If there is any car that has seen it all, it’s the Hyundai Sonata. First out in the late 1980’s it wasn’t a particular good car, following in the footsteps of the Hyundai Excel. But as each new generation of the Sonata appeared, it improved. First, it became more reliable. Then it’s styling was addressed. By 2009, the sixth generation Hyundai Sonata was making a serious statement – it looked just as good as any Accord or Camry, was just as dependable, was packed with features, and came with a lower price tag.
A couple of years ago, the current generation Sonata debuted marking it as the 7th in the car’s history. Then last year, Hyundai added a new model to Sonata lineup – the N Line, which places its emphasis on performance. Recently Hyundai sent me a Sonata N Line to drive for a week, so I can experience what a Sonata with some performance injected into it feels like.
The current Sonata is a strikingly good-looking car. Prior to 2009, Sonatas were as exciting to look at as a blank piece of paper. But once that sixth-generation appeared, everything changed – the Sonata became one of the best-looking mid-size sedans on the road. The current design continues that trend with an attractive grille and headlights that make for a pretty face, sleek, smooth body and nicely tapered backside.
Today’s Sonata is available in five trims: SE, SEL, SEL Plus, Limited and the N Line. The base SE and SEL use a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine (191 horsepower, 181 lb-ft of torque) while the SEL Plus and Limited get a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine (180 horsepower, 195 lb-ft of torque). The N Line uses a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that cranks out 290 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque. Every Sonata uses an eight-speed automatic transmission, but the N Line is dual-clutch transmission that provides quicker shifts for added performance. Hyundai also offers a hybrid version of the Sonata.
Without question, the N Line is the most exciting Sonata of the bunch. While its appearance is fairly conservative compared to other sports sedans in this market (the Toyota Camry TRD immediately comes to mind), it still follows the sports-sedan dress code with its new, more aggressive front fascia, four pipes out the back and a rear diffuser. There are a few small N Line badges scattered around as well as unique 19-inch wheels.
Inside, other than a nice set of sports seats wrapped in leather and suede, the Sonata N Line hardly differs from less potent Sonatas. Even the push-button shifter from the regular Sonata finds its way into the N Line.
But under the hood, the Sonata N Line stands apart from other Sonatas. Using the same engine found as standard equipment in the Genesis G80 and GV80, as well as the Kia K5 GT, the turbo four turns the Sonata into a real performer. Fitted with launch-control, the Sonata N is capable of hitting 60 mph in just 5.0 seconds and nailing the quarter-mile in 13.6 seconds at 105 mph. Believe it or not, the Sonata N is one of the quickest front-drive family sedans ever made.
Along with the extra power is a retuned chassis with thicker anti-roll bars, firmer dampers and stiffer motor mounts. These changes amount to a Sonata N Line providing excellent steering feel and road manners, without giving up too much in the ride department. Larger brakes all around ensure this performance Sonata can stop as fast as it goes.
The combination of the powerful engine and the dual-clutch eight-speed transmission make the Sonata N Line a real treat to drive. The powerband is impressive, especially in the midrange, and the N Line easily pulls well past 6000 RPMs, never seeming to run out of breath. The shifts from the transmission come quickly and smoothly, although they don’t seem as snappy as other DCTs.
There is a small downside to the N Line’s impressive powertrain, and that’s torque steer. With the Sonata’s lack of all-wheel drive, when you step on the gas, you’re reminded that the Sonata N Line is a front-wheel drive only car.
The 2022 Hyundai Sonata starts at $25,175 for the base SE. Go all the way up to the Sonata N Line and you’re looking at $35,240 – the price tag of the tester. As I have repeated over and over with Hyundai’s – that’s a heck of a lot of car for the money. Included with that is Hyundai’s impressive ten-year warranty.
Thirty years ago, the Sonata was a car that wouldn’t be given a second look, and comparing it to a Honda or Toyota was ludicrous. But oh, how things have changed. Both Hyundai and the Sonata have recently won a slew of awards and accolades for their achievements – and the 2022 Hyundai Sonata N Line is proof on just how far Hyundai as come.
— Christopher A. Randazzo
By The Numbers:
2022 Hyundai Sonata N Line
Base Price: $33,800.00
Price as Tested: $35,240.00
Layout: front-engine / front-wheel drive
Engine: 2.5 liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder
Transmission: 8 – speed automatic DSG
Horsepower: 290 hp
Torque: 311 lb-ft
EPA Fuel Economy: 22 city / 33 highway mpg
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