Monday, April 24, 2006

2006 Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 Long-Term Test Update No. 1

2006 Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 Long-Term Test Update No. 1 September 6, 2005 By West Coast Office / American Auto Press A New Midsize Benchmark? When the all-new 2006 Sonata first appeared in sneak preview photographs I wasn’t sure what to think. Sure its lines were attractive in an understated way, but I had liked the dare-to-be-different attitude of the previous two models and maybe wasn’t ready for Hyundai’s midsize model to go mainstream. But all this changed when I spent time with the car during its media launch in San Francisco last May. After a full day’s drive and a couple of evening jaunts around town, I saw the Sonata in a new light. Its conservative lines quickly grew on me, and after some contemplation my belief now is that the new car will enjoy greater staying power than the outgoing model. One things for sure, it’s a fine lot better looking the most of its Japanese competition, at least those at the forefront of the sales charts. And as I stated in the review it also performs equal to, and in some ways better than those top-selling imports. And I’m not just talking about driving dynamics, but real life performance like getting stuff in and out of the trunk, accommodating rear seat passengers, working the audio and HVAC systems, and delivering reliable transportation day in and day out. So now that Hyundai has delivered a well optioned Sonata GLS V6 to our west coast office for a long-term test, well be able to see first hand if it holds up to the daily duties our staffers will put it through. It should, of course, as the previous generation car was recently awarded most reliable car overall by Consumer Reports magazine, but the new Sonata is an altogether different animal. It features new chassis architecture, a new drive train, new electronics - yes, pretty well new everything. But before getting into the initial log entries, its probably best to go over the specific model Hyundai has supplied us with, including its various features. First of all, its not top of the line, but then again it comes pretty close. Actually, the only items that are missing is an automatic climate control system, adjustable foot pedals, an auto dimming rear view mirror, traction and stability control, a trip computer, garage door opener and compass. OK, that’s a fairly extensive list. For our purposes, you can appreciate that while well be commenting on the various standard features our Sonata GLS V6 includes, for a very reasonable $19,395, you wont be hearing any mention of traction and stability control, or automatic climate control, or any of the other options not included. You will, however, get feedback about the cars many power amenities, standard air conditioning system, 6CD in-dash audio system, leather seating surfaces, refined six-cylinder engine, five-speed automatic transmission, interior room, trunk space, fit and finish, reliability, dealer service experience, etc. So, enough of these editors drive, on with the Sonata GLS V6 test logs: Odometer: 1,193 miles Trevor: Unlike our previous long-term vehicle, the Sonata arrived broken in already. While this isn’t quite the same as buying a new car, I’m looking at it as if we purchased a slightly used demo. The good part of this is that well be able to rack up more miles during our six month test, and the more miles on the odometer means the more opportunity to see how the Sonata fares over the long haul. Odometer: 1,203 miles Trevor: Home from Hyundai’s local press liaison and parked the "Deep Water Blue" Sonata in its covered stall. It looks good in there, but it doesn’t take up as much space as I initially though it would. Its not that the car looks big from the outside, as it appears slimmer and trimmer than the outgoing model and tidier than most of its peers, but when I got inside I found it so accommodating I was beginning to worry that it would take up more real estate than I had parking space. A quick look at the Sonatas specs say otherwise, with Hyundai’s new entry actually measuring shorter than the top-selling Honda Accord and Toyota Camry rivals, by a miniscule 0.5 and 0.2 inches respectively, mind you. The Sonata is slightly wider than both Japanese competitors, but again only 0.7 inches over the Accord and a slightly more substantial 1.5 inches over the Camry, while it splits the difference in height, measuring 1.02 inches taller than the Accord and 0.6 inches lower to the ground than the Camry. Again it measures directly in between the Accord and Camry in wheelbase, 0.4 inches shorter than the Accord but 0.4 inches longer than the Camry. But as far as curb weight goes, its the heaviest of the bunch in base and top-tier trim. I think its base weight gain is due to the much longer list of standard features compared to the two Japanese cars, because when measuring our almost fully loaded tester against decked out Accords and Camry’s the weights are nearly dead on, with the Sonata GLS V6 only 48 kilograms heavier than the Accord EX V6 and 14 kilos over the Camry XLE V6. The only area where one of the two comparative rivals beats the Sonata, dimensionally, at least, is in trunk size, with the Camry inching away from the Sonata with 0.4 additional cubic feet of space. Both trounce on the Accords smallish "boot" by a substantial margin, the Sonata offering 2.3 cubic feet more cargo volume. Odometer: 1,210 miles Jennifer: OK, I’m not usually a four-door sedan kind of girl so the addition of this largish midsize model wasn’t a particularly thrilling prospect, but that is such an attractive deep blue metallic that I might be persuaded to get behind the wheel. Odometer: 1,215 miles Jennifer: I can’t say I’m in love with the light gray interior motif, but it’s well made and the leather seats are quite comfortable. This is also a really easy car to drive, with pretty decent power and an ultra smooth transmission. Odometer: 1,241 miles Alexandra: I’m really impressed with what Hyundai has done with the Sonata. Not only is it comfortable to sit and drive, but it looks exceptionally good. I might even be so bold to say that it looks much better than the Honda Accord, and even the Toyota Camry. During my time with the new Sonata, I also had a Chevrolet Cobalt SS, which is another great car. Despite the SS being sport-oriented and a heck of a lot of fun, I often preferred driving the Sonata. Why? Because sometimes I appreciated the larger cars comfort, and the convenience of four doors as opposed to the flashy sports coupes two. The Sonatas understated might not have a big wing on the back, but its five-speed automatic transmission was more agreeable in city traffic. Odometer: 1,256 miles Alexandra: I went to a couple of press conferences downtown and, of course, took the more agreeable Sonata. After my meetings were done, I ended up getting together with a couple of friends who were also downtown. I picked the first up and the question of "Which car is this?" was posed. When I told her it was a Hyundai Sonata, she asked "Really?" It reminded me of that Hyundai TV ad where a man is about to be questioned on something and he immediately answers "Yes" before the question is even asked. At the end of the commercial, the last interrogator asks, "Is that a Hyundai?!" And of course the answer is "Yes!" And yes, it’s just that good. The interior of the Sonata is also something to rave about. I like the way its set up. The in-dash CD changer is located higher than the air vents, which I find much more practical because audio system controls are easier to read and the air from the vents is directed more towards the body than other setups. I am also a fan of the leather seating surfaces with front butt warmers. Of course its still mildly temperate here on the West Coast so I haven’t used them yet, but give it a few more weeks and they’ll be on full blast! Odometer: 1,266 miles Trevor: Wow, Jennifer is right. This GLS V6 is so smooth and quiet on the highway that I’m surprised its steering wheel doesn’t have Lexus stylized "L" fixed to the hub. The GLS features upgraded surfaces on the center stack, either in wood grain or a carbon fiber-like design. Our tester has the latter and it’s quite tastefully done. Either upgrade looks miles better than the gray plastic surface of the base Sonatas center stack too. The audio system, sitting high on the dash, sounds superb. I’m really glad for this, as our previous long-term vehicle had an excellent stereo and my regular need for pumping out tunes at high volume needs to be satisfied sans distortion. This system, along with its 6-disc in-dash CD changer will do just fine. Source:

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