N Line Turns Sonata into a Real Sport Sedan

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CHATHAM, Mass. – Building a world-class sport sedan means starting with a solid, competent platform which Hyundai has done in transforming the 2021 Sonata into a terror by giving the four-door its N Line treatment.

The high-performance, race-track bred N Line sub-brand now includes a pair of small sport utility vehicles (Kona and Tucson), a coupe (Veloster) and the compact Elantra and midsize Sonata sedans. All receive performance and styling modifications which set them apart from their more sedate brethren.

When we drove the top-of-the-range 2021 Sonata Limited, we praised it for its “competence,  comfort and performance,” all of which are fitting descriptors for the N Line, especially the performance one.

Unique powertrain

Two of leading automotive enthusiast publications – Car and Driver and Motor Trend – during their road tests discovered the Sonata N Line was quicker 0 to 60 miles per hour (5.0 and 5.3 seconds respectively) than sporty versions of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, calling the Hyundai the quickest front-wheel-drive family sedan.

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At 290 horsepower and 311 pounds-feet of torque, the Sonata N Line’s Smartstream 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine bests the non-hybrid versions by almost 100 hp and more than 100 lbs.-ft. (the hybrid version puts out 201 hp total), but there is more than just raw power to set the N Line apart.

The standard eight-speed wet dual-clutch automatic transmission was engineered by Hyundai for efficiency and driving fun. N Power Shift (NPS) engages when the car accelerates with more than 90 percent throttle demand, mitigating torque reduction by using upshifts to deliver maximum power to the wheels through each gear change. This gives the driver a responsive feeling of dynamic acceleration when shifting.

Along with other updated features, such as Rev Matching and Launch Control, the Sonata N Line’s transmission is optimized to automatically sense driving styles and road conditions to optimize shift points. For example, the car will hold lower gears longer during performance driving for better acceleration out of corners.

Conversely, if the driver is aggressively pushing the car on a twisty road, the car will use the full range of available engine RPM to maximize performance. These features can be configured in Sonata N Line’s improved infotainment system, using the latest operating system shown on a high-definition 10.25-inch display.

The chassis – MacPherson-type struts with stabilizer bar up front, multi-link with stabilizer bar in the rear — has been tuned for more aggressive driving and the power-assisted, anti-lock  (ABS) equipped brakes – 13.6-inch ventilated rotos in the front, 12.8 solid in the rear – for quick stops. The brakes also have electronic brake-force distribution and electronic stability control functions.

The unique to N Line 19-inch wheels are shod with Continental performance 245/40R19 summer tires (an option fitted to the test car; normally all-season tires are standard).

Pushing the car whenever I could to take advantage of the neat performance features might have impacted the Sonata N Line’s fuel economy, but I still ended the week having seen 27 miles for each gallon of gas consumed. This was right on the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s combine rating of 27 mpg (23 city, 33 highway).

Hyundai SmartSense ADAS

The Sonata N Line comes with a nice complement of advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) which the company calls Hyundai SmartSense, including: blind-spot collision-avoidance assist; rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist; forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection; lane-follow and lane-keep assist; smart cruise control with stop & go; automatic high beams, and rearview camera.

Distinctive N Line design touches inside and out

The wheels shod with the low-profile tires are one of the N Line’s visual cues which also include N Line-unique front and rear fascia; rear spoiler; glossy black side mirror caps and window surrounds; N dual exhausts; N badging and LED taillights.

Inside, the front sport seats boast a N Line logo (driver’s power adjustable for position and lumbar support) as does the adjustable (reach and rake) steering wheel, allowing the driver to find just the right position to comfortably drive the Sonata N Line as it should be driven – with verve!

Once settled, the driver will find all the controls well laid out and easy to use, especially the buttons for the dual-zone climate-control system which worked really well during an August heat wave here on the Cape.

Dominating the dash is the 10.25-inch touchscreen which controls (along with voice activation) the standard navigation system, infotainment system (including SiriusXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth streaming audio) and vehicle settings (including customizing the ADAS preferences). The system’s clean sound is courtesy of the 12-speaker Bose Premium Audio system with nine-inch subwoofer.

The technology features include Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car system, which uses embedded telematics to allow drivers to remote start the N Line and control interior temperature using the MyHyundai smartphone app. The app also allows users to either remote lock or unlock their doors and to find their vehicle in a crowded parking lot with Car Finder and remote horn and lights.

Another Android app – Hyundai’s Digital Key – allows the Sonata N Line to be unlocked, started, and driven without a physical key. Sonata’s Digital Key also allows secure sharing of virtual keys with family and friends.

How does it add up

Hyundai, as it does with all its vehicles in the U.S. market, packs a lot of features, technology and amenities into every Sonata. The N Line packs in even more than the others in the range, especially considering all of the engineering and development, along with advanced powertrain hardware, it contains.

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And all of this comes in at a very reasonable and highly competitive price of $33,669 (plus $1,005 for freight)! The Hyundai Sonata N Line is a terrific, affordable, modern sport sedan. One you and your family can live with every day yet provide you with the wheels to get out and enjoy those challenging twisty roads when you get the chance.

Next week TBR Drives the GMC Sierra full-size pickup truck.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.