We took the Hyundai IONIQ 5 N on the track at Laguna Seca and it’s something special [Video]

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As Hyundai’s N performance arm approaches the launch of its first-ever track-friendly EV, we got the chance to visit the world-famous Laguna Seca raceway in California to test drive the Hyundai IONIQ 5 N. Be sure to check out the full video review below.

The Hyundai IONIQ 5 N has finally arrived

It’s been nearly two years since we first learned of an N-brand version of the relatively new Hyundai IONIIQ 5 EV when it was featured in a teaser video shared by the Korean automaker during the global premiere of the IONIQ 6.

As the first all-electric Hyundai model to adorn the “N” performance badge, a lot has been leading up to our recent test drive, but the details Hyundai has shared along the way have been quite encouraging.

 First, we saw footage of a camo’d Hyundai IONIQ 5 run at Nürburgring, followed by its official public debut in July 2023 during the Goodwood Festival of Speed. By November, the performance EV model had made its official debut in North America, followed by shared pricing this past March before deliveries began.

While first customers await their own track-capable IONIQ 5 N, Hyundai invited some media out to Monterey, California, to experience the unique EV and its various drive elements where else but Laguna Seca.

Hyundai IONIQ 5 N kicks the door in on EV motorsports

As you’ll see in my first-drive review video below, the Hyundai IONIQ 5 N is more than just an EV that can corner and simulate gear shifts. Its reinforced structure, low profile, and boosted specs compared to the standard crossover make the N model the first true all-electric racing car beyond the 0-60 mph straightaway.

The Hyundai N team was clever in essentially utilizing the same footprint as the original IONIQ 5 but optimizing it for tight maneuvers and aerodynamics. For example, the N model is slightly longer, wider, and lower in height than the original 5, with larger wheels and wider tires (custom Pirelli P ZEROs).

The 5 N features an integrated drive axle, the same as in the Elantra N, which was also available to drive at Laguna Seca on an autocross course. Hyundai N also implemented rack-type motor-driven power steering, which is more rigid. Lastly, the suspension layout is precisely the same as the IONIQ 5, but each component in the new EV variant is entirely unique to the N variant.

N-Brand exclusive components decorate the EV’s exterior, from a new custom front bumper and grille with active air flaps to wheel arches and a rear spoiler that allows air to flow more easily. In true Hyundai fashion, the (speedy) devil is in the little details. The IONIQ 5 N features a unique black aluminum badge, a bright orange racing stripe, and “N” logos throughout.

I loved the subtle nod to the racetrack by implementing checkered flags in unassuming spots like the rear reflectors, door panels, and base frames. If you’ve driven the original IONIQ 5, you won’t notice a massive veer from its interior in the N-version. However, those few changes are quite an upgrade, especially from a racing comfort perspective.

The seats are sportier buckets styled with Alcantara, resembling more of a track car while still offering air conditioning for those whose backs tend to sweat when they’re trying the corkscrew at Laguna Seca for the first time. The center console was also completely redesigned for function and more comfort. By that, we mean it has more cushioning and padding with fewer moving parts, so if your leg keeps bumping it during hot laps, it won’t bother you.

The steering wheel is the centerpiece of the Hyundai IONIQ 5 N’s interior. It provides a comfortable grip and easy access to drive modes and other vehicle functions, such as regenerative braking and N e-Shift.

Navigating Laguna Seca in the Hyundai IONIQ 5 N

Before I took to the famous raceway in California, I got the chance to take the 5 N out in streets around the area and get feel for it… you know, at regular speeds. First impressions were that it was definitely an IONIQ – smooth right, that recognizable EV hum, and excellent i-Pedal regenerative braking.

Once I got out around some curvy roadways, I switched through the 5 N’s drive modes using the new steering buttons. That’s when I first experienced the EV’s N Active Sound+. I recommend checking out my initial reaction in the video below. This feature is wild and never something I thought I’d like, but I truly did.

I did three runs at Laguna Seca in the Hyundai IONIQ 5 N, each consisting of a lead lap behind a professional driver (both of which will be racing up Pike’s Pike for Hyundai this summer), followed by three hot laps.

Each run, we explored a different drive style the IONIQ 5 N had to offer, including N Race mode that enables the use of N Grin Boost for 10 seconds of maximum horsepower, and N e-Shift, where the driver can manually “shift gears” from the steering wheel – both of which are accompanied by the Active Sound+.

I’m admittedly not much of an experienced track driver, so the looming thought of racing around Laguna Seca in someone else’s shiny car had me a little anxious, but as a passenger EV that can essentially double as a track car, the Hyundai IONIQ 5 N was the perfect vessel for me to test drive the famous track, and I was immediately hooked.

I genuinely felt the rear electronic limited-slip differential (e-LSD) and N electronically controlled suspension (ECS) components in the 5 N’s chassis, which helped keep the BEV super sticky around corners while still giving me the freedom to whip that tail end around if I wanted… or a couple of times when I wasn’t trying to (came in a little hot on turn six the first couple runs!)

While I was a fan of the simulated engine noises, I didn’t like N e-Shift and turned it off halfway through the first lap. I could see how a more traditional racing enthusiast could have more fun with this. Still, as a younger person who (don’t kill me) has never driven a manual, I don’t see the need to pretend like you’re switching gears, especially since the car just buzzes at you but doesn’t have a clutch or anything. It also significantly slows the EV down in that mode, pass for me.

By my third run, I had those tires squealing and got to use N Grin Boost a couple of times on straightaways to really feel the full 641 horsepower of the 5 N. I felt like I was in a Fast and Furious race or something, hitting my “NOS” button to break someone’s heart and take their pink slips. I definitely would have kept someone’s Hyundai IONIQ 5 N, that’s for sure.

Specs, pricing, and our video review

Overall, I think the Hyundai IONIQ 5 N is a genuinely superb vehicle. Is it going to be for everyone? Absolutely not. Most consumers will be more than happy with an SEL or Limited version of the standard IONIQ 5 and save a little cash.

However, if you come from the racing world and like cornering and track days, this might be the perfect car for you. You get all the same design features as the award-winning IONIQ 5 (albeit significantly lower range because of all its power – 221 miles), but also a slew of N-specific add-ons included from both a performance and aesthetic level.

Keep in mind that this is still an 800V platform and can recharge 10-80% in just 18 minutes. I personally like that Hyundai is selling the IONIQ 5 N as an all-in-one package model with everything included. It costs $66,100 before taxes and fees and includes everything mentioned above and then some.

At that price, it is Hyundai’s most expensive version of the IONIQ 5 (about $8,500 more than the Limited AWD trim), but that’s still a pretty reasonable price if you compare it to other crossovers on the market – none of which you can actually take to a track and do more than drag race and maybe some autocross.

I’ve never really had any interest in visiting racetracks, let alone driving on them, but now that there’s a viable BEV option that not only looks cool as hell but can also perform, I’m digging it. I finally see what all those combustion fans get so excited about. I feel the IONIQ 5 N is an excellent bridge between both groups of enthusiasts, providing a vehicle that both traditional race fans and clean energy BEV enthusiasts can get excited about together.

This car will definitely have a crowd around it on track days, and I think that’s an awesome idea for the future of electric motorsports. As promised, here’s my video review, including some loud drive footage of the Hyundai IONIQ 5 N at Laguna Seca.

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