Home » The Hyundai RN22e Is An Ioniq 6 Track Weapon. But We Need To Talk About Fake EV ‘Engine’ Noise

The Hyundai RN22e Is An Ioniq 6 Track Weapon. But We Need To Talk About Fake EV ‘Engine’ Noise

Hyundai Rn22e Noise Topshot

From the hydrogen hybrid N Vision 74 to the upcoming electric Ioniq 5 N, Hyundai is doing some really interesting things in the electric performance car arena. One of these things is the RN22e, an Ioniq 6-based engineering prototype meant as a testbed for the next generation of fast EVs. Thanks to YouTube channel PDriveTV, we have solid in-cabin video of the Hyundai RN22e out on track. Watch this.

So what makes the RN22e tick? Well, there’s a 160 kW motor at the front, a 270 kW motor a the back, and mechanical torque vectoring to put power down. However, power isn’t the only goal here. Hyundai’s N division has been really concentrating on cooling, braking, and suspension to get this heavy electric performance car around the track lap after lap.

It looks a bit greasy out on the circuit, but the Hyundai RN22e seems to be coping admirably. Pirelli P Zero Trofeos aren’t exactly known for wet-weather prowess, yet the pace seen here isn’t bad for an accompanied ride. Sure, the RN22e is happy to hang the back end out with the stability control in sport mode, but that certainly beats fighting understeer. Plus, it can evidently do several laps before needing to go in. I’m excited to see how this translates to the upcoming Ioniq 5 N, but there are a few things demonstrated in this video that give me pause for thought.

Hyundai RN22e

The first thing you’ll probably notice is the noise. The RN22e’s synthetic sound gets pumped through external speakers which frankly, I’m not interested in. Powertrain noise is, by nature, a byproduct. The primary goal of an internal-combustion engine isn’t to make noise, it just so happens that explosions are loud. Sure, the roar of a well-fettled V8 is a joyous byproduct, but why fake noise on an EV when electric motors have their own enticing banshee wail?

In addition, I can’t think of a reason other than posturing as to why I’d want a track-oriented EV to be louder on the outside by artificial means. Tracks have noise limits that you really want to stay clear of, lest you get black-flagged. While there are still tracks out there with generous noise limits like Virginia International Raceway, avoiding fake engine engine noise should ease some fears of Laguna Seca’s 90 dB sound limit.

Then there’s the pleasure of going for a spirited drive without disturbing the peace that most EVs afford. So long as you’re being responsible, you can take an EV to a backroad and have a bit of fun without disturbing nearby farmers. External speakers just make your presence that much more obvious.

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Another strange feature on the RN22e is something Hyundai calls Virtual Grin Shift – basically a simulation of a dual-clutch gearbox. Using sound piped through the external speakers, some special powertrain logic, and a set of paddles, Hyundai is able to fake the sensations of a dual-clutch gearbox. As someone whose only car has a manual gearbox, you might think I’d be stoked for this addition of feel. In reality, I feel like it’s something I’d never use.

In an internal-combustion car, gears are a necessity. If engine speed goes too low, the engine stalls. If engine speed goes too high, catastrophic damage can occur. In an EV, you never have to worry about stalling and peak motor speeds are so high that most electric cars render gears unnecessary. A fake DCT doesn’t serve a necessary function, nor is it faster than just letting the electric powertrain do its thing as single-speed electric drive units have no torque interruption and will never be in a sub-optimal gear. That’s not to say that an EV with multiple gear ratios and paddle shifters wouldn’t be sweet, but that’s worlds away from the purpose of this system. Still, it’s not exactly a nuisance, and it really signals that driving engagement matters to Hyundai.

Hyundai RN22e skid

Granted, these are fairly minor gripes in the grand scheme of things, and the world’s a better place with automakers pushing for trackworthy electric cars. I mean come on, would you really want to live in a world without sports sedans from retail brands? While the real future solution for longer lapping sessions is an EV for daily use and a fun ICE car on the weekend, an all-in-one solution like the RN22e doesn’t sound like a bad consolation prize at all.

[Editor’s Note: I think all the things Thomas is addressing here – fake engine noise, fake gear changes – are the result of some lingering insecurity EV makers have about their identity as performance cars. What I like about them is that while they’re silly, sure, they’re silly in the service of driving enjoyment and the associated irrationality of why we like cars. I suspect these are a sort of transition affectation, and in decades to come we’ll view these as strange fun quirks from the interesting blurry period between combustion cars and EVs. You’ll be asking owners to make their RN22e make the funny noises at a Cars and Coffee in 2043. – JT]

Photo credits: Hyundai

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42 Responses

  1. “but why fake noise on an EV when electric motors have their own enticing banshee wail?”

    If the latest Electrikana is any indication, that banshee wail is anything but enticing. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard. The noise, whatever it is, provides feedback to the driver. Whatever the sound, it needs to not be obnoxious. If that means synthetically generated sound piped into the cabin, so be it.

    1. I F’n love the EV sounds. Mechanically, that’s what it SHOULD sound like. We’re used to exhaust sounds, which get knocked back down with every gear shift. With EV’s, those noises just keep building from 0rpm until they top out. If we want mechanical sounds, those are the ones EVs will make.

      1. I don’t begrudge people liking whatever it is they like. Good for you. Pump in your noises. Enjoy yourself.

        If you subject other people to sounds that have no purpose, though, you’ve lost my support. Unnecessary exterior vehicle noises with no purpose other than your own enjoyment just mean you’re being discourteous to others. That goes for the fart can glass pack and the intentionally overpowered subwoofers just as well as speakers on the outside of your EV.

        And yes, my hot rod has cats and mufflers. I think it sounds awesome with open headers, but reality is that 99.9% of everybody I drive by disagrees.

    2. If this were piped into the cabin, rather than external, the feedback might make sense. This is to impress onlookers, and onlookers probably won’t be that impressed by fake engine noises anyway.

  2. Agree with Hundal. Fake noises and shifting are just like fake air intakes, fake. And IMHO, fake is pointless.

    Also think Torch is right, it’ll be a quirky footnote someday.

    1. Literally the one mod I did to my FR-S was to block the stupid ‘intake noise piped into the cabin’ thing. It was written off (I’m so inclusive!) / totaled (I’m so inclusive!) before I got out of warranty and free to mod.

  3. Ugh. This stuff is so, so dumb. EVs don’t make much noise naturally. Outside of the noise they have to be programmed with for regulatory reasons/informing pedestrians of their presence, anything else is just stupid. I agree with pretty much everything you’re saying.

    I could understand artificial interior noise in this application, because if you’re going to have a helmet on at the track it’ll give you a good idea of what’s going on throttle input/speed/etc wise. But exterior noise? Absurd. It’s just a stupid dick measuring contest at that point. DURRRR MINE’S LOUDER!!!! You might as well just put speakers on the back of the thing and blast Motörhead at that point. It would be as much of a natural car sound as this nonsense is. I don’t much care for excessively loud ICE exhaust but at least it’s coming from an actual, mechanical process.

    And in regards to all the fake shifter nonsense…same deal. At that point you might as well mount a fake shifter to the floor that changes the fake engine noises whenever you move it so you can just go full Fast And The Furious and downshift 700 times. Or just go play a damn video game because it’s just as real at that point.

    I was cautiously optimistic about the N EVs for…well, obvious reasons, and the way Biermann has been talking about trying to bake more driving character into them. THAT’S what performance EVs need. I’m not one of those stubborn enthusiasts who’s like I’LL NEVER DRIVE AN EV, I’d just like them to be engaging. But this? This isn’t engaging. This is stupid. I don’t want to drive a computer that’s pretending to be a car.

  4. The noise and shifting fakery reminds me of those special edition Hurst Oldsmobiles that used a trio of drag racer-style sticks to “shift” what was actually a 3-speed slushbox. Probably good for five minutes of fun, but eventually a tired gimmick that’s hopelessly lame in hindsight. My issue isn’t that the synthetic noise and shifts are signs of insecurity on Hyundai’s part; it’s that the fakery feels deeply condescending toward the buyer. To me, it’s Hyundai saying I’m either too dumb to recognize the fakery or too boorish to appreciate a performance EV on its own terms.

    I can’t believe I’m writing this unironically, but Dodge seems to have their finger on the pulse in this space: make an EV that’s loud and engaging due to its mechanical design, not a layer of electronic abstraction slathered over the top.

    1. Exactly. It’s an EV. Let its EV freak flag fly. Trying to make it feel like an ICE vehicle with artificial gimmicks is just pathetic. Like I said above…at that point you might as well play Forza or Gran Turismo. If I’m going EV I want it to be a silent terror…because that’s what these things are actually good at.

  5. The gimmicky crap has me less enthused, because to me it shows that they don’t actually care about the driving experience. It instead shows that they only want to cater to what they think will trick nonenthusiasts into thinking that it’s good because of artificial feedback.

      1. And BMW’s have lost a lot of what made their cars enthusiast products in the process. It’s the same as the new Charger Daytona and it’s fartsonic speaker, no one asked for this

      2. Yes, pretty much, and it fucking sucks there too. It’s fine to have a setup that lets a little bit of the actual engine noise into the cabin so that the driver can enjoy it without literally everyone else they encounter thinking they’re a tool, but when they start ginning up fake sound effects, it’s just an insult to the driver’s intelligence.

        1. I drive a Mach-E, and I love the quiet wine of the motors and reduction gears. I wouldn’t mind if the in cabin noise was just an amplification of that rather than the totally synthetic noise they use.

  6. I’m all for leaning into what you have. An electric vehicle doesn’t need to emulate a gasser, it should just be what it is. That said, an argument can probably be made for simulating gears for specific uses, but it would need to make sense. There’s no real argument for the simulated noise, especially externally (beyond the amount for pedestrian alert). Maybe you can use it internally to give the driver some sort of audio cue (though tire noise is probably better and more direct), but external is just gimmicky.

  7. Something I’ve always wanted to try but as far as I know doesn’t exist is a CVT that lets you control the ratio manually with some sort of slider. Instead you get paddles that fake like it has ‘gears’.

  8. This is like those interim push-button phones that had the buttons arranged in the pattern of a rotary dial. A weird, short term phenomenon. Or so I hope, I am genuinely tired of people making noise just for the sake of making noise.

  9. I hate fake shifting. Whether it’s in a paddle-shifted cvt with false gear ratios or an EV. I like performance. If there were an ICE engine capable of full-torque at 0 rpm then I wouldn’t care about a manual transmission.

    EVs can make noise. This is true for Formula E. It’s true for the crazy Mach-E that Ken block drove (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-7jBLqSlzg) and it can be true for other cars if they make it so. It’s probably much cheaper to add speakers and digital sound than it is to develop straight-cut gears or whatever happened to make that Mach-E noise, but maybe the aftermarket could step in with ‘noisy’ gear drives for existing EVs.

    It may result in angry tweets from Elon (while Twitter still exists), but if EVs are the future, there will certainly be companies stepping up with aftermarket parts. EV gears may be the aftermarket exhaust of the sport compact days.

  10. I feel like we’re side-stepping the beginning of a bold new world where a performance car can make whatever noise you want it to make. Why limit ourselves to fake engine sounds? Gimme a few customizable settings on that baby so I can have a Hyundai that screams around the track going “WAPABLAPABLAPABLAPA-WEEEEEE-FLAAAAAARRRRGGGHHHH-STRBBBBBPPPPTTT!!!”

  11. The sloping roofline to squished butt design elements bug the shit out of me for some reason, and I even own a 335i GT “4 door swoopy coupe”.

  12. Naturally I agree that fake noises and gears are stupid, but there is an audience for that stuff. Specifically the guys in fart-canned Civics cruising main street in first gear so their engine is screaming at 5000 RPM while they putter along at 20 MPH. Sure, the exhaust sound is writing checks the rest of the car can’t cash, but clearly they don’t care.

  13. Agree with the general consensus that fake shifting and associates gear change noises are just nonsense.

    Fake engine noises relating to speed of the vehicle, however, I can see being useful. After a week or two of driving an EV with a fake engine noise, I would suspect that you could accurately judge your speed within a couple of mph without taking your eyes off the road.

    As far as exterior noise, obviously there is the pedestrian warning benefit. In addition, if it is loud enough, I would suspect there could be some track day benefit in announcing your presence to the car ahead of you that you want to pass. I know driver’s are supposed to be aware of their surroundings at all times, but reality has a way of spitting in the face of what should be.

  14. Fake stuff is fake. If you need to tack on fake noises and fake shifts to make your vehicle compelling, you have failed. ICE cars do this too, albeit the fake noises are usually on the inside. It’s infantile and insulting.

    Also, what’s up with the nose on that thing? It looks like it took a glancing hit from a shrink ray.

    1. This is literally the annoying Harley guys from South Park crossed with one of those fake plastic steering wheels some booster seats have so kids can pretend like they’re doing something while the car moves

  15. Isn’t there a car that uses the interior speakers to cancel the noise of the motors? Let’s just do that. And then turn it off when we want noise.

    The noises are the total wrong approach. They need to play to EV strengths with the quickness they have and work on tuning the handling to be quick and light off they want to do fun cars. I’ve heard the Taycan platform has the weight management down but haven’t heard that said about much else.

    Would be epic if the Ioniq 5 N goes more the WRX route with a bit more all-surface intention and maybe puts on some big ol box flares too and a ridiculous spoiler to emulate the Delta Integrale

  16. When I first went EV, I wanted a sound. Slamming the pedal down and going into lightspeed wasn’t that satisfying at first. I needed some kind of auditory stimulus- or at least I thought I did. That yearning went away after about a week of driving. Driving an EV is like being that anime character that exerts his/her power effortlessly, flicking off attacks without even cracking an expression. It’s different, but fun in a new way.

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