By on June 9, 2017

2017 Hyundai Tucson - Image: HyundaiIt’s time for performance SUVs to leave the luxury domain and make their way down into the mainstream.

And who better to bring a performance utility vehicle to the masses than the man who previously headed up BMW’s M division, Albert Biermann.

Biermann, after three decades at BMW and more than half a decade in charge at BMW M, joined the Hyundai Motor Group as head of vehicle test and high performance development in 2014. His list of responsibilities at Hyundai and Kia is lengthy. His aspirations for Hyundai’s N brand, according to Drive, are lofty.

But while conventional thought would lead you to believe Hyundai’s N performance sub-brand would focus on cars, Biermann says, “The fun-to-drive element is not limited to the size and segment of the car; you can create fun cars in every segment.”

As a result — and this won’t surprise anyone who remembers that Biermann’s previous position included oversight of M versions of the BMW X5 and BMW X6 — there’s likely a Hyundai Tucson N in the future.

The Tucson is certainly not a bad starting point. It’s a marketplace success for a Hyundai brand that’s faced some recent struggles in the United States. In fact, May 2017 was the highest-volume month in the history of the Tucson nameplate; the first month Tucson sales have ever topped the 10,000-unit mark.

In managing editor Mark Stevenson’s review from two summers ago, credit was given to the Tucson’s ride, handling, NVH, and exterior design. The Tucson is small enough to be nimble. It’s attractive enough to look good with a bodykit. It’s sufficiently underpowered to be able to make good use of a big boost in torque.

Of course, horsepower alone won’t turn the Tucson into a budget Audi SQ5. But Albert Biermann is a man, according to Automotive News Europe, who wants to, “leave his mark at the company by driving home the idea that every humble rubber bushing can be tuned for noise, vibration and harshness, or for ride comfort, or for durability.”

Stuffing the Santa Fe Sport’s 2.0-liter turbo under the hood of the Tucson isn’t all that N will be about.Hyundai Kia Namyang R&D Proving Grounds - Image: Kia CanadaN, a letter based on Hyundai’s Namyang test track (not because it was the natural follow-up to Biermann’s time at BMW’s M, as if he’ll switch to Mazda and start an O brand next), would position the Tucson in a segment decidedly deficient in performance. That’s assuming the vehicle makes it to North America.

America’s three top-selling utility vehicles — Rogue, CR-V, RAV4 — don’t even offer 200 horsepower, let alone other performance enhancements.

The Ford Escape and Subaru Forester engine upgrades aren’t exactly accompanied by the goodies that would enable them to be considered ST or STI models. The story is similar with Kia’s Sportage.

You could argue that the dearth of competitive offerings speaks to the lack of demand. Or you could argue that the “all but confirmed” Hyundai Tucson N would be dipping its toes in unsullied water.

You could also argue that the world is not in need of performance crossovers. But in a higher price bracket, the world has spoken. There’s a market for such vehicles.

If Hyundai can do to the Tucson what the company has already done with the Elantra Sport, this won’t be a bad thing.

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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23 Comments on “Make Performance SUVs Affordable (Again?) – Hyundai Tucson Likely To Get The N Treatment...”

  • avatar

    They should get on that immediately. I’m sure there are some people that get stuck driving these things that might appreciate some actual acceleration when the go pedal is mashed.

    • 0 avatar

      Ford Escape can run 240 hp. Lincoln MKC can run 285. Both with a lot of torque. If you want to keep going, BMW, Jag, etc offer more.

      Hopefully, what they are referring to isn’t so much acceleration, but driving dynamics.

  • avatar

    Please stop saying SUVs, these are CUVs and in no way are rugged or truck like.

  • avatar

    If Hyundai can do to the Tucson what the company has already done with the Elantra Sport, this won’t be a bad thing.

    How about an Elantra Sport “N” with an additional 50 hp. Now you have my attention. :-)

  • avatar

    Color me iNtrigued. They will have to do well to temper its appearance… definitely has to look more butch than a regular Tuscon, but it can’t look like a teenager went crazy with a $2000 gift card.

    I’ve also heard vewwy vewwy bad things about Hyundai’s DCT.

    • 0 avatar

      The N division is getting a new 8 spd wet DCT, but should also be available with a manual (the i30 N will first only be available with an MT until the new DCT is ready).

  • avatar

    I’m conflicted on this. On one hand added horsepower is like adding bacon to something, it’s always welcome. But geeze, an N CUV? Launching a credible performance devision you may want to start on things that are actually meant to go fast, not suburban grocery getters.

    That said I have no doubt it would sell. With everyone’s wives wanting a CUV I’m sure this will be a compromise choice in many dealer lot arguments. (I think I’m looking into my own future…)

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. How about just a Tucson Sport with the 2.0T and 250hp or so and call it a day. Are we really going to have a 300hp Tucson? Doubtful. And if not, then why call in an N?

    • 0 avatar

      While maybe a Tucson “Sport” would be enough for buyers looking for a bit more power/sport in their compact crossover, but an “N”-division Tucson wouldn’t be the first N model for the states.

      That would be the Veloster N, likely followed by the Elantra N or the Elantra fastback N.

    • 0 avatar

      “With everyone’s wives wanting a CUV…”
      Sure – it’s only women who want a CUV. ‘Time to open your eyes? Basically, nearly everyone (in the real world out there) wants the greater usefulness of a hatchback that, when raised a few inches, is only the better for ingress/egress. Is it that hard to understand (even for “car guys”)? Losing an extra .3g lateral acceleration is completely moot for virtually everyone on public roads.

  • avatar

    What would an N Tucson even look like? The Kia Sportage has had the 2.0T motor for years, and that’s not much of a sporty ride. An N would have to do better than that. But what’s the point? Nothing in the compact CUV class has crazy horsepower. Is there even any demand for such a vehicle?

    • 0 avatar

      “Is there even any demand for such a vehicle?”

      Only one way to find out. Given that there’s a business case for AMG and ///M crossovers, as well as the Ford Edge Sport, Durango R/T and even mild ones like the Sportage SX and Forester Turbo, I’m gonna say yeah. A lot of dudes DD cute utes.

    • 0 avatar

      Sure there is. Since these have essentially replaced compact wagons and hatchbacks for most buyers, there are always people who want more power and speed, or even if they don’t know how to use those things, they will always go for a bigger engine.

    • 0 avatar

      Anything with the N performance moniker will get a massive upgrade in suspension bits.

      The i30N suspension is quite different from the regular i30.

  • avatar

    Will they add MT for fun, or this is only the type of fun that is not fun?

  • avatar

    Oh Lord, please don’t tell me Hyundai is formally calling their stuff “N” cars.

  • avatar

    “America’s three top-selling utility vehicles — Rogue, CR-V, RAV4 — don’t even offer 200 horsepower, let alone other performance enhancements.”

    Uh – doesn’t the CR-V have a 190HP turbo charged engine now? Not exactly 200HP but pretty darn close. My MDX has 290 HP. Anyone that asks is going to hear that it has “300 HP” from me. And nope, I don’t think i’ll ever need all 300 HP hauling the family about.

    • 0 avatar

      America’s three most most boring utility vehicles…

      If they’d added the Escape, you’ve a 240hp option, but that would have diluted their argument.

  • avatar

    I drove a Fiat 500 Abarth form 2012-2017. Miserably uncomfortable seats but I loved the car. Sold it and bought a Fiat 500 X trekking Plus. Nice vehicle well except the lame 9 speed trans and rough idle especially with the AC on.

    I’m hoping a Abarth edition is coming soon to the X lineup as I would buy one. Not sure why anyone would even want a Hyundai as I’ve never liked any of their offerings. A high peformance Tucson…? Really and comparing it to a BMW M series anything, Really? There’s no perfomance history for the brand like BMX, Merc and Fiat.

  • avatar

    N treatment is not going to end well. Only African Americans can N it up without being racist.

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