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2015 Hyundai Sonata Limited and 2.0t First Drive Review By Thom Cannell +VIDEO
By Thom Cannell
The Auto Channel
In 2008 Sonata put Hyundai on a minuscule list of irresistible cars. It had style and panache, the good looks that attract the eye and make moving to a new brand of automobile natural. There was a reason; Sonata introduced a signature Fluidic Sculpture design language and established Fluidic Sculpture so firmly in the public mind that a Google search of “fluidic” returns pictures of the 2009-2014 Sonata, not waterfalls or plumbing.
All of what is new is under the sheet metal skin, below the paint and inside the doors. Sonata’s engines, while significantly improved, are unchanged. Hyundai defines the change as Beckham in Stephen Williams suits, Serena Williams in Michael Costello frocks, primal athletes in bespoke tailored clothing and it is an apt description. Visually, the 2015 Sonata is identifiable as Sonata, Hyundai, and new. It is leaner, with signature crisp lines melted into softer, more elegant gestures. In front, the nose is more expressive, retaining the trapezoidal grille, but wider and more expressive without any sense of cartoon and tightly bound by new jewel headlamps incorporating blazing Xenon HID lamps. Below, new corning lights feature LEDs that will remind you of Audi’s hockey stick. Their proportions pull the eye forward.
On the highways and two-lanes, equipped with a standard 2.4- liter (185 hp/178 pound feet of torque) engine, Sonata wanted to lope, to run, to glide ahead with little regard for speed limits. This year the power (torque) comes on earlier for the 2.4 and turbo models. Few really understand that it’s torque you feel, not horsepower, and Hyundai has left a few of those horses in the stable in return for more power leaving the stop light and accelerating up an on-ram, not to mention passing Good Sam RVs. Equipped with technology like forward collision warning (we did not try it out), blind spot detection, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert we felt more luxury than mainstream and why Hyundai remains a value brand, they call it valuable. One trick we didn’t try was the delivered by the handsfree key fob. Approach the trunk, wait three seconds and the trunk opens.
As Sonata is equipped with mode selection for the powertrain (ECO, normal, sport) we suggest ECO or normal to maximize fuel economy around town and on casual freeway commutes, sport for any two-lane excursions or if you enjoy a bit tighter steering and higher revving engine. Mode selection, with a console mounted selector button, modifies transmission shift points and steering effort, advancing or holding gear changes for more apparent passing power and driving precision. Oh, like a majority of new cars Hyundai equips Sonata with electronic power steering, Limited with a new column mounted device that is precise with plenty of on-center feel.
Playing, we opened the curtain on our optional sunroof. It was huge, seeming to reach from the windscreen to back window. And opening the sound absorbing panel did not increase wind noise even a tic. As sunroofs are so personal, Hyundai makes them an option on Limited models.
The 2.0t is defined by several factors beginning with its twin scroll turbocharged engine, an engine that feels far stronger than its 245 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque would predict. It’s that torque curve again. Engineers delivered maximum torque at 1,350 rpm, barely off idle. This 3,500 pound car measures strongly versus V-6-equipped competitors in power and fuel economy. What you feel is a surge of power any time you wish thanks to the dual scroll turbo turbocharger and long, flat torque curve. Appropriately, there are stronger, larger brakes. They felt Germanic in their instance that you halt, even with modest pressure against the pedal. Another unseen addition is a change in the electronic power assisted steering. The 2.0t uses a different, more responsive system that mounts the power assist right at the steering rack for greater precision and driver feel at the steering wheel. We were surprised and delighted.
The reason for the quietness, solid ride and handling is due to Hyundai’s use of advanced high strength steel. It’s harder, lighter, stronger, which adds rigidity and crash resistance. Along with stiffer sub-frame bushings the effect is a far more solid car that delivers its premium feel almost subliminally. All Sonata models use the same chassis design, differing only in the way damping forces are delivered, stiffness of the springs, and larger anti-roll bars for the 2.0t.
For this drive we left the drive mode selector in sport, hoping for more challenging roads. Sometimes Sport mode means a stern and jarring ride, one that punishes your enthusiasm. Not so here. Together with standard paddle shifters–and we did play with them—the combination of ride, handling, brakes, and power created a genuinely sporting 4-5 passenger sedan. What was missing from our 2.0t Sport was the thunder of the Infinity sound system we’d come to enjoy. Not to worry, there is a technology package that includes Infinity with the same navigation system we’d had in the Limited.
2014 Hyundai Sonata NY Auto Show Press Conference