Now in its fourth year of production, this sixth generation Sonata is still making some of the sweetest music that Hyundai has ever created as a result of its continued improvement to an already benchmark design. Hyundai claims there have been more than 50 major sub-systems that are new or redesigned.
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By now the design philosophy called Fluidic Sculpture has become a bit more common and its theme can be seen in other Hyundai products like the current generation Elantra, recently tested by the Road Beat. It remains flowing and beautiful with complex (character) lines that create a sense of smooth, cohesive motion. While the best view might be from the side, the front view demonstrates muscle and power, especially in white, which shows off its nuances best.
Power comes from a 2.4-liter, 16-valve dual overhead cam inline four-cylinder engine that pumps up 190 hp at 6,300 rpm with peak torque of 179 pound-feet arriving at 4,250 rpm. That muscle is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic cog swapper that has a manual mode. While horsepower is only 6 behind the class leader for normally aspirated midsize four bangers, all of the class number ranges from 170-196 hp and peak torque numbers range from 170 to 186 pounds.
With near-class-leading numbers, the Sonata has some real scoot, with an average 0-60 mph time of 7.79 seconds. Its passing performance is equally adept, with a simulated 50-70 mph passing maneuver requiring just 4.25 seconds and the same run up a 6 percent grade taking 6.64 seconds. Muscle cars like a 300 hp, 6.5L V-8 1959 Pontiac Bonneville didn’t perform that well. A Bonneville required about 8.2 seconds to 60 mph.
But while the Bonneville would be lucky to return 10-12 mpg on premium gas, this Sonata consistently averaged 27-28 mpg overall on regular. And if you were cruising down the highway at 70 mph, the Pontiac might get 16-18 mpg, the Sonata will average about 41 mpg. With its 18.5-gallon fuel tank try running it dry without stopping (over 700 miles). No, it is not a hybrid (it does have a remarkably low coefficient of drag of 0.28), but it will consistently return 40-plus mpg on a level highway. And it will do it in whisper quiet surroundings or in a simulated concert hall, listening to your favorite symphony, in my case I am partial to Beethoven’s 5th, 6th and 7th. The engine spins a low 1,950 rpm at that speed. The EPA says you should expect 24/35/28 mpg in its city/highway/combined cycle of fuel economy testing.
Throttle response is remarkably strong and the tranny shifts smoother than warm butter, but there is a very minor complaint and that is with respect to the tranny’s programming. At low speeds or during deceleration, the tranny will either downshift or stay in a lower gear, not allowing the car to free wheel as easily. It creates too much engine braking. It effectively makes the Shiftronic portion of the tranny superfluous as it will not upshift when asked or it will downshift into a lower gear even though you have manually placed the tranny in fifth or sixth gear. If you like driving to achieve maximum fuel economy, it does not allow the using of all the energy stored in the car. It feels like it is slightly applying the brakes when coasting to a stop before it is necessary. While the downshifts are imperceptible, it probably cost a half mile per gallon if you are hypermiling, but it would have no effect on highway fuel economy.
One of the more noticeable improvements for 2014 is driver selectable steering mode that provides not only three levels of power steering assistance, but also adjusts on-center feel and steering build-up in the twisties. While it does render improved feel for the electric power rack, don’t expect it to be a Porsche, but it is good. Turn-in is crisp, the rack is quick and the turning circle is a tight 36 feet. When you combine that with state-of-the-art four-wheel independent suspension (it has stabilizer bars at both ends) and a wide track of almost 63 inches, the Sonata handles well (The 1959 Bonneville was the first year of the “Wide-Track” Pontiacs and it couldn’t hold a Sonata’s lug nut in the corners). My Limited model came with beautiful 17X6.5-inch alloys shod with 215/55 all-season tires and it can flat out corner with attitude. I can only imagine how it would perform in the SE version with one inch wider 18-inch wheels and wider lower profile 225/45 rubber (those are an option). This Sonata will surprise you when the road bends. Bring it on.
Ride quality borders on luxurious. It is supple without any float. Control is about perfect and traversing small expansion joints or a big dipper, it is quiet and extremely smooth. And you don’t hear a lot going on from the suspension while it quells road imperfections. That is a quiet ride. With its clean design, wind and road noise are non-existent.
Braking by four-wheel (ventilated in front), 1-foot discs with ABS and EBD is powerful, stopping in Sonata in just 41 feet from 40 mph. The pedal is equally firm, strong and linear. Other safety features including a plethora of airbags, a blind spot detection system, vehicle stability management system and hill start assist control all working together to help with your well being while in transit.
Inside the Sonata Limited is a sophisticated and luxurious interior. Leather seating surfaces are standard and the power front driver’s seat is sublime. Ditto for the front passenger. In the rear is copious seating for three with an abundance of legroom and even with the slick styling, headroom is more than adequate. It is a real five-passenger sedan.
Door paneling , the instrument panel and the rest of the appointments have a solid feel with extremely high quality. Instrumentation includes a large analog speedo, tach and ancillary gauges along with a trip computer which gives you average as well as instant mpg, except the instant mpg is graphic and not digital. How’s that for nit-picking.
The trunk is huge with over 16 cubic feet of capacity. In fact, the less than 190-inch-long Sonata is classified as a large car with its combined cabin and trunk volume exceeding 120 cubic feet. No other midsize car can claim that even though some are more than three inches linger overall.
Pricing for a Sonata GLS starts at $21,450 while the luxuriously appointed Limited price of admission is $27,000. The only option package for the Limited is a Tech package which gives you HID lights, a full sunroof, Nav and more. Carpeted floor mats will cost you an additional $110. Destination from its Montgomery, Ala., assembly plant is $795.
Price $21,450 to about $30,000
Four-cylinder inline 16-valve 190 hp @ 6,300 rpm
179 lb.-ft. of torque at 179 rpm
Six-speed torque converter automatic with a semi-manual mode
Transverse mounted front engine with front-wheel drive
Wheelbase 110.0 inches
Length 189.8 inches
Width 72.2 inches
Height 57.9 inches
Track (f/r) 62.6/62.6 inches
Cabin volume 103.8 cubic feet
Trunk volume 16.4 cubic feet
Fuel capacity 18.5 gallons
Weight 3,245-3,428 pounds
Steering lock to lock2.94 turns
Turning circle 35.8 feet
Co-efficient of drag 0.28
0-60 mph 7.79 seconds
50-70 mph 4.25 seconds
50-70 uphill 6.64 seconds
Top speed: Beyond sanity
Fuel economy: EPA rated at 24/35/28 city/highway/combined. Expect 27-28 mpg in suburban driving and 40 plus mpg on a level highway at 70 mph.