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Car Review

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N review

Published: 29 Nov 2023


What is it like to drive?

How quick is it?

No doubt the video sites will be populated with drag races of this and rival EVs, or even petrol supercars. Frankly we don't care. Straight-line speed is immense, possibly not as immense as some, but point is it pales besides this car's other talents.

Anyway, it's 609bhp unless you press the 'NGB' (N grin boost, honestly) button on the steering wheel, which unlocks another 41bhp for a few seconds to take it to 650. You can't have that power all the time because it'd overheat, but anyway it's less than seven per cent extra.

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So… precondition the battery temp using another screen setting. Press the NGB. Deploy the simply accessed launch control. Then you have 0-62mph runs of 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 161mph.

That's with both motors on full alert. You can also change the front-rear torque bias, but with independent motors this is a different thing from doing it on a petrol car with centre diff. All you're doing here is staunching the motor at the opposite end to the one you're favouring, so you get less power overall.

That acceleration is becoming EV-normal. What about the handling?

It's hard to talk about the handling without mentioning the simulated gearshifts and noises, because they bring your extra senses into play, and fun is about sensation.

You have two N buttons on the steering wheel. I've got one configured for N custom mode, the other for something called N e-shift. My N custom mode has sport accelerator, heaviest steering, sport torque distribution on the rear e-diff, and ESC in its middle setting. So far so orthodox – it could be a Golf R.

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N e-shift is anything but orthodox. It simulates a paddleshift gearbox. You even get a rev-counter, redlined at 8,000, an arbitrarily chosen number. Blip the throttle when stopped in neutral and the 'revs' rise (they don't; actually the motors are still).

Head off in 'first' and acceleration is ballistic, but when the tacho hits the red you hit a wall of 'rev limiter'. Shift to 'second': acceleration drops slightly but you can go faster. So on up through the 'gears'. So you use them just like you normally would: go to the red-line in each for maximum acceleration – and it's epic.

Or short-shift if the road looks a bit slippery. Shift down on the way into a corner for extra engine braking. The whole effect is brilliantly realistic and involving, even if it isn't strictly the fastest way of getting about because just after the gearshifts it limits your torque until the 'revs' climb again.

The separately switchable N Active Sound simulates an engine noise. Sound generators are usually rubbishy out-of-phase gimmicks that you switch off after a mile. This is brilliant, utterly in sync with your foot position and 'gear'. The 'engine' goes the gamut, changing tone with your foot position and pitch with 'revs', using all the speakers to simulate induction noise in front and exhaust behind.

Compared with any other EV, these sound and shifting effects give you critical extra dimensions in control of, and perception of, your speed and acceleration. It isn't only super-involving, it helps you drive better.

But even without this, the handling is terrific. In tight roads the Ioniq 5 N seems to shed about 400kg. It sniffs into a tight bend as keenly as a sports car should, using an e-diff, plus front-rear vectoring of torque and regeneration, to remarkable advantage.

Traction is stout as you like, yet it'll tuck in its nose if you lift, or depart the apex with a nifty little loosening of the tail under power. In quicker bends, it's properly locked on. All the time you know just what's happening.

Or you can instead opt for N pedal, although note it's incompatible with the 'gears' function.  It calls up extreme and vectored regenerative braking to swing it even more sharply towards the apex. On a track, it means you can do a swiftish lap without touching the brake pedal at all.

With the dampers in the most tensed setting, the 5 N controls its body and puts an iron resolution into the cornering. The limit is friendly and the wheel and accelerator give you options to trim the line. OK, you sense a little gummy squirm from the tyres on track – given the weight and power, they're being given an unconscionable amount to do. And no, it isn't supercar-fast round a lap. But it's colossal fun.

We ought to mention N Drift Control, even though it's hard to find a use for it. It chucks the tail out with the back motor, then brings in the ESP and front motor to hold the angle. Well, so they say. In a wet empty car park it still has frankly too much power and a load of rotational inertia, so once a spin begins it's already beyond me to stop it. And they admit that drifting in the dry is an extremely short cut to rooted tyres.

Variants We Have Tested

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