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2011 Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T: RideLust Review

Posted in Car Reviews, Featured, Hyundai, Import Review, Promoted, RideLust Review by Kurt Ernst | January 6th, 2011 | 10 Responses |

2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo

Thumbs Up: Seamless power, reasonable handling, great value

Thumbs Down: You will get tickets driving this car

Buy This Car If: You want surprising performance from an affordable sedan

When I drove the 2011 Hyundai Sonata Limited last September, I was impressed with the cars style (both outside and in), build quality and ride. Even the power from the 2.4 liter four cylinder was adequate, especially for a sedan without sporting intentions. It was the kind of car I’d recommend to a friend or relative, even if it lacked sufficient performance and handling to make my own personal short list.

2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo

The 2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T, on the other hand, is a completely different animal. It was, hands down, the most surprising car I’ve driven in the past 12 months. The two-liter turbo engine makes seamless power, and the car never manages to feel high-strung, which is the curse of so many turbocharged vehicles. The Sonata Turbo isn’t the quickest car I’ve driven, but it is the most deceptive about its speed. Buy one, and I assure you you will get speeding tickets; the car doesn’t feel fast, it is fast. The cars around you aren’t driving slow, you’re driving that much faster, and the Sonata’s quiet cabin does little to convey a warning about your speed. If you don’t already have a PBA card, do whatever you have to to get one before driving this car.

2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo

The Sonata Turbo carries over the clean and futuristic lines of the normally aspirated car. It does without stick-on spoilers, side skirts or ground effects, and that’s a good thing for those of us above the “Fast And Furious” demographic. In fact, the only external difference I could find between the Sonata and the Sonata Turbo were the Turbo’s dual exhausts and the discreet 2.0T badging. There’s a fair amount of understatement with the Sonata Turbo, almost like Hyundai is building a pseudo-sport sedan just for adults. I much prefer a car that is fast, over a car that goes to great lengths to look fast, so I applaud Hyundai for being reserved with the Turbo’s styling.

2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo

Inside, there’s plenty to like as well. The front leather seats are supportive and comfortable, though they lack sufficient bolstering for spirited driving. The driver’s seat is power adjustable and includes an inflatable lumbar cushion, but the passenger seat adjusts manually and lacks lumbar support. Both front seats are heated, something I came to appreciate when out morning temperatures plunged into the 30s.

2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo

Rear leather seats offer surprising legroom and headroom, but also lack any kind of lateral support. Since Hyundai isn’t pitching the Turbo as a sport sedan, it’s really not much of an issue; besides, passengers get grab handles for when a driver takes an on ramp with enthusiasm. Even the rear seats are heated, which is a big plus for hauling kids to school or carpooling with co-workers in colder climates.

2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo

The Turbo has the same dash layout as the normally aspirated Sonata, so there’s nothing to tell the two apart from behind the wheel (until you hit the gas). I lover hte shape and feel of Hyundai’s steering wheel, and their wheel mounted controls are a whole lot more intuitive than those from other manufacturers. Even their nav and infotainment system is easy for new drivers to figure out, so you won’t be going back to the owner’s manual just to change satellite radio stations. Their icon based climate control couldn’t be simpler, and the six speed Shiftronic transmission can be driven as an automatic, shifted manually via the shift knob or shifted manually via the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.

2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo

I’ve praised Hyundai’s instrument layout before, but it bears repeating: the “gauge within a gauge” display is clean, easy to read and allows for a detailed driver information display. Instruments are shrouded, so sun glare is never a problem (which it is on a surprising number of new cars). The driver’s information display can be easily scrolled through via the steering wheel mounted control, which is another huge plus. I hate systems that require me to grope the dashboard to switch between a trip odometer and a “miles to empty” display, and wish more automakers would include steering wheel controls for this.

2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo

Under the hood is a 2.0 liter, turbocharged, direct injection inline four engine, good for 274 horsepower and 269 ft lb of torque. Mated to the six speed Shiftronic automatic, it’s capable of 0 to 60 runs in about 6.7 seconds, yet still returned a respectable 22.7 MPG around town. That’s just a bit higher than the EPA estimate of 22 MPG city, and the EPA tells us we can expect 33 MPG on the highway. The Sonata Turbo also includes an “Active ECO” button, which would further improve fuel economy, but what’s the sense of buying a turbo if you don’t make use of the added power?

2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo

On the road, the Sonata Turbo gives brisk acceleration, a comfortable ride and reasonable handling. For a turbocharged FWD car that puts out 274 horsepower, there is surprisingly little torque steer, which makes the Sonata Turbo easy to drive fast on winding roads. It’s not a sport sedan, so don’t try to keep up with an M3 when the road gets twisty. On the other hand, a Sonata Turbo can be had for about half what the Bimmer costs, so set your expectations accordingly and you won’t be disappointed. When pushed in corners, the Sonata Turbo exhibited the expected understeer, but never felt twitchy or unstable. Add some stickier tires, drop the ride height and stiffen up the shocks, and the Sonata Turbo has a lot of potential to be a seriously amusing ride. As is it still won’t disappoint, especially if you need a fun car that also doubles as a daily driver.

2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo

It’s worth noting that my tester came in Limited trim, and that Hyundai does make an SE version for those wanting more sport and less luxury. The SE Turbo comes with 18” wheels and performance tires (as opposed to the 17” wheels and all season tires on my tester) and a “sport tuned” suspension. It also gives you cloth seats instead of leather, which I much prefer for spirited driving. The SE version should also sticker for about $2,700 less than the luxury oriented Limited model, so that’s the model I’d personally shop.

2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo

The base price of my 2011 Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T was $27,765, including a destination charge of $720. Options on my tester included the $2,100 Navigation Package (High Resolution Touchscreen Display, XM Radio with Traffic & Weather, Backup Camera, Infinity Audio System), the $100 Carpeted Floor Mats and the $30 iPod Cable for a total sticker price of exactly $30,000. By comparison, a similarly equipped V6 Toyota Camry XLE would sticker at $32,250, a comparable V6 Honda Accord EX-L would sticker at $32,380 and a comparable V6 FWD Ford Fusion Sport would sticker at 33,750. None of these competitors equal the Sonata Turbo’s horsepower, and none match the Sonata’s fuel economy.

2011 Hyundai Sonata Turbo

Just a few years ago (2007, to be exact), I saw the Sonata as a decent rental car. The new 2011 Sonata changed my perspective, and now it’s a car I’d recommend to friends and family. The 2011 Sonata Turbo takes that one step further: it’s a car I’d give serious consideration to buying if I were in the market for a four-door sedan.

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10 Responses

  1. […] I was impressed with the cars style (both outside and in), build quality and ride. Even […]Read more… Categories: Uncategorized Tags: AMG, Buy This Car If You, Hyundai Sonata […]

  2. Sayonara Sonata says:

    I wonder somewhat why the tester came w/17″ wheels when the norm for the LTD 2.0T is 18″ w/225 X 45 X18R Hankook tyres.

    The softer ride of the LTD allowed moi to raise the PSI to 38 lbs all around and I’m going to try 40 PSI as the max pressure is listed as 51 lbs.

    Ride is a tad rougher, yet tyre life should be extended w/o hurting MPG.

    Back end becomes a mite squirrely w/quick land change, especially w/full 18.5 gl tank, so I’m looking into dropping mine a little lower.

    Likewise I’m curious if wheel spacers, providing a slightly wider stance, might be a welcomed modification…

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      SS, that’s a good catch and a typo on my part. The wheels on my tester were indeed 18″, but the tires were non-performance oriented all season radials.

      Wheel spacers may provide a marginal benefit, but the best performance upgrade would be to add stickier rubber, drop the ride height and use stiffer dampers, in that order.

      As for tire pressure, I wouldn’t even go as high as 38 psi. You won’t increase tire life noticeably, but you will definitely have an adverse effect on handling. As a starting point, I’d add 3 psi more to the front than what the manufacturer recommends, and 2 psi more to the rear. That should give a (very) slight improvement in handling without impacting tire wear or ride comfort. Remember to always check you tire pressure cold, as even a few miles of driving can increase tire pressure.

      • Sayonara Sonata says:

        The Hankook Optimo H431 in 225 X 45 X 18R is in fact all season. The downside to the stickier tires is accelerated tread wear and in this size is expensive for my wallet. When this set wears out I’ll seek summer tyres.

        Overall I like my 2.0T LTD, but it’s no M3 that’ll pirouette on some tasty twisties in the hills of west/NW/central Arkansas.

        As pointed out the 2.0T LTD is not a sport sedan, yet is lively enough as a pretender w/twin scroll/direct injected/dual overhead cams/dual variable valves timing, squared mill bolted to a six speed slush box.

        My major complaint in the fun/run dept. is no limited slip differential for applying power to the pavement. This would have allowed full boost to be applied before fourth gear and led to some much better 0/ 5-60 and quarter mile times/speed.

        As I understand, save the 18″ wheels/tyres the 2.0T LTD suspension is the exact same as the 2.4 LTD. I don’t wish for the harsher ride of the SE, it’s not SS either, but I can add a beefier anti-sway bar to the rear end to tame the tail somewhat from wagging the dog.

        This phenomenon is extremely pronounces riding solo w/18.5 gl of petrol sloshing about. So far the 38 PSI is working well enough and I’ll try leaving the back at that mark and add two lbs to the front for a 40/38 combo pkg. I always check the PSI cold though in a pinch can subtract two when hot. These tyres are listed @ 184 clams each/$736 a set, 44.24 simoleons for shipping and neither of those charges includes installation.

        ESC is staying on and I’m going to run a little extra to promote as long a life as possible, so long as I’m not bouncing. Thirty-five lbs is suggested as the comfort zone by Hyundai in a tyre w/1521 lbs/50 psi maximum weight/PSI rating.

        The bang for the buck/MPG and tons of room in a large mid-size is worth the price if Hyundai will ever issue a TSB for the mysterious left pull/drift that many of us are experiencing.

        I thank you for your review and recommendations…

        • Sayonara Sonata says:

          I’m approaching 3K miles and I’ve been running 41 PSI in the front and 38 out back.

          The ride isn’t that harsh and the rear end feels taut.

          This combo platter might not have worked out on the stiffer SE suspension, but I’m pleased in the LTD trim.

          Still wouldn’t mind a stiffer bar in the back and I wish the battery was in the trunk on the right side.

          The left pull is still evident, but you can load three, 50 LB feed sacks in the back and it’s non-existent.

          However, I’m not interested in adding the equivalent of 28 gl of petrol as an accessory ride package.

          The torque convertor fully locks up at 2500 RPM, so the claim to all 269 FLB at 1800 RPM from the 2.0T mill is moot.

          The car passes well at 2500 RPM/50 MPH in fourth gear w/full 17.4 LB boost.

          Still needs some more down low unleashed w/limited slip/dual clutch working the traction action.

          The potential for an affordable roomy “personal luxury” sport coupe for the average Joe is staring me right in the face.

          Nothing against the Elantra, but not everyone wants a little bitty car.

          I like the height and width. Lop off those back two doors and give the powertrain a little more room to shine.

          Punch it to 2.4 and/or extend the redline closer to 8K; or just lose two doors whilst adding limited slip and dual clutch.

  3. Mike Hancock says:

    I have driven Camry V6’s since1992, my last one was an 07 SE 3.5, all good cars, I bought a 2011 Sonata 2.0T December 1 and I have never enjoyed a car more. It is fast, comfortable, fuel efficient and reliable. I put 8K (Canada) on it driving it to Florida and back and enjoyed 7.3 Litres per hundred or about 38 MPG.

    I didn’t mention it looks great and it was, as mentioned in the article, substantially cheaper than a new Camry XLE.

    Great Car, they should sell a bundle of them.

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  6. Don Jones says:

    . I bought a Hyundai Sonata Turbo the middle of Nov 2010. Had one of the first one’s. I was waiting for the car to come out. I have had 3 serious speeding tickets since owning the car. The car is just toooooo easy to drive. Your review hit it right on the head.