By on March 3, 2018

2017 Hyundai Tucson - Image: Hyundai

Hamstrung by Chinese animosity towards South Korea and a crossover lineup that wasn’t sufficiently buffet-like, the Hyundai brand missed its global sales target by nearly 600,000 vehicles last year. It’s a well-reported slump, and we’ve told you about the automaker’s strategy to get its mojo back.

Crossovers, man. Lots and lots of crossovers.

While fleshing out its lineup of two- and three-row haulers seems like a perfectly reasonable plan in a world addicted to cargo volume, it looks like Hyundai’s not stopping there. Some buyers will surely want more power, and Hyundai’s prepared to deliver it.

Speaking at the Korean launch of the 2019 Santa Fe (crossovers!), global sales chief Byung Kwon Rhim told Britain’s Auto Express that a hotter Tucson compact crossover is on the way. When asked what’s next for the company’s performance-minded N sub-brand, he replied, “Tucson is under development, and other models will come after that.”

A Tucson N would likely borrow the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder from the overseas-market i30N, which is their version of our Elantra GT. That mill cranks out 271 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Currently, the uplevel powerplant in the Tucson is a 1.6-liter turbo making 175 hp and 195 lb-ft.

N-badged models, like North America’s upcoming Veloster N, complement the added power with performance goodies like upgraded brakes and a finely-tuned suspension — something a hot crossover will need in spades.

While a Tucson N seems like a decent fit for the North American market, especially with Ford adding the “ST” badge to models like the Edge and next-generation Explorer, Hyundai’s sales boss didn’t say which countries can expect the little brute ute. Clouding the issue entirely is Hyundai performance boss Albert Biermann’s recent comments concerning a new “N Sport” designation — a mildly meaner-looking appearance package bound for any number of vehicles in the brand’s lineup. N Sport means looks, maybe upgraded rubber, but no added horsepower or suspension trickery.

Will America get a Tucson N, or just a Tucson N Sport? It all depends on whether Hyundai believes the average U.S. consumer can be swayed by horsepower in this particular segment. A hotter Tucson could spark a fire in the bellies of young parents who loathe the idea of completely submitting to the expectations of their new lifestyle. As well, it’s not something offered by any other brand.

Sales performance is yet another reason to lavish extra attention on the Tucson. U.S. sales of the crossover rose 31 percent, year over year, in February. That’s the 12th consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth for the Tucson, and its best February showing to date.

Despite a brand-wide year-over-year sales drop of 13 percent last month, sales of Hyundai crossovers rose 19 percent.

[Image: Hyundai]

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29 Comments on “Is Muscle Coming to Hyundai’s Crossover Lineup? Does It Need It?...”

  • avatar

    271/260 won’t exactly make a Tucson a burner, and that’s probably a good thing. Questionable handling, short wheelbase, and a high center of gravity should provide enough of a thrill for most folks, should they decide to toss it around.

    • 0 avatar

      One day some genius at a car company will propose the next ‘big thing’ A CUV that’s lowered to proper sedan height, has none of that comical ‘tough’ grey wheel opening and lower valance cladding and drives like a car! They’ll create a new category the Wagon! I get you, that vast majority of overturned vehicles I see are CUVs and SUVs, so much for these things being sporty.

    • 0 avatar

      The next gen Theta III 4 cylinder engines will be getting an output of at least 280 HP in FWD/AWD application.

      Do buyers really need that kind of power (even if modest in comparison)?

      Not really – but there are buyers willing to pay for more power.

  • avatar

    Yawn. Everything is always under 300bhp and is always so high end on the RPM scale drivers will seldom if never achieve it.

    Almost as if the performance ceiling for an effective and reliable FWD model is about 300bhp…

    So much vaporware for sitting in traffic.

  • avatar

    I seriously think everyone is wasting their time with this performance CUV thing. I mean it’ll sell as all crossovers sell, but I think they’d do far better going Brougham. I said this before and will continue to say it until someone finally gets it.

    • 0 avatar

      Ah, but “Brougham” doesn’t say youth and muscularity and wealth like “performance”. It’s all a game of, “look! I’m never going to die” displays. I’m all for a new Buick Riviera with no b-pillars, a quiet, comfortable ride, and a sonorous, revvy, crossplane V8 stuck to a 6-speed, but unlike most people (always, of every generation), I care about the experience of my car, and not just its signification and flatscreen hauling abilities.

    • 0 avatar

      “Brougham” doesn’t appeal to brown people, who are the chief buyers of performance CUVs, especially high end ones

  • avatar

    How many dozen people are sitting anxiously at home right now counting the cash they’ll need for a (moderately) powerful Hyundai crossover? I’ve got 10 fingers – let me start 10..9…8..7..6..oops/No more needed

    • 0 avatar

      Well, when I bought my wife an Escape a year or so ago, I had already ruled out most of its competitors because of their gutless N/A 4 cylinder engines. Having also ruled out vehicles we couldn’t afford, had a bad reputation for reliable and stinky diesels, there weren’t many options left. A Tucson N would have fit the bill so we would have been a potential buyer.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t know if you shopped it, but we test drove a Sportage when we last bought a car. Unlike the Tucson, it was available with the 2.0T. Drove and handled surprisingly well.

        I’ve never understood why Hyundai didn’t put that engine in the Tuscon. Now it looks like they will.

        • 0 avatar

          Unfortunately, the Kia Sportage is not available with a turbo petrol engine in my locale. The most powerful non-diesel model they sell here has all of 182 horsepower (the “GT-line”!). Compare that to the 250-odd for the 2.0EB Escape running on premium.

    • 0 avatar

      (Some) Buyers always want more power, if just to distinguish themselves from others.

      Why do soccer-moms and dads need a BMW X5M or a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT?

      It’s the same reason why Ford is coming out w/ ST versions of their CUVs and Toyota also likely to join in the fray.

      Part of this is also due to the future of the auto market being bifurcated into those who don’t really care about autos or the driving experience and just want to be shuttled from point A to point in an autonomous vehicle and those who still care about autos and the driving experience.

  • avatar

    Probably not worth the effort of developing a new transmission, since the other N models only offer a manual and a manual crossover would go over like hot dog crusted pizza

    • 0 avatar

      Given that there probably isn’t much in the way development dollars going into manual transmissions period – anything that’s not a conventional automatic for this project is likely to be one of those dual clutch manu-matic units.

      Of course a wider variety of transmissions means more to certify with the EPA…

      It’s a vicious cycle causing the slow death of the manual.

    • 0 avatar

      Hyundai is already developing a wet clutch DCT for the N models (the i30N will be the first to get it).

  • avatar

    I took my Countryman S on a multi-hour road trip. It’s a good handling small CUV – with the emphasis on “good” – meaning it still doesn’t come close to handling as well as it’s hardtop brethren. Taking a circular highway on-ramp in an aggressive manner means peeling off a lot of speed before it begins to get too tipsy for my tastes. Maybe it handles better than a Accord or Camry – I don’t know – but it sure doesn’t feel like it.

    A “sporty” CUV is a misnomer in my book.

    • 0 avatar

      CR has thr Countryman S at 53.5 mph through their Emergency Lane change test. The Envision went 55.5 mph and Cooper S went 56 mph.

      Might I suggest a local autocross? Or even just a local drive with thr Mini club.

      • 0 avatar

        “Or even just a local drive with thr Mini club”

        Some of the MINI owners have Union Jack decals on their roofs. Can you order a Chinese flag rooftop decal for the Envision?

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Speaking of the Envision and CR:

        “Buick would love for you to compare the Envision to the Audi Q5. They should be careful what they wish for. The 2016 Buick Envision just can’t match the driving dynamics of the German competition—including the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC—never mind the more plebeian Ford Edge. Despite compact dimensions, the Envision drives like a larger SUV, and that isn’t meant as a compliment. Steering is slow and the Buick doesn’t care to be rushed. The brake pedal also lacks bite, hurting confidence…We just don’t see any compelling reason to choose the Envision over the aforementioned Ford Edge, the Kia Sorento, or the Nissan Murano. A super-loaded Edge Titanium costs less and is roomier, far more athletic, and quiet…Overall, we find the Envision to be a diversion from GM’s recent run of successful designs. ”

        “Handling is clumsy and the brakes are mushy, but ultimately the car is secure when pushed to its limits. The ride is a mixed bag, both soft and unsettled at the same time”

        Ouch! I can see why you’ve resorted to cherry picking random metrics.

        • 0 avatar

          30fetch, maybe you shouldn’t cherry pick certain articles.

          “The word planted constantly came to mind while we drove the Envision on numerous laps over different road surfaces on GM’s test track. The new, stiffer architecture, combined with a suspension system borrowed from the sporty Buick Regal GS, helps the Envision remain firm and controlled around sweeping bends and over railroad tracks and rough pavement. ” Autotrader

          “That special suspension all but eliminates torque steer from the Envision, and combined with the latest electronic steering technology from Bosch, creates an amazingly planted, confident-handling SUV. Broken pavement is heard, but no nasty feedback comes through the steering wheel — at all. High-speed sweepers with chattering bumps that set other SUVs’ steering wheels dancing in my hands were just ordinary corners in the Envision as the wheel tracked straight and true over nasty pavement.”

          “Winding the ute through the well-paved Georgia roads, I was surprised by the Envision’s great steering feel and near-flat handling. Powering up hills was a breeze and braking on the way back down slowed the vehicle in a predictable and confidence inspiring manner.”

          “Though challenged by sudden dips in the road and occasional construction zones with hastily repaved sections, the Envision maintained a cushioned and well-damped ride that soaked up bumps and sudden changes in road camber without losing its composure. Despite being a rather tall and narrow vehicle, the Envision felt very stable when cornering.”

    • 0 avatar

      Well, Porsche, Jaguar and Alfa consider the Macan, F-Pace and Stelvio to be “sporty” CUVs, as does BMW with the X4 and MB with the GLC “coupe.”

    • 0 avatar

      Not better handling then the new 2.0 Touring model! It nearly a sport car range for $37K!

  • avatar

    Hyundai version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee Hellcat would be welcome! Maybe a 800 hp and 800 ft. lbs. of torque with a 8 sod. tranny?

  • avatar

    I don’t know if the full N treatment is necessary. I think most crossover owners would just be happy with more power, brakes and maybe more aggressive damping. My wife’s last gen MKX handles well enough… just needs about 100 more lb-ft down low, and maybe better brakes + wheels + tires. A stiff + clompy crossover makes no sense.

  • avatar

    The 1.6-liter turbo is fine for the Tucson. What it really needs is a replacement for the awful DCT.

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