“Veloster N―a car made solely for the fun of a drive,” noted Road & Track, a renowned US-based auto media, as it crowned the model as the magazine’s 2020s Performance Car of the Year. Indeed, the Veloster N was built to make driving fun. Its manual transmission offered superb maneuverability that could not be found in automatic vehicles, and the rev-matching function allowed even the drivers with modest experience in using MT to aggressively enjoy the power of the 2.0ℓ turbo engine. The members of the media and the consumers who tested the Veloster N universally praised its power and handling, but common among the praises was the mention of the “feel” that the manual transmission provided.
But for those with only AT licenses, the Veloster N was just a painting on a museum―pleasing to look at, but impossible to own. Even for those with MT licenses, the learning curve for the manual transmission likely felt sharp. The N DCT (Double Clutch Transmission) is Hyundai’s response to these difficulties: to ensure that the N Brand’s flagship hot hatch can see more widespread enjoyment, the N-DCT, faster and more dynamic than the existing MT, is being applied to the Veloster N.
The N DCT on the Veloster N is based on the Smartstream Wet-type 8-speed DCT, which was introduced for the first time in the 2019 HKIPC (Hyundai and Kia International Powertrain Conference). To this original, the N DCT adds some high-performance features worthy of the N Brand’s premium identity.
First, the N DCT uses the wet-type double-clutch structure, as opposed to the dry-type typically used in small cars. The wet-type structure comes with cooling oil that allows the clutch to consistently maintain the desired temperature; thanks to this, the N DCT can easily handle the maximum torque of the Veloster N’s 2.0ℓ turbo engine (36.0 kgf.m) and can even respond to the torque as high as 58.0 kgf.m.
The hydraulic oil pump is the biggest distinguishing point between the wet-type and the dry-type DCTs. The oil pump, which has the important role of circulating the oil necessary for clutch cooling and gear lubrication, is typically built with a mechanical circulation design. But this design keeps the oil pump ceaselessly running even when clutch cooling is not necessary, causing an unnecessary burden to the engine.
The N DCT, on the other hand, comes with the on-demand circulatory system, which works to circulate an appropriate amount of oil only when the clutch needs to be cooled or gear shifting occurs. Needless to say, this on-demand structure quite drastically reduces the unnecessary loss of engine power.
Performance, of course, is the very identity of the high-performance car label, but the driver’s impression of the vehicle is tremendously influenced by the way in which that performance is produced. To this end, the Veloster N’s N DCT comes with a separate gearshifting mechanism that can be chosen to maximize the dynamic sensibilities of manual transmissions―adding, in the end, to the fun of driving.
The N Power Shift was built to realize the shifting feel of the manual―noted by many as the raison d’etre of the MT in today’s age―in automatic transmissions. When the gear is shifted up, the engine RPM is controlled to generate the push feel (the feeling that the car is being pushed forward that is characteristic to manual shifting), making the driver feel as if he were in a race. Admittedly, the push feel can feel awkward to some, so options are available to turn off the feature. In the regular or sports mode, the feature is inactive; it will turn active only in the N mode.
The improvements that come from the changed gearshifting mechanism are not limited to the area of sensibility―the actual performance in acceleration also saw meaningful improvements. Assuming that the N Power Shift is used while the Launch Control function (which boosts the car to its maximum power immediately upon launch) is active, the Veloster N can record a zero-to-sixty of mere 5.6 seconds, 0.5 seconds faster than its MT model.
The Veloster N with N DCT also brings a feature that even the newbies to the high-performance car segment will love: the N Grin Shift, a brainchild of the brand’s R&D Chief Albert Biermann. The name comes from the expected reaction of drivers once they realize what the feature can do―really, imagine having a “turbo” button on your dash. How could you not grin? Indeed, once the feature is activated and the driver hits the acceleration pedal, the engine is boosted to maximum capacity, and the transmission recalibrates to the mode optimized for acceleration. For the next 20 seconds, the Veloster N will be a high-powered thoroughbred. If the car is running on premium gas, the function can even be over-boosted, albeit under acceptable driving conditions (e.g. highways).
If the driver is pursuing record time on a racing track, or if he or she is simply pursuing the thrill of uninhibited acceleration, the N Grin Shift is the obvious choice. But one might ask: this is a cool feature, but is it useful outside of the circuit? Fitting the ideal of “everyday sports car” that the Veloster N strives to meet, the N Grin Shift can be used in normal road conditions as well―like highway entries and overtaking other cars, whenever sudden acceleration is needed. But because it forces the powertrain to run at its maximum capacity, too frequent or continued use of the feature can overburden the car. This is why the feature is disabled for three minutes after use.
Appropriate and timely gear-shifting is one of the most important techniques to achieve victory in a race. This is a learned skill, of course, for which non-professional racers face a sharp learning curve to master. But with the N Track Sense Shift function on the N DCT, this know-how is readily available to anyone who wishes for it.
The Veloster N with the N DCT uses various sensors to discern the real-time levels of lateral and vertical acceleration, brake pressure, and driver pedaling, to ultimately determine whether the car is in a race. Once dynamic driving elements like rapid cornering, sudden braking, and rapid acceleration continue for a duration, the system judges the car to be in a motorsports situation and automatically activates the N Track Sense Shift. At this point, the cluster will display the ‘N Track Sense’ indicator on the top of the cluster, next to the gear speed info, to notify the driver of the feature’s activation.
Once the feature is active, the system essentially takes over the gear-shifting duties. For example, it will shift down before entering a corner, keeping the engine RPM high and applying engine brakes; it will keep the gear speeds low during cornering so that the acceleration needed after exiting the corner can be preserved. With such assistance from the N Track Sense Shift, the driver can focus only on steering and cornering, while the system does the heavy-duty calculation for the ideal gear speed and shifting timing.
The development of the N Track Sense Shift was spearheaded by engineers with professional racing backgrounds, so the system is set to fully incorporate their career know-hows. Thanks to these advancements, the Veloster N’s N DCT models have demonstrated an average of 1-second reduction in lap times compared to its MT models.
The manual transmission is often dubbed a “handy tool” to give the driver the maximum level of control of the vehicle. And the N DCT respects the wishes of those who wish to keep that level of control. While in the normal D Mode, the transmission will behave much like the standard automatic, while offering the added efficiency and acceleration performance. But in the Manual Mode, the N DCT prioritizes the driver’s maneuvers over all else. Ordinary car transmissions are typically conservative, prioritizing fuel economy and durability, such that the system will shift gears even when the driver may not want to. But the N DCT, just like in the manual transmission, can keep the gear at its current speed even when the engine RPM is skyrocketing.
The N DCT’s Manual Mode also reverses the shifting direction for an added effect on the sensibility. The Manual Mode, essentially, allows the driver to move the gear knob up or down to shift gears. In the standard AT scheme, pulling the knob down will shift the gear down, and vice versa; however, this scheme was reversed in the N DCT. In order to shift up, the driver needs to pull the knob down, and in order to shift down, the driver needs to pull the knob up. This reversion was made to better resemble the physical movement of the driver in the vehicle: when accelerating, the driver physically is pulled back into the seat―so it would feel more natural for the knob to be shifted down when the gear is shifting up.
Moreover, the N DCT’s Manual Mode generally offers better gear-shifting performance than that of the standard MTs run by experienced drivers. The time required to accelerate from 80 km/h to 120 km/h (so-called overtaking acceleration) is 0.3 seconds faster in the N DCT model than in the MT model. Finally, the “popcorn noise” from shifting up with MTs―often dubbed the “bang noise”―is also reproduced authentically in the N DCT, adding to the dynamic fun of driving.
With the N DCT, Hyundai has not just added a new transmission to the Veloster N―it has overhauled the chassis as well. Given its many features and capabilities, the DCT is inevitably heavier than the standard MT: the Veloster N with N-DCT is approximately 50 kg heavier than one with the MT. Also changed was the weight distribution, which led to subtle differences in handling and general car body movement. To address these changes, Hyundai has optimized the N DCT version by recalibrating the minute specifications of the suspension: the springs, bump stopper, dampers, anti-roll bar, cambers, etc.
The N DCT finally gives the Veloster N an ability to appeal to the large consumer segment without MT licenses. But what makes the N DCT model special is not simply the superficial change of the transmission type―its video-game-like performance features and optimized chassis setting can provide a dynamic feel to driving for not only performance car maniacs but also the ordinary drivers. With the N DCT, the Veloster N has reinvented its identity to encompass everyone: it has become a convenient and dynamic everyday sports car for all.
HMG Journal Operation Teamgroup@hyundai.com
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