2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line: A real performer
Has any auto maker ever done more with an affordable family car than Hyundai with the Sonata? Since its groundbreaking redesign in 2009, the midsize people hauler has arguably offered better styling, wider engine choices, and more technology than any competitor. The only option it lacked was a performance model.
Meet the 2021 Sonata N Line, the hot rod version of the Korean manufacturer's versatile five-passenger sedan. The latest product of Hyundai's relatively new N performance division, it comes with the turbocharged 2.5-liter inline four that serves as the base engine for two vehicles in the company's luxury brand, the midsize Genesis G80 sedan and the midsize Genesis GV80 crossover.
Hyundai has offered several inline fours in the Sonata over the years, including normally-aspirated, turbocharged and hybrid component versions. But the 2.5T is the most powerful yet, producing 290 horsepower and 311 foot-pounds of torque. That is enough to make several car magazine declare it fastest front-wheel-drive family car on the market today.
Sonata fans may be surprised by how complete the transformation is, however. Hyundai says its N performance division is named for its Namyang proving ground in Korea and Germany's Nürburgring. As enthusiasts know, Nürburgring is code for "stiff suspension" and the Sonata N Line is no exception. The ride is surprisingly firm in Comfort mode and harsher in Sport mode. Some potential buyers might find it too harsh for daily driving, so a long test drive in the different settings is recommended.
Otherwise, like all Sonantas, the N Line is one of the most attractive midsize sedans ever, regardless of price. Hyundai calls the styling "Sensuous Sportiness," which may sound a little over the top until you see the current version of the Sonata. The N Line adds side skirts, unique 19-inch alloy wheels, a bolder front fascia with a lower air dam, dual twin exhausts and a different rear diffuser than other models to enhance its performance appeal.
Inside, the well designed interior is treated to dark chrome trim, signature N line red stitching, and special sport seats. The digital dash even featured a complete gauge package. And there is plenty of room since the Sonata is already one of the larger midsize sedans on the market, and the full length sun roof on our made it feel even airier.
In a week of test driving, we found the Sonata N Line more than lives up to its promise. It pulled strongly off the line, and felt notably fast in the Sport and Sport + modes. The stiffer suspension made it corner flatter than any other Sonata we've ever tested, which is the point of Nürburgring tuning, of course.
Starting at $33,300, the 2021 N Line is the third most expensive Sonata in the lineup behind the Limited and Hybrid models. But considering its performance, the extra cost is well worth it.
A previous review of the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Limited can be found here.
2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line
Base price: $33,300
Price as tested: TBD
Type: Midsize sedan
Engine: Turbocharged 2.5-liter 4 (290 hp, 311 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive modes: Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Custom
EPA estimated mileage: 23/33
Overall length: 192.9 inches
Curb weight: 3,120 to 3,336 pounds
Final assembly: Montgomery, Alabama
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