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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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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The Hispano Suiza Carmen Boulogne is an all-electric hypercar

Photo courtesy of Hispano Suiza

The Hispano Suiza brand has been around for more than a century. Now primarily known as an aerospace company, the automotive side of the business is attempting a revival, first with the Carmen's introduction and now with the Carmen Boulogne, a sportier take on the Carmen.

The Carmen Boulogne is a fully electric and exclusive hypercar that was designed, developed, and manufactured in Barcelona, Spain. The company will create just five examples for sale.

Its name origin stretches back to 1921 when Hispano Suiza made a racing version of its high-performance H6 Coupé and entered it in the George Boillot Cup, an endurance race lasting more than 3.5 hours around the French city of Boulogne. Hispano Suiza took the win at the race in 1921, 1922, and 1923.

Hispano Suiza Carmen Boulogne Photo courtesy of Hispano Suiza

The Hispano Suiza Carmen Boulogne delivers 1,098 horsepower and has an electronically limited maximum speed of 180 mph. The car can get form zero to 60 mph in 2.6 seconds and weighs 3,593 pounds. Its weight is 60 pounds less than the traditional Carmen, a number that was achieved by changing out traditional structural elements for a carbon fiber subframe, among other parts. Additionally, the entire body of the car is carbon fiber.

The car's 80 kilowatt hour battery gives it a driving range of up to 248 miles. That's similar to the range of the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E. Its battery is designed and produced in-house, and has fast-charging capability of more than 80 kilowatts, taking just 30 minutes to charge from 30 to 80 percent via a CCS2 fast charger. It also has CHAdeMO and GB/T charging options.

Each rear wheel of the car has two permanent-magnet synchronous motors. The torque deliver of each motor is controlled through a vectoring system honed by experience in Formula E racing. Off the line through 6,500 rpm, the car is capable of reaching 1,180 pound-feet of torque.

The face of the car has the same semi-circular headlights and scowl as the Carmen, with the difference of a copper-colored grille. Buyers can customize their model to include either suede or black Alcantara on the dashboard and door panels.

Hispano Suiza Carmen Boulogne

Photo courtesy of Hispano Suiza

The price of the Hispano Suiza Carmen Boulogne starts at $2 million USD, and its manufacturing process requires approximately twelve month of lead time.

The five units of the Carmen Boulogne hypercar join the 14 units of the Carmen to reach a total of 19 units in production, with the first unit ready to be delivered in 2022.

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BMW is adding new racing experiences to the roster at is Performance Center West.

Photo courtesy of BMW

BMW Performance Center Driving Schools have added to their curriculum offerings with the BMW M and M4 GT4 Experience, the M4 GT4 Private Coaching with Data and Video Session, and the Race Licensing School. All courses are offered at their driving school in Thermal, California.

BMW M and M4 GT4 Experience

M4 GT4 Experiences and Race Licensing School

Photo courtesy of BMW

This full day program carries a $2,795 price tag and includes driving various BMW M cars and the M4 GT4 race car. Attendees start their day with a classroom session that reviews proper driving technique then they receive an overview of the car and are outfitted with a racing suit and helmet. Next, they head to the Thermal Club track and get in some guided laps behind a BMW instructor, experiencing speeds up to 140 mph I the M4 GT4 race car.

The M4 GT4 model driven is the exact same as the race car driven in series around the world. It's powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine that produces more than 430 horsepower while the rear wing, front splitter, and Continental racing tires make this car stick to the track through the corners.

Each session includes:

  • VBOX data and video system in the M4 GT4 to record the session.
  • Access to professional instructors, trackside crew and support.
  • All driving gear for the duration of the class – racing suit, helmet, gloves and shoes.
  • Lunch at the BMW Performance Center café.
  • Insurance, with a $2,500 deductible for vehicle or property damage

BMW M4 GT4 Private Coaching with Data & Video (Half Day)

M4 GT4 Experiences and Race Licensing School

Photo courtesy of BMW

This half-day, $4,995 program includes 125 miles of track driving in the M4 GT4 race car. Students start with a classroom session that reviews proper driving technique before being outfitted for their M4 GT4 driving session. The class includes:

  • VBOX data and video system in the M4 GT4 to record the session.
  • Time in the BMW M4 GT4 race car, one professional instructor and trackside support.
  • All driving gear for the duration of the class – racing suit, helmet, gloves and shoes.
  • Lunch at the BMW Performance Center café.
  • Insurance, with a $2,500 deductible for vehicle or property damage.
  • More miles can be purchased on the day of training. The program is designed for one driver. However, two drivers sharing a car can be arranged upon request.
  • The schedule is flexible. Please call 888-345-2269, and one of the BMW Performance Center driving instructors will reply to answer any questions and schedule the coaching session. Discounts are not allowed for this program

BMW M4 GT4 Private Coaching with Data & Video (Full Day)

M4 GT4 Experiences and Race Licensing School

Photo courtesy of BMW

For $9,995, students get a full-day private program that includes 250 miles of track driving in the M4 GT4 race car. The days starts with a classroom session that reviews proper driving technique before being fitted out for their M4 GT4. The class includes:

  • VBOX data and video system in the M4 GT4 to record the session.
  • Time in the BMW M4 GT4 race car, one professional instructor and trackside support.
  • All driving gear for the duration of the class – racing suit, helmet, gloves and shoes.
  • Lunch at our BMW Performance Center café.
  • Insurance, with a $2,500 deductible for vehicle or property damage.
  • More miles can be purchased on the day of training. The program is designed for one driver. However, two drivers sharing a car can be arranged upon request.

Race License School: The Path to Professional

M4 GT4 Experiences and Race Licensing School

Photo courtesy of BMW

After you've been through BMW's Advanced M School or the Two-Day M School, BMW Performance offers a SCCA-certified school to take your skills to the next level on your way to becoming a pro driver. Students can add the one-day school to an Advanced M School or Two-Day M School session and get qualified all at once.What will be learned:

  • Learn the colors. Green. Yellow. Red - No there aren't any traffic lights on the track. But there are flags, and you'll learn what each represents while you're out there to maintain safety.
  • Passing. Don't let off. - Start off with you in a BMW, behind your instructor in theirs. They will coach you through the art of passing under both braking and acceleration. Then, we'll bring on a classmate and coach you both as you battle for first place.
  • Keep Rollin'. Practice race starts - In racing, how you start can impact how you finish, and we'll show you how to get started right in a grid set up, as well as rolling starts. Learn how to navigate with other cars on track while setting up for that first turn.

Additional information be found at https://bmwperformancecenter.com. Courses can be booked online or by calling 1-888-345-4BMW.

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