First Look: 2011 Hyundai Sonata

News I By Steven J. Ewing I December 02, 2009

Hyundai is really on a roll. The Genesis, in both sedan and coupe flavors, have been big hits in the past year, and the automaker is really setting itself up to become one of the leaders in refinement, economy, and value in many segments. We’ve seen a lot of attention drawn to the mid-size sedan segment in the past years, especially with the major refresh of the Ford Fusion, which is poised to become the segment leader. Hyundai’s Sonata has always been a fair player in this area of the automotive marketplace, but for 2011, the Sonata enters a whole new world of technology, design, and overall refinement.

Most importantly, the Sonata will be the first Hyundai vehicle equipped with direct-injection technology. At the car’s launch, a 2.4-liter DI four-cylinder engine will be offered, producing 198 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. (Sport-trim SE models up those numbers to 200 and 186, respectively.) A six-speed manual transmission will be available with the base GLS trim, while Limited and SE Sonatas will use six-speed automatics, meaning fuel economy should stand to be quite impressive (23 city, 35 highway miles per gallon). After the Sonata’s initial launch, a 2.0-liter, turbocharged DI engine will be available, as will Hyundai’s first gas/electric hybrid powertrain.

We recently had the chance to get up-close and personal with the new Sonata, able to see Hyundai’s new "Fluidic Sculpture" design language in the flesh. The Sonata uses an almost four-door coupe-like shape, and it’s a very sleek and slippery design. Gone are the bland-ish Sonatas of yore — this new car might just be the best-looking mid-sizer around. Moving inside, the interior is awash in high-quality materials, especially in the up-bucks Limited trim. The fit-and-finish is solid, and there’s tons of room for both front- and rear-seat passengers.

Naturally, the Sonata will be equipped with a ton of standard features, like XM radio with NavTraffic and other data services, Bluetooth, etc. The Sonata will also be the first mid-size sedan to offer digital HD radio as optional equipment, as well as navigation, and other fun goodies.

No official pricing details have been released at this time, but we’d expect the starting price to come in well below the $20K mark. Scroll down to read all of the full details and specifications, and be sure to click through our gallery to see the new Sonata from all angles.


Sonata Injects Emotion, Advanced Powertrains and Superior Quality into Bland Segment

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 2, 2009 – Hyundai today introduced its all-new 2011 Sonata at the Los Angeles Auto Show. This marks the North American debut of the latest version of the popular midsize sedan, introducing Hyundai’s “Fluidic Sculpture” design language and an all four-cylinder engine lineup to the U.S. market.

Sonata is the second vehicle in Hyundai’s 24/7 version 2.0 product initiative (seven new models in the next 24 months) following on the heels of the all-new Tucson. Production of Sonata will begin later this month at Hyundai’s U.S. plant in Alabama with retail sales beginning in January.

The 2011 Sonata represents a modern approach to the traditional midsize sedan segment by using only advanced four-cylinder engines, emotional design and luxury features offered with Hyundai’s strong value proposition.

The 2011 Sonata poses some intriguing questions:
• Why can’t a smart, solid sedan also have modern, sleek, sophisticated style?
• Why pay so much to get a taste of luxury?
• Why can’t an efficient four-cylinder engine give V6 power?

 Beginning with the 2011 Sonata and 2010 Tucson projects, Hyundai designers set to work about three and half years ago on Fluidic Sculpture.  Fluidic Sculpture is a consistent, cohesive design language that will ripple through the entire Hyundai showroom. In developing the initial Sonata sketches, Hyundai designers considered the interplay of natural, fluid elements with more rigid surfaces and structures to create the illusion of constant motion. Inspired by nature, Fluidic Sculpture injects sophistication and dynamic angles into the shape of a vehicle and now serves as the core of Hyundai’s future design identity.

The exterior of the all-new Sonata is long, light and low. The high beltline allows for a long, sleek roofline accented by the third window. A monoform side profile includes flowing lines highlighted by a Hyundai signature chrome accent that spans the length of the car. Normally, this type of trim is only found around the windows. On the new Sonata, this trim extends out from the headlamps, juts up along the hood and through the beltline. The face is bold with a large powerful chrome grille and headlamps that integrate precise details. The stance is completed by 16-, 17- or 18-inch multi-spoke wheels.

The sophisticated look continues inside where Hyundai has created an upscale ambiance thanks to a flow-through center console and instrument panel. These flowing surfaces complement the exterior design and wrap around the driver and passengers.

The sleek design, combined with Hyundai’s expertise in interior packaging, has produced an interior that delivers class-leading comfort, functionality and practicality. A sleek roofline typically compromises headroom and interior volume but, at 120.2 cubic feet, the Sonata has the most interior volume of its key competitors. It is so spacious, Sonata continues to be classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a Large car, truly a “class above” Camry, Altima, Fusion and Malibu (all are categorized as Midsize cars). Even in trunk room, the Sonata shines. Sonata’s 16.4 cu. ft. of trunk space gives it a 9.3 percent advantage over the Camry, and a 17.1 percent advantage over Accord.   

The new Sonata will launch with Hyundai’s new Theta II GDI 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with a Gasoline Direct-Injection (GDI) fuel delivery system, which contributes to improved fuel efficiency and lower emissions. Sonata is the first midsize sedan to adopt GDI technology as standard equipment in a naturally aspirated powertain. This shorter, more direct path of fuel delivery, allows for greater control of the fuel mixture at the optimum moment, thus improving efficiency. The fuel is injected by a camshaft-driven, high pressure pump that operates at pressures up to 2,175 psi. Direct injection also utilizes a higher than normal 11.3:1 compression ratio for increased power. The pistons are “dished” to increase combustion efficiency in the cylinder. This powerplant will deliver best-in-class fuel economy, best-in-class four-cylinder horsepower and best-in-class torque.

Sonata delivers an impressive 23 mpg city/35 mpg highway estimated fuel economy rating* with the available six-speed automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC®. (When equipped with the six-speed manual, the Sonata achieves an estimated 23 mpg city/34 mpg highway fuel economy rating). The preliminary horsepower and torque ratings for the Theta II GDI are 198 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. In the SE trim which includes a standard dual exhaust, the engine delivers 200 horsepower. This high-tech, all-aluminum, 16-valve engine features Continuously Variable Valve Timing (CVVT) on both camshafts and a Variable Induction System (VIS) for better engine breathing. A version of this engine also meets Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV) standards.

Next year, Hyundai will add a 2.0-liter Theta II turbocharged GDI four-cylinder engine and a 2.4-liter Hybrid Blue Drive model featuring Hyundai’s breakthrough lithium polymer battery pack. Details about these powertrains will be announced at the 2010 New York Auto Show. Sonata’s innovative segment first powertrain lineup is a key driver of Hyundai’s goal to be the most fuel-efficient automaker on the planet.

Hyundai’s commitment to making the Sonata extremely fuel efficient continues with a six-speed automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC manual control or a standard six-speed manual transaxle.

Hyundai’s all-new six-speed automatic A6MF2 transaxle helps the company meet its goals of improving fuel efficiency and reducing emissions. Shifts are silky-smooth with an option of manual control through the SHIFTRONIC feature.

Drivers can access the SHIFTRONIC feature by moving the gear selector into a separate gate. Pushing the selector forward or pulling it rearward will shift the transmission up or down sequentially, adding to driver control. The SE trim will also feature steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. A clear LCD readout on the instrument panel shows the gear being used.    

Designed for transverse engine applications in passenger cars and SUVs, the new compact transmission puts Hyundai into an elite class of auto manufacturers who have designed their own proprietary six-speed automatic transmissions. The strength of the design is its unique layout which makes it smaller, more compact and lighter than any other six-speed transmission on the market today.

For the customer, the new six-speed delivers a performance edge. In this application, it helps brings a nine percent gain in fuel economy (35 mpg* versus 32 mpg). The gearbox has no dipstick because it is filled with automatic transmission fluid that is good for the life of the vehicle under normal usage conditions, thereby reducing maintenance costs.

Developed over a four-year period, this new six-speed automatic is 26.4 pounds lighter than the five-speed it replaces. It also is 1.6 inches shorter and considerably simpler, having 62 fewer parts, which is a key to increased durability, lighter weight and lower cost.

When it comes to transmissions, more gears are definitely better. The addition of a sixth gear enables closer spacing between gear ratios providing a better balance of performance and fuel economy while the wide overall gear ratio helps deliver strong acceleration.

The gearbox has three planetary gearsets and a unique flat torque converter that shortens the unit’s overall length by 0.47 inches. Four pinion differentials improve durability and further minimize size.

Another example of engineering ingenuity is found in the design of the hydraulic pressure control unit. Slight manufacturing deviations from one solenoid valve to the next often times cause fluctuation in the hydraulic pressure and affect shift precision and quality. The transmission featured in the Sonata cleverly integrates adjustment screws in the valves that enable each of the eight valves to be calibrated at the factory. This feature ensures stable hydraulic pressure at any shift point which facilitates a high degree of precision and control needed to deliver fast, smooth and precise shifts throughout the rpm range.

An advanced four-wheel independent suspension system combines a supple ride with precise handling and steering response for Sonata GLS and Limited models. Sonata uses MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension systems with increased travel for improved wheel control and a smoother ride. All four wheels are controlled by coil springs, fade-resistant gas-charged dampers and stabilizer bars. The suspension has been optimized to keep the vehicle flat during corning and provide quick turn-in response. The rear suspension uses aluminum components to reduce weight and improve suspension performance. The GLS and Limited models also use advanced low-rolling resistance tires to improve fuel economy while maintaining good ride and handling performance.

The Sonata SE is an even more exciting and willing partner for drivers who prefer sportier ride and handling dynamics. The sport-tuned suspension features stiffer springs and larger stabilizer bars, resulting in a 20 percent increase in roll stiffness. Unique SE dampers, including monotube shocks in the rear are used to control the more aggressive suspension. Low profile 18-inch tires round out the unique chassis components of the Sonata SE. 

All Sonatas have column-mounted, motor-driven electric power steering that adjusts instantly to changing driving conditions while improving fuel economy over a conventional steering system. A quick-ratio steering rack is used for crisp feel on turn-in. Sonata’s turning diameter of 35.8 feet is better than Camry, Accord, Altima, Fusion and Malibu.

One of the program targets for the 2011 Sonata engineering team was world-class power-to-weight ratio. Power-to-weight ratio pays dividends in both performance and fuel economy.

Sonata is rich in ultra-high-strength steel, leading to world-class body rigidity. The 2011 Sonata is 25 percent stiffer in torsion and 19 percent stiffer in bending rigidity than its predecessor, yet it is lighter than many midsize sedans, also offering more interior room. 

This focus on power-to-weight ratio pays dividends across the board. The Sonata owes its ability to deliver both strong performance and excellent fuel economy in great part to its impressive power-to-weight efficiency. 

Sonata is built from the ground up with safety in mind, with a hot stamped ultra-high-strength steel body structure, advanced airbag technology and Electronic Stability Control (ESC), delivering on Hyundai’s commitment to both active and passive safety technology leadership. The prior generation Sonata was the first midsize sedan with standard ESC when it launched in March of 2005. ESC was not standard equipment on Honda Accord until the 2008 model year and the 2010 model year for Toyota Camry. Once again every 2011 Sonata has lifesaving ESC as standard equipment. This is important because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported that ESC results in 35 percent fewer single-vehicle crashes and 30 percent fewer single-vehicle fatalities in passenger cars.

The Sonata also features a state-of-the-art braking package. The package includes four-wheel disc brakes and an Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) including Brake Assist, which provides maximum braking force when a panic stop is detected, and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) to automatically adjust the braking force to front and rear axles based on the vehicle loading conditions.

Sonata features six airbags—including dual front, front seat-mounted side-impact, and front and rear side curtain airbags—along with active front-seat head restraints. The 2011 Hyundai Sonata is projected to earn the NHTSA’s top rating of five-stars for front and side impacts. Other passive safety features include shingle-style rear-seat head restraints for improved visibility, three-point seatbelts for all seating positions, front-seat seatbelt pretensioners and force limiters, and a rear-seat Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system for child seats.

• An AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio system with six speakers comes standard in the Sonata GLS and SE.
• AM/FM/XM/ DVD/MP3 audio system with touch-screen navigation and Dimension® premium sound with subwoofer and external amplifier is optional on the GLS and SE models.
• The Limited model comes standard with an AM/FM/XM/6-disc CD-changer/MP3 with HD Radio Technology and Dimension premium sound.
• The optional AM/FM/XM/DVD/MP3 audio system with touch-screen navigation that includes a 400-watt external amplifier system on the Limited comes with Infinity audio.

Dimension is a new branded audio system created by Hyundai Mobis and features a Variable Equalizer with normal, dynamic and concert settings. The last generation equalizer provided only one fixed sound field. The new Variable Equalizer, tuned by renowned audiophile Ken Pholmann, is a function for controlling the sound qualities sensed by listeners. For example, Pohlmann added bass response to the concert mode typically not found in other systems.  

Audio enthusiasts with even more demanding tastes will be impressed by the AM/FM/XM/DVD/MP3 audio system with touch-screen navigation that includes a 400-watt external amplifier, dedicated Dual Voice Coil (DVC) subwoofer, eight-channels and nine Infinity speakers available on the Limited. Infinity and Hyundai engineers worked together during the early stages of development to integrate the speakers into Sonata’s interior. The team spent hundreds of hours fine-tuning the system for the cabin’s unique acoustic attributes.

•    2011 Sonata comes standard with three months of XM Satellite Radio, real-time XM NavTraffic and XM Data Services
• Sonata also will be the first popular midsize sedan to offer the clarity of digital HD Radio Technology from the factory
• First vehicle in its class to offer a Bluetooth hands-free phone system standard
• Standard auxiliary iPod/USB inputs allow drivers to fully control and charge iPods directly from the head unit

Touch-screen navigation is available on all trim levels and includes a high-resolution screen. This system provides new features including Bluetooth streaming audio capability. This easy-to-use unit can be controlled via 6.5-inch WVGA touchscreen or voice-activation by headliner-mounted microphone.  

The system features 8GB of flash memory and comes matched with a sound system that plays compact discs, accesses digital music files via Bluetooth streaming audio or allows driver and passenger to access their personal listening devices through the iPod/USB/auxiliary inputs. Bluetooth audio wirelessly streams music from select mobile phones to the head unit. Also, with a Bluetooth-enabled phone one can look up a local restaurant and call for reservations before plotting the route. The XM Satellite Radio interface is also integrated into the navigation unit and features channel logos, real-time NavTraffic and XM Data services such as WX Satellite Weather®, XM Stock Ticker and XM Sports Ticker. The system is also updateable via the USB.


Type – DOHC CVVT (Continuously Variable Valve Timing) 4-cylinder
Materials – Aluminum block and heads
Bore & Stroke – 88.0 mm x 97.0 mm
Displacement – 2.4 liters / 2,359 cc
GLS/Limited: 198 @ 6,300 rpm – ULEV
GLS/Limited: 190 @ 6,300 rpm – PZEV (est.)
SE: 200 @ 6,300 rpm – ULEV (est.)
GLS/Limited: 184 lb-ft @ 4,250 rpm – ULEV
GLS/Limited: TBD lb-ft @ 4,250 rpm – PZEV
SE: 186 lb-ft @ 4,250 rpm – ULEV (est.)
Valves per cylinder – 4

6-speed manual
Gear ratios        
First – 3.27:1
Second – 1.93:1
Third – 1.70:1
Fourth – 1.28:1
Fifth – 1.03:1
Sixth – 0.83:1
Reverse – 3.59:1
Final drive – 4.33:1 (1,2,R) / 3.25:1 (3-6)

6-speed electronic automatic with OD lock-up torque converter, shift lock and SHIFTRONIC™ manual shift mode
Gear ratios     
First – 4.21:1
Second – 2.64:1
Third – 1.80:1
Fourth – 1.39:1
Fifth – 1.00:1
Sixth – 0.77:1
Reverse – 3.39:1
Final drive – 2.89:1


MacPherson strut with gas-charged hydraulic twin tube shock absorbers and stabilizer bar (24-mm for GLS/Limited/SE)


Independent multi-link design with coil springs, gas-charged hydraulic twin tube shock absorbers and stabilizer bar (15-mm for GLS/Limited)

Independent multi-link design with stiffer coil springs, gas-charged hydraulic monotube shock absorbers and larger stabilizer bar (17-mm for SE)

Motor-Driven Power Steering (MDPS) column mounted, Rack-and-Pinion, Engine-RPM-Sensing
Overall Ratio – 14.5:1
Turns, lock to lock – 2.34
Turning circle, curb to curb – 35.8 ft.

Front – Power-assisted 11.8-in.ventilated disc
Rear – Power-assisted 11.2-in.disc
ABS – 4-wheel, 4-channel and 4-sensor with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD)
P205/65R16 (GLS)
P225/45R18 (SE)
P215/55R17 (Limited)
T125/80D16 (Compact temporary use spare tire)
Wheels    16 x 6.5-in. steel wheel with full covers (GLS)
16 x 6.5-in. alloy wheel (GLS Optional)
18 x 7.5-in. hyper silver alloy (SE)
17 x 6.5-in. alloy (Limited)

Wheelbase – 110.0 in.
Overall length – 189.8 in.
Overall width – 72.2 in.
Overall height – 57.9 in.
Tread width (front/back)
16-in. wheels – 62.9 in. / 62.9 in.
17-in. wheels – 62.6 in. / 62.6 in.
18-in. wheels – 62.5 in. / 62.5 in.
Coefficient of drag (Cd) – 0.28

Head room          
Front – 40.0 in.
Rear – 37.8 in.
Leg room          
Front – 45.5 in.
Rear – 34.6 in.
Shoulder room          
Front – 57.9 in.
Rear – 56.7 in.
Hip room          
Front – 55.2 in.
Rear – 54.9 in.
EPA passenger volume – 103.8 cu. ft.
EPA cargo volume – 16.4 cu. ft.
EPA total volume – 120.2 cu. ft.

Fuel – 18.5 gallons
Oil – 4.86 quarts
Coolant – 2.7 quarts

4-cyl. manual – 3,161 lbs
4-cyl. automatic – 3,199 – 3,316 lbs

4-cyl. manual – 23 mpg (est.) – 34 mpg (est.)
4-cyl. automatic – 23 mpg (est.) – 35 mpg (est.)

Maximum towing capacity, with trailer brakes – TBD
Maximum towing capacity, without trailer brakes – TBD
Maximum trailer tongue weight, with trailer brakes – TBD
Maximum trailer tongue weight, without trailer brakes – TBD

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