Alright, I’m a believer now. 

EVs can stir up joy like nearly any production track tool, so long as they follow Hyundai’s lead. 

But just because something can perform a task doesn’t make it the best tool for the job. Or even a particularly good one. (Shout out to my long-suffering Tacoma, which sinks against its bump stops like some soggy peasant when hauling a yard of soil from Home Depot). 

During the media drive of the Ioniq 5 N at Laguna Seca, the Hyundai hammered down the track’s front straight, again and again without fatigue. This hot hatch’s hole-shot pace would heat check many supercars, and in the corners, you could play it scalpel-neat or flick the Hyundai’s tail against the exit curbing like Ott Tänak. 

But each successive lap left me wondering, "Could you actually own one of these as a dual-purpose daily driver track special? Should you?"

In our first drive of the car, I answered the question in a couple sentences, but the review was not solely focused on the I5N’s viability as a track car. Inquiring minds will want to know, could you actually daily an EV track car and enjoy it?

Let’s break it down. 

2024 Hyundai Ioniq 5N

Performance

Track days are not race days, but anyone who says pride’s off the line is lying. Nobody spends $67,000 on a track special to point by a Spec Miata. Thankfully, Hyundai's N department handled this one. 

By any objective performance measure, this 4,861-pound, crossover-sized hot hatch performs miracles. Hyundai says it’ll hit sixty in 3.2 seconds from a stop, but my butt dyno says it’s slightly quicker (note: my butt dyno was calibrated by several years testing vehicle performance for Road & Track). Same goes for lateral grip, though I think Pirelli left a fair amount of performance on the table in favor of longevity and civility. I wonder aloud what a set of the stickiest Michelin Cup tires would unlock here.

German publication Sport Auto clocked a 7:45 at the Nurburgring in a bone-stock I5N. It’s not the production EV record, mind you, but mind the context as well. That’s within striking distance of the Lexus LFA. That’s 997 Turbo fast. It’s on par with the Civic Type R, yet another giant slayer with racetrack bona fides, and a sniff slower than the 991.2 911 S.

Watch the onboard video itself. Unlike most performance EVs, including the record-holding Porsche Taycan Turbo GT, the I5N thrives under track abuse rather than merely tolerating it. The Hyundai’s cooling-centric powertrain design allows it two full laps of the ‘Ring before a recharge, with battery, brake, and tire temps in check the whole way. A Tesla will do three quarters of a ‘Ring lap before you’ve cooked it. 

This is a meaningful distinction for track-day dorks; In capable hands, the I5N is quick enough to scrap with anything, whether it's your outlap, or the end of a standard 30-minute HPDE session.

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Practicality

You never simply arrive and drive. You’re hauling a the set of track-centric wheels and tires, a floor jack, a big honkin’ torque wrench, the cordless impact driver, a pop-up tent, and at least a few more track-specific odds and ends. 

Again, you’re good with the I5N. A Hyundai rep said the car’s hatch will swallow a full set of four 21-inch spares, and the eyeball test suggests there’s plenty more room for track day accoutrement in the rear hold, plus a passenger up front. I can’t tell you how many times I drove a BMW E36 to and from the track with a great greasy Hoosier riding shotgun. Thankfully, that’s not necessary here. 

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Heat Management

Thermal management is any go-fast production car’s greatest foil. Ask anyone who drove the last-gen Civic Type R on a hot track. This rule counts double for EVs, which generate heat from their batteries, brakes, and tires like a reactor in thermal runaway.

The Ioniq 5 N, for example, totes something like a ton of batteries in its belly. Every time you go full throttle down a straightaway, those batteries generate monster power for the motors. This process generates monster heat in turn, degrading the battery’s State Of Charge. 

I lost roughly 13 percent SOC for every three hot laps of Laguna, plus a moderately paced cooldown lap. At roughly two-and-a-quarter miles per lap, that meant 10 miles of lapping per session and 40 miles of on-track driving. After three sessions, the I5N’s SOC dropped from 94 to 54 percent. You could extrapolate that range to your local track, to gauge viability. Expect they Hyundai’s State-Of-Charge to drop further than the 13-percent-per-10-miles relationship would suggest, if you go out for longer sessions. 

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That’s the price of the I5N’s inertia. It takes huge brakes, an aggressive tune of the regenerative braking feature (which generates more heat), and ample tire to rein the I5N into a slow corner from a fast straight.

We did a few sessions at Laguna Seca, the first included a sighting lap and then three quick-ish laps, plus a cool-down. A couple more sessions followed with three laps each and a cool-down. I kept a curious eye on the front and rear motor temps, and the battery temp, which found an operating window and deviated little across the course of a given lap. The brakes held up to the I5N’s monster curb weight just fine, as did the Pirellis, though those did start to go a bit greasy as the sessions wore on. 

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Tires

A special note on the stock Pirellis. They’re quite talkative, leading you up to their limit with a hearty wraowraowraowraow. That additional feedback helps the I5N along on its mission to re-engage the driver’s senses, as does the tires’ penchant for a clean and linear breakaway between gripping and slipping.

I had a lengthy conversation with a Pirelli engineer on the project. He insisted that designing an EV track tire isn’t so different from designing for any OEM project; You provide the client a balance between performance, longevity, and civility, tailored to their taste. But performance-EV tires suffer tremendously at the hands of three-ton curb weights, paired to the instant snap of torque, and warp-speed acceleration. For the most part, the Pirellis held up just fine at Laguna.

I checked shoulder wear visually between our lapping sessions and felt around for how heat was soaking into the tires. All seemed well. No chunks or fissures broke out of the tires’ treads or shoulders. No excess hot spots across their breadth. Honestly, I was impressed by how well these tires handled the Ioniq’s considerable mass. 

However, I suspect our lapping sessions were kept brief for a reason. The physics at work here would surely punish any set of tires, regardless of brand or compound, over longer HPDE sessions. I’d recommend taking advantage of the I5N’s cargo space, finding a cheap set of lightweight alloys (18” wheels fit on the I5N Cup car, which is mechanically identical) and some tires aimed at durability, rather than ultimate lap times. 

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Charging, Range Anxiety, The Battery Conundrum

Alright, here’s the rub. In every performance metric, the I5N is absolutely ready for your next track day. But as with garden-variety EV adoption, charging is the hang-up. Or, rather, a lack of charging infrastructure.

If your track doesn’t have an 800-volt fast charger, which it almost certainly doesn’t, you’re probably SOL. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, or that you can’t get a decent amount of lapping in under perfect conditions. 

I’d bet at most tracks in America, you could get away with a pair of 30-minute lapping sessions in the morning, a break for off-site fast charging over lunch, then a few more 15-minute sessions in the afternoon, with enough battery left to get you home before rush hour. That’s not exactly a double stint at LeMans, but many outfits that run track days limit participants to sessions around 15-20 minutes, lest the Red Mist descends. 

For a small percentage of Americans who live close enough to a race track and have access to at-home charging, I think the I5N could fit nicely

It should be said Hyundai is actively working to build and/or facilitate the building of fast chargers at race tracks. But this will take broader interest from consumers to seal the deal. Race tracks are often in remote locations, which in turn requires significant investment to upgrade even simple infrastructure, let alone infrastructure to facilitate an incredibly niche.

Takeaways

We’re just not there yet. Not even close. But cars like the I5N bridge the gap between performance EVs and the track day workflow we’re accustomed to. Ultimately, it won’t be up to the automakers to deliver a product that’s track-capable. Hyundai’s just done it. Mass adoption of EV track cars will depend entirely on the charging infrastructure at or near the track.

For now, the track-day masses wait. 

But a select few—those in fair-weather states who live close to a race track with fast charging nearby—will have a ball with the Ioniq 5 N. For the price, you won’t find much that’ll lap your local bull ring any quicker. Remember, a base Cayman starts at $68,300 and for that price, its owner will have the pleasure of waving by an EV hatchback with the badge of a Korean upstart on the hood and a grinning face behind the wheel. 

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