Life has kept me rather busy but I decided to get out to the last autocross event of the season here in KC and see how the Elantra could do. The car is 100% stock outside of the SXTH Element rear sway bar. Even the tires are the stock all seasons. I knew that'd put me at a disadvantage but temperatures were in the 50s-60s so I was hoping that the cool weather might limit that at least a little.
The course was a mix of a very tight hairpin, long straights (we are talking third gear straights here), sweepers, a long slalom (obviously). It was designed to be fast as the expected turnout was 200 people.
So how'd the car do? Surprisingly well. Well enough to have quite a few people come up and ask me for more information about it because they were very surprised at the speed of an Elantra. End results were second place in class (out of 8 or 9) and a PAX of 27th out of 175 runners. The only car I lost to was a fully class prepped Fiesta ST driven by a very good driver. I stood absolutely no chance.
Some car feedback:
- I can't speak to balance in stock form but balance with the SXTH sway bar was a bit oversteery on the stock tires. In most places of the track I'd consider the balance to be perfect for a FWD car but in the slalom the car was a mess. Very unstable. The all seasons combined with the large rear sway bar made transitions quite the bitch. As you came through one side of the slalom and changed direction to go through the next cone the rear end would try to out pace the front each time. I was as smooth as I think I've probably every been and it made no difference. On two of four runs I nearly spun which forced me to back off a bit on my last run. I left a couple of tenths in the slalom easily.
- In the hairpin and sweepers, the lack of an LSD was blatantly obvious. A lot of inside wheelspin. Better tires will help this but the increased grip is also going to introduce more body roll which is going to cause traction issues as the inside tire loses some of its contact patch. I changed my line into the hairpin on my last two runs to help get around this (by making the exit more of a straight line) and exit traction was much better. I couldn't do anything about the sweepers. There were two and you were full throttle for all of one and for some of the other. In that one, going across the timing line was a bit of a smoke show!
- Brakes were great. I thought the ABS system was great as well. Going into the hairpin I was on the revlimiter in second gear (so not exactly going slow) and I could brake late with great confidence. The ABS didn't kick in too early and braking performance was perfect the entire lap. Not that you should really run into issues with fade at an autocross, but I had plenty of confidence in the brakes.
- As I said earlier, the course was fast. It was absolutely a third gear course. I'm happy to say that, under heavy braking, heel toe action to downshift was a piece of cake. Driving the car around town I wasn't convinced it was going to go all that well but that issue goes away entirely on heavy braking. The pedals line up perfectly and it was a breeze to do.
- Engine/performance-wise I was VERY thankful for the low end torque. Coming out of the hairpin the car was very low in second gear and even with that being the case it was trying to roast tires leaving it! The powerband is freaking perfect for autocrossing as the low and mid range power is always there. It would jump out of slower corners without any turbo lag and rip down the straights as a result.
Overall, it did a lot better than I thought it was going to. I know Hyundai didn't design the car to be an autocross monster but it proved to be more than capable of taking on the task should it be put into that situation. It's not a Fiesta ST killer in class, but it could absolutely surprise a few people and, in capable hands, I see no reason why it couldn't get you a trophy or plaque from time to time. I'm half tempted to order a lighter set of wheels and tires and see what it can do next season from time to time. I loved being approached by people and having the opportunity to talk about the car because, like I said, it surprised quite a few. This car impresses me every opportunity it gets!