2011 Sonata: Look Underneath, Suspend Your Disbelief

May 19, 2010

Suspension Tuning 101

Hyundai's ride and handling engineer, Cameron Kurth, went undercover to expose the secrets of the 2011 YF or Sonata's improved ride and handling.

Kurth, who studied mechanical engineering at the University of Texas, says he was a car-crazy kid.  When he was a youngster, his teachers busted him for drawing cars during class.  Whether it was the fear of being "outed' as a car guy or a fascination with what makes a car tick, Kurth devotes his talents toward upgrading Hyundai's undersides.

In fact, this Irvine California-based engineer says he lived inside the latest Sonata for 18 months during its development.  So you might say his front-row seat is a Hyundai.  He wintered in Minneapolis, motored in Korean and summered in Alabama to ensure that the Sonata performs everyday tasks well.

The Sonata sports several innovations that improve ride and handling.  For instance, the swaybars feature ball-joint type connecting links.  These result in crisper action, improved compliance and reduced maintenance than the former pogo-type links with rubber or polyurethane bushings.

I noticed that the latest Sonata SE has the agile feel associated with the Nissan Altima.  That's because the new Hyundai rides atop the latest innovations in suspension technology, argues Kurth.  Moreover, he says the SE's beefier rear swaybar results in quicker steering response.  Another Sonata suspension tuning trick:  alloy front wheel bearing housings.  This reduces "unsprung" weight, which improves bumpy road behavior.

Kurth says Hyundai planned the SE version from the "get go."  This permitted him to develop chassis components that complemented the sport-tuned version rather than tweaking pieces after the fact-a major key change from previous old SE.

While much attention has focused on the new Sonata's shapely skin, Kurth reveals the equally fetching developments under-the-hood, inside the wheel wells.  These are the praiseworthy innovations orchestrated by motoring maestro who formerly doodled cars.

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