2018 Hyundai Sonata First Drive | An infield home run

Baseball’s boring. At least that’s what anyone thinks who doesn’t understand that it’s an exciting game of inches. To wit, the same can be said for the crowded midsize family sedan segment. Unlike the all-new Toyota Camry and the upcoming 10th-generation Honda Accord, the Sonata is a refresh of the existing model. Hyundai is still in it, but can it improve sales in a segment being eaten alive by crossovers?

At first glance, the most significant change to the new-look Sonata is the front end with a new cascading grille, which is longer and more contoured. This grille will make its way across all models as a major part of Hyundai’s new corporate design language. Hyundai claims to be the only car company that manufactures its own steel, and this cascading design is inspired by the flow of molten steel as it’s poured. With an elongated front end, new character lines on the hood and front bumper, and slimmer LED headlights, revisions give the entire car a more aggressive appearance and sportier stance.

At the rear, moving the license plate from the trunk to the bumper was a good choice. It simplifies the back end, better showcasing the sheetmetal and allowing the trunk lid and redesigned taillights to take center stage. Turbo models will get a twin exhaust, increasing the sporty feel even more.

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Inside the Sonata, the facelifted center stack features a seven-inch touchscreen monitor (eight-inch on the Limited edition. The audio controls are more streamlined to give the entire unit a less bulky appearance, and a sporty, leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel complements other goodies such as leather seats. The biggest change in trim levels comes with the addition of the SEL model, just above the SE and Eco models, which includes even more features for about $1,600.

Gone for 2018 is the six-speed transmission from the turbocharged 2.0-liter models, replaced by the all-new eight-speed that adds ratio range at both top and bottom. The power is unchanged at 245 horsepower, but remember that the BMW 330i’s 2.0-liter turbo makes 248 hp, so Hyundai’s engine is in the ballpark with those from established luxury brands. Even with that power, don’t count on racy launches, as there’s plenty of lag. Once the turbo is spooled up, the engine has moxie.

We drove two trim levels, the Sport and the Limited 2.0T. The ride is plenty comfortable on the refined chassis and updated rear suspension, which includes an increase in trailing-arm thickness to stiffen the suspension. Meatier anti-roll bars give the on-center steering a tighter, more connected feel and help decrease body roll, showing the influence of ex-BMW M-performance guy Albert Biermann.

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The Sonata is well-balanced, communicative, and quick in any trim level, though the Limited 2.0T definitely benefits from the 18-inch tires as opposed to its Sport counterpart, which comes standard with 17-inchers. Less sidewall means more grip and better handling.

After five-plus hours of driving, the seats still felt comfortable and supportive. The back seat has plenty of room for average adults, and USB ports for those in need of recharging devices, which is pretty much everyone these days. Cabin noise was a bit of a factor when on rougher roads. Driving uphill in the Sport model, the engine droned loudly, too.

Blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist is now standard across all trim models, which especially in this family-conscious category should be the cost of entry. Glad someone’s figured that out.

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The SE, SEL, Limited and Limited 2.0T models are available now, with the Eco 1.6T coming later this summer. The Hybrid and Hybrid Plug-in models won’t be at dealers until early next year.

This midsize segment is indeed a game of inches, and an interesting one at that these days. If this refresh is any indication, Hyundai and its flagship Sonata may have just turned a base hit into a triple. Play ball!

[Source: Autoblog]

2018 Hyundai Veloster N spy shots

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The first vehicle from Hyundai’s N performance division, the i30 hatchback, is coming later this year. Sadly, that handsome little five door isn’t bound for the US. While the Korean automaker won’t confirm what will be coming to America in 2018, we’re almost positive that the first model will be the next-gen Veloster. The car is well into development, and we now have some new photos of a shakedown at the Nürburgring.

Pure facts are scarce, but based on what we know about the i30 we can make some educated guesses about the Veloster. The car will be powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four making either about 250 horsepower or 280 with an optional performance pack. Power will be sent to the front wheels through a six-speed manual, though Hyundai hasn’t ruled out a dual-clutch transmission for the future. Look for big wheels with sticky summer rubber to surround beefy Brembo brakes.

Although every Veloster we’ve seen both in photos and in person has been covered with a decent amount of camouflage, we can see the car’s basic outline. The car will still feature an asymmetrical door layout, with one on the driver’s side and two on the passenger side. The large grille is now shaped like the corporate cascading grille. It’s styled like a flat-bottomed version of Superman’s “S” logo. While the standard and Turbo models will feature center-exit exhaust tips, the Veloster N pushes the exhaust to the corners of the bumper.

Pricing and performance numbers haven’t been revealed, but Hyundai is gunning straight for the Volkswagen GTI. In typical Hyundai fashion, it’s likely to undercut the competition by a hair or two. Look for prices in the mid $20,000s when the Veloster N arrives next year. Expect a full reveal sometime this fall.

[Source: Autoblog]

The 2018 Hyundai Azera looks pretty classy

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With the reveal of the new Azera, Hyundai has made it clear that it has no plans to leave the large, upscale sedan market. This South Korean Avalon-fighter underwent a significant redesign inside and out and will first go on sale in Korea next month.

Outside, the Azera has a significantly different and more formal, profile. While the previous model was rakish and wedgy, the new model adopts an upright version of Hyundai’s new corporate grille, along with a long hood and more vertical windshield. The flanks also receive long, flowing character lines that give it a muscular appearance. At the back, the Azera gets a new version of the full width taillights that the model has had since the nameplate’s introduction two generations ago.

The Azera also changes radically inside. Instead of the downward flowing dash of the old model, the new interior features an instrument panel that emphasizes width, with a dark top portion and lighter lower section. Sandwiched between the two halves of the dash is a section that rises up at the center stack to house the large touch screen and an analog clock, which looks a bit out of place.

Hyundai has yet to reveal any stats, pricing or availability for the new Azera, except for its aforementioned launch date in South Korea, where it will carry the Grandeur name. However, we would imagine more details will be coming soon ahead of its US launch.

[Source: Autoblog]

Hyundai offers discounts to owners done with dirty VW diesels

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For Volkswagen owners that aren’t satisfied with getting a payout from the company to make up for dirty emissions, and need to rid themselves of their polluting machines, Hyundai may have a solution. The South Korean automaker is now offering Friends and Family Pricing Plus on new Hyundais for owners of 2.0-liter diesel Volkswagens. A Hyundai spokesperson said it’s “an alternative to potentially orphaned diesel owners that will be entering the market for a new vehicle.”

This discounted pricing plan starts with the gross dealer invoice price, which includes destination and advertising fees. From there, the buyer gets $1,250 off the purchase price, as well as 3-percent off of the MSRP, excluding destination charges. Also, any current Hyundai incentives can be added to the Friends and Family Pricing discounts. A list of the eligible VW models is below:

These incentives certainly make the prospect of a new Hyundai rather attractive, especially for VW owners with that sweet settlement money burning a hole through their wallets. The question is, will owners of these cars find any current Hyundais they like as much as their VWs?

[Source: Autoblog]

Hyundai’s Genesis G90 caught totally uncovered

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It seems weird to type “Genesis” without “Hyundai” in front of it – unless we’re referring to the band, of course, which we aren’t. What we have here is the first car that’ll launch under Hyundai’s new premium brand, officially called Genesis. This is essentially the replacement for the Equus, and when it reaches the States, it’ll be called G90.

The G90 clearly makes strong use of Hyundai’s “Athletic Elegance” design language, and looks like a more premium version of the existing Genesis sedan. There’s a long hood, hexagonal grille, and vertically oriented taillamps that flow down the rear fascia. Judging by these low-res spy shots, we like what we see – even if, from some angles, it looks strangely familiar.

Genesis (the brand) launches next month in Hyundai’s home market. Following the G90, the Genesis sedan as we currently know it will move to G80 nomenclature, and a midsize, rear-wheel-drive sedan – G70 – will follow. A luxury SUV and sport coupe will round out the premium lineup.

Head over to Korean site Bobaedream.co.kr for a view of the G90’s rump, as well.

[Source: Autoblog]

An early gas-electric hybrid was developed by…Exxon?

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We’re not sure which aspect of Exxon’s 1970s-era efforts to develop advanced and electrified powertrains is the most ironic. There’s Exxon, that of the Valdez oil spill infamy, being on the leading edge of hybrids and electric vehicles. There’s a boat-like Chrysler Cordova getting 27 miles per gallon. And there’s the central role a Volkswagen diesel engine plays in that hybrid development. It’s all outlined in an article (linked above) by Inside Climate News, and it’s an amusing read.

Flush with cash and fearing what it thought was peak oil production in the 1970s, Exxon funded a host of new ventures divisions geared to find alternatives to gas-powered powertrains. In the early 1970s, Exxon lured chemist M. Stanley Whittingham to develop what would become a prototype of a lithium-ion rechargeable battery.

Then, in the late 1970s, Exxon pioneered the concept of using an alternating-current (AC) motor as part of a gas-electric hybrid vehicle. The company retrofitted a Chrysler Cordova (yes, that’s the model Ricardo Montalban used to hawk) with a powertrain that combined 10 Sears Die-Hard car batteries, an alternating current synthesizer (ACS), a 100-horsepower AC motor, and, yes, a four-cylinder 50-horsepower Volkswagen diesel engine. The result was a rather large two-door sedan that got an impressive 27 mpg. And while US automakers didn’t see the potential in the early concept, in 1980 Exxon and Toyota began collaborating on a project that would involve retrofitting a Toyota Cressida with a hybrid engine. That car was completed in 1981, and may have been one of the seeds that eventually helped sprout the concept of the Toyota Prius.

Soon after rebuilding the Cressida, Exxon would get out of the advanced-powertrain-development business, as oil prices began to fall in the early 1980s, spurring cost-cutting measures. Cry no tears for the Exxon, though, as what’s now known as ExxonMobil is the largest US oil company.

A brief taste of Korea’s latest dish | 2018 Hyundai Kona

Disclaimer: We were limited to a short 10-minute drive at Hyundai’s research and development facility in Namyang, about a 90-minute drive from the South Korean Capital of Seoul. The closed loop didn’t provide much in the way of road variation, and we reached a blistering top speed of 45 mph with all of three opportunities to use the brakes.

The Kona we drove was a Korean-spec model. Suspension and steering tuning will be adjusted for the US, though we couldn’t get a clear answer on what sort of changes that entails. Expect the US model to be a bit softer than what the Koreans and the Europeans will see, though we’ll have to wait until a full first drive to be sure.

Hyundai has been on a roll lately, releasing a series of solid if not exactly groundbreaking products, though until now they company was missing an entry into the ever-burgeoning B-segment crossover. For several years, compacts like the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3 have ruled the class, but Hyundai is going all-in on crossovers, with several new models on the horizon. The first one out of the gate is the Kona. In the next few years, we’ll see a model that slots below the Kona and a large SUV that will sit above the Santa Fe.

We got our first look at the new model at Hyundai’s new Motorstudio, a place that’s half interactive museum and half high-end conference space.

The Kona’s styling, a mix of original and derivative design elements, is sure to be divisive. The most standout feature is the plastic cladding that comes in either black or grey, depending on the body color. Hyundai is calling it armor. We just hope it’s affordable to replace.

The front wears Hyundai’s cascading grille, an element that’s making it’s way across the automaker’s lineup. It’s flanked by what Hyundai is calling is calling composite headlights. It’s a split design that places the slit-like turn signals above and separate from the actual headlights. It looks very similar to the current Jeep Cherokee, odd considering the controversy that model caused a few years ago. There’s also a bit of Nissan Juke in there, though substantially toned down.

You best get used to it, though, as design chief Luc Donckerwolke says it’s the new face of the brand. Expect to see some variation making its way across the automaker’s lineup. Not so with the rest of the Kona, as Donckerwolke said each model will get unique elements only found on that particular car. For the Kona, it’s the armor.

Other exterior design cues include the floating roof with a Land Rover-esque D-pillar and the two-tone paint scheme that adds a black roof to certain body colors. Like the cladding, there’s no mixing and matching the body and roof colors. There’s also a wide slot just above the grille that doesn’t lead anywhere. It resembles the hood scoop on the fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro SS. It’s another design flourish that seems out of place, especially since it isn’t functional.

In sharp contrast to the busy highly-styled exterior, the Kona’s interior is typical Hyundai: handsome, conservative, and well positioned. It’s very similar to the new Elantra GT, with a large infotainment display that floats on top of the dash. It’s a similar design to those in Mazda, BMW, and Audi products. Donckerwolke says the placement makes the dash appear lighter and lower. With displays getting bigger, having them sit in the dash forces the vents, controls, and storage areas down and out.

In our short time in the car, all of the materials felt nice to the touch. It isn’t luxury-car soft, but nothing felt cheap either. All of the controls were well placed, with dedicated buttons and knobs for HVAC, radio, lighting, active safety, and more. Everything felt natural, and there was no hunting for various functions. There’s even a dedicated button to engage the all-wheel drive system. The standard mode waits for a loss of traction before sending power to the rear. We didn’t get much of a chance to play with everything, but it looks and feels fine at first glance.

It definitely looks and feels better than something like the new Toyota C-HR, which was black over black over black. The buttons and knobs all feel like Toyota went for the least expensive option. In our very, very short loop, the Kona drove better than the C-HR, too.

From the moment you start moving, the Kona impresses. The steering is weighted really well in its standard drive mode and provides a surprising amount of feedback – far more than one would expect from a crossover. Our short time in the car didn’t allow us to try any of the other drive modes to see if there is a change to the steering force. The leather-wrapped wheel feels great in your hands. In our brief experience, the steering feels as good as any competitor. We’ll have to wait for more seat time in a US model to make a final call.

Likewise, the suspension displayed a surprising amount of poise, soaking up bumps and handling the intentionally upsetting pavement at Hyundai’s facility with grace. Secondary motions were minimal, taking every hit with little drama. We can only hope that the US-spec models will feature tuning similar to those in Korea. Our old long-term Honda HR-V and Fiat 500X weren’t set up for traversing Michigan pavement. We’ll be interested to see if Hyundai will be any better.

The Kona is available with either a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder paired with a six-speed automatic or a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Both engines can be paired with all-wheel drive. The only Kona we tested was an all-wheel-drive model with the 1.6-liter engine.

At low speeds, it exhibits the same sort of hesitation as other Hyundai and Kia products with the same powertrain. It’s not great, with power taking a moment to kick in while the clutch engages. Once it does, the Kona gets up and goes. Hyundai reports a 0-62 mph time of 7.7 seconds, genuinely quick and better than the Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, and Toyota C-HR. At speed, the car responds to throttle inputs with minimal turbo lag.

The biggest complaint we have from behind the wheel is the noise level. At idle, the car is relatively quiet. Once you get moving, there’s a notable amount of wind noise, especially coming from the mirrors. It’s not blaring, but it’s not as good as some of the competition.

We’ll reserve judgment until we can get some real seat time in the Kona. We had no opportunity to test things like active safety with the heads-up display, cargo space, or back-seat room. There simply wasn’t the opportunity. As it stands, the Kona seems to have a lot of potential to be a class leader. Just hope that Hyundai doesn’t change it too much for us Americans.

[Source: Autoblog]