Fire up the Elantra N, and it quickly becomes apparent this car was developed at the Nurburgring. It all starts with the best exhaust note available from any four-cylinder offered today. The cracks and pops emitted by this car are plucked straight from a race car. It’s anyone’s guess how Hyundai was able to sneak that past the regulators.
Once you get past the fabulous exhaust note, the rest of the driving experience doesn’t disappoint. The steering is pinpoint accurate, offering a level of control and feedback that matches the Honda Civic Type R. Whether on the race track or the public road, the Elantra N rewards its driver with constant communication to the wheel. Yes, that sometimes involves a bit of torque steer, since this car sends all its power to the front wheels, but Dr. Biermann explains this is all in an effort to let the driver know what the car is up to at all times. Though the wheel will sometimes stray a bit under hard acceleration, the Elantra N’s clever electronic limited-slip differential helps transmit the power to the ground better than almost any other front-driven car this side of a Golf GTI.
The Elantra N shows how good a FWD platform can be, exhibiting ideal nimbleness for autocross, enough power for the track, and hilarious lift-off oversteer on the road. If you aren’t grinning ear-to-ear driving the Elantra N, that’s your fault, not the car’s.
Complaints? We have a few. The Elantra N is among the best-handling front-drive cars we’ve ever experienced, but we can’t help but wonder how good an AWD model could be with modern tech creating drift modes that make a car feel rear-driven. Another complaint is that, although this car’s motorsport credentials are unquestionable, buyers looking for a daily driver may object to the Elantra N’s stiff suspension. Whether in normal mode or the back-breaking N mode, the electronically-controlled suspension never feels soft. The Civic Type R or Golf GTI both offer a more comfortable experience, if that’s more of a priority.