Living up to its N brand’s mantra as being a line-up of “Everyday Sports Cars,” Hyundai revealed a high-performance variant of its Elantra compact sedan.
The N Series are Hyundai’s highest performing street cars, ones that take their lessons from Hyundai’s motorsports experience. It’s a connection Hyundai trotted out during the virtual introduction of the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N.
For those who don’t follow racing, Hyundai wants to remind you that its Elantra N TCR race car scored its first IMSA victory, just three races into the 2021 season at Mid Ohio. The brand is hoping that the old adage “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” still applies.
So, what’s so special?
At the heart of this quick new compact sedan is a 2.0-liter turbocharged, 4-cylinder engine generating 276 horsepower and 289 pound-feet of torque through a 6-speed manual transmission.
An 8-speed “wet” dual-clutch transmission is optional. In addition to the Eco, Normal and Sport driving modes used in other Elantras, the N will get N Custom driving modes allowing you to customize settings for steering, suspension, the dual-clutch transmission and the powertrain’s rev-matching operation via a REV button on the steering wheel.
Ordering with the dual-clutch transmission not only brings with it paddle shifters, but also an N Grin Shift button on the steering wheel that increases horsepower to 286 for up to 20 seconds.
Hyundai says that there were more than 40 specialized N elements employed to create the Elantra N. Consider the suspension. Like other Elantra models, the N is fitted with MacPherson struts up front with a multi-link independent rear and stabilizer bars at both ends.
Unlike other Elantras, it’s electronically controlled and has a larger rear stabilizer bar and bigger brakes, with 14.2-inch brake rotors. The driveline also uses an integrated drive axle to save weight, a design lifted from WRC rally cars, and has rack-mounted power steering for a more consistent driving feel. And of course, it breathes better than lesser models to extract the added power.
Nevertheless, this track-ready setup requires premium unleaded fuel.
Exclusive styling details
As you’d expect, the Elantra N sports a unique front spoiler, along with a number of aerodynamic enhancements, including an N-exclusive wing spoiler with rear diffuser, and a dual, single-tipped exhaust. Climb inside, and you’ll find N-exclusive trim, including the steering wheel, shifter, seats, door scuff panels and metal pedals. Driver and passenger sit in N light sport seats that are 10mm lower two inches thinner than stock Elantra thrones.
Initial driving impressions
Hyundai is billing the Elantra N as a track-ready model that can be driven every day. That’s a tall order and a claim plenty of other performance models haven’t been able to live up to. But is it true? Recently, TheDetroitBureau.com briefly put the Elantra N through its paces prior to its unveiling Aug. 19, and came away impressed.
Hitting the starter button awakens the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with a distinctive guttural burbling familiar to those who’ve already spent time in the Veloster N.
Once the car comes to life, toggling to the Sport driving mode changes the all-digital instrument cluster to fire engine red and shifts the gauges to a more track-oriented layout. Gingerly stepping on the throttle generates a burst of power that chirps the front wheels. Punching the N button brings a further burst of acceleration that forces you back into driver’s seat.
There’s no question that, in Track mode, the ride is rough on poorly-maintained pavement. But the trade-off is a sports sedan that effortlessly carves its way around corners, retaining its poise even when entering into a particularly tight curve a little too hot. When it comes time to bring things to a halt, you’ll find yourself believing Hyundai’s claim that the Elantra N has track-level brakes.
Switching to normal mode, the N relaxes, like an athlete coming down after a big game. The pavement suddenly seems smoother, the throttle less ready to leap at the slightest twitch of your right foot.
To those who doubted Hyundai’s abilities to serve up a compact sports sedan to rival the Honda Civic Type R or Volkswagen Golf R, the forthcoming 2022 Hyundai Elantra N is a big surprise, one that’s sure to delight those for whom the Fast and the Furious is a way of life, rather than just a good car flick.
Publisher and Editor-In-Chief Paul Eisenstein contributed to this report.