One-Day Drive

First Drive Review: 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line is a pointed pistol, but for whom?

The 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line is the new, sporty member of the Sonata family.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

The 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line is a car that marries functionality with precision steering and a punch of power. But (and this is a big but) who is it for?

The Sonata was redesigned for the 2020 model year and this fresh edition is a sporty take on the midsize sedan. It's nearly the exact same size as the Audi S6, but doesn't have the prestige, power, or heritage that Audi models do. That's fine. In fact, it's more than fine. That means that it also doesn't have the premium price tag (think: two Sonata N Lines for the price of an Audi S6).

2021 Hyundai Sonata  N Line The looks of the car have remained relatively the same, except for some accents and different wheels.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

On the outside the Sonata N Line features gloss black accents and N Line badging. It's an appealing amount of black that neither overwhelms the car nor screams "Hey you guys! I drive a sporty sedan for all the attention! Have you seen the size of my watch?"

The car's turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine produces 290 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque. Its powertrain is completed with a new N eight-speed wet dual-clutch transmission while paddle shifters take their place on the wheel. The powertrain suitably creeps through traffic and doesn't overwhelm the driver with power in the first third of the gears. But put your foot down and whoo boy you're off the races. It's a bit like being shot out of a cannon, though reasonably easy to control. Just learn to expect it (and maybe not try it in heavy-ish traffic).

The paddle shifters deliver some amount of control over the shift points but there's little in the way of satisfaction when it comes to using them because the power delivery in the Sonata is just so darn smooth.

2021 Hyundai Sonata Gloss black accents mark the car as an N Line model.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Whether going fast or slow, the revised suspension of the Sonata ensures a stiff ride. Over less than smooth pavement, the Sonata N Line's tuning isn't ideal, but once the asphalt rolls out ahead of you like soft butter on a hot roll, the ride becomes enjoyable.

Steering is pointed and precise. This generation Sonata has always been easy to steer and continually delivers a connected drive experience. That doesn't change with this 2021 model, which makes carving corners easy, whether it's up and down the canyons of Malibu, California or the winding traffic light-filled narrows of neighboring Sunset Drive through Bel-Air and beyond. The stiff suspension also ensures that you're not shifting from side to side too much as you traverse the roads.

Hyundai has also sported-up the Sonata N Line's interior. It has Nappa leather bolsters and Dinamica suede inserts, and a leather-wrapped N sport steering wheel. There's also a 12.3-inch LCD cluster display, wireless device charging, Hyundai Digital Key, aluminum pedals, a second-row air vent, proximity key with push-button start and a hands-free trunk release, LED interior lighting, and an auto-dimming mirror with HomeLink. That's a good roster of features that fit to Hyundai's clean cabin design and modern layout.

2021 Hyundai Sonata The interior is also relatively unchanged, but there are typical sporty change to the upholstery and finishes.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

And while that's all well and good, it does make one wonder, who exactly is going to buy the Sonata N Line. Are there people out there cruising around in a Sonata with the 191-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine saying to themselves, "if only this thing was more of a rocket"?

Sure, there may be. And perhaps the Sonata N Line is a way of getting them to move to the new model rather than switching over to the Kia Stinger. That being said, the Stinger isn't all that popular with buyers - just over 10,000 have been sold this year. But, the Sonata N Line tops the similarly-priced Stinger when it comes to power, handling, and features.

Look, I get it. The Sonata N Line gives buyers another reason to stay with Hyundai rather than go somewhere else when they're looking for a sporty sedan. I'm just saying that, despite its good natured performance, it wouldn't be my first option in the Sonata family.

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Electric vehicles

NHTSA looking into Tesla's in-car video games

Some owners have discovered that their car's video games work when the car is moving.

Tesla

Tesla's vehicles are among the most advanced and forward-thinking products of any kind, but serious innovation doesn't come with tradeoffs. The automaker has been in the news recently because of issues with how its advanced cruise control systems function, and now, Autoblog reports that the NHTSA is asking questions about Tesla giving drivers the ability to play video games and browse the internet while driving.

Tesla Arcade hands-on: the Model 3 is your video game console youtu.be

The feature is intended to be used while the car is parked, such as while charging, so the discovery that people can use them while driving is a serious one. Vince Patton, the person who filed the complaint with the NHTSA, tested his car and found that he could play Solitaire and a fairly involved action game while it was in motion. Internet browsing was also possible, meaning the driver could take their attention completely off the road ahead for extended periods of time.

Tesla Model 3 Tesla's screens offer advanced functions that many others do not. Tesla

Tesla was already under investigation over crashes involving its Autopilot feature. Several collisions have occurred between Teslas and emergency vehicles stopped on the side of the road. Following the initiation of that investigation, the NHTSA raised other questions with the automaker over a buggy software update that was pushed out, retracted, fixed, and reissued outside of the normal recall process. Despite their names, it's important to clarify that neither the Autopilot nor Full Self-Driving features are capable of driving the cars without driver awareness and input.

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Hyundai released pricing for the Ioniq 5 today.

Hyundai

The first of Hyundai's Ioniq-branded electric vehicles is almost here, and the automaker finally released pricing information. The Ioniq 5 starts off at a reasonable price and reaches deep into premium territory, but it's got the capability and the equipment to justify its price tag.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 Owners will get two years of free charging. Hyundai

Pricing for the line includes:

  • Hyundai Ioniq 5 SE Standard range with 168 hp and RWD: $40,925
  • SE single motor with 225 hp and RWD: $44,875
  • SE dual-motor with 320 hp and AWD: $48,375
  • SEL single-motor with 225 hp and RWD: $47,125
  • SEL dual-motor with 320 hp and AWD: $50,625
  • Limited single-motor with 225 hp and RWD: $51,825
  • Limited dual-motor with 320 hp and AWD: $55,725
All prices include a $1,225 destination charge. It's also worth noting that the Ioniq 5 is eligible for up to $7,500 in government tax credits, though the size of the final tax rebate depends on the customer's individual situation. Range estimates for the Ioniq 5 span from 220 miles for the SE Standard Range to 303 miles for other single-motor models. Hyundai's party trick with the new crossover is its charging system, which is claimed to replenish the batteries from 10 to 80 percent in just 18 minutes.

Standard features for the Ioniq 5 include 19-inch aero wheels, a 12.3-inch touchscreen with EV information, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, blind spot monitoring with safe exit assist, lane keeping assist with lane following assist, parametric pixelated LED headlights, flush door handle, and more. To ease customers' transition into EV life, Hyundai partnered with Electrify America to provide unlimited 30-minute charting sessions for two years following purchase.

Interior of Hyundai's Ioniq 5 revealed ahead of Feb. 23 debut automotivemap.com

Hyundai offers complimentary maintenance for up to three years or 36,000 miles, which includes tire rotations and other services. The car's battery and electric system are covered by a ten-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. The Ioniq 5 is scheduled to go on sale this month.

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