Auto review: Flat out in the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N electric track rat

Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Business News

LAGUNA SECA, California — Out of slow, 90-degree Turn 11 onto the Laguna Seca Raceway’s pit straight, my 2025 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N performance SUV instantly put down 545 pounds of torque and 601 horsepower to all four fat Pirelli P Zero performance tires. No downshift to second gear. No turbo lag. Just pure thrust. Zot! Seconds later, the EV crested the hill into Turn One at 120 mph.

Welcome to the electric track car.

The Ioniq 5 N hot hatch is the first track-focused EV from a major manufacturer, and it is a marvel. Despite its 4,900-pound girth — 60% more than a Volkswagen Golf R hot hatch — Hyundai pro test drivers here were recording 1 minute, 35 second laps. That is on par with a 640-horsepower, all-wheel-drive Porsche 911 Turbo S. That’s crazy.

That’s what instant torque, extensive body bracing and suspension stiffening will do for you. It’s what BMW does to make its M-badged cyborgs quicker than the average Bimmer sedan. Indeed, at the world’s greatest racetrack, the formidable 13.9-mile Nürburgring (Ioniq N’s namesake) in Germany, the Ioniq 5 N nearly matched the time of BMW’s premier driver’s car, the M2 CS, at 7 minutes, 45 seconds. Craaaazy.

Crazier still, we’re comparing a ute with a coupe thoroughbred. Like the M2, the 5 N has been screwed to the ground with chassis performance enhancements and sticky Pirelli P Zero tires. But it still exhibits the inherent high center of gravity of an SUV and its tall seating position. Over Laguna’s signature Corkscrew turn, I managed the throttle as the top-heavy ute navigated the turn’s extreme, downhill switchback. So how is it possible this shoebox’s lap times are on par with Porsche’s finest?

“It maximizes the tire,” deadpanned engineer Robin Shute, the accomplished Pike’s Peak and off-road rally ace who I chased around Laguna at obscene speeds. “The electric motors are feeding maximum torque all the time.”


So whatever the shoebox loses to the Porsche in the corners, it makes up with Thor’s Hammer acceleration off every turn. I’ve experienced this shocking performance before — albeit from the passenger seat of Ford CEO Jim Farley’s Transit SuperVan 4.0 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, another e-Kong in a box. Imagine what these drivetrains could do in a proper, low-center-of-gravity sportscar.

I have tracked my Tesla Model 3 Performance and crave its instant, AWD torque. But the 3 Performance is not optimized for track use, and its Brembo brakes will cook after six laps around Pontiac’s 1.5-mile M1 Concourse. I hammered the 5 N for 26 miles around Laguna’s 2.2-mile rollercoaster (12 laps) with no brake fade. Indeed, Model 3s outfitted with properly tuned aftermarket brakes from Unplugged Performance have recorded similar track times to the 5 N despite giving up 100 pound-feet of torque and 150 horsepower. The future of electric performance is bright.

But ... tracking an EV at hyper speeds comes with the same compromises of any EV: namely, range.

The Ioniq 5 N’s 84 kWh battery holds just 221 miles of range, and I sucked down nearly half of that over my 20-minute session around Laguna. Oof. That’s about four miles off the battery for every mile on the odometer (0.8 kW/per mile), which is at least better than my Tesla’s 6:1 ratio since the Model 3 hasn’t undergone the extensive aero-and-heat management intervention engineers administered to the Ioniq bot. Around two 14-mile laps (28 miles total) of the Nurburgring and its extended, full-throttle straightaways, Hyundai says I5N drank over half the battery.


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