2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo: First Drive Page 2

July 12, 2010
2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T

2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T

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For the turbo, the slight cosmetic differentiation is downplayed as much as the noise and vibration that usually accompany turbo engines. The Sonata's turbo has been almost silenced, with a distinct note that's not altogether louder or more noticeable than the sounds I heard in a stock Sonata at home a week before.

What I did notice, in a few laps around a shortened test loop, was all the turbo urgency you expect. The turbo spooled to life quickly, and maintained solid torque through the makeshift esses Hyundai's engineers had built into a test loop for our group to sample. The ample power boost is clear, especially when contrasted with the Hybrid version. The Sonata's stiff ride also was clear, and feels a little more appropriate in this edition.

While Hyundai works away at the final development issues, the automatic transmission will be getting another round of tuning. Shift shock is still obvious in a way you'd never feel in the non-turbo car, but Hyundai execs say it's being addressed in newer prototypes being built in the final weeks before it goes on sale. Regardless, we'll save our final say for a full road test on U.S. roads, with production-perfect vehicles.

One note: the turbo Sonata will get standard shift paddles with an LCD readout for gearing between the tach and speedometer-it's much more welcome than the shifter-controlled manual mode, and that's true of any such shifter, whether it changes gears front-back or side to side. Paddles just make more sense, in an era of no-hands drivers and BlackBerrys.

The turbo Sonata slots in well against other six-cylinder and turbo sedans for performance-but it aces all of them in fuel economy and price. Hyundai says the Sonata 2.0T turbo will get a 34-mpg EPA highway rating, running on regular unleaded gasoline, only one mile per gallon less than the normally aspirated Sonata. City fuel economy will be rated at 22 mpg. Those numbers are considerably better than the new Buick Regal, at 29 mpg highway; the Ford Fusion V-6, which rates 18/27 mpg (but is also switching to a turbocharged, direct-injection engine soon); and the VW Passat's 22/31 mpg.

Pricing also has been roughed in. The turbocharged Sonata will carry a base price of about $25,000, while a loaded version is expected to come in just under $30,000. The turbocharged version will be offered in SE or Limited trim; all will have standard USB and Bluetooth and satellite radio, with the Limited adding paddle shifters, differently styled 18-inch wheels, dual exhausts and a panoramic sunroof.

The 2011 Hyundai Sonata has already proven timing is critical to any new-car launch. Just as vital, is outpacing the competition. With numbers like those on the Sonata 2.0T, Hyundai's given shoppers one more reason to turn their eyes away from some time-tested four-doors in favor of (say it quietly) turbo power.

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