On paper, it all seems quite silly. The Ioniq 5 N is a Hyundai SUV, but the company says it’s built for the race track. It has 601 all-electric horsepower, but it will simulate the feeling of an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission and make itself sound like a four-cylinder gas car. It can allegedly handle more on-track abuse than any EV sold by BMW, Tesla or Ford, but it is also a $67,475 Hyundai. It is the best performance EV ever built, and I still can’t tell if it will be a success.

Because the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N takes some explaining. Hyundai is taking advantage of its early lead over other legacy automakers in building sophisticated, 800-volt-architecture EVs, launching a high-performance, track-capable EV enthusiast product before some of the industry’s heavy hitters, based on its already fantastic Ioniq 5 compact crossover.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N First Track Drive

The strategy could be a revolution for the brand. It could cement “N” as a brand said in the same breath as AMG. The product is certainly good enough. But if Hyundai wants that to happen, it needs people to understand this car. It needs to explain the rationale behind a vehicle so radically different from what Hyundai is known for.

It will not be easy.

[Full Disclosure: Hyundai flew me to Monterey, California and put me up in a hotel near Laguna Seca for the Ioniq 5 N launch. The company rented out the track and provided instructors for lead-follow on-track drive impressions.]

2025 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N Track Drive Laguna Seca

An EV That Can Take The Heat

Explaining the difference between a "performance car" and a "fast car" never is easy. Especially in the age of every EV having a sub-four-second 0-60 time, the Ioniq 5 N’s power figure alone isn’t enough to sell a skeptical public. The 5 N makes 601 hp (up to 641 hp for 10 seconds at a time) and 545 lb-ft of torque (568 during the boost function). A decade ago that would have embarassed every muscle car on the lot. Now it is expected. Zero to 60 takes 3.25 seconds, a figure no longer quick enough to stand out. Hyundai knows it can’t outrun all of the competition. But it can outlast them where it counts. 

The open secret with most existing performance EVs is that they fall apart under high thermal load. The Ford Mustang Mach-E will pull back power after a few minutes of sustained high-speed driving. A Model S Plaid will accelerate like the 1020-hp fever dream it is, but its brakes get squishy after a few high-speed corners. The BMW i4 feels great, but the very people who designed it told me that it wasn’t built to hold up to sustained on-track usage.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N First Track Drive

The track is just a brutal environment for a car. You aren’t using one component hard, briefly. You’re stressing the brakes, tires, powertrain and cooling system constantly. In my years of testing dozens of cars on the track, I can tell you that a shocking number of stock “performance cars,” gas or otherwise, cannot handle more than a handful of laps without serious performance degradation.

The Ioniq 5 N can. Over 12 laps of lead-follow track driving on Laguna Seca Raceway, the N’s brakes, tires, cooling system and battery held up flawlessly. Other journalists continued flogging the same rotation of cars throughout the day, with the Ioniqs getting re-juiced at a mobile fast-charger and heading back onto the track without visible issues.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N First Track Drive

It is worth noting, however, that Hyundai ran the event, and no automaker will tell journalists if one of its own cars experienced a charging issue, or had to be taken out of rotation. We’ll have to wait until we can track test one on our own terms, but early indications suggest that the Ioniq 5 N is perfectly suited to weekend track duty.

Hyundai believes it. That’s why there’s already an Ioniq 5 N Cup series in motion in Korea. There’s a Cup car version with the same powertrain as the stock car, and a class for street cars. The idea is that the Ioniq 5 N can handle 20 minutes of full-pace lapping on a charge and without thermal issues, charge its 84-kWh battery from 10-80% on a 350-kW fast charger in 18 minutes (though it could take longer if the battery is hot when you hit the charger), and then head back out there. Sure, it isn’t an endurance race, but it’ll handle anything a weekend track rat would throw at it.

The track-day EV is here. And boy, is it fun.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N First Track Drive

Gran Turismo Menus, In Car Form

Hyundai’s N models have always focused more on engaging the driver than on prioritizing outright speed, and the same is true here. The Ioniq 5 N is the most engaging EV I’ve ever driven, perhaps less impressive than but surely more exciting than even Porsche’s fastest Taycan. While the Porsche—the only other track-capable EV on sale, really—chases pace and precision, Hyundai invites the driver to play.

It allows you a dizzying amount of configurability to give you the exact right amount of silliness. You can set the fake “engine sound” to be a Hyundai Elantra N 2.0-liter four-cylinder, or a video-game-like concept car, or the offspring of a fighter jet and a synthesizer, or nothing at all.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N First Track Drive

You can let the car manage its own power with its dual-motor setup an an electronic limited-slip differential, or tell it to send as much power as possible to the front, or make it effective rear-wheel drive. Then you can use Hyundai’s trick Torque Kick Drift to simulate a clutch dump, start a drift and use the car’s own N Drift Optimizer logic to help you hold it.

The amount of customization is genuinely confounding. Multiple journalists asked how to use certain functions, like launch control, and found that even some of the trained Hyundai specialists on hand couldn’t always find it in the menus. The number of features here makes a modern BMW M5 look simple. You can toggle steering weight, motor response and suspension stiffness independently. You can map these custom drive modes to the two custom N buttons on the steering wheel. Or you can use them to fully defeat stability control, or toggle N e-Shift, the Ioniq’s most surprising and controversial feature.

2025 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N First Track Drive Laguna Seca

Activate it and the Ioniq 5 N will emulate a car with an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. It will pretend to have a powerband, “lugging” if you try to accelerate hard in fifth gear, hitting “redline” and lurching if you fail to shift in time and using regen to simulate the engine braking you get with an on-track downshift. It sounds utterly absurd and completely useless. It is also one of the best performance EV ideas I’ve ever experienced.

I was extraordinarily skeptical going into my time with the Ioniq 5 N. You wouldn’t want your Model T to simulate the smell of horse shit. An eight-speed transmission is indicative of the inherent shortcomings of any internal combustion engine. Escaping the raucous clattering and narrow, peaky powerband of an internal combustion car is often a motivation for going electric. Adding it back purely to make the car slower and more familiar sounded insane.

2025 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N First Track Drive Laguna Seca

Trouble is, it works brilliantly. On a race track you rarely have time to look down at your speed, so any experienced driver uses gear position to judge their own pace. Not having that in a silent EV makes going fast feel like guesswork. Hyundai has eliminated that completely, and any performance EV manufacturer worth its salt will have to find a similar way to keep drivers subconsciously aware of their speed.

Get Rowdy

In part because of that feature, no EV is more enjoyable on the track. The 5 N’s paddle-shift setup gives you more theater, more noise and more precise control over the car. Regen being linked to paddle shifters makes intuitive sense for anyone who has grown up racing ICE cars, and gives you more precise regen control with more overall energy recovery than driving in normal mode. (Note that even with regen we averaged 0.8-0.9 miles per kWh on track. Real track driving is never particularly efficient).

And that’s far from the only place where Hyundai has thoughtfully exploited an EV mechanic to create a more predictable enthusiast driving experience. The one-pedal mode—usually called “i-Pedal”—gets a makeover too, with a new “N Pedal” mode for high-speed cornering. The mode will use the regen function to load the weight of the car on the front tires, easing turn-in automatically.

2025 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N Track Drive Laguna Seca

With so much going on, you’d expect to be overwhelmed in the Ioniq 5 N. But I wasn’t. Hyundai has managed to make all of this feel natural. The car turns in far better than its 4,861-lb curb weight would suggest, corners flat and shuffles power seamlessly to catapult you onto the straights.

Even with ESC in Sport Mode and traction control off, the 601-hp EV feels manageable, with gentle understeer when you push too far. The tail-happy demeanor of the Veloster and Elantra N is certainly more charming, but with this much power we support Hyundai playing it safe. Plus, with the clutch kick mode and the ability to shift more power rearward, the Ioniq 5 N does plenty for the oversteer-ever-corner crowd.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N First Track Drive

It's A Good EV, Too

All of this piles on the sturdy foundation of the Hyundai Ioniq 5. The N still gets mostly the same great interior (albeit with a center console and bucket seats), the same awesome exterior (lowered and with aggressive performance aspects) and some of the best EV features in the business. It still fast charges quicker than almost anything—a claimed 10-80% in 18 minutes—and offers one-pedal driving, phone-as-a-key (now with iPhone support), route planning and a 10.9-kW onboard charger.

Its range falls from 260 miles for an AWD Limited Ioniq 5 to 220 miles in N guise, and in our brief street drive it seems well suited to daily driving. I'd happily daily drive this car, use Highway Drive Assist for semi-autonomous traffic jams, and then drop into N e-Shift to blast down my favorite canyon. It's as versatile as a BMW M3, but with more cargo space. 

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N Cargo

So as a package, the Ioniq 5 N is a slam dunk, a shining example of a company taking advantage of what a great EV platform can provide. But it’s desire to imitate internal combustion performance makes it a confusing proposition. Take the fake DCT as an illustrative example. In the long term, we probably won’t be “shifting” EVs that sound like four-cylinder gas cars. E-shift transition tech, the skeuomorphic early days of Apple’s iPhone when it still wanted the notes app to look like a paper and pencil. It’s also corny. I’d never want to tell an EV skeptic that my EV has a fake transmission, or makes four-cylinder noises.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N First Track Drive

I’d also not want to say things like “N Grin Boost,” Hyundai’s name for the 10-second overboost function, or mention that one of the three pillars of N performance is… “corner rascal,” a phrase that’s hopefully less bizarre in its native Korean. I wouldn’t want them to notice that “N” sounds an awful lot like “M,” and that Hyundai poached plenty of people from the latter to make the former. I wouldn’t want to answer when they asked me what it costs, becuase I wouldn’t want to explain the long, nerdy reason why it’s worth every penny.

Hyundai has made the performance EV we’ve been asking for. It’s expensive, but a deal for a five-seat 600-hp SUV that can handle the track. It’s silly, but it works. It’s a Hyundai, but I’d take it over any Mercedes on sale. Hyundai has succeeded in building a generation-defining performance product.

Its next challenge is getting Americans to understand it.

Contact the author: mack.hogan@insideevs.com

Gallery: 2025 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N: First Track Drive

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N Specs

Base Price $67,475
Charge Time 10-80% in 18 minutes on 350kW charger, 70 minutes on 50 kW charger.
EV Range 221 Miles
Speed 0-60 MPH 3.25 Seconds
Output 601 hp (641 hp during N Grin Boost)
Drive Type All-wheel drive
Battery 84.0 kWh
Got a tip for us? Email: tips@insideevs.com