Another new fast Hyundai concept? What’s in the water there?

Whatever it is, the rest of the car industry would do well to take a swig. Hyundai’s design department is brimming with confidence right now. Fresh from the angular Ioniq 5, slippery Ioniq 6 and throwback N Vision 74, they’re at it again. This time, answering the question ‘what would a Hyundai super-saloon look like?’

Well, like an Ioniq 6 that’s been religiously attending the gym…

Indeed, underneath the pumped-out wheelarches, wider tracks, and huge front bumper and rear diffuser bookends lies the new Ioniq 6. Or should that be ‘Ironic 6’. Take a pebble-smooth, low-drag four-door and decorate it with a surfboard-sized rear wing and widebody stance. We’re not complaining though: the car is dripping with attitude.

Pity about the name though…

Yep, ‘RN22e’ is a missed opportunity. Build a 577bhp super-saloon, name it after the result of letting a bored cat saunter across your keyboard. Odd.

That’s a healthy amount of power…

True, though you’d have to say 577bhp from dual motors is hardly outrageous for an EV super saloon. A Porsche Taycan or Tesla Model S offer loads more power. But like Hyundai’s N Vision 74 concept, everything about the RN22e’s mechanical package is supposed to be viable. These motors come from the Kia EV6 GT. However, an entirely new calibration means it’s set up to be pretty lively. More on that later, we need to talk about the noise. And the gearshifts.

Noise? Gearshifts? In an EV?

Yes and yes. Hyundai’s been having some fun with this one. In fact, Hyundai reckons the car industry has been going about fast EVs all wrong, prioritising stomach-troubling speed over character and silliness. So, the RN22e features gimmicks and tomfoolery. You might not like the idea of it at all. But try to keep an open mind, eh?

First up, there’s N Sound Plus. Essentially, a 90dB boombox strapped behind the diffuser, it plays a synthesized engine throb that’s part motorsport, part Star Wars. You can of course turn it off. But it’ll even obey a blipped throttle when you’re at standstill, and ‘rev’ the noise. At best it’s unnecessary, at worst it’s pointless, but for Hyundai it’s an experiment. If you like it, N Sound Plus might make its way into future road cars. If not, it’ll go away.

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Watch: Top Gear's Hyundai N Vision 74 and RN22e review

Next up, gearshifts. Behind the steering wheel, you’ll find two gearshift paddles. Nothing unusual about that: lots of EVs retain paddles for adjusting regen braking. Pulling both together in the RN22e activates or silences the sound tremor. Once underway, they also simulate gearshifts by briefly interrupting torque. You can even ‘hit’ the rev limiter. Most EVs are foolproof: just press and go. In this one, the driver can make mistakes.

While accelerating, the system is hard to justify. Making a seamless EV jerkier and slower for the sake of nostalgia is like having fibre optic broadband installed in your house then looking up words in a dictionary instead of Googling.

A waste of time then?

When you’re piling into a corner on a track, it’s a different story. All of a sudden, the virtual shifts feel helpful. While the brakes continue to slow the car consistently, a little peak in re-gen from the e-motors delivers a reassuring hit of simulated engine braking. So, spot a 90-degree left ahead and your 20th century brain knows that’s a second-gear corner, and to grab a handful of downshifts accordingly. There’s something to lean on as you slow the car for the bend, where a regular EV just decelerates in one lunge.

Again, you can turn the system off, and it’s not necessarily going to make you lap faster. We’re sure it’ll offend plenty of people, but it’s an intriguing idea that could only have come from a company unafraid to give something a go for the heck of it.

How does it drive?

It’s lively. The car is stiff, responsive and despite being all-wheel drive, very keen to oversteer. Through a tricky complex on track, you only use the steering to aim the car midway into the corner. From the moment the nose reacts, it’s just as easy to steer it on the throttle. Even with all the traction control on.

In a straight line, it’s not immensely fast: think BMW M235i, not M3. The pace feels sufficient, not scary. Unlike most EVs, you look forward to the corners more than the straights.

Is the RN22e going into production?

The immediate future will bring us an electric N car, but it’ll be in the hatchback shape of the Ioniq 5, coming in 2023. Hyundai’s again promising it’ll put ‘fun’ before ‘fast’, and insiders smirk when asked if it’ll wallop the VW ID.4 GTX.

Something that looks very like the RN22e will enter next year’s ETCR electric touring car series, against Cupra and co. Hyundai says if it gets a stellar response then an Ioniq 6 N would be considered, but the car would retain its standard width body panels and lose the more outlandish aero appendages. Guess you don’t need a shouty design when the on-board stereo is doing the talking.

Keyword: Hyundai RN22e super-saloon review: 577bhp dual-motor electric concept tested

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