2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line priced for a sports sedan surprise

Hyundai has priced up its most potent Sonata, with the 2021 Sonata N Line set to take its place as the performance flagship of the range completely with a special 2.5-liter turbocharged engine. Latest to join the N Brand range – Hyundai's badging for its performance-minded cars – the sedan promises 290 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque, along with an unexpectedly aggressive price tag.

The four-cylinder engine is paired with a new, N Brand eight-speed wet dual-clutch transmission – the N DCT – dropped into the Sonata SEL Plus trim. It adds not only a turbocharger but a different cylinder head, with an integrated exhaust manifold, a split cooling and cross flow cooling system, and an eCVVT driven by a DC motor.

It takes the normally-aspirated 2.5-liter engine from its standard 191 hp all the way to 290 hp, with peak torque hitting between 1,650 and 4,000 rpm. As for the transmission, that has a newly optimized eight-speed layout, and taps oil for lubrication and cooling rather than a dry DCT setup. It's similar, Hyundai promises, to the gearbox in the 2021 Veloster N, which is no bad thing, and offers both manual and fully-automatic modes.

Along with all that there's new programming, done with performance in mind. N Power Shift (NPS), for example, kicks in automatically when you hit the accelerator past 90-percent. It avoids torque reduction, Hyundai says, in how it uses upshifts so as to mitigate the pauses as the gearbox works. Rev Matching and Launch Control are onboard, too.

Sensors through the car allow it to track when you're cornering aggressively, and then hold lower gears longer for perkier acceleration out of the turns. Or, it'll push further into the rev range for straight-line speed. Tweaks to the system can be made through the 10.25-inch infotainment screen, Hyundai says. Similarly, the graphics on the 12.3-inch digital instrumentation cluster change according to whether you're in Normal, Sport, Sport+, or Custom drive modes.

When it comes to slowing, there are larger 13.6-inch front and 12.8-inch rear brakes. N Line tuned shocks with mono tube dampeners promise better road-holding, while new chassis bushings are more rigid. Forward collision avoidance assistance with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control with lane keeping and lane follow assistance, blind-spot collision avoidance assistance with rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assistance, and safety exit warnings are standard, too.

To the regular Sonata SEL Plus, the N Line adds a special body kit: that has a deeper front fascia and doubles up on the exhaust outlets for a total of four. There are special 19-inch alloy wheels – shod in 245/40 R19 all-season tires or optional 245/40 R19 summer tires – and a rear spoiler. The side mirrors are finished in gloss black, with matching window surrounds, and there are full LED taillights.

Inside, there's a panoramic sunroof and special sport seats. N Brand red contrast stitching is standard, with Nappa leather bolsters and Dinamica suede inserts; the N Sport wheel is wrapped in leather, too. Hyundai adds wireless phone charging, aluminum pedals, keyless entry and push-button start, LED ambient lighting, an auto-dimming mirror, and second row air vents, too. Hyundai's Digital Key allows you to unlock and start the 2021 Sonata N Line from your phone – or share virtual keys with others – without needing the regular fob.

Pricing for the 2021 Sonata N Line kicks off at the unexpectedly-competitive $33,200 (plus $995 destination), actually less than you'd pay for a less-powerful Sonata Limited. You'll pay $200 on top of that for the summer rubber. Hyundai says the sedan should arrive in US dealerships from this month.