2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T
2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T

The turbo’s getting its second wind. As automakers look for ways to wring big power from smaller, more fuel-efficient engines, turbocharging is gaining popularity, with Hyundai one of the latest manufacturers to add a forced-induction motor to one of its most popular cars, the Sonata family sedan.

Turbo- and supercharging are variants on the same theme, with the aim of both being to force more air into the engine than it would pull in on its own – hence, forced induction. In simple terms, more air means more power, and modern turbo technology means that it’s quite possible to get six-cylinder power and performance from a smallish four-cylinder engine.

This is the tack Hyundai has taken with the Sonata. For this redesigned 2011 model, Hyundai chose to offer a turbo-ed 2.0-litre, four-cylinder motor as the upgrade engine, in place of a V6. That puts the Sonata 2.0T down two cylinders, but up 25 horsepower and, more importantly, 40 lb.-ft. of torque compared to 2010 Sonata V6 models. Also important are the new car’s improved fuel consumption ratings of 9.3/6.0 L/100 km (city/highway), which look good against the old 3.3-litre V6’s 10.8/6.9 L/100 km figures. The Sonata turbo also boasts more horsepower than the V6s in the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry (albeit barely, in both cases), Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu.

2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T
2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T
2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T. Click image to enlarge

The motor itself isn’t all-new; it’s similar to the four-cylinder used in the Genesis Coupe, but retuned and turned 90 degrees to suit the Sonata’s front-wheel drive architecture.

Turbocharged engines are known for producing generous torque at low engine speeds, and the Sonata 2.0T’s motor doesn’t disappoint: all of its 269 lb.-ft. of torque is available at just 1,800 rpm, making for snappy off-the-line performance. If not for the stability/traction control system, the car would be all wheelspin in full-throttle launches, but the electronics do a good job of maximizing traction while still letting the car speed away quickly.

The six-speed automatic transmission (enthusiasts will be disappointed to know it’s the only one offered in the 2.0T) is a good one, shifting smoothly and responding promptly when the need for acceleration – and hence, a downshift – arises. The brilliance of the turbo’s torque curve is best shown with the transmission’s manual shift mode. Put the car in sixth on the highway and flatten the accelerator: the transmission won’t downshift, but the car will pull away smartly anyway, thanks to the torque available around the 2,000 rpm mark.

The turbo engine’s throttle response is a bit abrupt; using the “active eco” drive mode (a button left of the steering column turns it on and off) dials it back, but also makes the car feel sluggish at speed.

My tester averaged 10.4 L/100 km in city driving, in cool early April weather; a 2.4-litre car I drove last fall got 9.3 L/100 km in warmer conditions with more highway driving in the mix.

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