Automakers the globe over are touting the benefits of building cars from high-strength steel these days—with more models than ever using the advanced material towards reduced weight, improved handling, a more comfortable ride and more crash-ready structures.
Hyundai is among those automakers, and not only do they lay claim to being the only one that manufactures their own steel, but they’re also on a vigorous product line expansion and refresh that’ll use their house brand of Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS) to create a slew of new and updated models that ride, perform, crash, and handle better than ever before.
We had a chance to test drive the brand’s latest and greatest to review and highlight their character, with a particular focus on the benefits of high-strength steel. This program took place at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (CTMP), a facility surrounded by beautiful country roads and equipped with numerous race tracks, an autocross course, and an off-road test trail. This year, Hyundai demonstrated numerous car and crossover models, including the Santa Fe, all-new Genesis, and all-new Sonata, on the road, on the track, and in a challenging off-road setting that likely exceeds the severity in which an owner would commonly operate their new sports ute.
The all-new Sonata Sport 2.0T started the day. As with the all-new Genesis, the Sonata features an extremely rigid frame structure built of a whopping 51 percent high-strength steel made by Hyundai’s in-house steel manufacturing facility. The ride feels solid, dense and robust – with comfort and noise levels on par with a premium vehicle. Your writer spent extensive time at the wheel of the new Acura TLX last month, and noted its extremely creamy-smooth and very quiet ride, enabled largely by the use of an advanced, high-stiffness frame. This new Sonata feels and drives almost identically.
I spoke with Chris Roche, the Body Structure Manager at Hyundai America Technical Centre Inc. (HATCHI) in Michigan, to learn a bit more about high-strength steel, and how Hyundai will be using it.
2014 Hyundai Veloster Turbo, 2014 Hyundai Elantra Coupe, 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport. Click image to enlarge
JP: What is Advanced High Strength Steel, in a nutshell?
CR: Steel grades are defined by their yield and tensile strength – this is the load they are able to withstand before being permanently deformed, or breaking. Simply, Hyundai’s Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS), manufactured by Hyundai Steel, has higher yield and tensile strength than traditional automotive-grade steel. Using AHSS, we can increase the strength of the body, improve energy absorption, and reduce intrusion levels during a crash event while achieving body mass targets to support fuel efficiency.
JP: Many manufacturers are starting to tout the use of high-strength steel in their products these days. Is there a main reason it’s becoming so popular?
CR: The use of high-tensile-strength steel has become increasingly important in achieving fuel consumption and safety targets. For Hyundai, Advanced High Strength Steel ensures our vehicles offer exceptional crash protection, without dramatically increasing weight.