Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins
I certainly enjoyed my time in Death Valley straddling the border of California and Nevada while visiting Las Vegas for a few days with Hyundai for the 2016 SEMA Show in their new 2017 Elantra Sport. At 282 ft. below sea level the performance tuned import and I were heating up in the lowest point of the Western Hemisphere and absolutely loved every moment of it.
The new Elantra Sport will make up about 10% of the Elantra lineup and transforms the base model’s docile personality into a quick-footed roadrunner looking to outpace any Wile E. Coyote predators. Hyundai has committed the brand to sporting engineering and design by first hiring talent from BMW M to look at and invigorate vehicle dynamics such as the significant impact on the Genesis G90 luxury sedan. Instantly you can see the difference in motivation by way of the Elantra Sport’s alloy pedals including a wide dead pedal, the thick, flat bottom, multifunction steering wheel with proper indentions for thumb placements and leather bucket, sport seats with side bolsters and red stitching which also outlines the steering wheel and shifter. Both the seat and wheel adjustments are manual.
“With Elantra Sport, we deliver a relentlessly fun daily driver that offers unprecedented performance for the Elantra nameplate,” said Mike Evanoff, product manager for the Elantra lineup. “Just as importantly, Sport continues Elantra’s superb value story by offering a compelling mix of standard and available equipment at pricing that undercuts rival sport sedans in its category.
Keep in mind the Elantra Sport is not just a style adjustment from the norm; its differentiations come in the form of premium design cues, cool touch points like the faux carbon fiber dash strip and aggressive tuning that provides driver self-assurance. This was notable on clear, long Nevada roads where I was able to accelerate to 100 mph in 4th gear using the 7-speed DCT transmission with paddle shifters for $22,750. Moreover, whether in “sport” mode or not, the gearbox will hold each gear and will not shift until it hits 6,500 RPMs. The base model starts at $21,650 and comes with the standard 6-speed manual transmission. Although, I was not a fan of the manual since it felt too soft with delayed upshifts.
While meandering through the desert we also hit a few curves, bends, inclines and declines to experience the agility of the Elantra Sport. Hyundai gave it character with an authentic, sporty sound. My only gripe is that the dual chrome exhaust outlets are off to the right opposed to split like most performance variants. Engineers tested many variations of where to put the muffler and decided on the current placement probably due to cost. Hyundai also adopted a multi-link rear suspension exclusive to this model and increased the vehicle’s advanced high steel strength makeup.
The center of attention for the Korean sports car is its 1.6-liter inline 4-cylinder Turbo-GDI engine that outputs 201-horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. To go along with the increased power the Elantra Sport was enhanced with a stronger front fascia, a specific black hexagonal grille, 18” alloy spins wrapped in 225/40 R18 all-season Hankook tires, upgraded brakes, aggressive side sills, a wider rear end and a unique decklid. This vehicle also comes with LED daytime running lights, HID headlights and rear LED taillamps. Its usable power and solid performance were quite the surprise, especially on the autocross where we competed on the parking deck of the Mandarin Oriental for top billing.
Inside there is only one interior package for the Elantra Sport, which is the black cockpit with red contrast stitching. A premium instrument panel with a 3.5” cluster display and 7” display audio with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and HD Radio are also at your disposal. As soon as I connected my iPhone through the USB port features on the phone were replicated on the screen for user control. The $2,400 Premium Package is the only option package available to simplify the buying process but amplify your driving experience. It includes 8” Nav, an 8-speaker Infinity audio system, Blue Link connectivity, a small sunroof, Blind Spot Detection and much more.
“With Elantra Sport’s arrival, we are able to offer an Elantra for every type of driving personality,” Evanoff elaborated. The intended effect is right on point. Instead of giving us “more of the same” Hyundai has mixed up the formula for the wide diversity of “Sports” focused drivers in the marketplace.