The Hyundai Elantra has never been a car to receive any real interest from performance car enthusiasts. It's a "get from point A to B" type of vehicle with basic features, above average fuel economy, conservative styling, and a price that's easy on the pocketbook. However, during SEMA '16, Hyundai unveiled this Road Racer Elantra concept built by ARK Performance. They also unveiled the production model of its new turbocharged Elantra Sport. Could this be something we could get down with? There was only one way to find out.
First, let's give props where props are due. ARK Performance's beefed-up Elantra checks all the boxes when it comes to a SEMA showstopper and more. The exterior has a look all its own, which includes a one-off body kit designed by ARK, over-fenders, and an aggressive front splitter from APR. The chassis wasn't overlooked either, with forged wheels, coilovers, sway bars, and big brakes up front. Under the hood, ARK developed a turbo kit, downpipe, and exhaust to ensure the power was worthy of the "Road Racer" nickname. The completed product is something that caught our attention at SEMA and also had us wondering how it would perform in the real world. Hyundai wouldn't give us the keys to its show car, but they did have plenty of '17 Elantra Sport production models for us to evaluate. The results were better than we expected.
Hyundai offers the Elantra in five different trims, but the Sport is the only one you really need to care about. Its turbocharged, 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine is similar to the Veloster's and Sonata's, with 201hp and 191 lb.-ft. of torque. Matched to a solid-feeling six-speed manual or the seven-speed auto, the Sport offers a more rigid chassis, stiffer springs, tuned dampers, tighter steering, larger front brakes, and let's just say that it delivers a ride far better than you might think.
The day before SEMA we went on an adventure some hundred miles outside of Las Vegas into the heart of Death Valley. There was no cell reception, police in sight, or signs of life - just the open road and a brand new sedan that handled high-speed cruising and corning with ease. For nearly averaging triple-digit speeds, you'd assume an affordable Hyundai would fall apart easily, but the Elantra Sport coped with our aggressive driving style without breaking a sweat. It's not an out-of-the-box racecar but it does live up to its "Sport" label. This was also proven later that same night when Hyundai somehow persuaded a Las Vegas hotel to allow us to push the Elanta Sport's limits in a makeshift autocross course on the top level of a parking garage! Dangerous? Probably. But was the Elantra fun to drive, peppy, and capable of the abuse? You're damn right!