The 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line Is A Hot Rod In Disguise

Sports Cars / 25 Comments

The sleeper sedan is a cost-effective alternative to all the German sports sedans.

Automakers are shunning sedans. They don't sell that well and the profit margins aren't nearly what they get on trucks, crossovers and SUVs. Ford has ditched them all and the US arm of Stellantis only has a few. For Chevy, you're only choice is the aging (but useful) Malibu. But we're not all the way there, as Hyundai continues to rage against the dying of the light.

It's not just building run-of-the-mill sedans either. It's making small ones like the Accent and Elantra. It's making efficient ones like the Sonata Hybrid and it's making sporty ones like this Sonata N Line. Why didn't it go full N like the Veloster or Elantra? Our guess is that this would need some serious chassis improvements to handle any more power than it already has. And that's where we'll start.

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Power: Corrupting Absolutely

The Hyundai Sonata N Line ditches the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter Smartstream four and the hybrid's 1.6-liter turbo for the best of both worlds: a 2.5-liter Smartstream four with a turbo making 290 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque as low as 1,650 rpm. It has both continuous variable valve duration and continuous variable valve timing. That CVVT should not be confused with a continuously variable transmission or CVT, as the Sonata N Line features an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters.

In practice, this is about as much power as you can put in a front-wheel drive vehicle. If you mat the throttle from a standstill, the traction control will just kick in to limit the power and wheelspin. If you move the traction control to sport or off, the front tires will spin up, start screeching, and leave a patch of rubber as you try to control the torque steer at the steering wheel. It's fantastic.

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Sound: More Antisocial Behavior

We've talked about this a little bit with our comparison between the Hyundai Veloster N and the Honda Civic Type R. The loud exhaust, big pipes, pops when shifting and blow off noises are not the hallmarks of a well-adjusted adult. They're for hooligans. But in case you're too old to remember, being a hooligan is fun.

The Sonata N Line sounds like the original Fast and Furious movies. It's all loud revs and wooshing turbos, and don't forget the squeal of the tires. If you happen to leave this car in sport mode, or turn the traction control off and forget about it, you will alert the whole neighborhood with your tire screeches. Like the Veloster N, if you hang on to a gear for a split second longer, after releasing the throttle but before shifting, you will get a shotgun-style bang out of the back end. You can use it to show your displeasure with the drivers in front or behind you.

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Looks: Sleek, Speedy, But Also A Sleeper

The N Line Sonata gets a unique body kit with a deeper front fascia and four exhaust outlets instead of the standard Sonata's two. It comes with unique 19-inch wheels with optional summer tires, a rear spoiler, panoramic sunroof, glossy black side mirrors and all the N badges. That's in addition to the new daytime running lights that go up the hood.

We weren't completely sold on the new Sonata's design, but the N looks a little wider, a little lower, a little cooler all around. But it still looks like a Korean sedan. And that means the only people that know the car is fast are eagle-eyed enthusiasts. You might want to get a sleepier color to keep the ruse going, but we like the white.

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Tech: Bells And Whistles

Though this is the fastest Sonata Hyundai makes, it's not a purpose-built sports car. That means it still has to include stuff like infotainment. The N Line has a 10.25-inch display for audio, video and navigation functions. It can also break into a split screen to allow two features to be shown at the same time.

It also comes with a load of safety features normally found on more expensive cars like adaptive cruise control, lane following assist, high beam assist and driver attention warning, just to name a few. One of our favorites is the lead car indicator, which beeps when the car in front takes off. The feature should be on every vehicle sold in the US. It does make you a little lazy, needing to pay attention less, but it's an overall win.

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Crushing The Competition

The Sonata's main competitors include the Subaru Legacy, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima. Those are some strong sellers, but none could hold a candle to the Sonata at the drag strip or the road course. And yes, we know that's not where these vehicles make their money, but isn't it nice to know you could smoke that soccer mom at the light? And then put both kids in the back, and meet that same mom at the field? We think it is.

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