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Edmunds U-Drags: Hyundai Elantra N Stuns the Subaru WRX

Edmunds U-Drags: Hyundai Elantra N Stuns the Subaru WRX

A newcomer takes the compact crown

  • The Hyundai Elantra N and Subaru WRX faced off on Edmunds' unique U-Drags course.
  • These lightweight performance cars are both new for 2022, but unlike the upstart Hyundai, the WRX is a legend in its own time.
  • Ultimately, the newcomer overpowered the old guard in a clear win for Hyundai.

Drag racing isn't just for 500-horsepower muscle cars, as the 2022 Hyundai Elantra N and 2022 Subaru WRX proved in a battle between two relatively affordable performance compacts.

These sedans, powered by turbocharged four-cylinder engines, raced alongside each other in Edmunds' unique head-to-head format. In consecutive races, with the drivers switching cars for a fair outcome, the Elantra N and WRX were pushed to their limits. In the end, one surprising car emerged as the winner.

What is U-Drags?

U-Drags is a unique racing format created by the Edmunds test team. This puts the chosen cars to a challenge of acceleration, braking and handling — all wrapped up into one exciting dash to the finish line. The cars start from a standstill and accelerate through the quarter mile, brake hard, flare out into a U-turn (U-Drags — get it?) and race back down the straightaway to the original starting line. Then the drivers swap cars and face off again.

Check out the diagram below for a visual, then read on for the details on how this edition of U-Drags finished up.

The result

Unfortunately, our testing equipment failed in the Hyundai during Race 1. As a result we do not have data for the Elantra N's first run. What we do have is the video footage, though, and it shows that the WRX jumped out to an early lead thanks to a great launch, but the Elantra N eventually chased it down and nosed it out in a bang-bang finish. The WRX posted a solid time of 38.0 seconds in Race 1, so we can say the Hyundai was a hair better than that. In Race 2, the Elantra N got a better start and didn't look back. Its time of 37.6 seconds easily handled the WRX at 38.8 ticks.

These cars relied on quickness and precision to tackle the U-Drags course. They needed to jump off the line, slow down in a hurry, and scramble out of the turn in order to win. Unfortunately for the WRX, the Elantra N held the advantage in nearly every area.

Edmunds U-Drags: Hyundai Elantra N vs Subaru WRX

Edmunds U-Drags: Hyundai Elantra N vs Subaru WRX

The details

Getting the jump is critical in U-Drags. It nearly led to victory for the WRX in Race 1. The WRX hit 60 mph in 6.4 seconds and ran the quarter mile in 14.6 seconds, both of which are better times than it mustered in Race 2. However, the quickest run for the Elantra N is significantly better. In Race 2 it put up a 0-60 time of 5.9 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 14.1 seconds — this despite the apparent disadvantage of front-wheel drive compared with the superior traction of Subaru's all-wheel drive.

We expected both cars to shine as they swung around in the U-turn, and they didn't disappoint. In Race 2, the Elantra N exhibited a mighty 0.94 lateral g through the aggressive turn as it scratched and clawed to get back to the finish line. But the WRX took the cake with a top measurement of 0.99 lateral g, likely aided by the ability of its all-wheel-drive system to send power to the wheels that need it most.

The bottom line is that the Elantra N pulled ahead on the return straight in both races. It relied on its superior 276 horsepower and lighter weight to cross the finish line at 112.4 mph. As for the WRX, its 271 horsepower wasn't enough, posting a top finishing speed of 107.1 mph.

Edmunds U-Drags: Hyundai Elantra N vs Subaru WRX

Edmunds U-Drags: Hyundai Elantra N vs Subaru WRX

Edmunds says

The Elantra N's advantage in horsepower and curb weight made it the favorite going in, but you never know until you race. What surprised our test drivers was how precise and responsive the Elantra N felt behind the wheel. By contrast, the WRX seemed sloppy and slightly sluggish. Hyundai's N performance division means business, as the legendary WRX just learned firsthand.