Tradition holds that there's no replacement for displacement, but Hyundai's challenging that logic with its latest Sonata sedan. By strapping a turbocharger onto a four-cylinder, Hyundai can offer greater fuel economy, horsepower, and torque than most competitive midsize V-6 sedans -- but will customers buy into the logic that the buying less will, in fact, get you more?
The 2011 Sonata 2.0T, which is debuting at the 2010 New York auto show, is powered by Hyundai's Theta II, 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder producing 274 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, mated to Hyundai's all-new six speed automatic transmission. Those figures are thanks in large part to direct-injection and a twin-scroll turbocharger that Hyundai promises will give the sedan "instantaneous power delivery."
Surely the Sonata 2.0T's predicted 22/34 mpg city/highway fuel economy will help to further ease the transition for folks still pining for a V-6. That's just one highway mpg down from the 198-horsepower regular-strength Sonata four-cylinder. Even better, the turbo runs on regular gas.
No, Hyundai is not the first midsize sedan player to offer a turbo four-cylinder engine. Volkswagen has offered its Passat with a turbo four-cylinder for years. That engine, though, makes less power and helps the Passat accelerate from 0-60 mph in 7.4 seconds, according to Volkswagen. We don't yet have similar times for the Sonata 2.0T, but expect it to be at the top of the class.
As for the fuel economy, if Hyundai can deliver, it will be an incredible accomplishment, although we can't help but be a little skeptical about the Sonata 2.0T's real world performance. We'll find out for ourselves soon enough.
Most buyers stepping up to a more powerful engine in a midsize sedan want extra goodies and, in that respect, Hyundai delivers. The Sonata 2.0T's six-speed auto has steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters in addition to some manual control with the gear selector. The 2.0T will be available in SE and Limited trims (not on the base GLS). The Limited model includes a panoramic sunroof and the SE's 18-inch alloy wheels plus dual exhaust outlets.
As with all new Sonatas, the trunk, at 16.4 cubic-feet, is huge, and it's big enough inside that it's classified as a large car. Brakes are 11.8-inch ventilated discs in front and 11.2-inch discs at the rear.
The last-generation Sonata V-6 never comprised a significant part of Hyundai's product mix, but the automaker expects that to change with the 2.0T. Along with the upcoming Sonata Hybrid, the new engine options have the potential to significantly raise transaction prices of Hyundai's midsize sedan. With more power and better fuel economy than any V-6 competitor, Hyundai appears to be making all the right moves to encourage mainstream market acceptance of a turbocharged Sonata. V-6? Who needs it?