Hyundai’s potent Sonata 2.0T ups the ante for an already attractive ride

SonataTurbo_171_v2CASEY WILLIAMS  | Auto Reviewer

All of the great marques have special models with special letters. Adding an “M” to the back of a BMW changes an accomplished touring machine into an all-out performer.

Hanging “AMG” on the trunk of a Benz instills a tradition of racing and mind-bending acceleration. Put a “V” on a CTS and you’ve got bottled evil.

Sticking a “T” on the back of a Hyundai may not scare the world’s power players, but it might light dirt clods under market-leading mid-sizers.

Mentioning the 2.0T along with the great “alphas” from Germany isn’t completely whack. In the mid-‘90s, a BMW M3 made way with a 286 horsepower V6 engine. The C36 AMG, Mercedes’ first car formally badged with the iconic letters, ran from 0-60 mph in 6.6 seconds, topping out at 155 … and did it all with just 268 galloping steeds.

I’m darned sure neither of those cars generated the fuel economy ratings or offered up such a cavernous interior as the Hyundai.

Let’s just get to it. The Sonata’s 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine produces 274 horsepower and 269 lb.-ft. of torque — all routed to the front wheels through a near-perfect six-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission. Unlike in the Bimmer and Benz, drivers are confronted with a fair amount of torque steer — two wheels can only be asked to do so much before throwing a regal fit. I’m old enough to remember V8-powered supercars that couldn’t generate those numbers, and they sure as heck didn’t achieve 22/33-MPG city/highway. Another point of interest, the pint-sized Chevy Aveo achieves 25/34- MPG and makes due with a 108-HP engine. Hyundai hit the big boys in their asses.


FITS TO A T | Good gas mileage, a turbocharged engine, sleek interior styling and a nice price make the 2.0T an enviable vehicle for a wide range of tastes. (Photos courtesy Hyundai)

It would be hard to imagine a more pleasing package in which to wrap this mechanical orchestration. Borrowing from the Mercedes CLS four-door coupe, Sonata is a sexy piece with a near-perfect arch running from its wavy chrome grille to its sculpted hood, curved roofline and tapered rear deck. The forms have more of a molded look than metal stamped through presses. Hunkered down over 18-in. alloy wheels and low-profile touring tires, the car looks like it rolled out for a futuristic sci-fi flick. Yet, it has a family-friendly look that is almost huggable.

The love continues inside. Sitting behind the wheel, you could just as easily be piloting the Genesis Coupe as a roomy five-passenger sedan. Big analog gauges, twin-cockpit dash lay-out, huge cupholders, cavernous storage bin in the console and in-dash touch screen that couldn’t be easier to navigate, or use to navigate, work well. Automatic climate control will freeze your tenders; heated seats roast your cushions on cold mornings.

I’m also a fan of the multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather seats, and auto up/down driver window. Fold-down rear seats and a roomy trunk will swallow bicycles and gear like a pack mule stomping up a mountain trail.

Everybody inside can rest assured in their safety. Potential padding comes from dual front, front side and side curtain airbags. Front active head restraints and self-retracting seatbelts keep you in your place. Enhancing the driver’s ability to avoid ugly incidents in the first place are four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, electronic stability control and brake force control to prevent skids under heavy deceleration. An incredibly rigid passenger compartment is protected by engineered crush zones front and rear.

Great driver’s cars have finesse to their motions that draw you in and provide rewards for your attention. The 2.0T’s steering is direct and reacts instantly off center. It is perfectly weighted for a family sedan with sporting intentions. The suspension is firm, but compliant and the brakes are up to the task of stopping a 3,400-lb. automobile. Step into the turbo and it generates smooth torque at virtually any speed. Get on it at Interstate speeds and it will put a beaming smile across your mug. It’s nice that you can buy a perfectly practical car that can also put joy in the life of its driver.

To witness Hyundai upping its technological game two clicks higher, check out the Sonata Hybrid. Aero tweaks clue you in that this is the model that gets a compact-like 35/40-MPG city/hwy. A net of 206 horsepower comes from a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, motor, and advanced lithium polymer batteries. Prices start under $26,000.

Whether you choose the Sonata with a T, the one with batteries, or just the regular 4-cylinder version, you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that Hyundai has out-engineered and out-styled itself into the realm of the world’s best automakers. These are great cars — ones about which you will be proud to tell your friends and look forward to enjoying for many years. For added assurance, the Sonata comes with Hyundai’s standard 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

With an as-tested price of $30,000, competitors include the Buick Regal, Honda Accord, VW Passat and Ford Fusion.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.