2020 Hyundai Sonata N Line First Drive - Spicy Side Dish

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
2020 hyundai sonata n line first drive spicy side dish

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]

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3 of 27 comments
  • Cimarron typeR Cimarron typeR on Dec 11, 2019

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

    • Monkeydelmagico Monkeydelmagico on Dec 11, 2019

      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.

  • 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

  • Tassos What was the last time we had any good news from Ford? (or GM for that matter?)The last one was probably when Alan Mulally was CEO. Were you even born back then?Fields was a total disaster, then they go hire this clown from Toyota's PR department, the current Ford CEO, Fart-ley or something.He claims to be an auto enthusiast too (unlike Mary Barra who is even worse, but of course always forgiven, as she is the proud owner of a set of female genitals.
  • Tassos I know some would want to own a collectible Mustang. (sure as hell not me. This crappy 'secretary's car' (that was exactly its intended buying demo) was as sophisticated (transl. : CRUDE) as the FLintstone's mobile. Solid Real Axle? Are you effing kidding me?There is a huge number of these around, so they are neither expensive nor valuable.WHen it came out, it was $2,000 or so new. A colleague bought a recent one with the stupid Ecoboost which also promised good fuel economy. He drives a hard bargain and spends time shopping and I remember he paid $37k ( the fool only bought domestic crap, but luckily he is good with his hands and can fix lots of stuff on them).He told me that the alleged fuel economy is obtained only if you drive it like a VERY old lady. WHich defeats the purpose, of course, you might as well buy a used Toyota Yaris (not even a Corolla).
  • MRF 95 T-Bird Back when the Corolla consisted of a wide range of body styles. This wagon, both four door and two door sedans, a shooting brake like three door hatch as well as a sports coupe hatchback. All of which were on the popular cars on the road where I resided.
  • Wjtinfwb Jeez... I've got 3 Ford's and have been a defender due to my overall good experiences but this is getting hard to defend. Thinking the product durability testing that used to take months to rack up 100k miles or more is being replaced with computer simulations that just aren't causing these real-world issues to pop up. More time at the proving ground please...
  • Wjtinfwb Looks like Mazda put more effort into sprucing up a moribund product than Chevy did with the soon to be euthanized '24 Camaro.