Driving the Hyundai Ioniq 5 on the Trans-Haryana expressway | Great Driving Roads: expressways edition
Times are changing. A few years ago, the ideal long-distance vehicle for Indian conditions would have been a European three-box sedan with a diesel engine. It would have the torque required for overtaking and climbing ghats, and a large fuel tank, giving it more range than you would ever need. However, those days are firmly behind us, and today we are a nation that favours SUVs running on cleaner fuels. The Hyundai Ioniq 5 you see on these pages is a prime example of this paradigm shift. Although it may look like a hatchback, this is undoubtedly a crossover SUV. If you aren't convinced, consider the Ioniq’s wheelbase, which at 3000mm is longer than the Hyundai Tucsons by 245mm.
During the same period, our country has also evolved significantly. Road tripping in India used to require forward planning, a freshly serviced car, and ideally a packed lunch. Let's say you woke up one fine morning in Jaipur and decided to escape the heat by taking a leisurely trip up to Shimla for some refreshing high tea. In the old days, it was highly unlikely that you would make it there before dinner time. Forget about high tea; you would go straight to bed in Shimla and have nightmares about the drive back.
Thankfully, India is rapidly leaving those days behind, with a vast network of smart expressways that are popping up across the country. Nowadays, a spur-of-the-moment jaunt from Jaipur to Shimla can be done in around nine hours—at least four hours less than before. This is possible largely thanks to the new Trans-Haryana Expressway also known as NH152D. This arrow-straight piece of tarmac runs right down the centre of Haryana, forming its backbone. The expressway has halved the time taken to travel between these two cities and is sure to bring economic growth to the numerous towns it connects.
From end to end, this six-lane expressway is 227-kilometres long, which is well within the estimated range of the Ioniq 5. ARAI suggests a range of 631kms on a full charge, but in our experience, the real-world range is around 550kms. Our journey would take us from Narnaul at the south end, known for its many historical sites from the Mughal and Rajput eras, all the way to the north end of the expressway near Ambala, famous for having a large Indian Army and Air Force presence. My research showed that there were no active charging stations on the expressway, so I found a Statiq fast charger on the old Delhi-Jaipur expressway and fully charged the battery of the Ioniq 5. In theory, we should have enough battery capacity for a return trip (to the end of this 227km E-Way and back, not Shimla obviously) to this charger without letting range anxiety get the best of us. A theory that we would put to the test the next morning.
Range anxiety isn't really a new concept. In the days before Google Maps, you wanted no less than a quarter tank of fuel at all times when you were travelling through unknown parts of the country. However, as the roads developed and more fuel stations opened up, concerns about running out of fuel slowly faded away. Today, EVs are undergoing a similar transformation, with new charging stations coming up on a daily basis. We're getting close to the point where you can point the nose of an EV in any direction in the country and just drive.
We began our journey just before sunrise near Neemrana in Rajasthan, hoping to make up some ground before the traffic was too dense. The old Delhi-Jaipur highway that we needed to cross before we got to the expressway was a stark reminder of days gone by. There were already dozens of truckers on the road, creating mobile chicanes and swerving at the last moment to avoid the numerous potholes.
The Ioniq 5, however, was unfazed. A couple of flashes from the LED headlamps, a dab of throttle, and the Ioniq 5 dispatches slow-moving traffic with ease. The Ioniq 5 also rides like no car on 20-inch rims has any right to. I found myself instinctively bracing for a jolt a couple of times, but the car hardly seemed to notice. Our resident shutterbug, Rohit, was fast asleep in the passenger seat, oblivious to the outside world while cocooned in the whisper-quiet cabin of the Ioniq 5.
Before I know it, I'm at the start of the expressway and soon its merits become glaringly obvious. It feels like I inadvertently hit 88mph and teleported myself back to the future. This elevated expressway is access-controlled, ensuring the absence of slow-moving two-wheelers and three-wheelers as well as reducing the likelihood of encountering pedestrians or cattle. Even the trucks are sticking to a lane—not always the correct lane, but it's a start. The tarmac is perfectly smooth and well marked, so well marked in fact that the Ioniq 5 could complete the entire stretch on Smart Cruise alone. The level-2 ADAS that Hyundai calls Smart Sense has a total of 21 features, including adaptive cruise, lane-keeping assistance, and collision avoidance assistance.
I set the smart cruise at 90kmph, and pressed the little button with the steering wheel icon. This activates lane-keeping assist, which holds the Ioniq 5 perfectly in the centre of my chosen lane and follows the curves of the road. If a car pulls out ahead of me, the Smart Cruise slows down to match its speed and can even come to a complete halt. I still have to keep my hands on the steering wheel or else a warning flashes on the instrument cluster, but nonetheless, it is far less tiring than having full manual control of the car. The Ioniq 5 chewed up the miles and barely lost any range by the time we got to our first stop. The rest stops on the expressway are very well designed and feature fuel stations and restaurants, among other amenities. I even discovered that charging stations have already been installed at the fuel stations and will be online very soon.
As I sat outside sipping my cup of coffee, I couldn't help but admire the way the sun bounced off the Ioniq 5s Gravity Gold matte paint. The overall silhouette is retro-inspired, which makes it feel familiar in a curious way. The shadows add depth to the creases and cuts, making the car look like it was hewn from a solid block of aluminium. Pictures are unable to convey the sheer size of the Ioniq 5, which does seem to pleasantly surprise onlookers. But it's the details that truly set the Ioniq 5 apart. The flush door handles and the subtle use of chrome along the lower half of the body add an air of sophistication to the overall design. But for me, the highlight is the pixelated lighting design, which adds a touch of whimsy that every car could benefit from. The taillights in particular look like they are straight out of an 1980s video game. The rectangular DRL signature, which is enhanced by the hidden lighting garnish that runs across the grille, distinguishes the front end and is stunning to behold after dark.
Hyundai has carried over the same attention to detail to the interior, which has to be one of the best of any car in this price range. It feels light and airy thanks to its light grey theme and the massive sunroof. The steering column-mounted drive eliminates the need for a fixed centre console, which has been replaced with a sliding unit, which means there is no obstruction between the driver and passenger footwells. There are plenty of clever storage areas, like the huge door pockets and the glove box, which opens like a drawer. The front seats are ventilated and have a recline function that transforms the seat into a lounge chair with an integrated ottoman. The dashboard features two 12.3-inch screens for infotainment and gauge cluster duties, while the buttons, knobs, and stalks have a tactile aluminium finish. The Ioniq may not look like a traditional chauffeur-driven car, but that does not mean that the rear passengers have been shortchanged. The rear seats can slide electronically and can also be reclined manually, and there is plenty of legroom to stretch out while listening to the excellent Bose audio system.
As I head back on to the expressway, the on-ramp seems like a great place to test the Ioniq 5’s acceleration. Although there is a 100kmph speed limit on the expressway, there aren't any rules on how quickly you get to that speed. And the Ioniq 5 does get there pretty quickly—7.6-seconds to be precise. The 72.6kWh battery powers an electric motor on the rear axle that puts out 215bhp of power and 350Nm of torque. Even at triple-digit speeds, there seems to be no real drop in performance; however, sustained high-speed cruising does take a toll on the range. To preserve range in the city, I opted for i-Pedal mode, Hyundai's one-pedal drive mode that maximises regenerative braking and can bring the car to a complete stop. However, out on the highway, the smart cruise does a far better job of conserving range than I could manage manually.
By noon, we had reached the end of the expressway with enough range to turn around and head back to our preferred charging station. Half the day and the scenic farmlands of Haryana had whizzed by behind the wheel of the Ioniq 5, and I was feeling as fresh as ever. The Trans-Haryana expressway and the Ioniq 5 redefine the traditional road trip experience, making it incredibly smooth and hassle-free. The days of wrangling a traditional three-box sedan from one city centre to the next while fighting a never-ending battle on the highway are slowly coming to an end. The modern infrastructure of our newest expressways combined with the Ioniq 5's impressive efficiency eradicates any lingering concerns about range anxiety, whether you're driving an EV or an ICE vehicle. There has never been a better time to hit the road and explore our beautiful country. What are you waiting for? the IONIQ 5 also gets Level 2 ADAS features