I needed this.
Life is definitely more exciting when you drive a super car. Something with a lot of horsepower, torque that makes it take off like a rocket, that lets you delight in taking the long way home, that delivers more fun per mile.
But, super cars are elusive, expensive and frankly, not always practical for long drives, traffic jams or family routines.
Hyundai wants to change that. The company has taken it’s performance expertise—lessons learned building race cars— and added it to the new N Line that can be found in several of its models, and as time goes on, in even more of them.
A ‘performance spec’ is something that is typically found in luxury cars; think of BWM’s BMW M Sport and BMW M series. Each level delivers increased performance and sophistication. Not surprisingly Hyundai’s chief engineer, Albert Biermann, was also the brain behind the BMW M performance line. Here, his team is missioned with making the entire Hyundai lineup both more powerful and more efficient, so we’ll continue to see even more fuel efficient, electric and fuel cell vehicles as well as more performance focused vehicles from the brand.
N Line, a Precursor to Full on N Performance
The N Line is just the start for Hyundai. As fashion brands create a ‘bridge’ line between the standard line and the premium luxury line — think of Ralph Lauren, Polo Ralph Lauren and the brand’s exclusive Purple Label— the N Line does the same thing, giving drivers an entry point to performance driving without going all in (you can upgrade to that when you’re ready).
The N Line kicks off its presence in the US with two models: The Elantra N Line and the Sonata N Line. Each adds more horsepower and torque, performance tuned suspensions, steering, braking and unique trim details. The N Line isn’t simply an add-on to each model but rather, is it’s own stand-alone trim, so it is available with an edited set of features rather than asking customers to assemble the features they want—which is how Hyundai packages its vehicles.
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Elantra N Line: Entry Level Fun — Especially in the Stick Shift
Hyundai invited A Girls Guide to Cars to test out the Elantra in it’s purest form: A stick shift manual transmission (however yes, an automatic with paddle shifters is available). With 201 horsepower and 195 torque, it has about 54 more horsepower than the conventional gas model. This is an impressive amount of power and zip for a compact sedan, and at about $24,000 (add $1,100 for the automatic edition) it carries a very affordable price tag.
The N Line models are outfitted with tech features like wireless charging, Hyundai’s digital key, which turns your smart phone into a key, and advanced driver assistance and safety features like blind spot monitors and rear cross-traffic assist, so you know if someone or something is about to cross behind the car.
The N Line trades performance for a few other luxuries, like vented leather seats (it has cloth seats), but over all, it’s nicely outfitted.
And, it’s a ton of fun. The distinct stick shift is a sharp-looking reminder of the power under the hood; it pops easily into gear, the clutch is natural under foot and it’s easy to drive in traffic and really fun on the highway. With the control that the manual transmission gives you it was easy to zip on to the highway and keep up with a Tesla that had gunned it to sprint over to the left lane on the highway. That was nice (and fun!).
Redesigned for the 2021 model, the Elantra N Line also carries the new front grille, narrowed headlights, sharp creases that span the side panels (giving the eye the sense of speed even when the car is standing still) and a new rear end and tail light treatment that makes the Elantra look more like it’s recently redesigned sister, the Sonata. Overall, it’s a sharp effect, and while it has only slight design variations from the other models—the conventional gas engine and the hybrid— the tell-tale sign of its power is the N Line badge on the front grille and side panels.
Sonata N Line: N Stands for Now We’re Talking
We’ve long been fans of the Sonata, especially since it was redesigned for the 2020 model year. Hyundai updated its flagship sedan with incredible luxuries, a hybrid engine and technology typically only found in much more expensive cars. And now, the Sonata N Line, priced about $33,000.
Seriously though, N stands for Namyang, Hyundai’s test track at its research and development center in Korea. And the name is inspired by Nurburgring, the ultimate test track in Germany where literally every performance and race car proves itself.
But for this test drive, it was completely “now we’re talking.” Because you put the Sonata N Line into gear and tap the gas and all of it’s 290 horses kick in and you feel it in the seat of your pants. And in your soul. At first I was disappointed that only the Elantra is available in a stick shift, but honestly, you need both hands on the wheel in the Sonata N Line. It’s that powerful.
100 more horsepower than the conventional gas model, in fact. And more than the BMW 330i, at 255 HP. With the added luxuries — leather seats with suede inserts, panoramic sun roof, digital key, wireless charging, the full suite of driver assistance and safety features including adaptive cruise control and Bose premium sound for a theater-quality sound track to accompany an amazing drive experience— the Sonata N Line is possibly the best drive experience on the road.
Honestly. And then put it in sport mode. I ‘chirped’ the tires more than once, tapping the accelerator while in sport mode to jump into traffic and feeling and hearing the tires issue a quick squeal as the car got going. And that was sport mode, not sport +, which turns off traction control. I didn’t expect the Sonata N Line to be this much fun, and I intend to give it a full week-long test drive to ensure that I can share the full experience. But wow, it was fun.
Hyundai N: The Future Is Going to be Fun (and I Can’t Wait)
During our test drive we were able to take out a camouflaged Hyundai Elantra N. This is the full-fledged performance sedan, with 4 doors and a true track-tuned engine under the hood. And it was awesome. The model I tested had a stick shift, but an automatic will be available and it is a good idea— you’ll need two hands to handle this car. It is powerful. Hyundai wasn’t sharing power specs on the N version of the Elantra, but let’s just say that anyone who wants to the performance of the Hyundai Veloster N, with XX HP but with 4 actual doors and more interior space, a more conventional appearance with a tell-tale rear spoiler, the Elantra N will knock your socks off.
But if you’re not ready to have your socks fully knocked off, or want to simply put a toe in the water for now, the N Line will get your mojo going and lead you to a fully fun drive experience, the Hyundai way: super car under the hood, driver and passenger friendly in the cabin, budget-friendly in the finance department. Just what you need — or maybe all you need— right now.