Thursday, August 28, 2008
FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 08/27/2008 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded five-star crash test ratings, the highest government rankings under the agency's New Car Assessment Program, to the all-new 2009 Hyundai Genesis for both frontal and side-impact crash tests.
"Genesis was engineered with a lightweight but strong body shell, featuring ultra-high tensile steel, laser welding, and advanced adhesive bonding," said John Krafcik, vice president of Strategic Planning and Product Development, Hyundai Motor America. "Add eight airbags and electronic active head restraints and you can see the focus we placed on designing Genesis for occupant safety. These five-star results are just one indication of the dedication Hyundai engineers place on safety."
Maintaining Hyundai's emphasis on delivering leading safety technology, Genesis boasts world-class active and passive safety features that both prevent accidents and maximize the well-being of its occupants in the event of a collision. The Genesis continues the Hyundai tradition of standardizing key life-saving safety technology, with features such as Electronic Stability Control (ESC), eight airbags and electronic active head restraints.
ESC compares the driver's intended course with the vehicle's actual response. It then brakes individual front or rear wheels and/or reduces engine power as needed in certain driving circumstances to help correct understeer or oversteer.
Genesis' eight airbags include advanced dual front airbags, front and rear seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and roof-mounted side curtain airbags for both front and rear outboard seat occupants.
Hyundai is the first popular brand to offer electronic active front head restraints, a standard feature on the 2009 Genesis, which are an improvement over mechanically-based active head restraint systems. Until now, electronic active head restraints could only be found on select Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus models. Active front head restraints have been proven by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to help prevent whiplash.
Genesis is brought to a halt by large four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD). The V6 models feature 12.6-inch front rotors with single-piston floating calipers, while the V8 models feature 13-inch front rotors with four-piston calipers. All models are equipped with 12.4-inch rear rotors.
HYUNDAI MOTOR AMERICA
Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co. of Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced through 800 dealerships nationwide.
NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION
NHTSA is dedicated to achieving the highest standards of excellence in motor vehicle and highway safety. The agency strives to exceed the expectations of its customers through its core values of Integrity, Service and Leadership. NHTSA provides leadership to the motor vehicle and highway safety community through the development of innovative approaches to reducing motor vehicle crashes and injuries.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Nothing in Hyundai's lineup has recalled the 1986 Excel in a long time, and thank goodness for that. From the ashes of that less-than-stellar entree into the American market, the Korean automaker has forged a reputation for building high-quality cars with an exceptional value equation. If various surveys that place Hyundai on par with the likes of Honda for quality don't offer convincing-enough evidence, then these numbers should: Hyundai's U.S. sales have quadrupled over the last decade.
Yet nothing in Hyundai's lineup could prefigure the 2009 Genesis, either. Bigger, more powerful, more well-appointed, more high-tech--and more expensive--than any other car in the automaker's history, the Genesis thrusts Hyundai headlong into the strange, new world of the luxury segment.
That the Genesis features rear-wheel drive and optional V8 power only adds to its legitimacy; Hyundai didn't just gussy up an Azera, stuff it full of electronic whiz-bangery and slap a fancier badge on its butt. The Genesis is a clean-sheet design, and a more-impressive first effort than expected.
Initially, you might not guess that. The exterior looks weirdly familiar--as with many Korean cars, its design feels like an amalgam of several identifiable models--and surprisingly conservative. There's little in the way of surface excitement; it's fairly slab-sided, and the rear end is forgettable. But its face is somewhat handsome, marked by a large grille sporting sensuously curving slats.
Inside, the Genesis comes with nearly as many luxury, comfort and electronic features as any vehicle in its class, housed in a plush environment that's not only pleasing to the senses but looks well made of high-quality materials--rich-looking wood, leather and brushed-aluminum cover most surfaces. It's a clutter-free interior, too, the center stack housing most controls laid out in a compact, easy-to-navigate fashion. Opting for the Driver Information System with its 30-gig hard drive puts a now-ubiquitous shuttle wheel on the center console, while the optional navigation system removes separate radio controls.
Auxiliary audio input jacks and Bluetooth connectivity come standard on every model, while the options list includes high-intensity discharge lamps, adaptive front lights, front and rear parking sensors, a 17-speaker Lexicon audio system featuring 7.1 premium surround audio and six-disc in-dash CD player, backup camera, cooled driver's seat and rain-sensing wipers.
The Genesis draws power from one of two engines, the base vehicle getting the familiar 3.8-liter V6, mounted longitudinally in this application and tuned to turn out 290 horses at 6,200 rpm, with 264 lb-ft of torque available at 4,500 rpm. Unlike in the slightly smaller, front-drive Azera, the 3.8-liter swaps out a five-speed box for an Aisin six-speed automatic transmission.
The big story, however, lies with the optional engine, the first V8 developed in-house by Hyundai. Called Tau, the all-aluminum 4.6-liter unit features a host of sophisticated technologies, including a dual-stage intake manifold and continuously variable valve timing applied to both the intake and exhaust events, to help push output to 375 hp at 6,500 rpm (368 hp when using regular fuel). That lines up nicely against the Lexus LS 460's 4.6-liter engine, with its peak 380 hp at 6,400 rpm. But Hyundai's effort falls short in the torque department, turning out 333 lb-ft at 3,500 rpm to the Lexus's 367 at 4,100.
Likewise, when stacked up against the BMW 750i, the Hyundai ultimately produces more power (15 hp), but can't keep up with the Bavarian's torque figure, which bests the Korean's by 27 lb-ft.
To be fair, the shortfall shouldn't hamper the Hyundai's performance; weighing 4,012 pounds at the curb, the V8-powered Genesis undercuts the BMW by 474 pounds and the Lexus by 232. With an expected 0-to-60-mph time of 5.7 seconds, the Genesis should match up well against both of those luxury-segment big-hitters. On top of it all, the smooth-running V8, mated to a ZF-sourced six-speed automatic, returns an EPA-estimated 17 mpg in the city and 25 mph on the highway, better than the Lexus (16/24) and the BMW (15/23).
On the road, the Genesis boasts a supremely quiet cabin, coming darn close to Lexus territory, if not matching it. First off, Hyundai jammed insulation into just about every void it could, from the floor to the roof to the pillars, and decked out the greenhouse with double-paned glass all around. Perhaps more important, the Genesis benefits from an impressively stiff body structure, a copious use of structural adhesives reducing the potential for vibrations.
That stiffness serves the car's road worthiness, too. Combined with a five-link front- and rear-suspension setup, with coil springs and antiroll bars fore and aft (V8s get 18-inch tires, V6s get 17s), the Genesis handles fairly well even if it tends to understeer with a more generous use of the throttle. The ride, however, leans much more to the Lexus side of the equation than BMW, with a soft, but never floaty feel and well-controlled body motions.
Hyundai wants to align its luxury-intent ride against the midsize offerings from Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz (GS, 5-series, E-class). But size-wise, the Genesis splits the difference between those and the larger LS, 7-series and S-class models. The Genesis sits on a wheelbase of 115.6 inches, with an overall length of 195.9 inches. That's only 1.3 and 2.1 inches shorter than the LS, but 3.4 and 5.9 inches longer than the GS; its performance certainly holds its own against the bigger models.
But on a sticker-to-sticker basis, the Genesis more closely resembles its competition's entry-level cars. The V6 Genesis starts at just $33,000 (including $750 destination charge), $1,950 less than the ES 350, $1,075 less than the 328i and just $25 more than a C300 sport sedan. The V8 Genesis starts at $37,250, but full-zoot reaches just $42,000.
We say "just" $42,000, but therein may lie the catch: Is the universe ready for such an expensive Korean car, even if it offers a whole lot of luxury bang for the buck? With a modest U.S. sales goal of 30,000 units per year, we're betting Hyundai will find enough buyers willing to join it on its latest venture.
2009 Hyundai Genesis
ON SALE: Now
BASE PRICE: $33,000
DRIVETRAIN: 3.8-liter, 290-hp, 264-lb-ft V6; RWD, six-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT: 3,748 lb
0-60 MPH: 7.0 sec (est)
FUEL ECONOMY (EPA): 21 mpg
By NATALIE NEFF
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
MEET THE OLD GUY
The Hyundai Accent led the modern subcompact rush. Sure, the late '70s and '80s were stocked with tiny fuel-sippers, but as those guys grew up, Hyundai started a whole new subcompact fad when it put the Accent on the road in 1995.
Except that it's not actually a subcompact. Under Environmental Protection Agency standards, the Accent's 108.1 cubic feet of interior space classify it as a compact car, in the same category as a Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus. But Accent prices start as low as $11,425, and as this story was written, a $1,500 rebate could get you into an Accent for less than $10,000. So it's certainly a subcompact in price.
It has the same traits as a subcompact: a buzzy four-cylinder engine, highway fuel economy over 30 mpg, a goofy name, and low curb weight.
And then there is perception. The three-door hatchback's diminutive dimensions beg you to compare the car with the Toyota Yaris and, in turn, the Honda Fit, Chevrolet Aveo and other subcompacts.
So the EPA is wrong and we're saying the Accent is a subcompact. Are years of experience and a bigger body enough for this pseudo-subcompact senior to beat some of the athletic new freshmen?
THE (LACK OF) STYLE
If the Hyundai Accent were to give you a call, it would probably show up on your caller ID as "Anonymous." It's not that the Korean car is moonlighting as a salesman hawking WiFi-enabled toilets, but that its styling is entirely forgettable. The Accent has none of the gaping grilles and chunky C-pillars that seem to be the youthful calling cards of modern subcompacts.
The windows strictly follow the roofline and a simple beltline. The car may look simple, but from the driver's seat the window profile translates into exceptional visibility in every direction, aided by the rear-seat headrests that tuck in low to the seatbacks.
With our test car's base price of $15,195 we were surprised to find fog lights and 16-inch alloy wheels as standard equipment. Those touches, along with the impressive list of interior equipment, keep the high-end SE model away from econobox status.
JUST DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING
The simplicity of the exterior design carries over to the interior, where you'll find that the controls are predictably placed and intuitive to use. Three large knobs manage the climate control, while the radio interface's equally safe design appears a bit dated. It may all be easy to use, but the Accent falls far short of the Honda Fit's stylish interior.
With touches of silver, our car's gray and black interior was attractive enough. But the plastics are hard and cheap feeling, especially in the door-mounted armrests, which bruise elbows. The steering wheel's thin rim and plastic feel contradict the fact that it's actually wrapped in leather. We did, however, like the look and feel of the leather-wrapped shifter. Our first impression of the firm seats was that they were more baseball bleacher than La-Z-Boy, but over time they proved to be quite comfortable even on long trips.
Accessing the rear seats can be a bit tricky, but once in back, passengers still have enough leg room for in-town travel without complaining. The 60/40 split folding rear seat also works well with the hatch to create a large cargo area. We easily stacked the car with a large tent and several bags of gear and still had plenty of room to stand up a bike (with front wheel and seat removed).
The Accent's list of standard equipment is what we've come to expect of subcompacts: power windows, locks and mirrors; keyless entry; air conditioning and a CD player. There's also the full salvo of safety equipment including six air bags, anti-lock brakes and a tire pressure monitoring system.
As an early 2008 model, our Accent lacked an auxiliary audio input and satellite radio, two features that are quickly becoming mandatory fare in this segment. Hyundai has since added the equipment as standard on SE hatchbacks and all sedans (and raised the starting price by about $200).
IT'S NOT FAST, BUT IT IS FUN
Making 110 hp from its 1.6-liter engine, the Accent slots right between its competitors in power, beating the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, and Chevrolet Aveo but yielding to the Nissan Versa and Suzuki SX4. True to the subcompact creed, it is not fast off the line but is willing to play when driven aggressively. Keep the revs above 3000 rpm and you'll have no problem swiftly merging onto highways, or passing slower vehicles.
In SE trim, the Accent comes standard with a B&M Racing sport shifter attached to the five-speed manual gearbox. Shifts are quick and easy to find, yet still a bit clunky. Paired together, the engine and transmission provide adequate acceleration and an engaging drive. Fuel economy is competitive, with manual Accents rated at 27 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, and automatics delivering 24 mpg and 33 mpg, respectively.
TURN WHEELS FOR MORE FUN
At just about 2500 pounds, the Accent hatchback is of average weight in the subcompact class. But this universal low-weight characteristic is often what makes the other subcompact universal characteristic - low power - tolerable. Get the car up to speed and it's a blast to snake through turns.
Low weight alone does not make a car handle well. Body roll and understeer in the Accent are minimal, controlled by Hyundai's sport-tuned suspension with stiffer springs and dampers. The set-up uses coil springs working with struts in the front and a torsion bar suspension in the rear. The low-profile Kumho tires are a good match for the Accent, working hard to grip rather than squeal through turns. Steering is well weighted, but could be improved by offering more feedback.
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
The Hyundai's most endearing quality may also be the least expected - how well it drives. The Accent is most comfortable in the fringes between city and country, where roads twist but speeds are kept in check. Drive it hard between 20 and 50 mph, keeping revs in the middle of the tachometer and the steering wheel constantly spinning to discover the true character of this car.
Once you get away from a stoplight, even city driving in the Accent is enjoyable. Turning down a new street invites a downshift to turn on the power and pull out of a quick corner. Cloverleaf highway on-ramps are also a great place to demonstrate the Accent's handling prowess, keeping power on tap in second gear for full-throttle acceleration once the ramp straightens out.
But once on the highway, the Accent begins to show some more serious flaws. Cruising at 80 mph had us wondering why earplugs didn't come as standard equipment with this car. At nearly 4000 rpm, the four-cylinder engine roars while you're casually keeping up with traffic. A sixth gear that put revs much closer to 3000 rpm would be a welcome change, even if that meant a downshift to fifth would be needed for highway passing. In fact, the noise was so invasive, this car may be one of the few we actually wish would actually pack on some weight. Fifty pounds of strategically placed insulation could probably go a long way toward making the Accent a better highway commuter.
Rough road surfaces occasionally take control of the Accent's short wheelbase and sport-tuned suspension. Cracks rattled the car and our heads nodded like Bobble Head dolls as the car bounced over grooved roads. For the most part, the highway ride was an acceptable compromise for what was gained in low-speed handling. Further damaging highway credibility, the Accent fails to offer cruise control, even as an option.
DON'T BE SO SUPERFICIAL
The Accent certainly isn't the car for anyone looking to make a style statement. We'd also be wary of owning an Accent if our daily commute involved lengthy highway driving. But if you can look past the design and like to strike fear into the hearts of jaywalkers by bombing around blind turns, the Accent might just fit your unfashionable, driving-enthusiast lifestyle.
We like the Hyundai Accent's mechanicals, equipment list, and price, and in these categories, the car is very competitive against its peers. In driving dynamics, the car is a leader, offering great body control through turns and power that can be played with. We just wish it was a bit more suave on the highway and had even a touch of style. The Accent may retain its starting position on the field, but it definitely won't be homecoming king.
By Eric Tingwall
Monday, August 25, 2008
Hyundai generously offered up a quick ride (not drive) in a pre-production Genesis coupe during an event for the Genesis sedan, and I jumped at the chance. The quick ride didn't exactly show off the coupe's dynamics since five of us were crammed in there and we pretty much rode on the bumpstops the entire trip, but I was able to learn a few things:
The Genesis coupe is indeed a different car from the Tiburon it replaces. Some media members speculated that we were simply riding in a Tiburon with the seats turned around. One particularly critical, hard-driving journalist crawled under the car to verify that it did, in fact, have a drive shaft connecting the front-mounted engine and transmission to the rear wheels. It turns out John Krafcik, Hyundai's vice president of product development and strategic planning, brought the real deal for us to ogle.
With a rumored 310-horsepower V-6, this coupe should be pretty hot. Still, it lost a little of the purported zippiness when we clearly overloaded the car. That just gave us ample opportunities to listen to the exhaust note. Krafcik told us the exhaust isn't fully tuned yet, but we all agreed it sounded pretty good. When properly (read: legally) loaded, I expect the experience to improve dramatically.
The design of the Genesis coupe turns lots of heads. Or at least the sight of five people squeezed into a Genesis coupe cruising through Santa Barbara does. I was stuck (literally) in the back seat and the headroom was severely lacking for someone more than six-feet tall. There was an amazing amount of leg room though. I think anyone up to 5'9" would fit comfortably back there with a reasonably sized driver or passenger in front. Or maybe I have a freakishly long torso. The Genesis coupe certainly has better leg room than something like a Nissan GT-R or Ford Mustang.
The Genesis coupe may not be out until the 2010 model year, but if it packs the same bang-for-your-buck as the Genesis sedan it will be worth the wait.
Source: Automobile Magazine
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Hyundai got high marks from many auto reviewers for the last generation of its Sonata sedan, but it fell short on the car tech front. But now the 2009 Hyundai Sonata is here, and it looks good for catching up with and surpassing its nearest competitors. We weren't surprised to find a navigation system in a Toyota Corolla we reviewed recently, but when we saw the LCD in the Sonata's dashboard, we only kept our feet because we had a little advance warning. It was the iPod integration and the voice command system that really floored us. We had the top-of-the line Limited V6 model, which comes with an engine offering more than adequate power for the little sedan. We were only troubled by the transmission's gear hunting, the soft ride, and the overly powered steering.
Test the tech: Talking to a car
Voice command systems can be troublesome. Many times while testing cars we've found ourselves yelling at the dashboard, repeating the same phrase over and over again, only to have the car reply "Sorry?" or "Audio off" when we were trying to cancel route guidance, as one example. And thinking it was audacious of the 2009 Hyundai Sonata, as a newcomer to modern car tech, to offer a voice command system, we put it to the test.
While driving down the freeway, we started with a few free-form commands, not bothering to read the manual. After hitting the voice button on the left side of the steering wheel, we waited for the prompt, then said, "Destination." The navigation system brought up the destination entry screen right away--a good start. We wanted to go back to the map, so tried saying, "Exit." Hearing that, it switched from the CD player to AM radio. All right, time to get serious.
We pulled off the freeway, parked, and said "Help." The car brought up some top-level help commands on the screen, informing us that we could get specific help on any function. After reading the available commands, we set off again, and tried something complex. We said, "FM frequency 102 point 1," and the car responded by switching to FM 102.1, the local classical station.
OK, we had the hang of this. Thinking we might want to stop for a water, we tried another somewhat complex command. First we said, "Destination," then, "Find nearest convenience store." The screen immediately brought up a list of 7-Elevens and other convenience stores, sorted by their distance from our current location. Nice, but there were no indicator arrows telling us the direction to each one. With a few taps of the touch screen, we could find the locations of any entry on the map, but that was fairly tedious, especially when most of the nearest ones were behind us and we weren't in the mood to backtrack.
We continued on, and in thinking about our experience with the system so far, we realized that we might be able to utter our commands out of context. For example, with many systems we've found that you have to drill down, as in first saying "Navigation" then saying navigation-specific commands. So with the Sonata, we brought up the iPod screen, then said, "Find nearest Mexican restaurant." The system switched from our music screen to a list of nearby Mexican restaurants.
We were pleased with the Sonata's voice command system. In general, the voice commands are intuitive. It doesn't take much time with the onscreen help to figure out some useful commands. It also recognized our spoken commands with good accuracy, working just as well as the system we've used extensively in the Honda Civic.
In the cabin
We mentioned above that we were surprised to find so many tech features in the 2009 Hyundai Sonata. Part of the reason for all these tech features was apparent in the cabin where Infinity logos abound. The subwoofer grille on the rear deck proclaimed Infinity, as did the faceplate for the navigation and audio system. We could see that Hyundai had been hanging out in the right company.
The instrument panel in the Sonata is very uncluttered, with a high-resolution LCD and plenty of nicely inset buttons. Hyundai seems to be taking a stance against knobs, for the most part, as even the temperature controls are rocker switches. In fact, there is so much leftover space from this clean design that Hyundai places two small storage areas in the center stack, below the navigation unit.
The optional navigation system, a good deal at $1,250, uses bright, clear maps with good resolution, avoiding jaggy street names. It renders its maps quickly enough, although we sometimes found its route recalculation slow. On one trip, when we forced it to recalculate multiple times, it finally seemed to give up. Of course, our final destination was already visible on the map, so the navigation system must have been telling us we could find our own way from there. But other than that critique, the route guidance is good, with clear graphics for upcoming turns and text-to-speech, its one advanced feature, where it reads out street names.
We found destination entry easy and intuitive, whether inputting an address or searching for a point of interest. The system also allows for complex routes, letting you input multiple waypoints. There is a screen listing all waypoints on the route that lets you add or delete addresses.
With the navigation system branded as an Infinity, it's no surprise that the audio system comes from Infinity, too. That both systems come from the same OEM means good integration between them. A USB and an auxiliary audio port in the console are part of this system and are standard with the Sonata Limited. You can plug a USB flash drive directly into the USB port and play MP3s from that, and you can plug an MP3 player into the auxiliary input. But there is a third option. Hyundai includes a cable that plugs into both the USB port and the auxiliary port at the same time, and terminates in an iPod connector.
We frankly didn't expect to find iPod integration when we put the Sonata on our schedule. The interface for it, through the touch-screen LCD, is everything we would want, letting us choose music by album, artist, and genre. The interface for USB drives is more primitive, merely letting you browse through folders, similar to the interface for MP3 CDs. With the navigation system, there is a single-CD slot. A six-CD changer is available if you don't get the navigation system. We've found that in cars with iPod integration, the iPod becomes our go-to source for music, and we don't bother much with CDs. XM Satellite Radio is also built into this system with, we expect, the first three months free.
The audio system in the Sonata uses six speakers in the standard configuration of tweeters in the A pillars and woofers in each door, along with a subwoofer in the rear deck. Our experience with this system largely depended on the music we were listening to. With acoustic guitar, we could hear the scratch of the strings, pointing to good clarity at the high end. But tracks with serious bass quickly overwhelmed the speakers, leading to bad rattle. It sounds like the amp used with this system is clear and powerful, but the speakers aren't always up to its output.
We were disappointed that the Sonata doesn't have Bluetooth cell phone integration as an option, especially as a hands-free law is about to come into effect in California. Looks like we will have to wait until 2010, when both Kia and Hyundai models will be getting a Microsoft system similar to the Ford Sync.
Under the hood
The 2009 Hyundai Sonata comes in three trims: GLS, SE, and Limited. A 3.3-liter V-6 is available in all trims, while a 2.4-liter four cylinder is available in the GLS and Limited trims. We had the 3.3-liter V-6 in our Limited trim model, which puts out 249 horsepower and 229 pound-feet of torque--plenty of power for the little Sonata. The engine hummed right along, moving the car easily up hills, at freeway speeds, and passing other cars. To enhance efficiency, the engine uses continuous variable valve timing.
The 3.3 liters seems an odd choice for displacement, and Hyundai could probably have shaved it down to 3 liters without hurting the driving experience while increasing mileage. As it is, this engine gets an EPA-rated 19 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. During our time with the car, we saw the mileage creep up close to 23 mpg during freeway driving, but our final average was down at 19.4 mpg. An emissions rating wasn't available at the time of this review, but we are impressed that the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine available in the Sonata is a PZEV, meaning it produces very few smog-causing pollutants.
The five-speed automatic transmission proved to be the weak link in this power train. It doesn't react particularly fast, even in manual mode, and it takes a while to find the right gear when stressed with hill climbs or passing. Our passing experience inspired very little confidence. When we stomped the accelerator to get around slower cars on a hill, the transmission did its hunting, and settled on a gear, which made the engine give off a bad grinding sound.
The suspension in the Sonata is also very soft. You can feel the shock absorbers compress easily, and on one bad section of road, we felt the suspension bottom out on itself. This type of suspension is fine on a commute car, but allows for plenty of lean in corners and generally doesn't behave well in more stressful situations.
Likewise, the steering felt overpowered. It was too easy to swing the wheel around, whether maneuvering through a parking lot or barreling down the freeway. We didn't get a lot of road feel through the steering wheel because of the power mechanism, although it was tight enough to produce results when turned. Again, this tuning is fine in a commute car, but can be troublesome in situations where you want some feedback.
The Sonata comes standard with traction and electronic stability control, along with a tire-pressure monitoring system, plus airbags all the way around.
The 2009 Hyundai Sonata Limited V6 goes for a base price of $25,670. The navigation package is a surprisingly good deal at $1,250. Along with $90 carpeted floor mats and a $675 destination charge, our Sonata came in at $27,685. The Limited is the only trim with the navigation option, although you can save some dollars by going to the four-cylinder version, which bases at $23,970.
We were suitably impressed with the Sonata Limited, as it offered cabin tech we weren't expecting. The navigation system offers one advanced feature, text-to-speech, and generally looks and works well. We noted some problems with the audio system, but we also liked the iPod integration. Lack of Bluetooth is a problem. The drivetrain tech was less impressive. The engine was fine, although it could have been more economical, but we just didn't like the transmission. Among the Sonata's major competitors, the Honda Accord is too pricey by comparison. We've also tested the Nissan Altima Coupe, a tech-filled and more sporty alternative, and the Toyota Camry Hybrid, which offers better fuel economy.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Sedan closing gap on highly sought Camry, Accord.
The Toyota Camry and Honda Accord are like the Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger, or the Jay Leno and David Letterman, of the sedan world.
Everyone else wants to make a car just like them.
Toyota and Honda are selling about 95,000 Camrys and Accords combined monthly - in May, that was a new Camry or Accord sale every 28 seconds.
Hyundai is the latest wannabe, with the release of its first credible challenge to the sales leaders. If nothing else, the 2009 Sonata has the Camry beat on styling and maybe the Accord, too, to some eyes.
With the upgrades to the new model, including styling tweaks for a classier look, the Sonata is close to the leaders in comfort, workmanship and utility, but less so in drivability. No one will mistake the Sonata for a sports sedan, though it's a competent all-around performer.
The Sonata, made at Hyundai's new Alabama plant, is the least expensive of the three.
My loaded Sonata Limited (V-6, automatic, navigation, stability control, leather, sunroof, premium audio, etc.) had a sticker price of $27,685. A comparable Camry would list around $32,000 and Accord just under $31,000. The Toyota and Honda have earned those prices with long reputations for durability and low depreciation.
The Sonata's engines (3.3-liter V-6 and 2.4-liter four) are thoroughly modern, with twin overhead cams and variable valve timing. Both were pumped up slightly for 2009, with the V-6 producing 249 horsepower.
It feels responsive and capable, even at lower engine speeds, but without the ample reserve power of the Honda and Toyota 3.5 V-6s.
The Hyundai V-6 is certainly smooth and unobtrusive, with a seamless 5-speed automatic. Mileage ratings are 19 and 29, and I found that only the most conservative driving approaches those numbers.
Like the Japanese competition, the Sonata has fully independent suspension, with the ride tuned for comfort, and stable, fairly sharp handling at typical speeds. Push the Hyundai, and the front wheels begin to squeal with protest, the typical response from a front-wheel drive car.
Design and materials in the cabin were impressive, which has been the case even in lesser Sonatas I've been in.
Noise isolation in that pretty cabin was excellent, but the seats were just moderately supportive. Three average adults can use the Sonata's back seat comfortably with the middle passenger's feet straddling the center tunnel.
The Sonata's trunk is humongous, and my Limited model's rear seatbacks folded down to reveal a large pass through - a nice feature indeed for those downsizing from an SUV.
I was pleased with the simple operation of the touch-screen navigation system and the integration of XM satellite radio and iPod. Sonatas at all price levels, by the way, accept iPod connections, a small but important competitive advantage to many.
In this otherwise smart, practical car, common sense was breached in the instrumentation. The blue odometer and trip computer readout were almost unreadable, and the speedometer needs numbers instead of marks on the dial for common speeds. Buzz from the rear speakers on deep bass notes was a disappointment.
In his 27 years of writing a column for the Austin American-Statesman, Pete Szilagyi has driven more than 1,400 new cars and trucks.
According to Pete ...
Target audience: Bottom-line conscious families with a need for space.
Highs: Smooth, efficient drivetrain; comfort; quality of materials; roominess; huge trunk.
Lows: Buzzy speakers.
Bottom line: A lovely machine in search of a personality.
EPA rating for greenhouse gas emissions (10 is best): 6.
By Pete Szilagyi
SPECIAL TO THE AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Hyundai's all-new Genesis is unlike any car the Korean automaker has brought to the United States before. It's a rear-wheel-drive, full-size sedan available with Hyundai's first V-8 engine in a passenger car. After driving the car extensively, it's clear to me that Hyundai got most of the important elements right: The driving experience and the cabin's ambience and amenities are all there.
What's less certain is whether buyers will be accepting of a Hyundai - a brand better known for small, affordable cars - with a starting price of $32,250, even though that price includes a number of standard safety and convenience features. It's going to be difficult, but it helps that Hyundai has a remarkable first effort on its hands.
Most of Hyundai's models fall on the bland side of things where styling is concerned, but the automaker has taken a couple of chances with its new flagship sedan. The first of these is the lack of Hyundai's "H" badge on the grille, which instead features a winged design not seen on other Hyundais in the United States. Though the symbol's absence here (there is one on the trunk lid) misses an opportunity to tell onlookers that the Genesis is a Hyundai, the flip side is that it might intrigue large-sedan shoppers and prompt them to take a closer look. Based on the car's sleek, stylish appearance overall, I suspect many who investigate further will be impressed.
Though the Genesis doesn't blaze any new trails, it does possess an athletic look for a large car, and it's also well-proportioned. The Genesis has a timeless elegance.
Hyundai positions the Genesis as a performance sedan, and I admit I was skeptical about whether the automaker was willing to do what it takes to truly deliver a sport-sedan experience. Having driven the sedan on a variety of roads, I'm now able to report that Hyundai has backed up its talk with a true performer.
Giving the Genesis a rear-wheel-drive platform - as opposed to a front-wheel-drive one like the full-size Hyundai Azera and Toyota Avalon - was one of the first right moves Hyundai made; the superior dynamics afforded by RWD were eminently apparent on winding mountain roads. The Genesis navigates tight corners like a much smaller car - body roll is well checked and the balanced chassis encourages you to push it harder. The Azera, by comparison, offers softer responses when traveling on undulating roads; it's more of a cruiser, whereas the Genesis is a carver.
Along with this sporty performance comes a ride that's definitely more taut than most Hyundais. The four-wheel independent suspension, which features a five-link setup in front and back, is sensitive to pavement imperfections, transmitting the pockmarks of the road up to the cabin. This was on mostly smooth roads, too.
Where the Genesis differs from a number of other performance sedans is that its steering effort is fairly light; it doesn't take much exertion to turn the wheel. It spins with impressive smoothness and has a consistency across its range of motion that lets you follow a curve with precision. Personally, I would have liked a little less power assistance in the steering, but many people will buy the Genesis more for value-oriented luxury than for its handling, so I can understand why Hyundai tuned it the way it did.
Hyundai's first production V-8, which goes in Genesis 4.6 trim levels, is a powerful engine, much like the 380-horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8 in the Lexus LS 460. It has the same displacement as that Lexus V-8 and makes nearly as much power: 375 hp when using premium gas (368 hp on regular). The V-8 powers effortlessly up hills and allows the car to build speed quickly; I looked down at the speedometer one time and was surprised to find I was going almost 90 miles per hour. All this power wouldn't be worth much if accompanied by any harshness or vibration, but the V-8 is impressively smooth and refined, just like the Lexus V-8.
Joining Hyundai's V-8 is an equally good six-speed automatic transmission. It's made by ZF, which also supplies BMW, and includes a clutchless-manual mode for driver-controlled shifts.
The automatic shifts smoothly and feels well-matched to the V-8. It's also easy to control downshifts using your right foot - pressing the gas pedal will make the transmission kick down for a quick pass around a slower-moving car.
Though the new V-8 is big news for Hyundai, the automaker expects 80 percent of Genesis sedans sold to have the standard 3.8-liter V-6. This V-6 isn't new (it's optional in the Azera), but it produces more power in the Genesis than it does in other Hyundais: 290 horsepower.
The V-6 feels plenty strong, if not quite as powerful as the potent V-8, and like the larger engine it can power the sedan to excessive speeds before you know it. The V-6 also works with a six-speed automatic, though this one is manufactured by Aisin. Like the automatic in the V-8 sedan, it's responsive and smooth.
When it comes to gas mileage, the V-6 has a slight advantage over the V-8; it's rated at 18/27 mpg city/highway while the V-8 gets 17/25 mpg.
Genesis occupants are treated to an upscale cabin that features premium materials, like an optional leather dashboard, and a high level of fit and finish. I prefer the look of the base dashboard and its simulated wood trim, but regardless of which way you go, it's clear Hyundai looked to the standard in the luxury segment - the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The similarities between the dashboards are undeniable.
Like the S-Class, the Genesis is available with a multifunction control knob that operates the audio and navigation systems. BMW started this trend with its iDrive system. Even though they offer varying degrees of user-friendliness - with BMW's iDrive near the bottom and Mercedes' Comand near the top - all of them are supplied by Harman/Becker, according to Roger Shively, a chief engineer with the supplier. Fortunately, Hyundai's system is like Mercedes's in that its menus are more intuitive.
The Genesis' front bucket seats are finished in standard leather upholstery, and I found them to be quite comfortable for a day of driving. They offer good thigh support and enough side bolstering to keep you situated during aggressive driving without being restrictive. Three-stage heated front seats are standard, and a cooled driver's seat is optional. Back seat passengers also enjoy spacious accommodations, particularly when it comes to legroom.
The Genesis' trunk measures 15.9 cubic feet. This is slightly smaller than the Hyundai Sonata's 16.3-cubic-foot trunk, but it's larger than the Avalon's 14.4-cubic-foot trunk and the Chrysler 300's 15.6-cubic-foot cargo area. Unlike the 300, the Genesis doesn't have a split-folding backseat, but it does come with a trunk pass-through for carrying long items.
The list of standard safety features includes antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front and outboard rear seats, an electronic stability system, and active front head restraints.
Crash-test results for the Genesis weren't available.
The base 3.8 trim is priced at $32,250 and features 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, cruise control, power front seats, keyless entry and starting, a leather-covered steering wheel, and a seven-speaker audio system with both a USB port for controlling an iPod through the system as well as an auxiliary input jack for plugging in any type of portable music player.
Besides the V-8 engine, 4.6 models, which are listed at $37,250, gain 18-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, a power rear sunshade, a moonroof, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, a memory feature for the driver, higher-grade leather seats, and a six-CD Lexicon stereo.
Greater levels of content are available in option packages. For $2,000, the Premium Package for the 3.8 trim level adds all of the 4.6 features except upgraded leather seats and 18-inch wheels.
The Technology Package is a $4,000 option that's available for both models, though it requires the Premium Package Plus group with the 3.8. It includes a Lexicon surround-sound system with 17 speakers, a knob-controlled navigation system, a backup camera, front and rear parking sensors, and a cooled driver's seat.
You'll pay a little more for the Genesis, but it outpaces mainstream competitors like the 300 and Avalon in many respects. However, it should also put more expensive competitors like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series on notice because it can keep up with them in some areas, too. In the end, the Genesis is yet another example of Hyundai doing what it does best: bringing value to a segment of the market, in this case the luxury sedan segment.
2009 Hyundai Genesis
EPA fuel economy
17-18 mpg city; 25-27 mpg highway
290-hp, 3.8-liter V-6; 375-hp, 4.6-liter V-8
6-speed automatic w/OD and auto-manual
New or notable
V-6 or Hyundai's first V-8
Available multifunction control knob
What we like
Powerful, smooth V-6 and V-8 drivetrains
Front- and rear-seat comfort, space
Detailed, high-quality interior
What we don't
Ride may be too firm for some
Tilt-only steering wheel in base model
Back seat doesn't fold
No AWD option
Popular features locked in pricey packages
Faux-silver dash buttons
By Mike Hanley
Cars.com / August 10, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
The largest, most powerful and best-equipped Hyundai ever sold in the United States, the Genesis offers a value-priced alternative to premium European and Japanese sedans, according to a spokesman for Gaddis Hyundai of Muncie.
New for the 2009 model year, the first of the Genesis models began arriving recently at the local dealership, said Jim Raines, sales representative.
"The Genesis compares favorably to a BMW, Mercedes or Lexus," he said. "Hyundai's objective in designing this car was to offer value-minded buyers the chance to have the performance and luxury of a $45,000 to $50,000 car for a price $9,000 to $15,000 less."
Hyundai did not create the Genesis by starting with an existing model and hanging extra options and equipment on it, Raines said: Instead, the car is built on a new full-size, rear-drive chassis that offers rigid construction and nearly 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution.
"Rear-drive is the standard among most cars in this class, and this chassis offers the balance and handling people expect of a performance-oriented sport sedan," he said.
Raines added that some features of the Genesis are not available on other cars in the same class.
"The only other car to offer the Genesis' available 17-speaker Lexicon audio system is a Rolls-Royce," he said. "This audio system is set up much like a home-theater system for the car."
In addition, the Genesis has an internal fiber-optic network that connects many components and accessories to the car's computer system. Hyundai says the fiber-optic system is more reliable than conventional wires and allows faster transfer of data.
Safety features include eight airbags: front, side and head-curtain airbags for the front as well as side and head-curtain airbags for the rear. The Genesis also comes standard with stability control, traction control and active front head restraints that move forward to reduce the chance of head or neck injuries in a rear-end collision.
The Genesis is covered by Hyundai's standard ten-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, which should enhance the car's appeal to value-seeking buyers, Raines said.
Billed by Hyundai as "America's Best Warranty," coverage also includes a five-year or 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a five-year, unlimited-mileage roadside assistance plan.
Two Genesis models -- the 3.8 and the 4.6 -- are available.
The Genesis 3.8 comes with a 290-horsepower, 3.8-liter V6 engine and starts at $32,250, while the Genesis 4.6 has a 375-horsepower, 4.6-liter V8 and a base price of $37,250. Both models come standard with six-speed "Shiftronic" automatic transmissions that can be shifted manually if the driver wishes.
Other standard features on both Genesis models include a dual-zone automatic climate control system with air filtration and a "smog sensing" air quality system, electroluminescent instrument cluster, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, electronic pushbutton starting, leather upholstery, heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, XM satellite radio and heated outside mirrors with integral turn signal indicators.
Additional or upgraded features on the Genesis 4.6 include 18-inch "Hyper Silver" wheels, a power rear sunshade, power tilt-and-telescoping steering column with memory features, rain-sensing wipers, illuminated door sill plates and a woodgrain-trimmed steering wheel.
Options include a 14- or 17-speaker Lexicon audio system, HD (hybrid digital) radio, a hard-drive based navigation system, rear backup camera, cooled driver's seat and automatically-leveling HID (high-intensity discharge) headlights.
By KEN WICKLIFFE - July 20, 2008
Thursday, August 07, 2008
HYUNDAI BRAND JUMPS EIGHT RANK POSITIONS IN YEARLY DEPENDABILITY STUDY / PROBLEMS-PER-100 VEHICLES DROP OVERALL BY 14 PERCENT / HIGH-MILEAGE ACCENT AT THE TOP OF ITS CLASS / ALL MODELS IMPROVED OVER LAST YEAR
FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 08/07/2008 The fuel-efficient Hyundai Accent, which gets up to 35 miles per gallon on the highway, today was named the most dependable sub-compact car by J.D. Power and Associates in its 2008 Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS). The highly regarded study measures problems experienced by original owners of three-year-old (2005 model year) vehicles. The study is based on the responses of more than 52,000 owners of new vehicles bought between November 2004 and April 2005.
In addition to the highest ranking by Accent, Hyundai on the whole made dramatic improvements in its overall dependability scores:
- The number of problems per 100 vehicles over the entire product lineup dropped 28 points to 200, a 14 percent increase over 2007, almost tripling the industry average improvement of 10 points.
- In the "non-premium" segment, Hyundai improved from 13th place to sixth place.
- Hyundai's score placed it 13th among the 38 nameplates measured in the study and placed it ahead of the industry average for the first time.
- Each product in the Hyundai product portfolio improved over last year.
"Our continued dedication to quality is paying off for consumers, and this year's Vehicle Dependability Study is further demonstration of the strides we are making," said Barry Ratzlaff, Hyundai Motor America director of product quality. "Customers deserve higher levels of quality at the time they buy their vehicle and throughout its lifetime. Our improving initial quality and long-term dependability show that we've responded in a meaningful way for the long term."
Ratzlaff went on to say that with the results achieved in this year's dependability survey that Hyundai had reached a top tier of only a small number of brands that are above industry average in both initial quality and dependability.
The Accent scores registered only 187 problems per 100 cars, a more than 20 percent improvement over 2007 results. This improvement was mostly accounted for by measured improvements in the engine, climate controls and seating categories.
The VDS study measures problem symptoms of three-year-old vehicles primarily in categories such as ride, handling, braking, temperate controls, seats, engine performance, driving dynamics and interior and exterior durability. The VDS is one of three J.D. Power and Associates quality studies, along with the Initial Quality Study (IQS) that measures quality after 90 days of ownership, and the Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) study that measures customer perceptions on the design, content, layout and performance of their new vehicles.
HYUNDAI MOTOR AMERICA
Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co. of Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced through almost 800 dealerships nationwide.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Hyundai Motor America announced today that it has teamed up with Rhys Millen Racing (RMR) to create the "Art of Speed" Genesis Coupe show car. The Hyundai RMR "Art of Speed" Genesis Coupe 2.0t will be on display at the Hyundai booth at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in the Las Vegas Convention Center from Nov. 4 - Nov. 7, 2008. The RMR Genesis Coupe will be the first of many Genesis Coupes to be modified by some of the best tuner shops in the world. This RMR - developed Genesis Coupe will be a fully functional race car capable of putting the driver in the winner's circle.
"The unique part of this project is that it will be moving art, which is why we named it the 'Art of Speed,'" says Rhys Millen, professional race driver and founder of RMR. "The focus will be on the engine and a radical body design to complement the factory body lines. We are going to transform the Genesis Coupe into an apex-carving machine with jaw-dropping looks. We think it has the possibility of being one of the coolest cars at the show."
The RMR Genesis Coupe will be powered by a 2.0-liter DOHC inline four-cylinder engine with RMR turbo kit for maximum horsepower and torque. It will be equipped with a heavy-duty HKS sequential transmission and a K&W coil over suspension to put that additional power to the ground. The are just some of the planned mechanical modifications to turn the Genesis Coupe into a race car capable of running in the Pikes Pike Hill Climb, Formula D or Redline Time Attack series.
"We've been excited about working with Rhys Millen since the minute he walked through our doors at Hyundai Motor America," says John Krafcik, vice president, product development and strategic planning, Hyundai Motor America. "Genesis Coupe is a rear-wheel drive performance machine we designed to capture the hearts of hardcore automotive enthusiasts, so we can't wait to see Rhys' RMR Genesis Coupe on the race track."
The RMR Genesis Coupe will be outfitted in a silver and black paint scheme and dominated by a RMR wide body kit, functional hood scoop and a carbon fiber wing. Enkei racing wheels and Bridgestone Protenza RE-01 tires surrounding Brembo brake calipers complete the package.
Inside will be a racing cockpit with Sparco steering wheel and seats, eight-point roll cage and a RMR carbon fiber dash.
RHYS MILLEN - DRIVER, OWNER RMR
With more than 16 years of racing experience, Rhys Millen has established himself as one of the premier rally/drifting drivers in North America. Born in New Zealand in 1972, Rhys is the son of famed rally and off-road racer Rod Millen. Rhys joined Rod in the U.S. as a teenager and soon afterwards established himself as racer by taking first at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in the Open Division and winning Rookie of the Year. He won the Formula Drift championship in 2005 and was runner-up in 2006.
RHYS MILLEN CAREER HIGHLIGHTS - 2008
- Pikes Peak time attack 2 wheel drive champion and new world record
RHYS MILLEN CAREER HIGHLIGHTS - 2007
- Pikes Pike Time Attack Champion
- First Place Long Beach Team Drift
- Second Place Formula D New Jersey
- Third Place Formula D West Virginia
RHYS MILLEN CAREER HIGHLIGHTS - 2006
- Formula Drift Champion Runner-Up
- Formula D Tires.com triple crown champion
RHYS MILLEN CAREER HIGHLIGHTS - 2005
- Formula Drift Champion
- First Place Formula D New Jersey
- Second Place Formula D Irwindale
HYUNDAI GENESIS COUPE HIGHLIGHTS
- Hyundai's first rear-wheel drive sports car
- 306 horsepower (est.)from enhanced 3.8-liter V6 from Genesis sedan
- Std. 212 horsepower (est.) turbocharged, intercooled inline four cylinder
- Genesis Coupe arrives in the spring of 2009 as a 2010 model
RHYS MILLEN RACING
R. Millen Motor Sports Sales (RMR) was founded 12 years ago by Rhys Millen to fulfill a huge demand for quality aftermarket products created by the Millen Racing heritage. Similar to motor sport clothing merchandise to a race fan, RMR offers proven race products to street customers primarily based on its motor sports associations. Since its creation, RMR has built itself up become one of the industries most respected tuners for Toyota, Lexus and Mitsubishi. In addition to RMR's excellent relationship with auto manufacturers, the company has custom built many private vehicles for celebrities such as basketball star Dennis Rodman, actor Jason Priestley and rock star Alex Van Halen. RMR has also built cars and worked closely with the producers of the blockbuster hit franchise "The Fast and the Furious." RMR currently offers over 100 products that are designed and produced in our facility or private labeled exclusively for RMR. These parts are carefully designed to provide the customer with quick and easy installation instructions with the highest quality. In many cases, our parts have met or exceeded factory specifications allowing dealers to warranty their installation keeping the cars under the factory warranty.
HYUNDAI MOTOR AMERICA
Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co. of South Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced through almost 800 dealerships nationwide.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Hyundai introduced their new-for-2009 Sonata stable recently at the Chicago Auto Show. This latest iteration Sonata offers an all-new interior, improved suspension systems, along with revised power trains that provide not only better fuel economy, but more horsepower as well.
The Sonata, as Hyundai's sales leader, raises its bar for content value and safety technology. Sonata will be offered in three levels of trim: the well-equipped GLS base model; a more upscale SE model; and the top-of-the-line Limited model. There are two available engine choices across the entire model range. First is Hyundai's second-generation Theta II 2.4-liter DOHC inline four-cylinder engine rated at 175 horsepower and 168 pound-feet of torque. The Sonata I4 now features Continuously Variable Valve Timing and is more fuel-efficient than both the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord four-cylinder engines, delivering 22 mpg city/32 mpg highway fuel economy rating with the standard five-speed manual transmission or the newly available five-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic. A version of this engine also meets Partial Zero Emission Vehicle standards.
Next is Sonata's 3.3-liter V6 engine that has also been improved, now pumping out 15 more horsepower and three more pound-feet of torque (249 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 229 pound-feet of torque at 4500 rpm). A variable intake system was added for 2009, further broadening the power curve, improving off-the-line acceleration and passing performance. New mileage figures for V6-powered Sonatas are 19 mpg city/29 mpg highway, representing unsurpassed V6 fuel economy in the mid-size sedan segment.
There are also two transmission choices for the Sonata. A five-speed manual gearbox is used in four-cylinder-powered models, while all V6-powered Sonatas utilize Hyundai's five-speed Shifttronic automatic transmission, which features an overdrive lock-up torque converter for improved highway fuel economy. The automatic transmission has a new reducing valve and solenoid valve for smoother shift quality while the manual transmission has been refined for more precise shifts. GLS and Limited models now provide a firmer ride quality and improved handling through increased steering response, while SE models have received sport suspension tuning.
In addition to mechanical improvements, the Sonata's exterior has been freshened too, featuring upgrades to headlamps, taillights and fog lights; available chrome inserts for bumper fascias and bodyside moldings; new alloy wheel designs; and seven new colors. The interior has benefited from refinements to the center console, audio system, HVAC controls and the instrument has a soft blue illumination added. An optional new navigation system with a high-resolution, touch-screen display is available while USB/iPod auxiliary input jacks are standard fare. More contrast was added to the Camel and Gray interiors, and a Cocoa Brown treatment is now available.
The new Sonata continues to be rated by the EPA as a large car, and indeed it provides lots of interior room in the front and back seats. The trunk alone boasts 16.3 cubic feet of space. In terms of its appearance, the new Sonata comes across as being a much more expensive car than it really is. It displays a contemporary design form with clean, but expressive lines.
In the safety arena, Sonata's front collision performance was improved by tweaking the engine's subframe design. All Sonata models come with lifesaving ESC as standard equipment. Sonata also features a state-of-the-art braking technology package that includes four-wheel disc brakes and an antilock braking system with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution.
There are six air bags - including dual front, front seat-mounted side-impact and front- and rear-side curtain air bags - along with active front-seat head restraints. Additional passive safety features include: shingle-style rear-seat head restraints for improved visibility; three-point seatbelts for all seating positions; front-seat seatbelt pretensioners and force limiters; and a rear-seat Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system for child seats.
My test 2009 Hyundai Sonata came in Limited trim and was powered by the 3.3-liter V6 mated to the Five-speed Shiftronic gearbox transferring motive force to the front wheels. The exterior was finished in black, while the interior was executed in contrasting gray and charcoal with faux polished wood trim accents. The base price was set at $25,670. While the final sticker total came to $27,685 after adding the navigation system with high-resolution touch screen display and voice Recognition, carpeted floor mats and the destination charge.
The Hyundai Sonata Limited for 2009 represents a very solid entry into the large four-door sedan class. While not really considered to be in the luxury class, it does provide several standard features and equipment that are normally only found on luxury-level vehicles.
The performance is quite substantial in both the acceleration and handling attribute categories. The ride quality ranked somewhere between soft and firm. In some driving scenarios, it seemed on the loose side, while in others it was perceived to be somewhat stiff.
Both front and rear seats were quite comfortable with plenty of leg room fore and aft, in a cabin that exhibited clean lines and easy-to-use controls that were conveniently positioned. The air conditioner gets an "A+" for rapid and efficient cooling, even in 100-degree-plus temperatures.
The top-of-the-line Hyundai Sonata model was very reasonably priced, especially considering its content level. It is possible to experience even greater value in the base GLS model which starts at $18,120. Add to that the Hyundai Advantage, which Hyundai boasts is America's best warranty, and you've got an even more sound deal. The Hyundai Advantage warranty includes five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper protection, 10-year/100,000-mile limited power train warranty, five-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance and seven-year/unlimited mileage anti-perforation coverage.
Sonata buyers also receive 24-hour roadside assistance coverage at no extra charge for five years (no mileage limit), which includes emergency towing, lockout service and limited coverage for trip-interruption expenses.
2009 Hyundai Sonata Limited
Base price: $25,670
Price as tested: $27,685
Engine/transmission: 3.3-liter, 249-horsepower V6; five-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 107.4 inches
Length overall: 188.9 inches
Width: 72.1 inches
Height: 58 inches
Curb weight: 3,494 pounds
Fuel capacity: 17.7 gallons
EPA mileage estimates: 19 mpg city/29 mpg highway
By: Arv Voss
Monday, August 04, 2008
FOUNTAIN VALLEY, California - Hyundai took a major step toward reinventing itself as a legitimate performance-car manufacturer by inviting 20 aftermarket companies to measure the 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe today at its North American headquarters in Fountain Valley, California.
Hyundai Motor America officials called this the official SEMA measuring session for the company's rear-drive coupe, which is based on the shortened version of the 2009 Hyundai Genesis Sedan platform.
"Normally, we've done this closer to the start of production," Wayne Killen, director of strategic product planning for Hyundai Motor America, told us. "But we really wanted the aftermarket companies to get a start on it."
The aftermarket companies ran the gamut, ranging from Wet Okole Hawaii, which makes waterproof seat covers, to Garrett-Honeywell and HKS.
You'll recall from the 2008 New York Auto Show that Hyundai will be offering both a 310-horsepower 3.8-liter V6 and a 223-hp, 2.0-liter, turbocharged, inline four-cylinder in the 2010 Genesis Coupe. Not surprisingly, the 2.0-liter turbo got most of the attention from the tuners, and since the engine itself is a direct relation of the 2.0-liter in the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart and Evolution X, most weren't seeing it for the first time.
"I'm more excited about this than I am about that one," said John Espino of Gale Banks Engineering, while standing next to the turbo coupe. "If you look under the hood, there's more room to do stuff." However, he noted that his company is working on a supercharger for the V6 Genesis coupe, in addition to planned upgrades for the turbocharger and intercooler on the four-cylinder model.
"There's an engine mount underneath the turbocharger so that kind of limits how big you can go," Garrett's Brian Regnier told us. "But there's always a way around that." He said the main contingency for Garrett in developing turbo upgrades for the Genesis coupe is public reaction to Hyundai's first rear-wheel-drive coupe. "We'll wait to see what the reception for this vehicle is at track days," he noted.
Hyundai officials also confirmed today that the company will offer Track versions of both the four-cylinder turbo and the V6 coupe. "They'll be a low percentage of the mix," Joyce admitted, "but they will be uncompromised in their performance."
In addition to retuned suspension compared to the standard versions of the coupe, the Genesis Track models will pick up a front strut tower brace and a full set of Brembo brakes, including four-piston monobloc calipers up front.
Regardless of the engine underhood, Track models will come with Bridgestone Potenza RE050A summer tires, sized 225/40R19 up front and 245/40R19 in back. Non-Track Genesis coupes get 225/45R18 Bridgestone Potenza RE092As in front and 245/45s in back.
Hyundai also revealed some basic stats on the likely customer base today. The four-cylinder turbo coupe is predicted to draw an even mix of men and women, while the company anticipates an older, more affluent and 70 percent male crowd to embrace the V6 coupe. The highest-volume exterior color is expected to be Gray Titanium at 18 percent.
Known internally as "BK," the 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe will go into production in December 2008 at Hyundai's Alsan, Korea, plant. Look for the cars to arrive at dealerships in early February 2009.
What this means to you: Hyundai hopes the 2010 Genesis Coupe will pick up where the Nissan 240SX left off, and is doing everything it can to ensure full aftermarket support when the coupe goes on sale. -- Erin Riches, Senior Editor