Tuesday, June 29, 2010

LAT on the Hyundai Sonata: Chutes and ladders

David Undercoffler of the Los Angeles Times gives a review of Hyundai's flagship vehicle that mixes gushing praise with a bit of effluent. This paragraph sums it up:
To drive the 2011 Hyundai Sonata is to experience a real-world application of Chutes and Ladders. It has many, many good attributes that sends it up ladder after ladder. Yet, for some drivers, its shortcomings pull it down more chutes than it's worth.
Most of the review talks about the pluses — and they are enough for "many consumers" to put the Sonata "at the top of their lists" — but the quality, the warranty, the excellent gas mileage, the interior extras, and the styling, he says, are offset by a lack of zing for driving enthusiasts:
But if you care about the driver's experience, prepare for the other chute to drop.

First off, the engine, though rated at 200 horsepower in the sporty SE, feels like it has half that. The Sonata's 0-60 acceleration is normal for its class at about 8 seconds — and it's going to spend that entire time arguing with you. The engine is loud and unrefined and sounds more like a drunk blender than an internal combustion motor. Be thankful you went with the upgraded stereo system because you're going to want to crank the volume.

Straight lines aren't the only problem for the Sonata. Auto critics are abuzz with how Buicks no longer handle like the land yachts of yore. Unfortunately Hyundai's Sonata seems eager to take that discarded crown. The car's suspension is comfortable enough with bumps and potholes. But turn the steering wheel more than a few degrees and you're punished with unsettling lean and body roll.

To compound matters, the steering itself feels vague and distant. Nothing about this car encourages a whiff of spirited driving.
But all is not lost, he says:
If you have your heart set on the Sonata but you care about handling, wait a few months. By the end of 2010, Hyundai says it will release the Sonata 2.0T, which will feature a promising 2.0-liter, 274-horsepower, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine good for 269 pound-feet of torque, all while giving you 34 mpg on the highway.

One can only hope Hyundai gives the steering and suspension teams a cold stare before letting them get back to work.
Just for $hits and giggles, maybe I'll go bother a Hyundai dealership and check this out for myself. I'd actually like to look at this car in person a little more. Its higher-end cousin, the Genesis sedan, looked good in pictures and in person, but the 2011 Sonata seems a little weird in pictures though I liked the few I actually saw driving down the road in Honolulu.

Not that I'm in the market for a new car anytime soon. My next car in Korea will be an LPi Kia Sorento, but I'm not sure about my next car in the US. Maybe a used Lexus IS 250.

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