a proof of concept, not a prototype. the rm19 is laggy and peaky, with hard-hitting shifts and a neutral chassis that will spin if you don't respect it. for the engineers, the rm19 is an opportunity to master the challenges that come with moving the engine to the back seat.
if hyundai does get the nod, the production car should be positioned to hang with the toyota supra and the next nissan z, although it may still resemble a veloster. the car we're tentatively calling rm20 n will probably trade a handful of the rm19's horsepower for improved drivability. we expect the mule's feathery weight to carry over, though. our best guess is a two-seat hatchback using an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with specs in the ballpark of 325 horsepower and 3300 pounds. if hyundai can inject a similar combination of poise and character into its mid-engine car as it did the veloster n, we just might be looking at a poor man's porsche 718 cayman.