An engaging, fun and rapid performance electric car with driver involvement at its core. Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 N cracks the toughest nut by delivering an EV petrolheads should love.
History should be kind to the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N. It deserves to be recognised as the first EV brought to market where pure driver engagement goes hand-in-hand with the bonkers performance commonly offered by some battery electric cars.
Many of you reading this will be just like me. You love petrol-burning sports and performance cars and are horrified in a few short years they may be consigned to history. The noise, vibration and smell of a cooking combustion engine has no equal: especially not from these electric vacuum cleaners on wheels.
But something’s changed. Hyundai’s long recognised that ballistic acceleration alone does not a ‘sports’ car make.
EVs such as the Tesla Model 3 Performance may beat all-comers at the drag strip, hill climb or – possibly – over a single flying track lap, but true emotional involvement – the stuff drivers of Porsche 911s, Lotus Elises and hot hatches go gooey over – simply isn’t there.
Slinging an ‘N’ badge on anything electric wasn’t going to be taken lightly. But now Hyundai has and it’s for the in-demand retro-delight Ioniq 5.
“Driving still matters,” says Till Wartenberg, head of Hyundai N, as we were given our first taste of this $111,000 (about $120,000 drive away) hyper hatch/SUV Ioniq 5 N, simultaneously the most expensive and most powerful Hyundai ever sold in Australia.
“Whatever the technology, it has to be fun to drive,” he explained. “It has to follow the character and philosophy of ‘N’… control, fun, and interaction between vehicle and human in a way that hasn’t been there before (in an EV) at a price point that’s accessible.”
And this is a technology masterclass. Hyundai and the Ioniq 5 N make no secret that the driver involvement side of this car relies heavily on, well, make-believe.
The car makes a soulful, addictive (fake) engine note, simulates the jolty gear changes of an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission (using fakery) while pretending to bounce off an 8000rpm rev limiter, and there’s even a (fake) clutch kick when you go playing in N Drift Optimiser mode.
It all sounds horribly Real Housewives levels of artifice, but good grief Hyundai’s engineers – including executive technical adviser and former BMW M Division boss Albert Biermann – have performed miracles here.
One spirited road or track drive of this all-wheel-drive electric weapon and you tend to forget about the fakery and simply enjoy a riot of an involving drive experience.
Better than a petrol supercar? No. It’s a different experience, but damn good fun and rewarding in its own right. And despite the doubters, it’s proof that petrol and EV drive enjoyment can co-exist.
There’s a sole Ioniq 5 N variant from launch (which is imminent), costing $111,000 plus on-roads. Only options are a Vision Roof (panoramic glass) for $2000 and matte paint for $1000.
The first batch went on sale for a 12-hour window in September, and 126 orders were taken, with these deliveries expected early in the new year.
Yes, there’s a phenomenal amount of hardware, software and engineering genius here, but that’s a lot of coin. It’s $61,800 more than Hyundai asks for its superb i30 N Premium hot hatch, and $26,000 over the Hyundai Ioniq 5 AWD Epiq.
Closest rival Kia EV6 GT is cheaper at $99,590, while the almost as rapid Tesla Model Y Performance is less again at $91,400 plus charges. But, hey, a Porsche Taycan GTS is $248,300 and isn’t as much fun on a track.
We’re yet to receive confirmation of the Ioniq 5 N’s full specification, but here are the key knowns:
Blessedly, no annoying digital mirrors have found their way onto the Ioniq 5 N, despite their aerodynamic benefit.
Colour choices are Performance Blue Matte, Performance Blue, Abyss Black, Cyber Grey, Ecotronic Grey, Atlas White Matte, Atlas White, Gravity Gold Matte and Soultronic Orange.
It drives like no other EV, basically…and in a bloody brilliant, exciting, visceral experience kind of way.
There’s true engagement – even if much of it is wrapped in synthetic delivery – that finds the driving enthusiast’s happy place. Here, finally, is an EV you’ll get out of bed early for, to just go and drive for the sake of driving.
But it won’t be for everyone. You don’t just hop in an Ioniq 5 N like you would, say, a Caterham or early Subaru WRX and embrace driving purity.
This hi-po Hyundai is one for those who love delving into the minutiae of custom settings, tuning, fettling, adjusting… It reminds me of elite sim racers who expertly modify their cars to F1-like levels.
We were given a mere five laps of Korea’s Yeongam Grand Prix circuit to test the Ioniq 5 N in anger. An instructor riding shotgun would change a key setting/drive mode each lap to try to have us experience its range of personalities.
Of course, it wasn’t enough time – you’d need a full day at the track to sample and tweak all the settings.
Biggest shock is how successful the N e-Shift is. Put the shoe in and the acceleration is extraordinary, and you hear fake revs build – and see them in your driver display – compelling you to up-shift as you reach 8000rpm.
If you leave the steering wheel paddleshifters alone it’ll bounce off a pretend limiter and arrest your acceleration, just like a petrol car.
As you upshift there’s a simulated forward-pushing jolt – it’s really quite pronounced in N mode – and is totally convincing as a proper eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
Key to the experience is the N Active Sound + working in unison. There’s a weird ‘Evolution’ cartoon-like EV sound, or a jet-like ‘Supersonic’ noise choice, but both should be left well alone. An ‘Ignition’ sound brilliantly replicates a racing four-cylinder petrol engine – you know it’s fake, but inside a helmet at flat chat you seriously don’t notice or care.
There are eight internal and two external speakers funnelling the sounds, and the brains use RPM, speed and torque data to make it feel so authentic. As a bonus, on downshifts you get a little engine blip and popping backfires too.
There are five different drive modes – Eco, Normal, Sport, N and N1/N2 individual settings. Each alters your motor, steering, adjustable suspension, stability control and the electronic LSD to suit, while you can go full custom in the N1/N2 modes to set up exactly how you’d like. Tailoring each to suit different race tracks will see N-thusiasts get very busy on the forums.
Another cool aspect is going into the touchscreen and playing around with N Torque Distribution. There are 11 different selectable fore-aft steps, front full-front to full-rear drive, as well as a neat 50-50 torque split.
Although our time testing this was limited, the difference when sending all torque rearwards was revelatory. Like a tap being turned on, there you are with an oversteery, tail-happy rear drive monster. It feels like a totally different car.
You must also get your head around the N Pedal. This alters regen braking in three different levels, with the maximum setting delivering an eyeball-bulging 0.6G of deceleration.
Yep, that’s regen alone, no brakes involved. You seriously dive into corners on throttle lift-off alone, meaning, phenomenally, you can lap a track with one pedal driving and still at mad speeds.
Yes, N Pedal takes getting used to, but if you pair it with awakening the giant front 400mm rotors, braking performance is incredible. The last of the late-brakers? You bet.
Now, the performance. The steering wheel has a red button marked ‘N Grin Button’. That’s a bit cheesy, but this gives you ten seconds of extra power and torque, and used with launch control sees the N rocket hit 100km/h in only 3.4 seconds.
It’s so quick… Lamborghini Huracan quick. Unsurprising, really, when there’s 478kW (which is akin to a Porsche 911 Turbo S) and 770Nm, all-wheel-drive and enough clever electronics going on to blow your mind.
“The challenge has been making a 2.2-tonne elephant dance,” said Albert Biermann, and good grief they’ve done so. It genuinely feels nothing like that sort of mass when pinning it through fast turns.
There’s enough body roll to help on the feedback front; steering feel is direct and brilliantly responsive in N mode, and it’s lovely to feel the rear start to rotate in a well communicated manner as you come off the power into turns. Make no mistake, this is a fun, involving and totally rapid performance tool.
I know what you’re thinking: it’s an EV so after five laps we’ll be heading for the charging station. Not so. There’s smart cooling and advanced battery thermal management because Hyundai refused to put an N badge on this thing without it being track usable.
An ‘Endurance’ mode is there if you want to slightly reduce maximum output and increase range, and we’re promised it’ll lap the Nürburgring twice (42km) at sub-eight-minute pace without performance loss. Manage that and, trust me, you’ll want a break.
The idea is that with its fast-charging capabilities you can go out for a 20-minute track session, come in and fast charge for another 20 minutes, then you’re back out again. Nothing unusual there for a typical track day…though we’re just relying on tracks installing chargers.
We were offered more time trying to use the car’s Drift Optimiser on a too-wet skid pan, with limited success. But Albert Biermann made it clear this isn’t a drift car. I’d agree. It’s at its best let loose on the circuit.
The three pillars of ‘N’ are these cars having racetrack capability – tick – being a ‘corner rascal’ – big tick – while also serving well enough as an everyday sportscar.
With such talent for the first two, I was expecting the latter to be a serious stretch. Again, it’s a surprise. After driving the Ioniq 5 N through the city, over back roads and then a 400km highway blast – with four adults on board – it proved easier to live with than any other N car I’ve tested.
Its suspension is 20mm lower than a normal Ioniq 5, and massive 21-inch wheels with skinny 275/35R21 Pirelli P-Zero rubber should mean a spine smashing trip. But its adjustable suspension works wonders and offers impressive compliance, soaking up road hits better than most hot hatches you can buy. It’s no plush executive sedan, but it’s tolerable as a daily driver.
You can switch everything to Eco or Normal and silent cruising’s order of the day, while throttle and steering are nicely calibrated for a stress-free, easy drive.
The Ioniq 5 N certainly is quite the chameleon.
We performance car fans are suckers for an Alcantara steering wheel. There’s nothing like wrapping your hands around this material to suggest you’re in a car with serious intent. Okay, it may be worn away after a few years of red-misted use, but it’s totally worth it.
The steering wheel has the N badge prominent in view, and there’s information overload with all those buttons and digital screens behind.
But it remains Hyundai-clever in terms of layout and easy access to main controls, including the brace of 12.3-inch screens in a panoramic one-piece, plus touch panels for the climate control.
Seating drops pleasingly low and are proper buckets with Alcantara inlays. Kudos to Hyundai for fitting knee pads and shin supports for when you’re track hustling – a huge improvement over smashing limbs on hard plastic interior trim.
Being an EV, Hyundai insisted on sustainable cabin materials. That includes recyclable paperette door decorative garnish (it’s a big panel slab), with other trim made from sugarcane, recycled plastic bottles and recycled tyre pigment paint.
There’s enough soft touch surfaces, but some elements feel too cheap for a $111,000 vehicle.
There’s wireless phone charging, ample storage and USB-C ports, but wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto stubbornly remains. This thing accepts over-the-air updates, so hopefully wireless smartphone mirroring won’t be far away.
I reckon all Ioniq 5s are solid family EVs due to the surprising interior space. The 3000mm wheelbase (larger than a Hyundai Palisade’s) equals vast rear leg room, even for 180cm tall adults. Our test car had the optional glass roof though, even then, head room was more than ample.
Rear seats are also Alcantara trimmed, comfortably wide and reclinable. Even the middle rear seat is tolerable for tall adults without bashing heads, although it is firm.
Our test car had heated and ventilated front seats, which we’d imagine will carry over into Australian Ioniq 5 Ns, but as mentioned, we’re yet to learn the full specification.
The boot, being a hatchback, is also eminently practical, and appears the same or close to the 527L offered in a normal AWD Ioniq 5.
No official ANCAP rating for the Ioniq 5 N as yet, but the normal Ioniq 5 scored a maximum five star rating in 2021. It achieved 88 percent for adult occupant protection, 87 percent for child occupant protection, 63 percent for vulnerable road user protection and 89 percent for safety assist.
As with other Ioniq 5s, the N version scores Hyundai’s SmartSense as standard.
This includes auto emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, junction assist, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot warning, lane keep assist, side evasive assist and radar cruise control.
Hyundai has also bundled in a driver attention warning, lead-vehicle departure alert, lane-following assist, safe exit assist, front and rear parking sensors and a 3D surround-view monitor.
Brakes alone make this a vehicle that’s on your side if you want to avoid accidents in a hurry. Braking performance – led by the 400mm front rotors – is mighty and highly effective.
There’s no official energy consumption figure released yet, but early indications suggest a 448km (WLTP) range from the 84kWh battery, or 18.8kWh/100km. Incredibly, that would best the Ioniq 5 AWD Epiq’s 19.1kWh/100km.
Our 170km on-road test returned 23.2kWh/100km. Considering our propensity to flex the right foot, and the temperature being in single digits for our Korean test, economy is nowhere near as painful as owning a performance petrol car with such capabilities.
That said, the efficiency king Tesla manages 14.6kWh/100km (WLTP) in its hyper-rapid Model Y Performance. That said, our test proved a circa-400km real-world range looks achievable.
Your recharging bills will, of course, depend on where and how you charge. If you’ve got home or work solar your costs can be next to nothing. Otherwise, the cost to fill the battery depends on what the electricity company charges you at home, or what public chargers sting you for.
Positively, not much else can charge as rapidly as an Ioniq 5 N at an ultra -apid public DC charger. Its 800-volt battery pack and quoted 350kW peak DC charge speed sees Hyundai claim a 10 percent to 80 percent charge in 18 minutes.
If home charging, be aware this is one big battery, so you’ll really need a home wallbox to speed things up.
Factor in paying extra for a single-phase or three-phase home wallbox charger (around $1000 plus installation) and a V2L connector if needed – Hyundai hasn’t yet announced what charging accoutrements will come with the Ioniq 5 N.
There’s the usual five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty – including Hyundai’s excellent initiative for covering you for non-timed track use too – plus there’s an eight-year battery warranty.
Service prices are also unknown for now. A normal Ioniq 5 AWD requires servicing every two years or 30,000km. First and third services are $570, while the second is a chunkier $1090.
Expect the Ioniq 5 N to cost similar, and it’ll be interesting to see if it requires checks annually, given that this is a more performance-orientated offering.
The Ioniq 5 N is something special. It’s the first of hopefully many more EVs that have driver engagement at their core. It’s hard to think other performance EV makers aren’t watching closely and will now follow suit.
The engine noise, the gear shifts, the jolts and the pops may be artificial, but trust me, you really won’t care. This is an engineering and technology masterclass that has created the first properly involving performance EV.
I’ve taken some convincing, but this Ioniq 5 N is an encouraging, heartening step forward for driving enthusiasts. Hyundai believes there’s nothing else like this available in the EV marketplace, and it’s hard to disagree.
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Hyundai Ioniq 5: 135 new cars for Australia to be sold online on August 10, including cheaper Dynamiq RWD
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