By on December 10, 2019

2020 Hyundai Sonata N Line

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.

Hyundai Sonata N Line

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.

Hyundai Sonata N Line

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.

Hyundai Sonata N Line

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]

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27 Comments on “2020 Hyundai Sonata N Line First Drive – Spicy Side Dish...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    @Tim
    I’m no fan of Hyundai DCTs – how was this one?

  • avatar
    JimZ

    I’m not confident the new model will resuscitate sales. Sonata volumes have been in the toilet for a few years now. they’ll be lucky to break 100k this year.

  • avatar
    MorrisGray

    How about a manual transmission please?!!?

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I am happy to see attention given to the sedan segment. I will never be a crossover guy, or a coupe guy, and I really appreciate more options!

  • avatar
    ajla

    I think what the N-badge needs is a pony car on the G70’s platform.

  • avatar
    Mnemic

    You’ll hear of it being quietly cancelled in 2 years

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    It’s sad these days how decent performance is relegated to one high end pricey model all decked out with massive tires and features the average consumer probably doesn’t want. I so miss the days when one could go and order a mid trim level mid size car with a V6 or high output turbo 4. Just a few years ago you could do just that with a 2016 Malibu LT 2.0T or Hyundai Sonata Sport turbo. Naturally those days are gone and the buyer has to go top end just to get the hot engine these days. Just one more thing I hate about today’s cars! I think one can still get an Accord Sport with the 2.0T and 10 speed but they are probably over 30k as well.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Just recently, it seem, I could by a nice-handling Mazda3 for $16K, with blue tooth, MT and 16″ alloy wheels. Now I must buy all that worthless junk and pay 24K… Will keep the old one for as long as possible

    • 0 avatar
      AA610

      I almost pulled the trigger on an Accord Sport 2.0T. They were discounting it to about $27,500, but decided to just keep my car. It is a very nice car, and though it seems pricey for an Accord, the interior is very upscale for an Accord, and it also drives well. I was quite impressed.

  • avatar
    MorrisGray

    … SlaVuta

    Still driving the 2006 Mazda3 5speed sedan I bought new because of that reason!

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      My niece had 2006. I have ’10 and ’11. I am periodically checking for nice 2013 non-skyactiv wagon for sale. Just gonna buy and store damn thing, for the future.

      PS: Must be MT

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Epilogue to this story

    6 post about transmission in general
    2 post about Genesis
    3 posts phrasing old Mazda3
    1 about GM
    1 about Accord
    1 about how manufacturers contenting their cars in general
    1 states it likes sedans – not crossovers
    1 talks about sales
    1 is actually about this car but it says – it will be discontinued soon

    Now, send this data to Hyundai and sleep well

  • avatar
    conundrum

    If this thing is anything like my ’19 Mazda6 2.5 turbo, it will be able to break traction in second at 25 mph with just a deep prod on the gas, not even full throttle. (That’s the extra 500 cc producing low end power compared to wimpy 2.0t’s) Then it’s hang on and try to steer straight. Went through that twice today — good fun. Haven’t been able to burn rubber so easily in any car I’ve ever owned, and there is no lag I can detect compared to the other four turbo cars I’ve owned. Best acceleration from rest means starting in second, or snow mode. It’ll still squeal the tires lightly from rest with a period of really “lost” traction at about 25 to 30 mph. But starting in second means you don’t waste time merely spinning the tires wildly from rest in first, and starting in second means only one shift needed to 60 mph. As Baruth has pointed out on more than one occasion but which is just basic physics, cars with smaller wheels accelerate quicker due to their lower rotational inertia and hence energy needed to get them up to speed as well as the rest of the car, and my model comes with 17 inch wheels whose tire replacement costs are much less than 19 inch rubber. Also they are quieter with less, almost no intrusive tire noise when you’re just cruising at parkway speeds, unlike Accords.

    List price for my car including the usurious $2K shipping fee in Canada is $36K, which is $27K of US fiat-currency bux – it’s a bit cheaper here than the equivalent Accord Sport 2.0t with its dumb 10 speed auto push button with no gear hold provision, and the Mazda comes with an actual superb interior of equal quality furnishings front and rear.

    Why Mazdas cost so much in the US is beyond me. Slavuta could buy the current base manual Mazda3 2.0 for $20K Canadian in the sedan model. Comes with soy bean floor mats and seat coverings. That’s US$15K. However, cheap prices haven’t boosted Mazda sales here – they’re on the same downward spiral as in the US.

    I suppose I’d have looked at this new Sonata N whatever it is if it had been around this past summer, but sticking a turbo on the same basic 2.5 block which Hyundai has had constant trouble with (with what? eleven recalls?) doesn’t thrill me, even if the cylinder head is all new. There was a segment again last week on our national TV about the 2.5 NA GDi motor and its abrupt seizing failures at impossible-to-predict mileage, with Hyundai refusing to admit anything despite a history of recalls and some free replacements for the lucky few. One guy had his new replacement engine die in a month and Hyundai refuses to do anything – he had paid for the original replacement himself because his engine serial number was 10 outside what Hyundai arbitrarily decided they’d cover. Such a trustworthy company.

    The first “story” on these engines was that there was machining swarf left in the block which ate main and connecting rod bearings – that excuse was first trotted out in 2013. Don’t know what excuse they use nowadays. Nor how they decide what block of engine serial numbers might have been negatively affected since then. Not convinced H/K have their quality sh!t together at all, at all. Any old excuse is dredged up so that Hyundai can skip its obligations to honor warranty. Good luck to purchasers.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      you hurt my feeling

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      “Any old excuse is dredged up so that Hyundai can skip its obligations to honor warranty. Good luck to purchasers.”

      People keep saying this, but I’ve owned a Sonata and now a ’15 Genesis with absolutely zero warranty issues, including for some really picky crap on the Genesis.

      The Sonata had a brake vibration at about 25k which they fixed.

      The Gen has had some niggling issues (probably due to its being a very early example of its run); the dealer has redone a sunroof seal (including taking the whole roof out and putting it back), changed a seat heater module, redone all the driver’s door seals twice to try to get rid of some wind noise (as well as sent it to their body shop twice to get looked at – I’ve been a really squeaky wheel), and replaced the steering column (!). The last two were with 56k on the clock and about 4.99 years on the 5-year B2B warranty. Not a single peep from anyone saying something wouldn’t be covered. I bring it in, ask them to do something, get a bill for $0. Every time.

      The last time I brought it in (when they finally expunged the door noise, yay!) they had it for a week, and had my car taken care of by the dedicated Genesis guy and gave me a new G80 for the week even though my car is technically a Hyundai. Oh, and I’m not even the original owner.

      So, either Hyundai’s reputation isn’t well-deserved, or my (tiny!) dealer somehow has a savant who knows how to sweet-talk them. Either way, my experience in terms of willingness to honor warranty work has been superlative with both cars. I would have preferred fewer glitches with the Genesis, but it’s a complex first-year car so I was kinda prepared for that going in; aside from that the thing is just great. Generally speaking my experience with the two cars has shifted me from buying H/K because it was the best I could afford to strongly considering sticking with H/K/Gen even when my finances allow other options. Not a bad trick.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Can’t wait to see results of this motor in the G70 Manual version

    • 0 avatar
      monkeydelmagico

      i like the way you think. Is that actually planned for production with the G70?

      FWD high horsepower is usually a real crapfest. There are a couple notable exceptions like the type-r but it’s mostly bad. The article states no LSD. So either the ABS is going to constantly be grabbing the brakes or the engine management is going to be pulling power. A lot.

  • avatar
    MorrisGray

    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

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