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A Tour Of Hyundai-Kia's R&D Center Revealed Some Nice Surprises

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A behind-the-scenes tour revealed some interesting things.

As part of the official media drive for the all-new 2019 Kia K900, attending journalists were also invited for an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the automaker's sprawling Namyang R&D center. Needless to say, it's a huge complex. There are countless buildings, a test track where the top speed is 155 mph, and an outdoor proving ground three times the size of the automaker's California-based proving ground. Unfortunately, I could not bring my camera. I also had to temporarily turn in my smartphone for the same reason.

Such is the price for gaining admittance to a top secret area. The Namyang R&D Center is located in Hwaseong, South Korea and is both Hyundai and Kia's main design and testing facility. It's a massive place, totaling over 35 million square feet. Literally everything is done here, from design and engineering, to prototype testing and crash tests. There's even a full-scale wind tunnel. And speaking of crash tests, I was fortunate enough to witness a live crash test of a Kia Sorento. Watching it all happen safely from above, the noise from the impact was louder than you would have imagined. Trust me, it is way more entertaining to watch a live crash test as opposed to watching one online. Fun fact: each test dummy costs about $1 million.

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We were then led into another fascinating room used to test vehicle antenna against magnetic waves. Each new vehicle has at least 10 antennas and the maximum has 25. There is one antennas/sensor already at each wheel as part of the tire pressure monitoring system. What other secrets did Namyang give away? I was not given free access, but the areas I was at revealed some interesting things. For starters, I believe I saw the next generation Kia Soul parked in a waiting area of sorts. It had very little camouflage and it very much resembles the current generation, only a bit larger. The driver's side window was cranked open and I peaked inside and saw a wonderfully restyled interior and dashboard.

When one of my hosts realized what I was looking at, I was very politely ushered away. But what really caught my attention was the fact that a Ford Focus RS was also parked nearby. A Focus RS at a Hyundai-Kia R&D facility? Damn right. It's called benchmarking. Now, the just revealed Hyundai Veloster N and its European counterpart, the i30 N, are front-wheel drive only. But does the Focus RS' presence indicate an all-wheel drive Hyundai and/or Kia rival is on the way? My hosts refused to comment when asked. Throughout the complex there were thousands of parked cars, most of which are from Hyundai-Kia, others were not (such as a previous generation Porsche Cayman).

Many had camouflage. What's evidently clear is that Hyundai-Kia has become, and has been for a while, a fully-fledged global automaker with the necessary design and engineering skills to make that happen.