Hyundai’s hopped-up N lineup is one of the most interesting corners of the affordable car universe. Every vehicle under this banner has all kinds of user adjustability, from damping stiffness to tailpipe volume. These settings let owners settle into a groove that better aligns with their personal tastes, and it helps differentiate the N from less configurable competitors. The Ioniq 5N will be the first performance EV in this parade, and after spending some time sliding across a frozen lake or two, we’re happy to report that the N’s future is about as bright as can be.
At its Winter Proving Grounds in Arjeplog, Sweden, Hyundai admitted that it is not quite ready to reveal the full specifications. All we know right now is that the Ioniq 5N’s dual electric motors combine for a net output of 600-ish horsepower. This isn’t just a replica of the 576-hp Kia EV6 GT, despite the pair sharing the E-GMP platform. There are fewer built-in components in general than you’d think – many of its underpinnings were tweaked just for N Division.
Aesthetically, the Ioniq 5N retains the dedication to theater we see in the Kona and Elantra N models. Outside, there is a huge rear diffuser, bigger wheels with a clever design, bigger brakes, thicker fenders and tyres, and a more aggressive front bumper. Inside, the 5N’s steering wheel picks up four additional buttons for shuffling through its drive modes and enabling various features. However, the biggest change is the inclusion of a fixed center console; While the standard version may try to boost internal volume, the N version will give you room to tighten your body as the lateral G’s ramp up.
Over a smooth, mostly frozen lake amid unseasonably mild weather, Pirelli Sottozero winter tires with no studs are guaranteed to slide diagonally. Hyundai attempted to hold the drift in the fast N driving mode without any electronic intervention, and like any other vehicle, the Ioniq 5N prototype demanded an intense amount of throttle and steering input to stop the sear. . Switching to its dedicated Drift mode adjusts the torque distribution to each wheel to better grip the drift when started with a fat stab of the go pedal or a sudden lift under full brake regeneration. The steering also reduces its damping to allow for more granular control without a full arm workout. It’s still on the driver to avoid spinning, but the intrigue happening in the drivetrain inspires enough confidence to hang the tail higher and longer.
but maybe you don’t want To use Drift Mode. There are still ways to customize the Ioniq 5N’s demeanor to suit your specific driving style. Four different modes (Eco, Normal, Sport and N) adjust steering weight, damping and throttle sensitivity, but few automakers let you do that. The 5N goes up and down by allowing the driver to vary the torque distribution on a spectrum between nearly full front or rear bias. Throw everything towards the bow, and the 5N behaves like a front-wheel-drive car with bouts of liftoff oversteer on snow-terminal understeer. Throw it all out, and you can leave out the cars and the coffee to do your best impression of a Mustang.
These heroes come from two different kinds of differences. The rear end of the Ioniq 5N uses an electronic limited-slip differential to distribute torque left and right, while the front end’s open differential pairs with brake-based torque vectoring. The latter was chosen to reduce both front-end weight and cost, but is still quite capable. Even when the setup is working hard, there’s no ABS-style brake chatter coming from the inside wheel. The result is smooth handling and impressive body control over surfaces that would make the average commuter complacent for the day from home.
The Ioniq 5 N’s ability to transfer power all the way brings big benefits to more traditional winter-driving scenarios, too. Starting and stopping on mixed-traction surfaces can be tricky, but the differential did an admirable job keeping the 5N tracking straight during launch and under hard ABS engagement. We also went up a 20 percent grade with the passenger-side wheels on pure snow, and the Ioniq made its way up without any drama.
However, not every bit of software is dedicated to making you a Keiichi Tsuchiya. Some parts swing directly towards the theatre. Press the lower-right button on the steering wheel, and the Ioniq 5 N will engage simulated gearshifts, interrupting torque delivery with either pull of the shift paddles, to better mimic an internal-combustion car. The reasoning here is that it can help ease drivers used to conventional cars into EV operation, giving them a sense of familiarity. Turning on this feature also puts a tachometer on the gauge display, even though it is not related to the speed of the e-motor; It’s just a tiny flourish with a fake redline near the Elantra N’s real one. Performance isn’t the point here, as the feature doesn’t squat in that department. Instead, it gives drivers another way to tweak the 5N to their specific tastes.
Even the voice synthesizer plays a part in easing the transition. We found this to be a nice complement to the Ioniq’s Drift mode, as the rise and fall of the sound provides a nice aural cue for what the tires are doing. Three different sounds will be on offer, but only one was available during our excursion, and it brought a bit of a high-string four-cylinder vibe to the 5N. Do you like it? Great, then use it. do not like this? Also great, you don’t even need to turn it on. But it is good to have choice.
The Ioniq 5 N is a watershed moment for Hyundai’s new N performance division. We’ve already witnessed some supremely sublime N cars, and the division’s internal-combustion efforts won’t stop until the world hands Hyundai over. But the 5N represents the beginning of the subbrand’s upward move, toward higher performance envelopes, while still maintaining a value proposition that meshes with the Korean automaker’s long-standing ethos. Anyone can accelerate an electric car with ease, it is not difficult. But Hyundai is hoping the Ioniq 5 N’s software—and the power of choice it brings—will help this N stand out from the crowd.
Cars are Andrew Kroc’s jam, along with boysenberries. After graduating with a degree in English from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2009, Andrew cut his teeth writing freelance magazine features, and now has a decade of full-time review experience under his belt. A Chicagoan by birth, he has been a resident of Detroit since 2015. Maybe one day he’ll do something about that half-baked engineering degree.