While we've seen plenty of high-performance electric cars, such as Rimac's supercars and Tesla's powerful sedans and crossovers, we haven't seen many modified electric cars. Or at least electric cars modified for more performance in the traditional sense of the word for more speed and handling prowess. Engineers at Hyundai are finally giving us a peak at the future of tuning and hot rodding with their upgraded 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric that's competing in the Optima Ultimate Street Car series this year.
It's visually much more striking than the average Ioniq thanks in part to a bold color scheme, but also bolt-on fender flares and Volk TE37SL wheels wrapped in fat 275-mm width tires. More important, there are major changes under the skin. The standard Ioniq Electric's 118-horsepower, 218 pound-foot motor has been swapped out for the new Kona Electric's motor, which makes 201 horsepower and 291 pound-feet of torque. Though that's less power than the Veloster N that's also been racing this year, it's more torque than the same hot hatch.
Power still goes to the front wheels, but now there's a limited-slip differential up front to prevent the inside wheel roasting its tire in corners. Interestingly, the only suspension change mentioned is firmer lowering springs, so presumably it still uses the torsion-beam rear suspension layout of the regular Ioniq Electric. Beefy six-piston Wilwood brakes up front and four-piston units in the rear help the car come to a stop much more quickly. The cooling systems for the electronics and battery pack have been upgraded, too. It all sounds like a blast to drive.
As to why Hyundai built this, the company is using it for research and development purposes. Perhaps this will aid in developing an electric N model. It's also looking to build on its 2017 season when Hyundai was the only brand with a car in the Ultimate Street Car series GTE electric vehicle class. The modifications will certainly be useful this season, since a competitor has been to a few events with a Tesla Model X P100D. The overall standings show that the hopped-up Hyundai is second in total points, which will likely narrow after the Hyundai heads to its third event at Autoclub Speedway this weekend.
The two cars have not been at the same events this year, but both appear to qualify for the final invitational event that takes place in Las Vegas following the SEMA show. Both cars should have a reasonable shot at winning the class overall and at the invitational, since each event in the series consists of five portions including timed sections on a road course, in an autocross, and a combination test of acceleration, braking and slalom. The other two segments are an on-road section and an evaluation of design and engineering, which takes into account modifications, as well as how well the car still works as a street car (i.e. such things as, does the air conditioning still work?).