2020 Hyundai Sonata N Line First Drive - Spicy Side Dish

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

We all have that one friend who puts Tabasco sauce on everything. Even foods that aren’t meant to be spicy are doused – this person has to give their food a kick.

Hyundai’s 2020 Sonata N Line is sort of the midsize sedan equivalent of that.

I flew to Arizona to test the redesigned 2020 Hyundai Sonata, and while there I got a surprise – I’d be driving an N Line prototype part of the way back to the hotel from lunch.

(Full disclosure: Hyundai flew me to Scottsdale, Arizona and paid for my room and board so that I could drive the new Sonata and Sonata N Line. They offered sunglasses, which I did not take.)

There’s a difference between N Line and N models at Hyundai. N versions are supposed to be full-zoot, high-performance models while N-Line cars are meant to be spiced-up versions of mainstream models. In other words – if the cars were labeled the way wing joints name the variations of their chicken, the mainstream car would be labeled mild, the N-Line car spicy, and the N car atomic.

Powered by a 2.5-liter turbocharged gasoline direct-injection four-cylinder that makes an estimated 290 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, the N Line is meant to spice up the somewhat sedate Sonata. Company reps confirmed that a full N Sonata is not in the works.

Other than the engine, the N-Line’s goodies include an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, quad exhaust tips, wider 19-inch wheels, a stiffer suspension, and active torque vectoring. Continental summer tires or Pirelli all-seasons are the rubber choices, and the car is slightly lower than the regular Sonata. There’s no limited-slip differential, and like the regular Sonata, the N Line is front-wheel-drive only. Stronger brakes will be part of the package.

The drive modes are a bit different: drivers choose from Sport, Sport +, Custom, and Normal.

On the road, the extra power was immediately noticeable – which is a development as surprising as the sun rising in the east. Sport and Sport + modes make the car feel even more responsive, at least in terms of acceleration. My drive partner did light the wheels up nicely pulling away from a stoplight, so the extra kick from the 2.5T is appreciated.

Ride and handling aren’t dramatically different than what’s on tap in the regular Sonata. The ride is, of course, firmer with the stiffer suspension, but not so much that it feels like a major sacrifice. This makes sense – the N Line is meant to make the Sonata quicker and more responsive, but it’s not meant to increase performance so much that there’s no compromise between comfort and fun. The Sonata is a midsize sedan, and even when hopped up, it’s still expected to provide the kind of ride that makes day trips pleasant.

Road noise increased a tad over the regular car.

The interior didn’t change much, save for some Korea-market-specific switchgear, gauges set to the metric system, and cloth seats with N Line badging and more bolstering. With the car being a prototype, it’s possible a lot of minor details will be different when the car officially goes on sale next fall.

Outside, there will be more-aggressive styling and a body kit, but the camo on the car I drove kept everything under wraps, quite literally.

Pricing hasn’t yet been announced for the N Line, nor has fuel economy been finalized.

If you want a full N Sonata, well, this is as close as you’ll get. You’ll get slightly better handling, slightly worse ride and slightly more noise, and a whole bunch more power.

That last item alone might be worth the cost of entry, whatever that ends up being.

[Images © 2019 Tim Healey/TTAC]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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  • MorrisGray MorrisGray on Jan 09, 2020

    Not sure about what you meant, but just to be clear, the G70 is rear wheel drive. I don't know about a limited slip differential but it is not a front wheel drive car. And most dealers do not have one in stock around me..... NW GA / Chattanooga, TN area

  • Todd Kranz Todd Kranz on Mar 30, 2024

    Motors are junk!!!

  • Glennbk Please Mitsubishi, no more rebranded Nissan products.
  • Wolfwagen What I never see when they talk about electric trucks is how much do these things weigh and how much does that detract from the cargo-carrying capacity?
  • Wolfwagen I dont know how good the Triton is but if they could get it over here around the $25K - $30K They would probably sell like hotcakes. Make a stripped down version for fleet sales would also help
  • 3SpeedAutomatic You mentioned that Mitsubishi cars had lost their character. Many brands are losing that that element as well. GM is giving up on the ICE Camaro and Dodge on the ICE Challenger. There goes the Bad Boy image. Might as well get your teeth pulled and dentures put in place. Would like to see a few EVOs with cherry bomb exhaust and true 4 cylinder BIG blower turbos; 4 wheel drift capacity is mandatory!!🚗🚗🚗
  • Tassos Here in my overseas summer palace, I filled up my tank twice in May, at 68 and 52 euros (a full 90+ liter tank fillup has taken 130-135 Euros in the past, and I am 23 miles from downtown here, while only 1-2 miles in the US)Still, diesel here is MUCH cheaper than gas. Yesterday, I paid 1,488 a liter while gas was at least 1,899 (regular).Multiply by almost 4 for gallons AND by an additional 1.1 for $.