Another Turbo Model That Previews the Future

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2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T.

The new Sonata is already a pretty big success for Hyundai. The rakish mid-size sedan shows not only the new styling direction of the brand, but their increased confidence in being able to go up against the leading models in any segment.

One of the best compliments I’ve heard about the Sonata – from more than one person – was that it somewhat resembles a Lexus.

This year, two new variations of the vehicle are joining the lineup with different engines. The big news will be Hyundai’s first hybrid model, adding to the growing number of gas-electric cars that will be available to consumers looking to save a little fuel. But there’s another engine choice for the Sonata — one also designed to save fuel.

You’ll soon see these cars on the road with a “2.0T” badge on the back, indicating a two liter four cylinder engine with a turbocharger. This was interesting news when Hyundai first showed off this Sonata a couple of years ago, as the turbo version meant the company was bucking the industry standard by not offering a V6 engine.

If you want a new Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu, or Nissan Altima, you can opt for a V6 instead of the standard four cylinder as a way to get a more powerful car. The downside is that there’s always a penalty in miles per gallon. Bigger engine equals more fuel consumption, generally speaking.

By putting a turbocharger on a four, Hyundai can offer increased power without a reduction in gas mileage. EPA ratings for the 2.0T are 22 mpg in the city and 33 on the highway, with an overall number of 26. The standard Sonata’s 2.4 liter four garners figures of 22 and 35, with a combined number of 26, the same as the turbo.

There is a big difference in power, however. The base engine does respectably, with around 200 horsepower depending on which trim level is chosen. The turbo engine kicks out 274, which is deep in V6 territory. Direct fuel injection helps it achieve that number, and a standard 6-speed automatic transmission powers the wheels very smoothly.

Hyundai’s bold move toward discontinuing the V6 in their mainstream family sedan shows a trend in the industry. Within a few years, nearly every car manufacturer will offer a smaller engine with turbo boost in order to have the combination of power and fuel efficiency.

Ford, for example, is busy at work adding its “EcoBoost” system to all kinds of vehicles. They started out with turbo V6 engines where a V8 might have been offered in prior years, and even the F-150 pickup truck will get a version of the EcoBoost V6. There will also be turbo fours to replace V6 engines in lighter cars, possibly including the sporty Mustang.

So why all this interest in turbos? After all, it was only a couple of decades ago that a car labeled “turbo” was something exotic and high performance. Fuel efficiency standards set by the federal government for the 2016 model year dictate that a company’s average for all its cars be 35.5 miles per gallon, so turbos are going to help.

The public will have to be convinced that these are the way to go, but that shouldn’t be too difficult. I’ve driven several of the EcoBoost Fords over the past few years, and the smooth power delivery is amazing. Likewise with this new Hyundai Sonata. Save for a tinge of vibration at idle, it’s an amazingly powerful and smooth engine.

So don’t be surprised if sometime in the future, you’re offered a choice of a turbo when buying a new car. If you want power and efficiency at the same time, go ahead and say yes.

I’ll see you down the road.

Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net

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