Performance electric vehicles provide big horsepower numbers, and their torque-rich motors, capable of instantaneous delivery, make for blistering acceleration. But unlike their high-strung internal-combustion counterparts, electrics are lacking in two critical areas: the sound of an engine’s micro-explosions and the mechanical feedback that imparts a sense of speed. Hyundai’s N performance-tuning arm seeks to remedy that with its 2024 Ioniq 5 N.
A blast down the front straight of the Nürburgring’s GP circuit reveals the Ioniq 5 N is just like any other performance electric. The grandstands blur around you, wind deflects around the bodywork, and though the Ioniq 5 N’s digital instrument cluster indicates serious speed, the brain says otherwise. Standing on the brakes into the GP circuit’s challenging Turn 1 brings only tire noise and no more. But Hyundai has a few tricks up its sleeve.
2024 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N Redesign
With a press of one of the camouflaged, configurable buttons on what will likely be Hyundai’s most complicated steering wheel to date, N Active Sound + comes to life. There are three available sound profiles whose volume can be adjusted from distant to in-your-face: Evolution is the spacey noise we’ve grown to dislike in many EVs, Supersonic is another gimmick that emulates a fighter jet, and the most engaging profile is Ignition. Through the eight internal and two external speakers, it sounds like a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four found in the Elantra N or the Kona N. It’s executed well enough that an untrained ear might even think there’s combustion happening under the hood. Sound system, check.
With Ignition activated, the soundtrack drones along as if an N-tuned 2.0-liter were paired with a continuously variable automatic. Yuck. But with a push of yet another steering-wheel button, the Ioniq 5 N unleashes something that changes the game of how the brain processes EVs: simulated gearshifts. By briefly interrupting the motors’ torque delivery, N e-Shift mimics an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. The 5 N jolts on upshifts. Downshifts are rev-matched and accompanied by pops and bangs from the speakers during deceleration, just like the internal combustion N cars.
Hyundai is completely transparent that interrupting torque delivery with N e-Shift isn’t the quickest way around the circuit but by only a slim margin. Based on our brief time behind the wheel, the trade-off might be worth it. N e-Shift alters the sense of speed the brain perceives. Many on-track cues come from noise: You might know that a braking zone occurs at the top of the fourth gear, and that’s the feedback N e-Shift delivers that no other EV currently provides.
If you take manual control with the shift paddles and miss a shift, you’ll hit a virtual fuel cutoff. Get caught out in too high of a gear, and the Ioniq 5 will even lug the powertrain by limiting the power delivery. Yes, it’s totally fake and unrelated to the mechanicals, but it’s a degree of engagement that until now has been lost in the electrified world.
The car that hosts this sophisticated EV powertrain is not just a re-bodied Kia EV6 GT. Although the Ioniq 5 N does share the same E-GMP platform and much of the same underpinnings—the three-position adaptive dampers, an electronically controlled limited-slip differential—it is a more track-focused tool. Its body has 40 more yet-to-be-revealed strengthening points than the standard Ioniq 5 and specific bushing tolerances. It’s safe to assume the 5 N will at least match the EV6 GT’s 576 horsepower and 545 lb-ft of torque, but we’re expecting Hyundai to turn it up a notch.
With more than 6000 miles of development around the treacherous 12.9-mile Nürburgring Nordschleife, Hyundai is serious about the 5 N’s service life on track. The goal is for the Ioniq to be able to complete two laps with little performance degradation. To accomplish that, Hyundai has optimized the 5 N’s cooling package with more air entering the nose, more efficient radiator packaging, an improved oil cooler, and an upgraded battery chiller. To complete two laps around the Green Hell will likely require a different battery from the 77.4-kWh unit common to the Korean brands, and Hyundai isn’t willing to talk about the battery pack just yet.
Like the gas-powered N cars, the Ioniq 5 is replete with drive modes. N Race offers a Sprint mode to maximize performance and use all the available power. Endurance mode is set to help with the two-lap mission by managing the battery, motor output, and regeneration strategies for extended time spent on track. There are also two preconditioning modes, one for the track and another for drag racing. With a launch-control mode that preloads the motors, we expect the 5 N to beat the EV6 GT’s 3.1-second rip to 60 mph.
Our previous explorations of the 5 N’s front-to-rear torque-distribution slider revealed that the car is a drift machine on a frozen lake. While we didn’t experiment with this feature on the asphalt, the thought of directing all the driving force to the front axle for a smoky front-tire fire amuses us almost as much as sending the torque to the rear for power-sliding shenanigans.
Getting back on, ahem, track, the Ioniq 5 N is a delight around the 3.2-mile GP circuit. Up front, four-piston fixed calipers squeeze 15.7-inch rotors (0.7 inches larger than the EV6 GT’s), while a single-piston slider pinches a 14.2-inch rotor in the back. Throughout four flying laps, the brakes never relinquish stopping force, and the pedal remains firm and tidy. There’s an N Pedal mode button lurking in the infotainment, but Hyundai isn’t ready to talk about that. We suspect it adjusts the brake-pedal feel and even the regeneration mapping to help rotate the 5 N during braking.
No fewer than three steering modes are available, ratcheting up the effort as they progress into the racier settings, but never to the point that you’re wrestling a grizzly bear. Over the GP circuit’s 15 turns, the Ioniq 5 N–specific steering rack delivers quick turn-in, though we’d prefer a bit more feel as the Hyundai-spec Pirelli P Zero Elect PNCS 275/35ZR-21 tires load up.
With a low center of gravity and minimal body roll, there’s a false sense of grip when you’re divebombing an apex. Admittedly, we were probably overdriving a track we’re unfamiliar with, so overworking the Pirellis to the point of understeer is on us, but we suspect there’s some torque-vectoring software in the works that will take some guesswork out of it and keep the Hyundai on a tighter line.
The 5 N is more than just a track attacker. On a brief road drive navigating the twisties linking the villages of western Germany’s rolling hillsides, the 5 N reveals its tamer side. Just like the 10Best-winning Hyundai Ioniq 5, the turned-up variant dialed back into its least aggressive settings and with all the noise generators silenced is a wonderful, well-isolated cruiser. In their softest setting, the adaptive dampers exhibit fantastic wheel control. On the unlimited sections of the autobahn, the 5 N cruises along at a drama-free 160 mph with near-perfect on-center steering calibration.
2024 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N Production
It’ll be some time before we can experience a production version of the Ioniq 5 N, as production begins early in 2024. Even in this car’s development stages, Hyundai certainly has paved the way for the 5 N to change how we perceive an electric vehicle from behind the wheel. Whether making an EV sound and feel like an internal-combustion engine will win over enthusiasts remains to be seen, but it’s a movement heading in the right direction.