2011 Hyundai Sonata Preview

Jeff Youngs | Dec 31, 2010

Critical Facts

  • All-new, sixth-generation Hyundai Sonata
  • Three different models, including a hybrid
  • Unique modern styling
  • Standard 4-cylinder power (no V-6 option)
  • Front-wheel drive
  • All-new 6-speed automatic transmission
  • Standard iPod and Bluetooth connectivity
  • Standard version in showrooms now
  • Turbocharged and Hybrid models will be released shortly

Green Facts

  • Hyundai's first-ever hybrid model
  • Atkinson Cycle 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine paired with 30-kilowatt electric motor
  • Hyundai's "Hybrid Blue Drive" has an all-electric mode and a parallel drive mode
  • Unique front-end exterior styling for Hybrid model


The Hyundai Sonata made its North American debut in 1989 after the Korean automaker expanded its single-car lineup (comprised of only the Hyundai Excel). With an exterior designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro of ItalDesign, the new midsize Hyundai was front-wheel drive and offered 5-passenger seating.

More than two decades later, Hyundai is introducing its all-new sixth-generation Sonata. Freshly styled, and more spacious and fuel efficient than any of its predecessors, the new model brings new features and technology to the game. These advancements include a new direct-injected 4-cylinder powerplant mated to an all-new 6-speed automatic transmission. Furthermore, there is no longer a V-6 option-it has been replaced by a turbocharged 4-cylinder-and Hyundai has introduced its first-ever hybrid model.

The standard 2011 Hyundai Sonata sedan is in showrooms now. The turbocharged and hybrid models will have a slightly delayed introduction.

Sonata Gets Hyundai's Fluidic Sculpture Design Treatment

2011 Hyundai SonataSculpted by the Hyundai Design Center team in Irvine, California, the 2011 Sonata offers a mix of traditional sedan and 4-door coupe design cues in one package-Hyundai calls it "fluidic sculpture design." Although the styling visually suggests otherwise, the Sonata is among the shorter "midsize" vehicles within its competitive segment (the 2011 Hyundai Sonata and the Honda Accord are the only two models earning an EPA "large car" classification). Inside, the theme continues with its modern-looking cockpit, complete with a sweeping dashboard covered in analog and digital displays and including a large infotainment display at the top of the center console.

Sonata Model Lineup

Hyundai is offering the all-new 2011 Sonata in three different models: Sonata, Sonata 2.0T (Turbo) and Sonata Hybrid. There are three different trim levels on the standard model (GLS, SE and Limited), but not all trim levels are offered on the 2.0T and Hybrid.

The standard Sonata is fitted with a normally aspirated 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 198 horsepower. The Sonata Turbo is fitted with a turbocharged, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with a 274-horsepower rating. Lastly, the Sonata Hybrid features the same 2.4-liter 4-cylinder as the standard model, but it has been significantly reworked and paired with a 30-kilowatt (40.2 horsepower) electric motor to generate a total combined output of 209 horsepower. All three models use the same compact 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel-drive setup.

While many automakers are offering hybrid variants of their mainstream family sedans, they are usually differentiated only by unique wheels or other minor aerodynamic aids such as small spoilers on the rear trunk lid. Hyundai has chosen to completely redesign the front fascia of its Sonata hybrid model with new headlights and an oversize grille. In addition, the side rocker panels have been extended downward and the rear fascia features unique creases to improve airflow. These significant changes have dropped the drag coefficient from .28 on the standard sedan to .25 on the Sonata Hybrid model-further increasing fuel efficiency.

The standard GLS trim level sedans are equipped with a manual transmission, cloth upholstery, manual seat controls, steel wheels, remote entry, and a long list of power convenience equipment (power windows, door locks, etc.). SE models are fitted with an automatic transmission, cloth upholstery, sport suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels, and unique trim. Limited models are offered with leather upholstery, dual-temperature climate control, power-operated sunroof, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Navigation with a high-res touch screen is optional on all trim levels.

All 2011 Hyundai Sonata models arrive with iPod/USB connections, XM satellite radio, and Bluetooth phone connectivity as standard equipment. The base audio package sends 104 watts of power through a 6-speaker system offering AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 functions. A 360-watt system, adding a subwoofer and a 6-disc CD changer, is optional on the GLS and SE. Limited models are fitted with an even more powerful 400-watt system from Infinity.


2011 Hyundai SonataEach of the three all-new 2011 Hyundai Sonata sedan models are fitted with their own unique 4-cylinder engines.

Under the hood of the standard Sonata is Hyundai's new direct-injected 2.4-liter GDI 4-cylinder all-aluminum engine, with continuously variable valve timing. In normally-aspirated guise, the powerplant is rated at 198 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 184 lb.-ft. of torque at 4250 rpm.

Two different transmissions are offered with this model. The first is a traditional 6-speed manual that is shared with the Hyundai Tucson. The second is the automaker's all-new 6-speed automatic (also shared with the Tucson). This is Hyundai's first in-house 6-speed automatic. The automaker says that it is 26.4 pounds lighter and has 62 fewer parts than its 5-speed predecessor; lower weight improves fuel economy and fewer parts tend to improve reliability.

The Sonata 2.0T utilizes a direct-injected and turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 274 horsepower and 269 lb.-ft. of torque. This forced-induction engine is fitted with a unique twin-scroll turbocharger designed to minimize lag and maximize efficiency, the automaker says. (Interestingly, this is the same type of setup that BMW is using with its most recent turbocharged engines.) Most remarkably, the turbocharged engine is designed to run on regular unleaded gasoline-premium fuel is not required. The turbocharged 2.0-liter is only offered with the 6-speed automatic transmission, andwhile it is optional on the standard engine, the "Shiftronic" manual-mode is standard with the 2.0T model.

Lastly, the Sonata Hybrid features a modified variant of the new direct-injected 2.4-liter GDI 4-cylinder. Running on an Atkinson Cycle-a more fuel-efficient type of combustion-it is rated at 169 horsepower. The gasoline powerplant is mated to a 30-kilowatt (40.2 horsepower) electric motor for total combined system power of 209 horsepower. While most gasoline-hybrid offerings on the market today are fitted with continuously variable transmissions (CVTs), Hyundai is utilizing its new 6-speed automatic transmission. The Hyundai's "Hybrid Blue Drive" has an all-electric mode and a parallel drive mode-meaning that the wheels are turned by power coming directly from the gasoline engine, the electric motor, or both together, says the automaker.

Engine mechanicals aside, the all-new 2011 Sonata 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 (the SE trim level receives sport suspension tuning). Disc brakes are fitted on all corners, tucked inside standard 16-inch wheels (the Limited models wear 17-inch alloys, while the sporty SE models have the 18-inch wheels). An electrically-assisted steering rack is designed to alter its assist based on engine speed. The Sonata also offers a turning diameter of just 35.8 feet, says Hyundai.


2011 Hyundai SonataAll 2011 Hyundai Sonata 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 seat belts in all positions-the front seat belts have pre-tensioners 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 the LATCH child-seat attachment system.


Most hybrid vehicles are engineered with continuously variable transmissions. These belt-equipped transmissions offer nearly unlimited ratios, but they can be sluggish and deliver slower acceleration. Furthermore, they are complex and more expensive to manufacture.

Hyundai has taken a different approach by fitting its Sonata Hybrid with its own newly-engineered 6-speed automatic transmission. Developed over a 4-year period, the transmission is more compact, lighter, and less complex than any of its Hyundai predecessors. In sharp contrast to a CVT, the 6-speed automatic-equipped Sonata Hybrid delivers brisk acceleration with predictable and familiar responses to throttle inputs. As expected, the Sonata Hybrid isn't the only Hyundai to use the new transmission-the automaker is currently using it in many of its 2010 models.
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