Friday, May 12, 2006

2006 Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 Long-Term Test Update No. 9

2006 Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 Long-Term Test Update No. 9 January 6, 2006 by West Coast Office / American Auto Press Auto Climate Control, Stability Control and Traction Control are Worth the Extra Coin Our long-term Sonata put on a decent number of miles during the past two (ahem) weeks - OK, were a few days late with the update, give us a break - totaling 359 miles, from 3,565 miles when we dropped it off at the dealership for servicing and to get the scratch removed from its rear passenger-side door, to 3,923 miles, just as Jennifer was driving out of the parking lot to do a bunch of errands this afternoon (or yesterday afternoon as you read this). I suppose I was expecting the odometer to read lower, being that over the Christmas holidays we enjoyed a full-load Sonata GLS V6 (yes, despite having leather seats and other goodies our regular GLS V6 doesnt feature every last bell and whistle) in place of our regular car. While the servicing hardly took a week, we left the long-term car with our Hyundai rep while we tested out the one with all the options. This new car included automatic climate control, adjustable foot pedals, an auto dimming rear view mirror, traction and stability control system, trip computer, garage door opener and compass to our already well-equipped GLS V6. Rather than include comments on this replacement car in the regular log entries, as we werent keeping track of the mileage of a vehicle that we only had in our hands for a single week, well discuss it right now in a collective editorial. Overall, we all feel that the extras that came with this specific car, two of which we believe are essential for safety reasons, the first being electronic stability control, and the second, traction control, make the price to upgrade worth it. We mention stability control first because of its ability to pull an errant driver out of a tricky situation no matter on his or her ability behind the wheel. While the electronic driving aid wont help to claw back a cars velocity any quicker than the ABS-enhanced four-wheel disc brakes can, the latter already standard with our long-term car and all V6-powered Sonatas, it will help keep a skidding car, particularly one that has lost grip at its rear end and is starting to torque sideways, from losing complete control. The day that we tested it might have been the soggiest of the year, but unfortunately there was no snow on the roadway up to the ski hill near the office. No worries, the water was running down the pavement in streamlets, deep enough to pull the front wheels off their trajectory and unsettle the chassis, a bit, but thats where the Sonatas stability control came in. First of all, in order to test it properly, we were driving at speeds that, well, lets just say our men in blue might have been a bit miffed. But still the Sonata performed flawlessly, even when braking heavily mid-turn while going through a rather deep and fast flowing rivulet - dont do this at home... unless youre driving a Sonata GLS V6 with all the trimmings, mind you, in which case, unless you were just plain being stupid and taxing the car way beyond its limit, it would slow in a controlled, efficient manner, setting up the suspension to take the next right sweeping corner that lay ahead, in this particular case. Take-off from standstill is similarly benefited from traction control, which sapped away a little bit of the cars throttle response, but nevertheless helped to keep the front wheels gripping the pavement even under full throttle. Most of us in the office, at least those who drive fast for a living, would rather modulate the throttle ourselves, in most cases, but when its really slippery, such as the snowy conditions we had here on the West Coast recently, traction control certainly removes the guess work when getting out of the driveway is top priority, almost acting like all-wheel drive. As far as the other features go, the automatic climate control is much nicer to use than the manual setup, although it looks much the same, minus the centre fan speed dial, replaced with a digital readout. Being able to set the temperature and have the system do the rest is nicer than constantly modulating the dial. While Trevor and Rob could hardly care about the power actuated foot pedals, for Jennifer and Alexandra the feature made a big difference. "I was able to get the steering wheel and seat in the optimal positions for comfort and control," commented Jennifer. "Usually when my arms are in the proper, slightly bent 9 oclock, 3 oclock positions, my ears are up by the steering wheel. Not so with the power adjustable pedals." The automatic dimming rearview mirror is one of those frivolous extras, or at least we thought so until having to live without it. Its nice not having to reach up and click the dimming switch when someones lights blind from behind at night. Often the mirror just stays dimmed out of laziness to switch it back, which means that vision is impaired during the daytime. What we like about the auto dimming mirror is that while driving at night during a moment when there arent any lights shining into it, the image reflecting is brighter than a mirror that has been switched to the dimming setting manually. So, in effect, its probably a bit safer overall. Theres an integrated compass set right into the glass of the mirror, whatever, while the trip computer took care of remedial items, such as distance traveled and approximate distance before the need to fuel. We didnt try the garage door opener, because we dont have a garage door, but our collective guess is that it works fine. And now, before someone in the office has something more to add, or even worse, sends a last minute email about some new obscure award that the Sonata has won (OK, AJACs Car of the Year, Kiplingers "Best in Class", Sobre Ruedas Magazine "Best Sedan 2005 Award Winner", Popular Mechanics "Automotive Excellence Award", and many of the other awards mentioned - and some yet to be mentioned Im sure - are hardly obscure), lets get on with the log entries: Odometer: 3,570 miles Trevor: Picked the car up and I dont think Ive seen it so clean since it was new. I love it when dealers clean a car when theyre finished servicing it. The scratch is gone, thank goodness, and all is right again. Odometer: 3,580 miles Jennifer: Yeah, its near perfectly clean in here. But just the same, before it was polished up and shampooed back to pristine condition, I was impressed with how well the light gray carpeting looked cleaner than the dirt on it should have allowed. The same for the seats; and on that subject all you mothers out there might ask your husbands to buck up for the leather, because its oh so easy to clean. Odometer: 3,611 miles Trevor: Yeah, I want that auto climate control back, and the automated rearview mirror. Kaden (5) liked the compass, thought it was cool. Im OK without the traction control, but the stability control would make me feel safer when driving faster than I should be in wet weather. Its not that the Sonata has ever broken traction and started sliding, but more of a, "I know its there if I need it thing." Odometer: 3,627 miles Jennifer: Understood. Im missing the power actuated pedals. Never really found the Sonata to be uncomfortable before, but now that Ive tried those handy pedals Im wishing for the upgrade. If any of our readers are 55" or under, they should probably opt for this feature. Odometer: 3,674 miles Jennifer: Not unlike most holiday seasons, were doing a lot of inner-city traveling to visit family. The Sonata has become the vehicle of choice merely because it fits so many of us inside (5 in total, but two in child safety seats and one, somewhat squeezed, in the middle rear position). The other car Trevor booked for this week, a totally selfish move on his part, is a Lexus IS 350, which, while very nice, is too small for a family our size. Odometer: 3,741 miles Trevor: Now that were talking about the IS 350, I couldnt help but notice how much the two cars look alike, at least from the rear. I dont think that either brand copied the other, first because Lexus would never try to emulate Hyundai, no matter how good the Sonata looks, and neither car company would have had access to any of the other brands preliminary drawings (both cars were kept well under wraps for the last few years, when they would have been in final development stages). Its just great minds thinking alike, and while there are obvious differences, the Sonata featuring larger taillights, for instance, the basic shape of these are remarkably similar. The fact that both cars in my driveway are painted in a deep hue of blue didnt hurt the comparison, and the coincidence that both badges are situated high on the trunk lid, oval in shape and decorated in chrome. Speaking of oval, the Sonatas tailpipe tips might even look racier than the IS 350s circular ones, but lets stop the comparison there, as these are two very different cars attempting to reach two very different customers. But they both look fabulous, and are so good at what theyre designed to do. Odometer: 3,752 miles Alexandra: Took the Sonata while picking up our weekly testers, and am reminded of how wonderfully comfortable the big sedan is. Yes, its big compared to the cars I normally drive (relegated to entry-level models due to my entry-level age). The Sonata is so smooth, though, and so refined compared to compact models. I can see why people would want to move up from, say, an Accent or Elantra, or any rival brands subcompact or compact model. The ride is so refined, and engine so powerful. Gee, can I borrow the car more often? Odometer: 3,838 miles Jennifer: Oops. Its been awhile since I made a log entry, or for that matter, since anyone else has either. Oh well, its not like the Sonata has been sitting in the garage or anything. Actually, its getting more use than ever, zipping around town as our prime holiday shuttle. I heard those squeaking brakes again, but Trevor tells me that this isnt a problem so Im not going to worry about it. Odometer: 3,876 miles Trevor: I thought I had another prize for the Sonata trophy case when I found the Good Housekeeping Institute "What Women Want" Automotive Satisfaction Award for the entry midsize car category, when I was googling the net, but drat, its for last years car. But then, after a little more digging I found out that the new 2006 Hyundai Sonata beat Hondas Accord and Toyotas Camry, what are considered its, and every other midsize contenders primary competitors in the midsize sedan segment, and took first place in an Inside Line comparison test on July 17, 2005. There it is. I found the Sonata award of the week! Odometer: 3,894 miles Jennifer: Someone really should take you out more often, Trevor. As for me, I dont need someone else to tell me that the Sonata should win an award. Its won us over easily enough for all the reasons we tout week after week. Odometer: 3,924 miles Trevor: And with that, its off to Detroit on Saturday for the big kahuna of auto shows, the North American International Auto Show, live at Cobo Hall. Will the Sonata take home any more awards there? Hmmm... tough to say, but likely. Me? I think that Hyundai might take home a prize from an altogether different segment. What am I referring to? Check in on Jan 8 for a preview of something that I think will be defined as even more refined than the Sonata. It just keeps getting better and better, doesnt it? Source:

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