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.

Trending News

 
 

A diamond mesh grille fronts the 2022 Kia K8.

PhPhoto courtesy of Kia Motorsoto courtesy of Kia Motors

Goodbye, Cadenza. Hello, K8. The Kia Cadenza is one of those cars that is easy forgotten about (if you ever knew about it in the first place) and frequently passed over in favor of the Toyota Avalon or the like. Still, most every automotive journalist who has driven it likes it.

So, Kia's taking the lessons learned from the Cadenza and some from the K5 and Stinger, and rolling them into a new large sedan, the 2022 Kia K8. This week the company unveiled the first official images of the car ahead of its debut. This is the first vehicle named the K8 in Kia history.

2022 Kia K8 The K8's headlights have integrated turn signals.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

2022 Kia K8

"Following our recent company rebrand, we keep moving toward our new brand values with a new model – the K8. This modern sedan has been designed with innovation and elegance at its very core," said Karim Habib, Senior Vice President and Head of Kia Global Design Center. "While paying homage to the K7, the K8 looks to the future. Its progressive exterior takes on character and emotion, and combines those qualities with an expressive looking front and a dynamic swooping rear, giving the K8 a high-quality, premium presence that takes direct inspiration from some of the world's most technically advanced yachts."

As seen in the photos, the car wears Kia's new logo on its badging, and has design lines reminiscent of the vehicles it has taken lessons from. There's a frameless tire nose grille with diamond lattice, turn signals integrated into the headlights, an elongated side profile, chrome finish along the bottom of the doors, and a roofline that trails off into the trunk. It's all very much from the Kia sedan lineup.

Kia promises that the car will have a "first class" interior that establishes "new benchmarks in premium quality". The sedan will deliver a high-performance driving experience yet be comfortable to ride in, according to Kia messaging.

The rear of the Kia K8 features elongated taillights.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The Kia K8 is expected to arrive in showrooms later this year but the U.S. might not get it until after it's arrived in Korea and Europe.

Trending News

 
 

The Nissan GT-R probably isn't the first supercar that comes to mind, but it's worthy of consideration if you're not all about being seen.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

You put the pedal down. A confident growl busts out the back end. The wheels may squeal, and you might too. It's not all about the power, though it has plenty. The 2021 Nissan GT-R delivers the type of drive experience that you're never going to get from an electric vehicle - and it's magnificent.

Godzilla has been in production since 2007 with nips and tucks and add-ons here and there along the way. It's not as sleek or stylish as the Audi E-Tron GT or even Audi's R8. There's no giant wing out back à la McLaren and certainly nothing Italian about it. The GT-R is it's own man.

Even areas of the country that are supercar-heavy, aren't heavy with GT-Rs. A Ferrari or Lamborghini is a bigger status symbol for adoring eyes. It's the real drivers out there who know that a GT-R is perhaps the better investment for someone who wants a supercar to drive, not just to be seen in. Its unique looks are subtle but properly athletic.

2021 Nissan GT-R Premium The car is capable as a daily driver but it can also push the limits during a track day.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

2021 Nissan GT-R Premium

The reason for that starts but doesn't end with Nissan's 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6. It rests below the hood, not behind your ears, and delivers 565 horsepower and 467 pound-feet of torque creating a visceral acceleration experience. It's enough to satisfy you, bring a smile to your face, impress those around you, and make you realize that Godzilla really is a beast.

The six-speed dual-clutch transmission in the GT-R Premium ($113,540 base price) manages the power nicely and shifts relatively smoothly - it's no Ford 10-speed automatic and that's okay. If you want a GT-R with a manual transmission, you'll have to upgrade to the NISMO model. Don't "save the manuals" me. So few people are buying them that they're becoming extinct despite your bumper sticker saying and hashtag. Most supercars don't have them. Nissan is just simply following an industry trend and the DCT is perfectly fine for drivers not spending the majority of their time on a track.

All wheel drive is standard on the model, meaning that the GT-R sticks to the road as you put it through its paces. That also means that you don't need to head home every time there's rainfall or snow in the forecast, and you can take corners a little faster than the local constabulary may prefer.

The car has athletic looks despite not conforming to the typical supercar design language.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

2021 Nissan GT-R Premium

Proper engineering has made the GT-R a great daily driver. It's fun to push it around the twisties on a winding road in the country during a long weekend, but it's also not a bad car to commute or run errands in (it has a real trunk!). Like any good supercar, the GT-R goes right where you want, when you want it, whether you're doing slow speed maneuvering around a neighborhood or putting the throttle down on the highway. The speed-sensitive steering calibration is spot-on.

Parts of the interior are dated, especially when compared to other vehicles in its price point. But none of those parts are enough to make the GT-R even the least bit undesirable. The seats are surprisingly comfortable and the ride isn't too harsh. Analog dials are a nice break for the eyes.

But the real reason you're in the GT-R isn't because of the the amenities. It's because you love to drive. Because you're confident enough to go with Godzilla rather than a flashy Italian or German. Because you understand that the car nicknamed after a fictional monster, and its gasoline-powered ilk, are in danger of going extinct as carbon neutral priorities seem keen on removing the type of visceral fun that internal combustion engines provide.

The car has analog dials in front of the driver.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

If we're going to have to make concessions to make the air and water cleaner, it would be nice if, on the other end of the spectrum, the powers that be let us keep having the muscle of the GT-R.

Trending News