WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA – Hyundai has built a hard-won reputation for value-oriented yet stylish vehicles. Now it wants also to be known for building performance coupes and sedans by expanding its N Line and N sub-brands.
The two brands were born at Hyundai’s design center and proving ground in Namyang, South Korea – hence the N designation.
But the letter also conjures the renowned Nürburging German proving ground and its N-shaped chicanes, where Hyundai’s performance vehicles have been put through their paces during development, says Olabisi Boyle, vice president-product planning and mobility strategy for Hyundai Motor North America.
N and N Line models “are a new type of vehicle for customers who want an exhilarating driving experience,” Boyle says at an event here to show off the ’21 Sonata N Line and the all-new ’21 Elantra. She adds Hyundai wants the brands “to become the world’s most respected in terms of performance.”
That’s a tall order and initially may target Asian competitors Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota and their sport-compact coupes and sedans. But Hyundai is aiming higher, hoping its N Line and N brands stack up well against European luxury-performance models.
The Veloster N fired Hyundai’s performance-car salvo when it was introduced two years ago with a 275-hp 2.0L turbocharged 4-cyl. with a sportier chassis than the 201-hp Veloster Turbo. The Veloster N also gets sport bucket seats, an electronically controlled suspension, an “N Corner Carving” limited-slip differential and a 6-speed manual transmission.
Next out of the gate is the N Line version of the Sonata starting at $33,200 and with a 2.5L turbocharged 4-cyl. that produces 290 hp and 311 lb.-ft. (421 Nm) of torque at a broad 1,650 to 4,000 rpm. The Sonata N Line switches between gasoline direct- and multi-port injection based on speed, rpm and engine load to maximize performance and fuel efficiency.
Power is channeled to the front wheels through an all-new 8-speed wet dual-clutch transmission similar to the gearbox in Veloster N.
To enhance performance, the Sonata N Line’s powertrain chassis mounts are up to 44% stiffer; front and rear stability bars are added. The car rides on 19-in. alloy rims wrapped with either Continental Pro Contact summer or Pirelli P Zero all-season performance tires.
The exterior of the Sonata N Line stands out with gloss-black mirrors, a unique rear fascia with chrome dual exhaust and a gloss-black lip spoiler. The interior has dark-chrome accents, red stitching, racing seats with suede inserts, a 10.25-in. (26-cm) infotainment touchscreen and panoramic sunroof.
Next up is the Elantra N Line (pictured above -- interior below) with a 1.6L turbocharged direct-injection 4-cyl. with 201 hp and 195 lb.-ft. torque (264 Nm) from 1,500 to 4,500 rpm. It will come with either a 6-speed manual or available 7-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters and a multilink rear suspension that’s different from the ’21 Elantra (but used on the new Elantra Hybrid).
The Elantra N receives N Line dampers and larger 12-in. (31-cm) front brake rotors. It also has a unique front and rear fascia, gloss-black mirrors, LED taillights and a matte-black spoiler lip.
Its exclusive 18-in. alloy wheels come with either Hankook all-season tires on the automatic-transmission model or Goodyear Eagle 1 summer rubber with the manual. Inside are sport seats with side bolstering, a sport steering wheel, sunroof, 8-in. (20-cm) infotainment display and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
An Elantra N is coming in 2021 with a 201-hp 2.0L turbo-4 with either a 6-speed manual or available 8-speed dual-clutch automatic. “Think of it as the insanely fun to drive Veloster N, but in a sleek four-door body style,” says Mike Evanoff, HMNA’s senior manager-product planning.
The Elantra N is further differentiated by 19-in. summer tires, a limited-slip differential, 13.6-in. (34-cm) front and 12.4-in. (31-cm) rear brake rotors, an electronically controlled suspension and a variable-valve exhaust system for a “snap, crackle and pop that always puts a grin on your face,” says Evanoff.
Including the Veloster N, Sonata N Line, Elantra N Line and N, Boyle says by the end of 2022 Hyundai will have seven N and N Line vehicles in showrooms to “get hearts of customers racing.”
Speaking of racing, an Elantra N TCR car has been introduced to serve as a development platform for N Line and N vehicles, and the automaker sponsored the recent 2020 Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship to promote the sub-brands.
Boyle says Hyundai believes N Line and N cars should “have everyday driving performance and full racetrack capability.” She adds, “Fun to drive means accessible and gives drivers confidence in all conditions.”
If Hyundai’s painstaking work to build its brand over the years is any indication, its N Line and N sub-brands are poised to grab market share from the performance divisions of Asian rivals.