“Any skunkworks can turn out a track-day special.” Ouch.
Last week, social media erupted in a flurry of activity after it was publicised that Albert Biermann, the boss of Korean marque Hyundai’s new ’N’ performance division, talked smack about the revered and acclaimed Volkswagen Golf GTI, claiming that “after two laps the fun is over,” whereas the (still not launched) Hyundai i30N would offer far greater track ability.
He said this in defence of the i30N’s surprisingly firm ride, reported by Motoring, and then proceeded to highlight how the i30N is a far more focused track-day weapon, as opposed to the more approachable-performance take that VW makes with the Golf GTI.
“There can be GTIs that are suitable for track driving, but if you take the standard GTI, it’s not like that. So with N, we clearly want to be more suited to track driving, and give it more character. And most importantly, [we want to] make it much more fun to drive. [The Volkswagen Golf GTI] is a great car, but after two laps the fun is over.” — Albert Biermann, Vice President (High Performance Vehicle Development), Hyundai Motor Company
When asked what he meant by “the fun is over” after two laps, specifically about what he felt gave way after such a short time, Biermann responded by saying “everything.” Right.
The performance credentials of the Hyundai i30N have been lauded around the globe, though its day-to-day usability has been under criticism. The i30N does sport a noticeably firmer ride than most of its competitors, and as a result, we suspect that only the most track-happy types will be keen on living with one day-to-day. That is intentional, Biermann says, as it’s the most definite way to differentiate Hyundai N on the marketplace.
“If you want to launch your first car, what character do you want to give it? How do you go out there into the marketplace? What do you stand for? For the i30N, we wanted to have it closer to the track than the Golf GTI.” — Albert Biermann, Vice President (High Performance Vehicle Development), Hyundai Motor Company
Naturally, Volkswagen isn’t too happy about the commentary. Without denying that it has taken a more rounded approach to performance, Volkswagen Australia’s managing Director, Michael Bartsch, has fired back on Biermann’s comments, defending the Golf GTI as the foremost hot-hatch on the market.
“Extraordinary claims are being made for supposed rivals, that are not yet on sale. While any skunkworks can turn out a track-day special, the expertise and experience required to engineer a GTI or an R — cars that also excel in the real world — is rather more hard won.” — Micheal Bartsch, Managing Director, Volkswagen Australia
With press drives of the i30N having taken place some time ago, there’s no doubt that there’s credibility from both parties. The Hyundai will undoubtedly be the greater joy on the track, while the more forgiving Volkswagen will easily prove itself to be a more likeable character day-to-day. However, we have to concede that the comments Biermann made may have been exaggerated for comedic (or inflammatory) effect, because we can’t imagine that a Volkswagen Golf GTI would break that easily…