The best technology is that which is transparent in its use but beneficial in what it provides in terms of outcome. And the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is an example.
The vehicle in question here has the Limited trim. Top-of-the-line.
The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid (images: Hyundai)
Which means it is loaded. With things like an eight-way power driver’s seat and four way for the passenger. Leather clad and heated and ventilated. And leather wrapping for the steering wheel. A 10.25-inch color touchscreen navi system with Bose premium audio. Hyundai’s Blue Link system, which provides things including remote start with climate control, remote door lock/unlock, stolen vehicle recovery and destination search by voice—and these services are complimentary for three years. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. There’s Hyundai Digital Key: Use your Android phone (sorry, ios) to open, start and drive the vehicle without having the physical key fob. And thanks to three radar sensors, 12 ultrasonic sensors and five cameras there is an array of advanced driver assistance capabilities, from forward collision-avoidance assist to front and rear parking assistance.
Absolute attention to aero detail.
The 2020 Sonata is a gorgeous midsize sedan and the Hybrid Limited is equipped with equipment and amenities such that on the window sticker of the car there was one option—carpeted floor mats (did you ever notice when getting a car somehow the mats have an out-sized importance in the total transaction?)—and including the $975 for destination and handling, the total price for the car is $36,430. Based on the items mentioned above, that seems like a satisfactory number—and it is all the more so when we get to another set of numbers:
The first is for the EPA-estimated City miles per gallon of the Sonata Hybrid Limited.
The 51 is Highway mpgs.
Comfortable and technical.
And the last is the City/Highway combined number.
Here’s a surprising number: 620.4. That is the number of miles that one could conceivably drive starting with a full tank (13.2 gallons of regular) if the 47 mpg was maintained on the drive. Let’s face it: although gas prices are, as of this writing (6/29/20) about $2.20 on average in the U.S., odds are people don’t want to have to visit gas stations more than they have to given the number of surfaces that need to be touched to get a fill up.
This brings us to how this is achieved, the technology that is transparent to the driver.
The vehicle is powered by a 150-hp 2.0-liter four that’s mated to a 39-kW permanent magnet synchronous motor so the total system horsepower is 192 hp. The motor is positioned between the engine and the six-speed automatic transmission. Shifts are seamless thanks to what is called “Active Shift Control” (ASC) technology, which monitors the transmission rotational speed 500 times per second and quickly actuates gear changes as required which helps optimize the operation of the hybrid powertrain system.
Even the wheels address the air.
The vehicle has a 1.62-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery packaged below the second row of seats such that there isn’t a sacrifice of cargo room in the back nor an effect on the rear-seat passengers.
They’ve gone at the vehicle to improve the coefficient of drag in a considerable way: the Hybrid comes in at 0.24 while the gasoline-powered Sonata is at 0.27. Among the things done to make it as slippery as it is are the use of underbody covers from rear to back as well as using active air flaps below the hood opening and in the lower fascia. There are aero features even on the taillamps and the 17-inch alloys have evidently been designed to help manage airflow.
Solar panels get additional energy for the vehicle from the sun.
One nice touch is the use of a roof that is based on solar panels. This setup provides 205-W of total output or, Hyundai calculates, about two miles of extra distance per day. The system charges both the 12-V and the li-ion batteries. While it might seem that the solar roof might add excessive mass to the vehicle, the roof is almost a third lighter than a panoramic sunroof: 66.1 pounds compared with 94.8 pounds.
On the one hand, this is a car that can appeal to those who are looking for a stylish, comfortable sedan with a wide assortment of features and amenities.
On the other hand, this is an affordable car that can appeal to those who are intrigued by something that is absolutely advanced, tech-wise.
Although the term “continuous improvement” is generally associated with another company, Honda is certainly pursuing that approach, as is evidenced by the Accord, which is now in its ninth generation.
Dan Nicholson is vice president of General Motors Global Propulsion Systems, the organization that had been “GM Powertrain” for 24 years.
The little car that could still can. And this time as a car that not only gets great fuel economy, but which has ride and handling that makes it more than an econo-box (and its styling is anything but boxy).