• 2011 First Drive: 2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo

In the United States, driving doesn’t seem to be a passion for most people. Just take a road trip and you will understand why we say that. You’ll see people driving along, talking on their phones, eating a burger, or doing their makeup, as they peddle along in their crossovers or large SUVs. But, let’s not just hate on those vehicles, because there are plenty of other dull vehicles that are topping the sales charts. The Toyota Camry, as good as it might be at hauling people, is about as exciting to drive and to look at as a horse and buggy. Honda has been getting this wrap lately as well with the new Accord and we can see why. It got fatter and worse in its current form. Well, if you feel the same way as us, Hyundai might have a solution.

The base Hyundai Sonata is a fine automobile and we find it to be one of the best midsize sedans on the market. It gets great mileage and looks sensational, but the lack of a V6 option makes performance hard to come by. Just take a look at the Nissan Altima. Put a V6 under the hood of that machine and it becomes a whole new animal.

That might not be the case anymore, as automakers are swapping out larger motors for turbocharged ones. The new 2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo is the perfect example of this new trend. So, is the new Sonata 2.0T a worthy replacement of the V6 midsize sedan, or does it fail to live up to expectations.

Hit the jump to find out.

Exterior Thoughts

2011 First Drive: 2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo High Resolution Exterior
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From the exterior, there’s little difference in the styling of the Sonata 2.0T and the base versions, besides the badges. The sedan retains that gorgeous flowing design and that means buyers can expect the same swept back nose, chrome subtleties, and sculpted hood. The car keeps that coupe-like roofline with those wonderful wrapped taillights. Without the badges, one would never know.

One of the things we’ve noticed over time is that the Sonata looks better or worse depending on what color it is. Black and red really help the car stand out, but the silver color that our test vehicle was covered in was less than flattering.

With the car’s unique design and curvaceous body, Hyundai has managed to make a large car look small. Some might not know this, but the Sonata is larger than the Camry and the Subaru Legacy, but it’s nearly impossible to tell. Well done, Hyundai.

Interior Thoughts

2011 First Drive: 2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo High Resolution Interior
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The interior is the same story as the exterior, as the 2.0T gets the same high-quality soft-touch plastics and piano black accents as the base version. One difference is that Hyundai has added soft material insets just above the armrest and, although it might seem minimal, it really does a lot to add to the car’s overall feel.

The Sonata’s center stack is dominated by an easy to use navigation system and dual climate controls. The materials are made up of fake metals that are easily scratched and frankly, we expected more here. The buttons are well laid out and any task is easily accomplished.

If there is one thing that we can say about the Sonata’s interior it’s the fact that it’s unique in every way. While Toyota might have gone with a fairly dull look inside the Camry and Honda has added buttons on every single panel, Hyundai’s cabin is luxurious and unique. You’ll never mistake this vehicle for anything else.

Driving Impressions

2011 First Drive: 2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo High Resolution Exterior
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Just think back to where Hyundai used to be and this new motor will amaze you even more. The Korean automaker has managed to blend its direct-injection system with forced-induction to create a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that cranks out 274 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. What makes it even more special is the fact that all that power is available at 1,750 rpm, so turbo lag is nonexistent. That’s not the whole story, as there is more to this engine than just a turbo on a four banger.

The new Sonata features a cast stainless-steel exhaust manifold, which is capable of better thermal properties than the standard cast-iron version. Mitsubishi built the manifold and it can actually take more that what the Sonata Turbo has to give. The reason for this is longevity, as the vehicle has been tested at open throttle for 200 hours. On top of that, the vehicle was then tested for 20 hours at speeds above the redline. All in all, after all this testing, the new Hyundai Sonata could earn a Chronometer certification (for those watch lovers out there).

In order to keep the engine running at peak temperature, Hyundai has added a unique air channeling system on the intercooler, which Hyundai claims will keep the motor 50 degrees cooler than a motor without such a guide. There is also a aluminum thermal sprayed counter spiny liner, which is basically a new way of layering aluminum onto the exterior of the cylinder sleeve. Hope all this didn’t bore you to sleep, but to put it lightly, this is one of the most advanced midsize sedans on the market.

2011 First Drive: 2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo High Resolution Drivetrain
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With turbocharging comes premium fuel, but not in this case. Hyundai has managed to keep the compression ratio down to allow drivers to use regular fuel. Fuel economy numbers are 23 miles per gallon city and 33 mpg highway. Yet, if mileage is what you’re after, the Sonata Turbo comes with a Active Eco button that will keep fuel consumption down, or you can just get the Sonata Hybrid that we will be reviewing later.

Hyundai has attached a six-speed automatic to the turbo engine, the same gearbox that is on the base version. To add a sportier feel, the turbo comes with paddle shifters, but gear changes are a bit to slow to make them real satisfying. It’s a shame that Hyundai won’t offer the Sonata 2.0T with a manual gearbox because it would make the car that much better.

On the road, the Sonata Turbo retains the wonderful driving dynamics of the base versions. Handling is crisp, but we would have liked a sportier and tighter feel from the wheel. The ride is comfortable, but firm enough for fun adventures on the back roads. All in all, aside from the Nissan Altima SR, the Sonata 2.0T has to be one of the best driving midsize sedans on the market.

The four-cylinder turbocharged motor provides plenty of power to keep dads happy while taking the kids to school. Off the line, the Sonata has plenty of pulling power and you’ll be able to hit 60 miles per hour in just 6.8 seconds. If you’re looking for a vehicle with plenty of room with some power under the bonnet, the Hyundai Sonata Turbo is just about the best bet you can have.


2011 First Drive: 2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo High Resolution Exterior
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We found ourselves walking away from the 2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T with utter delight. We had expected it to be good, but it wasn’t just good, it was brilliant. It manages to provide better fuel economy than the V6 Camry, Accord, and Altima for less money. Simply put, you won’t miss those two cylinders, as this little four banger Sonata with a turbo attached is all you will ever need.

Why we like it – Style inside and out plus plenty of power equals one hell of a car.

Why we don’t like it – The steering is a bit too loose, but that’s about it.

Overall grade and verdict – The days of the V6 sedan are numbered, as Hyundai has just changed the game with this new turbo Sonata.

Score - 16/20

2011 First Drive: 2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo High Resolution Exterior
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  (683) posted on 06.1.2011

Oh yes!Red looks good in this car! I like the styling for this sedan car. Well,
it seems that this Korean car has been successful in the market already.

  (472) posted on 06.1.2011

Hyundai is very serious in producing great cars of today’s generation. I would love to drive and explore the city using this car.

  (577) posted on 05.31.2011

As we all knew that Hyundia breaks it record last year for being one of the most successful car manufacturers for 2010. The team has been working so hard lately compete in the car industry to be able to produce quality cars in a very affordable cost.

  (412) posted on 03.23.2011

That’s what i liked about the Hyundai they combine the luxury and sportiness in their car. BTW, Sonata would always been has this amazing clean looks!

  (379) posted on 03.17.2011

Sonata looks so hot in red! I like the detailing on its face plus those alloyed metal wheels! Nevertheless, more of the design it’s much better if they upgrade the engine!

  (714) posted on 12.6.2010

just wait, this is only issue number 1 within days of starting sales. give it at least 1 year for short term reliability then at least 5 years before you buy one.

  (778) posted on 11.25.2010

This is the first problem with the turbo.... wait for more? We’ll see. Turbo adds too much complication. Are there other issues with this model that they haven’t caught, or will catch too late?

  (406) posted on 11.2.2010

Okay, Hyundai has done a good job and all but trying to compare the Sonata to a 335 because it has "almost the same power" is a bit
of a stretch.

  (676) posted on 10.22.2010

the 2011 Hyundai Sonata looks clean and descent. It look simple and yet classy in the hot red color..smiley

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