If the multitude of auto shows spanning the globe are where OEMs display their concept and showroom initiatives, the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas is where they come to show off their performance chops. Honda, Toyota, Lexus, Ford, ... you name it -- all are in the business of wowing the most discerning and knowledgeable gearheads during the automotive world's most-looked-forward-to week in sin city. And in the midst of all that, one OE in particular has managed to impress us in some surprising ways.
Think "Hyundai" and what comes to mind? Affordable, reliable quality in their sedans and compacts? Go-anywhere freedom and civility in their crossovers and SUVs? What might not jump immediately to mind is performance (aside from the quick, nimble Veloster and fast Veloster Turbo). But that's the exact element Hyundai sought to correct with this year's SEMA showing and press conference led by vice president of corporate and product planning Mike J. O'Brien.
Front and center of Hyundai's announcement from their SEMA display was a model most of us here in the U.S. might not be familiar with, but one that's become synonymous with performance elsewhere in the world: the Hyundai i30 N. Based very closely on its performance-focused showroom stock brethren, the i30 N race car on display at the Hyundai booth is one of two that competed in the Nurburgring 24-hour race, and placed an impressive fourth in class with no mechanical setbacks whatsoever -- a remarkable feat, considering that 51 cars of the initial 160-car field failed to finish at all.
Powered by a 2.0L turbocharged engine and six-speed manual, the Hyundai i30 N race car features the same engine and drivetrain combination coming to showrooms in Europe and around the world when the production-version Hyundai i30 N (for "Namyang," Hyundai's global R&D center in Korea) goes on sale. No word yet whether this option will be available in Elantra trims here (the i30's U.S.-market sibling), but we'll keep our proverbial fingers crossed.
In case you were thinking the performance extent of the Hyundai announcement was limited to the i30 N, four diverse custom creations from U.S. builders proved otherwise. Blood Type Racing -- or "BTR" -- seemed to grab the most attention from their BTR Edition Elantra Sport Concept, which has been modified from stock in several performance-focused ways. A Torcon cold-air intake and catalyst-back exhaust, custom intercooler, and Devil's Own methanol injection system boost power, while an HSD coilover suspension, Pierce Motorsports sway bars and chassis braces, and an APR GTC-200 carbon GT wing help keep the car civil on public streets and planted around a race track. A Fella big brake kit resides behind 19x9.5-inch SSR GTX01 wheels and Toyo T1 Sport tires, and the whole package increases aggression by a strong margin thanks to a Aerotek front, side, and rear lip kit, applied and painted by AutoArt.
Also pushing performance first was Aaron Vaccar and his Vaccar Tucson Sport Concept.
The BASF-covered, two-tone body replete with Vaccar front lip, side skirts and rear diffuser, and massive 20x9.5-inch Concept One forged wheels, might hint that appearance and style were the focus here, but don't be misled. Underhood accoutrements consist of a Boostec turbocharger and R50 blow-off valve, AEM intake and charge pipe, Mishimoto G-Line intercooler, Magnaflow Performance exhaust, and a grip of Vaccar/VMS custom plumbing and supporting hardware.
Vaccar/Gecko G-Street coilovers, Vaccar/Power Stop front and rear Z23 Evolution brakes, and Continental ExtremeContact Sport tires further push the performance envelop, and style upgrades spill over into the interior with a host of in-car entertainment from Vaccar, Soundstream and Picasso; driver interface by Auto Meter; and upholstery by Katzkin.
Looking beyond the world of pavement is the Rockstar Energy Moab Extreme Off-roader Santa Fe Sport Concept, coordinated by Nic Ashby. Designed to withstand the rigors of off-roading in Moab, Utah, the Santa Fe concept is one of the more radical transformations of the group, highlighted by a King coilover suspension with 2.5-inch internal bypass shocks, KMC Machete off-road beadlock wheels, Mickey Thompson 35x12.50-17 Baja MTZ off-road tires, AEM and Mishimoto hardware underhood, a Kicker sound system, and plenty of Rockstar Performance Garage exterior upgrades.
And finally, putting a new twist on traditional performance, is Bisimoto's HyperEconiq Ioniq Concept, which adjoins performance and style with fuel efficiency. Shedding weight and friction, streamlining drag, and reducing rolling resistance are front and center in the performance mission here, with high-silica tires; low-friction 0w-20 PurOl Elite synthetic engine oil; lightweight Buddy Club aluminum brake calipers; ridiculously lightweight 19x5-inch Carbon Revolution carbon-fiber wheels; and a full Bisimoto Dream aero kit.
A Bisimoto pulse-chamber exhaust, Racepak OBD interface, NGK spark plugs, and Progress Performance coilovers add degree of traditional performance to the build while at once doing their parts to increase efficiency, and the whole shebang is able -- with strategic driving techniques at play -- to elevate the HyperEconiq Ioniq's fuel efficiency to around 80 MPG (!) from the already impressive EPA-estimated 58 combined MPG rating of the production Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid.