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Hyundai Elantra N Shows No Mercy In Race With Subaru WRX

Not so long ago, folks wouldn’t be cross-shopping the Subaru WRX with a Hyundai Elantra. One has a history of turbocharged all-wheel-drive fun on both pavement and dirt. The other has a history often associated with rental car agencies and comfortable, sedate front-wheel-drive trips for small families. Friends, the times are changing.

We now have the Hyundai Elantra N, packing 276 horsepower (205 kilowatts) into a relatively lightweight sedan package. The suspension is tuned, the steering is tuned, and though it spins just the front wheels, it’s proven to be a surprisingly good sports sedan. Meanwhile, the new-for-2022 WRX checks in with 271 hp (202 kW) and a curb weight about 200 pounds heavier, due in part to its much-loved AWD system. Both cars offer auto-shifting gearboxes (a CVT for Subaru, eight-speed DCT in the Hyundai), but this particular showdown from Edmunds is a six-speed manual affair.

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Things sound relatively equal on paper but surely the Subaru’s AWD grip will dominate in the end, right? That might be true if this were a simple drag race, but the course includes hard braking after the quarter-mile and a 180-degree turn, ending with a sprint back to the starting line. A legendary Subie AWD launch is only a portion of this contest, so perhaps the Elantra N has a chance after all.

In fact, it definitely has a chance. Two races are held, with the first seeing the Elantra N bog horrifically off the line while the Subie just blasts away, ultimately crossing the quarter-mile first. However, the lead noticeably shrinks through braking and the turn, and then the Elantra puts the N in never surrender. It crosses the line ahead of the WRX by just under a car length, terrible launch be dammed.

The drivers switch cars for the second race, and this time the Elantra N does much better off the line while the Subaru falters. With a near-even start, you can probably guess how the rest of the race goes. This time the Hyundai wins on all metrics, including the quarter-mile. No AWD? Apparently, that’s no problem for the Elantra N – on dry pavement, anyway.

For now, it seems the Subaru fans will have to wait for the new WRX STI to arrive before regaining bragging rights. Oh, wait … we forgot that Subaru canned the next-gen STI. Yeah, that’s awkward.

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