2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line First Look: The Sporty Family Sedan

The big-name German performance brands all sell performance in various packages and steps, from BMW’s M Sport or Mercedes-Benz’s AMG packages to full-blown M and Mercedes-AMG models. Hyundai aspires to follow in these footsteps with N models like North America’s Veloster N and Europe’s i30 N at the top of the retail pyramid (factory racing N cars occupy the ultimate peak of the pyramid) and a widening line of N Line models occupying the rung beneath them. First to get the N Line treatment was the Elantra GT N Line, and next up are the Elantra and Sonata sedans.

Not too much info has been shared on the full Sonata N Line package, but at a powertrain backgrounder in December 2019, we learned that the heart of this new beast is a turbocharged 2.5-liter “Smartstream” gasoline direct injection (TGDI) engine that should make 290 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. That represents a 52 percent power bump and a significant 71 percent more torque than the next-hottest-performing Sonata, a turbocharged 1.6-liter good for 191 hp and 181 lb-ft. Relative to the Elantra GT N Line’s 25 and 30 percent bumps in power and torque, that’s pretty impressive.

A performance boost of that magnitude will require commensurate reinforcement and re-tuning of the brakes, springs, and dampers, which engineers are no doubt putting the finishing touches on. Will the team be able to transform this sizeable front-drive sedan into a credible back-road burner that performs somewhere between an Elantra GT and a Veloster N? Consider our fingers well and truly crossed.

Performance aside, the N Line kit comes with a number of visual updates relative to the standard Sonata, including a new fascia, racier grille, and three large air intakes. Around the back sits a new rear bumper with dual exhaust outlets flanking a new lower fascia. A set of 19-inch alloys help complete the sportier look. Inside, the model benefits from dark chrome trim, more heavily bolstered seats, red stitching on the steering wheel, and N Line badging (how else are you supposed to know you’re in a Sonata with a little extra flair?).

Then comes the question of what Hyundai will charge for such a device. If it applies the same roughly 20 percent upcharge that one pays to upgrade a base Elantra GT automatic to an Elantra GT N Line with its seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, then that should bring the price of an SEL-spec Sonata N Line to around $34,000, or a Limited grade one to $41,000. It’s a bad idea to load a performance car up to Limited spec anyway, and with the Accord 2.0T Touring topping out at $37,355 and a loaded Camry XSE V-6 just cresting $39,000, we’d expect the Sonata N Line to be spec’d to price out a little shy of $40,000.

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