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Hyundai Ioniq 5 N Drive Review : Naughty and Nice

David Khoo
David Khoo • 9 min read
Hyundai Ioniq 5 N Drive Review : Naughty and Nice
Hyundai Ioniq 5 N / PHOTOS BY Hyundai
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When it comes to carving up corners, the Hyundai Ioniq 5N makes you go nom-nom-nom!

Taean, Korea - At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man shaking my fist at technology, I should own up to my proclivity for classic and youngtimer cars, especially compared to most new electrified offerings.

Even machines up to the early 2010s were capable of delivering the sort of visceral driving engagement we petrolheads hold so dear.

All this should only serve to highlight how out-of-character it is for me to be extolling the virtues of an EV like the Ioniq 5 N!

See also: We drive the Ferrari 365 GTB4 around the Fiorano Circuit with Ferrari Classiche

Most older cars have minimal electronics (some have next to none) and precious little customisation programmes.

This means one has to drive the cars as the engineers intended, frisky fun, foibles and all, which add immeasurably to that sense of profound satisfaction when you’re able to hustle it with some speed.

See also: Here's a look at the eclectic car culture scene in Singapore

Don’t get me wrong, cars don’t have to be fast to be fun, because it’s all in the emotional element, as opposed to hard empirical statistics… such as click-baity 0-100km/h times for instance.

Sure, EVs are fast, but that’s the nature of electricity – you press, it goes. However, like flipping a light switch on/off, this novelty can wear off rather quickly.

Moreover, enthusiasts of a certain vintage feel that if there’s no sound and no smell, there’s no point either…

After all, when you’re addicted to such a primal flavour of analogue feel, it’s hard to embrace the average EV’s new-normal of sanitised, sterile speed that comes with an easy stomp-and-spurt.

See also: Touring the Ferrari Classiche "Workshop of Wonders"

We’re used to certain evocative triggers when we’re pressing hard, such as line-of-sight, the seat-of-pants thrill from the shift shock of working your way up and down the gears, the car’s rhythmic movement as you’re getting jiggy with it, as well the sound from the rise and fall of the engine note – all of which the Ioniq 5 N delivers in spades!

All these serve as action/reaction cues when you’re carving your way through the circuit and trust us when we tell you the Ioniq 5 N has a voracious appetite for lateral gs!

What can we say? Petrolheads enjoy the labour of love that goes into driving a mechanical machine properly, because nothing that comes easy is ever worth having.

It isn’t surprising some folks find it hard to regard EVs as anything other than white goods appliances for A-to-B transport.

This is why encountering something as soulful as the Ioniq 5 N really hits different, especially since its drive experience is as hearty as a steaming hot pot of gamjatang on a cold night.

Furthermore, you don't necessarily have to buy into all that jazz about EVs being green and good for the environment, produce zero emissions and so on.

These are rather contentious points, especially if you factor in power source, rare earth mining and end-of-life disposal of hardware.

As a driving enthusiast, an EV's appeal to me is much simpler: instant torque and brake-regen, particularly if the latter has been tuned to deliver incisive handling characteristics!

“N” is to Hyundai what “M” and “AMG” are to BMW and Mercedes-Benz respectively.

In other words, it is the Korean brand’s performance division and named after Namyang in Korea, Hyundai’s global R & D centre – the N models are honed at the other big “N” too, the Nürburgring Nordschleife.

The first N model to rock the world in 2016 was the i30 N, and the brand has clearly gone from strength to strength, especially if the Ioniq 5 N and Elantra N / Avante N are anything to go by.

We’re to experience the pair in their dynamic glory at the Hyundai Motor Group Driving Experience Center in Taean, which is headquartered in Hankook’s sprawling 1,260,000 square-metres “Technoring” proving ground located on the west coast of Korea.

In addition to a complete circuit, it has individual dynamic courses on which to exploit the different aspects of a car’s handling traits.

This is the sort of ‘safe space’ we enjoy – a petrolhead’s nirvana if you will – where the only whining and sounds of protest you’ll hear are coming from the powertrain and tyres, as opposed to one of those woke, whinging types.

We’ve always liked the Ioniq 5’s retro-inspired design, especially since it has hints of our wallpaper hero, the Lancia Delta Integrale rally homologation special.

In N guise though, our fave crossover gets edgier looks, with active aero and functional elements that give it the show to accompany its newfound go.

It sits on 800V underpinnings and boasts a 84.0kWh battery at its heart, with dual motors producing a rousing 609hp and 740Nm.

However, engaging the “N Grin Boost (or NGB)'' mode gives you a temporary 10sec hit to the tune of 650hp and 770Nm – great for overtaking on B-roads or reeling-in slower moving vehicles on race-track straights.

We’re not easily wowed by 0-100km/h times (3.4secs with NGB) and top speeds (260km/h), because the magic should be in how a car engages you when you’re driving it hard.

And it’s clear the N boffins agree, because at the present time, the Ioniq 5 N could possibly be peak EV for us ICE-loving petrolheads!

The guys at N are clearly petrolheads who are very passionate about driving, with the 5 N featuring “easter egg” minutiae, such as a quivering rev needle when it hits the redline in manual-shift mode for instance.

Besides, judging by how engaged and enthralled we felt pushing the Ioniq 5 N hard around the dynamic courses and feeling it dance and rotate at the behest of our hands and feet, it’s evident the same things that matter to us matter to them too!

Of course, if you’re an EV or tech purist, the very notion of introducing “inefficiencies” into the EV driving equation seems anathema. 

For instance, the Ioniq 5 N features virtual gear-shifts (“N e-Shift” emulates the behaviour of an ICE N model’s 8spd dual-clutch gearbox) and a synthesised soundtrack (via “N Active Sound+”).

However, all these add to the theatre of the driving occasion for us petrolheads, especially at the helm of something as special and as dramatic as the Ioniq 5 N.

They connect man to machine in a covenant as old as time – well, since the invention of the wheel at the very least!

All the touch points in the car only serve to amplify the fast and furious festivities, with customisable drive features that are designed to appeal to old-school petrolheads and more importantly, put a big grin on our faces.

The leather/Alcantara cabin, chunky sports steering wheel and snug sports seats create the perfect operating environment for the passionate driver committed to the Art of Driving.

You’re certainly more than welcome to explore your tyre-shredding creativity as you use the Pirelli rubber as a paintbrush to lay down “Cybersigil” squiggles on the tarmac as you live out your daily-drift fantasies with “N Drift Optimizer” engaged.

The Ioniq 5 N also deploys an EV’s brake regen system as a dynamic feature.

Its “N Brake Regen” can deliver a decelerative force of 0.6g, which is seamlessly augmented by the hydraulic brakes to avoid brake-fade during repeated heavy braking on a track in the 2.2-tonne car.

The veritable lexicon of acronyms seems gimmicky and can boggle the mind, but just appreciate that the e-LSD, “N Torque Distribution (or NTD)”, N Pedal, “N Grin Boost (NGB)”, “N Race” and “Left Foot Braking” all serve the driver in the quest of extracting even more fun from the Ioniq 5 N.

The average EV owner tends to bandy about 0-100km/h stats as though they are the be-all-end-all to electric cars.

The 5 N will hold its own in a straight-line, but we’re more enamoured by how it stands above the rest in its segment as a credible corner carving instrument that is agile and genuinely engaging to drive, yet can toddle down to the shops on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

At time of writing, if we had to hazard a guess, we reckon the Ioniq 5 N will nudge S$360k in Singapore when it arrives Q4 2024, with an estimated S$7k a year going to the government coffers in the form of road tax.

To put this in ICE perspective, a nat-asp 5.2-litre V10-engined Lamborghini Huracan STO's road tax for a year tallies up to S$5,834.

With the additional weld-points, torsional rigidity feels properly taut and there’s ample grip from the sticky Pirelli tyres. Best of all, it can be driven as sticky or as slippery as you like, which really shakes and stirs this petrolhead in a good way.

Naysayers will pooh-pooh the Ioniq 5 N, and decry it for play-pretending at being an ICE vehicle, but as my favourite quote from Westworld goes, “If you can’t tell the difference, does it matter?”

Furthermore, we’re possibly approaching a time where ICE may melt and evaporate, as it makes way for even more electrified vehicles.

This makes the special ones like the Ioniq 5 N even more crucial for those of us who still remember what it feels like to feel about driving… and should also prove a nostalgic curiosity for those who can’t – much like the look of printed material on e-readers, the warm sounds of LP records and film emulators in a digital age.

PHOTOS BY Hyundai

HYUNDAI IONIQ 5 N
Battery 84.0kWh, 800V
Maximum Power 609hp (650hp with NGB)
Maximum Torque 740Nm (770Nm with NGB)
Transmission Single-stage reduction
0-100km/h 3.5secs (3.4secs with NGB)
Top Speed 260km/h
WLTP range (combined) est. 448km
Kerbweight est. 2.2-tonnes
Estimated Arrival Q4 2024 in Singapore

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