Hyundai Nu 1.8-litre engine
Hyundai Nu 1.8-litre engine; image courtesy Hyundai. Click image to enlarge

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Feature: Engineering Kias and Hyundais in Michigan

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By Gerry Frechette

Superior Township, Michigan – Hyundai is in the midst of a major new product offensive, and that includes the introduction of several new engines and transmissions to power all its new models into the future. The company gave us the opportunity to view all the new hardware at a special event in the Hyundai Kia America Technical Center in Superior Township, Michigan.

With stringent new regulations facing all manufacturers in the next several years, Hyundai is naturally seeking to minimize greenhouse gas emissions, while achieving a Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) of 50 miles per US gallon by the year 2025, which translates to about 60 miles per Imperial gallon, or consumption of 4.7 litres per 100 km.

To that end, consumers are already seeing technology like direct injection, multi-ratio transmissions (10-speeds are planned), weight reduction and aerodynamic trickery, but ultimately, it will take significant numbers of hybrid, electric and fuel cell vehicles to balance out the sales of gasoline-powered vehicles, which are projected to still account for some 77 per cent of Hyundai’s sales in 2020. The Sonata Hybrid is the first such vehicle in the Hyundai line-up.

2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid; photos by Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge

The engine at the heart of the Hybrid is the same size – 2.4 litres – as the unit in the regular Sonata, but with Atkinson Cycle valve-timing technology added, as it is on other hybrids. Hyundai is alone in employing an actual six-speed automatic transmission – without torque converter – versus the more common CVT, claiming an improvement in efficiency and performance. As well, the Sonata Hybrid is the first such vehicle to utilize lithium polymer batteries, which are lighter, hold more power, and are slower to discharge than the more common nickel-metal hydride batteries in other hybrids.

Some of the technology we have already seen on the 2.4-litre Theta II engine in the Sonata has found its way into the all-new Gamma 1.6-litre four-cylinder, scheduled to make its debut in the new sporty coupe to be shown at the Auto Show in Detroit in January, and powering subsequent sub-compact vehicles like the Accent.

Prime among the technologies on the Gamma engine is direct injection, or what Hyundai calls GDI. Add to that Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (DCVVT), electronic throttle control, roller timing chain, offset crankshaft, and exotic anti-friction coatings in the valvetrain, and you get 138 horsepower at 6,300 rpm, and torque of 123 lb.-ft. at 4,850 rpm. Fuel economy in vehicles so equipped is projected to be in the 48 mpg range on the highway.

Backing up the Gamma engine will be an all-new six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission, the first such unit in the Hyundai line-up.

2011 Hyundai Elantra
2011 Hyundai Elantra
2011 Hyundai Elantra; photos by Gerry Frechette. Click image to enlarge

Also all-new in the Hyundai engine family is the Nu (Hyundai has names for all its engines) 1.8-litre four cylinder, developed to replace the 2.0-litre Beta engine that powered the previous-generation Elantra. The new Elantra hitting showrooms soon is equipped with it. Unlike the 1.6-litre Gamma engine, the Nu doesn’t have GDI, but it does get the DCVVT system, a plastic variable intake system that is lighter and less costly than aluminum, electronic throttle control, roller timing chain, roller swing arm and hydraulic lash adjusters in the valvetrain, and offset crankshaft, which, in perhaps the last word in weight savings, is made out of aluminum, as is the block and cylinder head.

The Nu is smaller than the Beta, weighs 74 pounds less, and boasts an 18 per cent improvement in highway fuel economy (up to 48 mpg). It generates 148 horsepower at 6,500 rpm, and 131 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,700 rpm. In those U.S. states that demand it, the Nu allows the new Elantra to be certified as a Partial Zero Emission Vehicle, like many hybrids, according to Hyundai.

The last new engine in the Hyundai mechanical onslaught is the Tau 5.0-litre V8, a development of the 4.6-litre V8 that has powered the Genesis sedan since its introduction, and is under the hood of the new Equus prestige sedan. The addition of gasoline direct injection and larger displacement bumps up the horsepower from 385 to 429, and torque from 333 lb.-ft. to 376. The Genesis will offer the new engine early in 2011, and the Equus will follow suit in 2012. One wonders if Hyundai will build something performance-oriented to drop the new engine into. Enthusiasts can only hope…

In any case, all the new four-cylinder technology (there were no V6 developments revealed) will serve Hyundai well into the second decade of the century, as it competes in the crowded compact and mid-size segments in North America. And, should gasoline prices here go sky-high, and cars get even smaller, Hyundai will be ready with its new 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine, just introduced in its i10 minicar in the European market, and also shown at the event. It’s called covering all the bases, and Hyundai appears ready for any eventuality.

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