Wednesday, February 03, 2016

On the Road: Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited

This is the new Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited and there is one thing that is amazing about it. And that is that this is the new Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited.

Now, I admit I am a sucker for a shapely body, but this is borderline erotic. And the fact that it comes from a car company whose boxy little sedans all looked as though they were designed by men who only possessed a ruler, well that’s nothing short of amazing.

There is a resemblance you might have noticed to the stylish Volkswagen CC sedan which is itself a fairly blatant ripoff of the gorgeous Mercedes Benz E-Class sedan. But frankly, who cares? If you are going to steal, you steal from a bank, not a grocery store.

Our Limited edition Sonata has an interior suitable to wear a Lexus or Infiniti label. Under the hood of the regular Sonata, you will find a surprise. There is no 6-cylinder engine choice. There is a 2.4-liter four cylinder lump that cranks out 185-horsepower, a 1.6-liter Eco model and a 2.4-liter turbo.

But the hybrid has a 2.0-liter four cylinder mill pushing 154 ponies, augmented by a 54 horsepower electric motor in a parallel arrangement. Together, they provide decent if not eye-popping performance. And the in and out of the electric motor, the shutdown at a red light and all the other on and off cycles of the gas/electric duo are perfectly seamless.

The reward for this is 39 miles per gallon in the city, 43 on the highway. But, as much sense as this makes in an era of high fuel prices, we aren’t in that era right now. Gasoline is averaging well below $2 a gallon now, and gas wars have driven it below $1 in a couple of places. So the lovely Sonata Hybrid, along with Volts and Prius’s are gathering dust on dealer’s lots while we gorge ourselves on Suburbans and Expeditions.

Ah, but he who does not heed the mistakes of history is doomed to repeat them. Gasoline will go back up again, and all the fracking in the world won’t make any more oil. We’ll just recover more of it.

And as if to double down on that prediction, Hyundai also offers a plug in version of the Sonata Hybrid as well.

On the road, you only feel a slight rumble from the engine and suspension at higher speeds, while the rest of the time, it is a snubbed down, nice handling package.

The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has champagne looks, but even my beer budget can afford it. And by beer, I don’t mean something moderately acceptable like Budweiser but really dreadful stuff like Natural Light. In short, our loaded Sonata Hybrid Limited with a sunroof and navigation system and all the luxury goodies came to $36,000.

Hyundai is moving uptown with the Sonata, and leaving behind the cheap, econobox image. So who fills that gap in the future? Wait, do I hear Chinese music in the distance?


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