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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Long-Term Car Introduction: 2011 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T:

a side view of the long-term 2011 Hyundai Sonata.
Our long-term 2011 Hyundai Sonata is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 274 hp.

It arrived a few days after the holidays, wrapped in slinky blue packaging and with a surprise lurking inside: a 274-hp turbo with plenty of pull and punch. And just as we shooed the final guests out the door, we eagerly welcomed the 2011 Hyundai Sonata to the AW long-term fleet.

What does the year hold? We've resolved to make proper use of the turbo power, which is served up easily and often from the 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Our editors immediately noticed this, even during the break-in period. Passing on the expressways and knifing through congested surface streets are simply on-demand.

The Sonata turbo starts at $24,895, and we checked the boxes for navigation and sunroof, XM satellite radio and other electronic goodies, adding $2,600 to the price. With a couple of other small items, our long-termer stickered for $27,630, which we all agreed was reasonable.

The previous two generations of the Sonata were solid executions and formed a foundation for Hyundai's rapid growth. Emboldened by success, Hyundai dramatically restyled this sedan with swoopy lines and creases, highlighted by a prominent beltline and a classy chrome-colored grille. The looks have drawn comparisons to luxury-level cars. One editor succinctly summed up our early observations: "I think it's a terrific-looking car inside and out."

Another staffer said, "The Sonata is an exceptionally nice little sedan."

But we've picked up on some annoyances, most gratingly the steering. The wheel feels overly weighted at times and artificial, as if it's trying to channel the gravitas of a BMW 3-series without the proper mechanical elements to back it up. The rack-and-pinion system directs the car adequately, although it lacks some refinement. The cabin is also a bit breezy, and road noise intrudes at times.

Those faults aside, we enjoyed the Sonata as we endured the Michigan weather near One AutoWeek Tower. Our Hyundai is sure-footed in the snow, and the chassis is compliant over potholes and other road imperfections. The suspension is flat in corners, and in nicer weather, we expect to push the car harder. It tips the scale at 3,452 pounds, and with 269 lb-ft of twist available between 1,750 rpm and 4,500 rpm, we're bracing ourselves for some seat-pulling torque. It also runs on 87 octane, which is nice for a turbo and even nicer for the wallets.

The Sonata's cabin is drawing raves. Our version is clad in a stately blue, almost black material over the dashboard, which is pleasing to the eye and the touch. The black door panels and subtle trim enhance the layout. The back seat offers decent space, and passengers have not complained so far about being relegated to steerage.

Overall, early indications are good. The turbo Sonata is one holiday gift we won't return any time soon.




Base price (includes $750 delivery): $24,895

As-tested price: $27,630

Options: SE Navigation and Sunroof package, with power sunroof, navigation with high-resolution touch-screen display, XM NavTraffic, XM NavWeather, XM sports and stocks, Dimension premium audio system with subwoofer ($2,600); carpeted floor mats ($100); iPod cable ($35)


Wheelbase (in): 110

Track (in): 62.5 front, 62.5 rear

Length/width/height (in): 189.8/72.2/57.9

Curb weight/GVWR (lb): 3,452/4,497


Front-transverse 2.0-liter/122-cid DOHC turbocharged I4

Power: 274 hp @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 269 lb-ft @ 1,750-4,500 rpm

Compression ratio: 9.5:1

Fuel requirement: 87 octane


Front-wheel drive

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Final drive ratio: 2.885:1


Front: MacPherson struts with coil springs, gas-charged shock absorbers, antiroll bar

Rear: Multilink with coil springs, gas-charged shock absorbers, antiroll bar


Vented discs front and rear, ABS with EBD; aluminum 225/45R-18 Hankook Optimo H431


EPA combined: 26 mpg



0-60 mph: 6.2 sec

0-quarter-mile: 14.6 sec @ 97.4 mph


60-0 mph: 124.8 ft


490-ft slalom: 42.8 mph

Lateral acceleration (200-ft skidpad): 0.79 g


Idle: 41.7

Full throttle: 73.6

Steady 60 mph: 68.6

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