Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 N seems to have delivered the impossible; an electric vehicle petrolheads will love to drive.
It’s maniacally fast with a raucous, soulful engine note, it jolts when upshifting gears and carves through corners in a manner no 2.2-tonne EV ever should.
This personality-packed Hyundai is a bona fide electric shock.
“Driving still matters,” explains Till Wartenberg, head of Hyundai’s performance N brand, as we sample the electrified N at South Korea’s F1 circuit before finding some twisting back roads.
To earn its N badge, the retro-styled Ioniq 5 had to be racetrack capable while suitable for daily driving. But how? EVs usually sound like vacuum cleaners – if they make any noise at all – and rival a date with a mannequin for emotional engagement.
Hyundai has used cutting-edge electronics blended with smoke and mirrors to create a ballistic driver-centric hyper-hatch to stimulate all the senses. Eight internal and two external speakers belt out your choice of virtual sounds, matching them to RPM, speed and torque data. Its supersonic jet and high-pitched EV modes are painfully video-game like, but there’s one that superbly mimics a four-cylinder petrol race car.
It’s a fake noise, of course, but totally convincing when in attack mode – including popping backfires when lifting off the throttle.
Also fake is the N e-Shift feature, where eight pretend gears change while simulating the jolts of a real dual-clutch transmission. Use the steering wheel paddles and it’ll bounce off a fake 8000rpm rev limiter, then throttle blip on downshifts.
It sounds contrived but it adds layers of driver engagement not matched by any other EV: you accept the fakery and get on with the riotously fun drive.
With a combined 448kW and 740Nm, this dual motor all-wheel-drive’s the most powerful Hyundai ever. A cheesily-named N Grin Mode – a red button on the steering wheel – adds a further 30kW and 30Nm boost for ten seconds.
With launch control activated it reaches 100km/h in 3.4 seconds – Lamborghini Huracan quick – on its way to 260km/h. That’s great, you think, but being an EV it’ll run out of charge or explode after half a lap. Not so. Clever cooling, advanced battery thermal management and an “endurance” mode help to extend your track time. We’re assured it will lap the Nürburgring twice (42km) at sub-8 minute pace without performance loss.
Activate the “N Pedal” and regenerative braking – where the car slows dramatically if you come off the throttle – brings eyeball-bulging 0.6 G deceleration. You dive into corners without needing to waken its massive 400mm hydraulic brakes.
You can shift all the torque from front to rear and everything in between, activate a drift mode, adjust damping and fettle its electronic limited-slip differential.
It needs a serious deep dive and a teenage gamer’s obsession, but it’s addictively customisable. The overwhelming number of steering buttons and screen menus may send traditional performance drivers into brain meltdown though.
The Ioniq N’s track smarts are its party piece, but it also works well as a comfortable road car.
In eco mode it’s whisper quiet and the smart suspension delivers a fairly cosseting ride, despite massive 21-inch forged aluminium wheels and sticky, skinny Pirelli tyres.
We tested it through town, over back roads and a 400km motorway cruise with four on-board. It’s no S-Class Merc, but it’s the plushest riding Hyundai N car and tolerable as a daily driver. Its 448km range is a dash optimistic, but not by much.
The bucket seats and steering wheel are coated in racy Alcantara, while the interior’s eminently practical. As with a normal Ioniq 5 there’s impressive space for five, twin 12.3-inch screens and storage and USBs aplenty. But some of the sustainable interior materials – including sugarcane, plastic bottles or paperette – don’t feel up to the car’s asking lofty price.
It’s the priciest Hyundai ever at $111,000, or about $120,000 drive away. For hyper EV shoppers, that’s $10k more than a Kia EV6 GT.
But it still feels a bargain compared with luxury performance cars. Hyundai’s safety kit and normal five-year warranty are there – including for non-timed track use – and its vehicle-to-load feature means the car can be used as a power source.
It’s not only quick off the mark, either. Its fast-charging electric architecture means its giant 84kWh battery will charge from 10-80 per cent in 18 minutes.
The first truly engaging and fun electric performance car delivers addictive driving thrills.
HYUNDAI IONIQ 5 N
PRICE: About $120,000 drive-away
POWER: Dual electric motors, 448kW and 740Nm
WARRANTY/SERVICE: Five years/unlimited km, Capped service price not available
SAFETY: Eight airbags, auto emergency braking, radar cruise, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, 360-degree camera
LUGGAGE: 527 litres
SPARE: Repair kit
Originally published as 2023 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N new car review