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2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo: First Drive

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2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T

2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T

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2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T

2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T

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The 2011 Hyundai Sonata is a hit, no doubt. Sales of the swoopy new four-door have more than doubled those of its more conservative ancestors, and the risk to omit all V-6 engines from the Sonata lineup doesn't look like anything but savvy marketing in an era of $3 gas and rising fuel-economy standards.

Still, Hyundai needs to make a passing reference to V-6 power, even if it never installs a single one in its large family four-door. The way it's choosing-the same way chosen by Ford in some of its larger cars, by Buick in its new Regal, and by Volkswagen in its sedans-is to pair turbocharging and direct injection for V-6-like power and four-cylinder economy.

Which brings us to the Hyundai Sonata 2.0T. You'll need to understand it's a turbo, because there aren't any turbo badges on the prototypes I drove last month at Hyundai's engineering facility west of Seoul. Hyundai says it's simple: "turbo" equals "sportscar," and they're looking at all the additional power more as a six-cylinder alternative, a more mainstream offering than a sporty turbo model might otherwise be.

In the Sonata, the turbocharging is grafted on to a similar engine to the one powering the base Sonata. It's downsized from 2.4 liters to 2.0 liters, but with the injection of forced air from a twin-scroll turbocharger (which pressurizes cylinders more effectively than a singe-scroll unit) and with direct injection of gasoline into the cylinders without spark plugs, the Sonata 2.0T provides a 274-horsepower rush. It's accompanied by 269 pound-feet of torque that arrives low in the power band, giving the 2.0T a flexible feel without the turbo lag you may have felt in other cars with the "2.0T" badge.

By comparison, the Ford Fusion V-6 spins out 263 horsepower; the 2011 Buick Regal, 220 hp; and the Volkswagen Passat, 200 hp. The Sonata's among the lightest in this group as well, which should all but guarantee a 0-60 mph run in 7 seconds, if not less.

By the numbers, the Sonata 2.0T sounds ideal-but what's it like to drive? The 2.0T doesn't look all that much different from the standard car, at first glance on Hyundai's proving grounds at Namyong. The engineering hub for the company still was working on fine-tuning the trio of vehicles we're going to bring you this month-the Turbo, the Hybrid we'll talk about next week, and the Equus sedan we've driven for a report at the end of the month.


 
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