The 2025 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N First Drive: The Irresistible Fun of a “Manual” Electric Car

An electric car that growls like a gas monster? That tosses you back and steals your breath? That throws out 641 HP? The 2025 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N is all that and more.

The Front Face Of The 2025 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N
The front face of the 2025 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N. Photo: Scotty Reiss Credit: Scotty Reiss

There’s Room for Everyone, But You Better Buckle Up

When Hyundai started producing the N versions of its cars — the Elantra N, the Veloster N, the Kona N — the brand admitted one important thing: Sports cars should be loud, growly, and have stick shifts (two of those three do). And, they should be fast and fun, with all the performance details you need for it to compete on a track.

In evolving its electric cars, the company would need to turn its award-winning, trend-bending iconic Ioniq 5 electric car into a true N model. It would be easy enough to amp up the power and add sport brakes and a performance suspension. But would that be enough to quicken the heartbeats of drivers? 

To be a true “N,” the Ioniq 5 would need just a little more. It would need the heart of a performance car. 

I got a chance to take the Ioniq 5 N out on the hills and curves of the Angeles Crest Highway north of Los Angeles for an hour recently as a part of the World Car Awards annual test drive event. An engineer named Jun rode along with me and pointed out all the fun details in this car and showed me — ever so quickly— the most fun details in this 5-passenger, 641-horsepower performance electric car. 

Related: Hyundai IONIQ 5 First Drive: A Pivotal Moment for Electric Cars 

The Rear Of The Hyundai Ioniq 5 N

The rear of the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The Meaning of N 

N stands for Namyang, Hyundai’s proving ground in Korea, where the brand tests and improves its cars, including performance cars. A few years ago, the company realized that it needed to add a true performance trim to its lineup. If you’re going to run with the pros, you have to play like the pros, right? So the company, under the direction of former BMW M series engineer Albert Biermann, started fortifying its cars and supercharging its engines to build true performance cars. 

Biermann retired in 2021, but his lessons live on, and the Ioniq 5 N shows it. 

Related: I went to Korea and Discovered the Soul of Kia and Hyundai

The Hyundai Ioniq 5 N

The Hyundai Ioniq 5 N. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The Ioniq 5 N Looks Sporty, but Still Iconic

In your first introduction, the Ioniq 5 N looks very familiarly Ioniq 5: it carries the squarish shape, large passenger cabin, and in normal or eco mode, it has a purely quiet electric demeanor. It’s flanked with lower red panels and a unique grille, red sport brakes, and a short vertical red stripe on the front grille and just under the rear tail light bar. The rear end is further enhanced by a lower diffuser and bumper with red pixel details that actually make the car a bit longer than its non-performance sibling. 

Inside you’ll find microsuede sport seats with side bolsters to hold you and your passengers solidly in place when driving. And rather than the movable center console, it has a fixed console that is almost nautical in its design; you can drop things in it, and they won’t fly out as you maneuver around curves and corners at high speed. And in case your driving delivers significant g-forces, the center console is padded so you can rest your knee against it. So thoughtful. 

You’ll also see lots of N details, including N badges on the sport seats — which can be adapted for a 5-point harness seatbelt if you like—unique performance screens on the multimedia system, and ambient lighting, including a lighted frame around the speakers in the doors. Makes the cabin feel like a party. 

Under the “hood,” the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N produces up to 641 horsepower, about double the top HP rating of the nonperformance model, though the typical operating HP is 601 — keep reading for more on that. And with a dual motor setup, it has all-wheel drive. 

Related: The Hyundai Ioniq 6 First Drive: Feel All the Electric Car Loveliness

The Most Interesting Steering Wheel, And A Center Console Designed To Keep Things From Flying Around The Cabin

The steering wheel and front console in the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The Most Interesting Steering Wheel in the World

 But probably the most fascinating detail is the steering wheel. It’s flanked with 4 buttons that hold all the fun. 

On the upper left is a light blue drive mode button. You can choose normal, eco or sport mode. Of course, most of the time, you’ll want sport mode. Duh. 

On the upper right, you’ll see a red “NGB” button. This will lead to fun, but not all-fun-all-the-time type of fun. This button is reserved for very special circumstances that you’ve carefully chosen when you want to feel a momentary thrill or want to share the Ioniq 5 N’s talents with a passenger. 

When you are in a place where you can accelerate quickly without hurting yourself or others, tap the NGB (which stands for N Grin Boost) button, and you’ll instantly see a 10-second countdown timer on the dashboard; while the timer counts down, you can floor the accelerator for an additional 40 horsepower. Boost mode will throw you back in your seat and take your breath away. Choose your time and place to use this wisely.

Get To Know This Grin Button

Get to know this Grin button. Photo: Scotty Reiss

N Mode and N E-Shift are the Secret to N Life

On the lower portion of the steering wheel, you’ll see the N mode buttons. The N mode button on the left side turns on N Mode; you can customize and toggle through N modes — turn off traction control or set the sound you’d like to hear, from a whirring electric car to a growling sports car. When you tap the left N button, you’ll also get an N multimedia screen that tracks your performance.

Tap the right button for N E-Shift, which allows you to drive in full automatic or use the paddle shifters to shift through the gears. 

On our test drive, our test model was set up for maximum growl, and traction control was turned off. Popping the N E-Shift into manual produced what may be the most realistic non-actual manual drive experience ever. I could hear the growing “engine revs” and hear the “rev speed” drop when I upshifted. 

When I downshifted, the “engine” popped and cackled as it “rev-matched.” Which it didn’t really, since this is an electric car. I could feel the engine respond to speed and curves and my controls. I could feel the suspension holding the car steady, the all-wheel drive holding it tightly to each curve, and the seats holding me in place. It was all quite a lot of fun. 

And the fun is mostly yours. The engine sounds are fed into the cabin through speakers that create a physical rumble that you’ll hear and even, if ever so slightly, feel. There are also two exterior speakers that allow the sound to be shared with your neighbors outside the car. 

The View From The Front Seat In The Hyundai Ioniq 5 N

The view from the front seat in the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The Hyundai Ioniq 5 N Drives Like a Regular Electric Car, Too

Once our test drive took us down out of the mountains and back into city traffic, the fun of the engine sounds and paddle shifters faded. It was time to put the Ioniq 5 N back into eco mode and pull the left paddle several times to invoke iPedal mode, Hyundai’s maximum regenerative mode. In iPedal, I could once again use the accelerator to speed up, slow down and even come to a stop, all the things electric car drivers appreciate about their EVs.

Because this is essentially a computerized version of a manual car, there are lots of combinations and even some protections: you can drive in N mode and eco mode. And there should be some fun iPedal settings, as performance driving with only a single pedal is an awesome experience. 

 And you can’t ‘redline’ the engine as you can with a true manual transmission. When you put the system into E-Shift you’ll see a tachometer that measures engine speed, just like you’d see on a gas-powered car, but it tops out at a set speed and volume. And, of course, you can’t damage the engine the way you can by not shifting before the needle dips into the red. 

The Only Way To Get A Traditional Stick Shift In This Car Is To Bring Your Own

The only way to get a traditional stick shift in this car is to bring your own (this is an umbrella!). Photo: Scotty Reiss

Who is This Car For? 

Hyundai hasn’t announced pricing yet, but the guess is that this will be the top-of-the-line Ioniq 5 with a price north of $60,000. That, plus all the toys and fun behind the wheel, put it squarely in the enthusiast/performance range, leading me to believe that it’ll be the conquest of drivers who are waiting for the truest computer on wheels there is.

And who can resist? The interior, the ambient lighting, and the rewarding, satisfying sounds and drive experience the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N produces will provide tons of delight, for you and your passengers, for many, many miles.

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Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss