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2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Preview

2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Preview

By Jeff Youngs, December 31, 2010
Highlights:
  • All-new sixth-generation Sonata platform
  • The automaker's first hybrid offering
  • Standard hybrid gasoline-electric powertrain
  • 2.4-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine mated to an electric motor
  • Standard front-wheel drive
  • Standard 6-speed automatic transmission
  • EPA rating of 35 mpg city/40 mpg highway
  • Standard iPod and Bluetooth connectivity


Introduction
The first Hyundai Sonata rolled onto North American shores in 1989.Larger than the Excel, and with an exterior designed by GiorgettoGiugiaro of ItalDesign, the new mid-size Hyundai was front-wheel drive and offered 5-passenger seating.

A little more than two decades later, Hyundai introduced its all-newsixth-generation Sonata for the 2011 model year. Completely restyled,the new Sonata is more spacious and fuel efficient than any of its predecessors. The new sedan introduces new technology to the lineup,including a new direct-injected four-cylinder powerplant mated to an all-new six-speed automatic transmission (there is also no longer a V-6option-it has been replaced by a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine). Most importantly, Hyundai has introduced its first-ever hybrid model.

Sculpted by the Hyundai Design Center team in Irvine, California, the2011 Sonata Hybrid offers a mix of traditional sedan and four-door coupe in one package-Hyundai calls it "fluidic sculpture design."

While many automakers are offering hybrid variants of their mainstream family sedans, Hyundai has chosen to completely redesign the front fascia of its hybrid model with new headlights and an oversized grille. In addition, the side rocker panels have been extended downward and the rear fascia features unique creases to improve airflow. The significant changes have dropped the drag coefficient from .28 on the standard Sonata sedans down to .25 on theSonata Hybrid model - making it among the most aerodynamic vehicles on the road (a low drag coefficient means the engine doesn't have to work as hard at highway speeds, and the cabin noise is generally reduced).

The Sonata chassis is among the shorter "mid-size" vehicles within its competitive segment (the 2011 Hyundai Sonata and the Honda Accord are the only two earning an EPA "large car" classification). Inside, the theme continues with its modern-looking cockpit with a sweeping dashboard covered in analog and digital displays - including a large infotainment display at the top of the center console.


Equipment and Features
The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is one of three models in the showroom.It is sold alongside the Sonata (naturally-aspirated 4-cylinder) and Sonata2.0T (turbocharged 4-cylinder) in the showrooms. All models share similar equipment standard levels, but there are some differences.

The Sonata Hybrid models are optioned in similar manner to the gasoline-powered SE models. All are equipped with a long list of power convenience equipment (power windows, door locks, etc.), remote entry,heated outside mirrors, automatic headlights, front fog lamps, and16-inch alloy wheels. Major options include leather upholstery (with leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel), a panoramic glass sunroof, 17-inch alloy wheels, and heated front seats. Satellite-based navigation, with a high-res touch screen, is optional.

All 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid models arrive with iPod/USB connections, XM Satellite radio and Bluetooth phone connectivity as standard equipment. The standard audio package sends104-watts of power through a 6-speaker system (offeringAM/FM/XM/CD/MP3). The optional audio package upgrades the stereo to a9-speaker 400-watt system from Infinity, complete with a 6-changer CD player.

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Hardware
While standard gasoline-powered Sonatas are fitted with a normally-aspirated 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 198 horsepower(earning EPA ratings of 22 mpg city and 35 mpg highway), the SonataHybrid is slightly different. The normally-aspirated four-valve2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine is reconfigured with a special"Atkinson-cycle" burn (this is a type of combustion that is more efficient, but produces less power - this works well with hybrids, as they have electric boost motors to more than make up for power losses).The engine alone is rated at 166 horsepower and 154 lb.-ft. of torque.

Working in parallel with the engine is a 270-volt electric motor(interior-permanent magnet type) with a power rating of 40 horsepower horsepower andand 151 lb.-ft. of torque. A lithium polymer battery pack, with 5.3 Ahof capacity, feeds power to the motor. According to Hyundai, its SonataHybrid generates a total system power of 206 horsepower and 193 lb.-ft.of torque.

The Hyundai's "Hybrid Blue Drive" has an all-electric mode and a parallel drive mode - meaning the wheels are turned by power coming directly from the gasoline engine, the electric motor or both together,says the automaker. The Sonata Hybrid may run at up to 62 mph in electric-only mode, depending on power reserves and throttle input.

The engine is mated to the automaker's new 6-speed automatic transmission with a fluid-filled torque converter (this type of transmission provides a more natural powertrain response, especially when compared to the continuously-variable transmission most often used in a hybrid). According to the EPA, the 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid earns 35 mpg city and 40 mpg highway.

Like its siblings, the new 2011 Sonata Hybrid has been engineered with independent MacPherson strut suspension in the front and an independent multi-link design in the back. To minimize body roll, there are stabilizer bars in the front and rear of the vehicle. Disc brakes, with standard anti-lock control, are fitted on all corners inside standard 16-inch wheels (17-inch wheels are optional). An electrically-assisted steering rack is designed to alter boost based on engine speed. The Sonata Hybrid offers a class-leading turning diameter of just 35.8 feet, says Hyundai.


Safety

All 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid models are fitted with driver and front passenger dual air bags and curtain air bags on each side of the cabin.There are 3-point seatbelts in all positions - the front seatbelts have pretensioners and force limiters. Active front headrests are standard.In addition, all models are equipped with standard electronic stability control, traction control, and tire pressure monitoring. The outboard seating positions on the rear seats are equipped with anchors for theLATCH child-seat-attachment system.

Technology
Hybrid vehicles are engineered to maximize efficiency. Unfortunately,this frequently comes at the expense of drivability - the engine response and transmission feedback often isn't natural in feel. Hyundai took a different approach with its Sonata Hybrid. Instead of fitting it with a highly efficient continuously-variable transmission (a belt-based transmission that offers nearly unlimited ratios at the expense of somewhat sluggish acceleration), the automaker fitted the vehicle with a traditional 6-speed automatic.

This is a newly-engineered transmission that was four years in the making, according to Hyundai. The automaker says that it is 26.4 pounds lighter and has 62 fewer parts than its five-speed predecessor (lesser weight improves fuel economy and fewer parts may improve reliability). Mated to the hybrid gasoline-electric power plant under the hood of the Sonata Hybrid, the new gearbox delivers brisk acceleration with predictable and familiar responses to throttle inputs.

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