Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hyundai Announces All-New Flagship Genesis Sedan Pricing



FOUNTAIN VALLEY, CALIF., 05/28/2008 Hyundai Motor America has announced prices for its new flagship, the all-new Genesis sports sedan, starting at $33,000 for a well-equipped 290-horsepower V6 and $38,000 for the 375-horsepower V8 model.

"When we first showed the production Genesis earlier this year, we committed to deliver the interior package of flagship European luxury sedans, world-class driving dynamics, and pricing comparable to entry-level premium brand vehicles," said John Krafcik, vice president, product development and strategic planning, Hyundai Motor America "Today, we’re delivering on a key part of that commitment, with a very well-equipped Genesis sedan priced below the most basic Infiniti G35 or BMW 3-Series."

While Genesis will compete for customers with cars like Lexus ES, Chrysler 300 and Cadillac CTS, Genesis' performance capabilities and luxury features are comparable to sedans costing tens of thousands of dollars more. With base prices of $33,000 for a well-equipped 3.8-liter V6, and $38,000 for a 4.6-liter V8, Genesis makes a premium driving experience accessible to a wide range of customers. Genesis goes on sale at Hyundai dealerships in July, delivering the kind of value equation American car buyers have come to expect from Hyundai.

2009 Genesis Manufacturers Suggested Retail Pricing:

Model Engine Package Transmission MSRP
Genesis 3.8 3.8L V6 Standard Equipment Aisin Six-Speed A/T $33,000
Genesis 4.6 4.6L V8 Standard Equipment ZF Six-Speed A/T $38,000


$750 freight charge included

Genesis is built on Hyundai's all-new, performance-driven rear-wheel-drive architecture, with an advanced five-link suspension at all four corners. It offers two powertrains, the 290-horsepower Lambda 3.8-liter V6 engine mated to an Aisin six-speed automatic transmission, and Hyundai's all-new Tau 4.6-liter V8 engine mated to a ZF six-speed automatic transmission. Both deliver outstanding fuel economy. The Tau produces 375 horsepower using premium fuel and 368 horsepower using regular unleaded, leading all competitors in specific output (horsepower per liter), while also outperforming all V8 performance sedans with a projected fuel economy estimate of 17 city/25 highway. Genesis 3.8 achieves EPA fuel economy estimates of 18 city/27 highway, which outperforms the V6 engines in many smaller, mid-size cars (e.g., Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion) on the highway. With technology rivaling more expensive luxury sedans, Genesis showcases features such as XM NavTraffic, Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFLS), Lexicon® audio systems and electronic active head restraints.

Genesis 3.8 - Standard Equipment

All Genesis 3.8 models come very well-equipped, including a 3.8-liter DOHC V6 engine, Aisin six-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic™, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with traction control, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and 17-inch alloy wheels with P225/55R17 tires. Additional standard equipment includes advanced front airbags, front and rear seat-mounted side airbags, roof-mounted side curtain airbags, electronic front head restraints, fog lamps, automatic headlights, dual power heated side mirrors with turn signal indicators, leather seating surfaces with heated front seats, power seats, cruise control, Hyundai's signature white and blue interior lighting with electroluminescent cluster, proximity entry with electric push button start, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel with audio controls, dual front fully automatic HVAC, electrochromic auto-dimming interior rearview mirror with Homelink and compass, AM/FM/CD/MP3/XM (3-month subscription) with iPod/USB and auxiliary input jacks, Bluetooth and floor mats.

Genesis 4.6 - Standard Equipment

The Genesis 4.6 builds on the standard equipment found on the Genesis 3.8, adding a 4.6-liter DOHC V8, ZF six-speed automatic transmission, unique 18-inch hyper-silver alloy wheels with P235/50R18-inch tires, chrome lower bodyside moldings, ultra-premium leather seating surfaces, leather-wrapped dash and door trim inserts, power glass sunroof with tilt and slide, power tilt and telescopic steering column, integrated memory system, Lexicon 15-speaker surround sound audio system, six-disc CD changer, illuminated scuff plates, wood-trimmed leather steering wheel, electrochromic auto-dimming interior rearview mirror with Homelink and compass, power rear sunshade and rain-sensing wipers with auto defogger windshield.

Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif. is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Company of Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced by more than 790 Hyundai dealerships nationwide.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

This Is Just the Beginning



Genesis. Sounds like a great new beginning, and it is. The 2009 Hyundai Genesis sedan is the first V8-powered rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan from the Korean carmaker for our market, and it's a game-changer in many ways. As with the Sonata and Azera that preceded the Genesis, Hyundai is taking the fight to the establishment.

This time, however, it has taken aim at the Germans. In its own words, Hyundai says of the 2009 Hyundai Genesis V8, "It's the size of the BMW 7 Series with the performance of the 5 Series and at the price of the 3 Series."

It's an imposing goal, yet we have to admit that the Korean company has missed the target only slightly. Instead we'd say what Hyundai has actually produced is a car that's the size of the first-generation Infiniti Q45 with the performance of an M45 and at the price of a G35.

That's still pretty darn good in our book. And that isn't even accounting for the budget-friendly 2009 Hyundai Genesis V6 that will also be available this summer.

Free the Korean Eight
At its core, the top-line Genesis is powered by an all-new, ultra-clean-running, DOHC 4.6-liter V8 that produces 375 horsepower at 6,500 rpm while running on premium fuel (or 368 hp with regular fuel). It produces 333 pound-feet of torque (324 lb-ft on regular fuel) at 4,500 rpm.

Power is routed through a ZF-built 6HP26 six-speed transmission to the rear wheels. While shift-paddle control for the six-speed is being developed for this transmission as we write, the car now features a shift lever mounted on the console.

This car looks substantial in person, measuring 195.9 inches long, 73.4 inches wide and 58.3 inches tall. The wheelbase is commensurately long at 115.6 inches, while the front track is 62.0 inches and the rear track is 62.2 inches. It weighs in at 4,006 pounds. Just as you'd expect from a sport sedan, a multilink suspension with coil springs is featured at every corner, as is a P235/50R18 Dunlop SP sport 5000M tire.

Proving Grounds

We were given the opportunity to put our test instruments on a KDM (Korean domestic market) version of the Genesis V8 (which has already gone on sale there), right on Hyundai's elaborate proving grounds not far from Seoul. It's an impressively modern facility, meant to be a real showcase of the company's capabilities just like the rest of Hyundai HQ.

Even while running on regular fuel and thus producing just 368 hp rather than the full 375 hp, the Genesis V8 stopped the computerized clock of our VBox test equipment at 5.9 seconds to 60 mph (5.6 seconds with 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip), confirming Hyundai's claim of breaking the 6-second barrier to 60 mph. The quarter-mile marker flew by at 103 mph in exactly 14.0 seconds. These fleet figures put the Hyundai Genesis V8 in the company of any V8-powered Audi, Benz or BMW sedan, a significant accomplishment.

While a stopping distance of 124 feet from 60 mph isn't what we'd call world-class, that's still pretty good for a 4,000-pound sedan wearing all-season tires. And while we didn't pack all of our test gear required to time the car through the slalom, we did set up a standard course for a slalom evaluation and made a number of runs. The car surprised us with its neutral handling balance. It felt a little soft and slow as it made the transition from one slalom gate to the next, but it always was obedient.

We'll have to wait a couple more months to get a U.S.-specification car here in the States for an official track day, but these numbers and early impressions should only improve.

High Roller
Inside the cabin, the Genesis V8 is outfitted like a true luxury sedan. Spacious, richly appointed and fully decked out with a comprehensive list of convenience features, this Hyundai looks and feels very much like a top-line Lexus. The seats are as comfortable as they appear, although they lack the kind of firm, highly bolstered Germanic treatment a sport sedan enthusiast might enjoy. The instrument panel's white-on-black electroluminescent gauges look like they came straight out of a Lexus.

The soft curves of the sweeping dashboard architecture are complemented by an elegantly adorned center stack with numerous HVAC/audio buttons, many of which are thankfully made redundant with more ergonomically friendly controls on the steering wheel or by the multimedia controller on the center console just aft of the shift lever.

Nearly all the electronic conveniences are connected by a fiber-optic network, the latest thing to improve the speed and reliability of an automobile's electronic nervous system. Hyundai has dedicated more than $160 million to bringing such advanced electronics to its automobiles, and has entered into a long-term agreement with Microsoft to co-develop a next-generation infotainment system for both Hyundai and Kia.

Other than the Rolls-Royce Phantom, the Genesis is the only car that presently offers a Lexicon-brand 7.1 discrete audio system with HD radio, 17 speakers and more than 500 watts of power. If the 40-gigabyte hard-drive-based navigation system is ordered, the dashboard of the Genesis is enhanced with an 8-inch color display and XM NavTraffic, plus digital music storage and a back-up camera. Like all 2009-model Hyundai cars, the Genesis comes standard with XM Satellite Radio and USB/iPod connectivity.

Firm and Quiet

The Genesis is built from a rigid unibody that's received as much CAD work as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Double-laminated glass, anti-vibration pads and acoustic sandwiches in its design and construction only begin to tell the whole story. We'd be negligent if we didn't say that Hyundai Genesis is one of the quietest cars we've ever driven.

World-class crashworthiness is also expected from this car due to special attention to its construction, as well as a full complement of active and passive safety features such as fully integrated electronic stability/traction/braking systems and airbags a-plenty.

As you'd expect, the Genesis rides softly on an aluminum-intensive suspension to enhance ride quality by minimizing unsprung weight. The electrohydraulic steering assist leaves the rack-and-pinion steering feeling more isolated from the tires than we'd prefer, but the steering itself is still precise and appropriate given the scale and mission of the car. Nobody will ever mistake the Genesis for a BMW when it comes to steering, but Infiniti or Lexus owners will find it familiar.

There's Room To Grow
During our visit to Hyundai HQ, company brass forthrightly addressed several pertinent issues about the new car for us. The new V8 doesn't feature direct-injection technology to attain its lofty horsepower figures. Is D.I. a future possibility? Absolutely, but this is only the first iteration of the all-new 4.6-liter Tau engine family and it's meant to be relatively affordable to build, and it already features an elevated 6,500-rpm redline, fully variable valve timing, a variable-volume intake plenum, cast stainless-steel exhaust manifolds and ULEV-II level emissions. There's more to come.

We noted that the KDM Genesis on sale in Korea has an adjustable air suspension. Could future U.S. Genesis sedans be so equipped? Again, as a cost-cutting measure, Hyundai chose to introduce the car to the U.S. without it to be more competitive on price. It may become an option next year.

All-wheel drive? Diesel or hybrid powertrains? Hyundai says it has no current plans for the Genesis to evolve in these directions.

Finally, the elephant in the room was recognized by the Hyundai executives. Why didn't Hyundai kick off a premium channel in its model lineup with a truly premium car rather than a luxurious sport sedan, something more in keeping with Lexus rather than Audi? The Hyundai execs gave this possibility serious attention, but concluded it would not only cost the company too much (about $2.5 billion), but it would also put undue stress on the current dealership network. Hyundai estimates that the gains it has taken 13 years for Lexus to enjoy would take something like 20 years for Hyundai to recoup. But it still might happen someday, they admit.

Instead, Hyundai has dedicated a special area within its nearly 800 dealerships in the U.S. to the sale of the Genesis sedan in its V8 and V6 iterations, and it has specially trained those who will be charged with selling the Genesis sedan.

It's a Bottom Line Business
If we take Hyundai at its word that the price of the Genesis V6 will mirror those of either the BMW 3 Series or Mercedes-Benz C-Class, it would mean a bottom line between $33,000 and $39,000 depending on equipment. Hyundai predicts 70 percent of Genesis sedans will fall into this category.

Our estimate for the base price of a 2009 Hyundai Genesis V8 is $40,000-$45,000, or $7,000 less than a Lexus GS 460 and a whopping $15,000 less than a base Mercedes-Benz E550.

While we don't for a minute believe anybody shopping for an E-Class or 5 Series would even consider a Japanese luxury sedan, much less the Korean-built Hyundai Genesis, those looking at Lexus or Infiniti would do well to visit a special little corner of a Hyundai dealership. One test-drive might begin to tip the scale. The clincher would be the sticker price and amazing warranty terms.

The 2009 Hyundai Genesis might not be here yet but, like those first few raindrops that precede a slow-moving thunderstorm on the horizon, there's going to be a thorough soaking before it runs its course. This is just the beginning.

By Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor
Edmunds.com

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

First Drive: 2009 Hyundai Sonata



Hyundai's popular midsize Sonata sedan receives some significant updates for the 2009 model year. The changes are focused on where the car needed them most: the inside. I had a chance to drive the new model recently in the outskirts of Chicago and found that the changes are just what this model needed.

The 2009 Sonata gets an all-new dashboard design that can now go toe-to-toe with the best in the segment, like the Honda Accord, in terms of material quality and fit and finish. It's a vast improvement over the previous design, which was my primary complaint with the 2008 model.

The restyled dash can now accommodate a newly optional navigation system that features a crisp display screen. It's only available on the top-of-the-line Limited trim, though, and goes for $1,250.

Another change to the sedan's interior is that the front bucket seats have been enlarged. I thought the previous seats offered good comfort, and found the leather seats in the 2009 Sonatas I tested -- a four-cylinder Limited and a V-6 Limited -- were also comfortable for the few hours I spent behind the wheel. These seats have very soft cushioning, which surprised me a bit when I first sat in the car. You sink into them, but once you're settled they offer good support.

In terms of the driving experience, the Sonata's suspension skews to the firm side of the spectrum for midsize sedans -- closer to a Honda Accord than a Toyota Camry -- and nicely resists body roll when cornering. This tuning decision lets you feel bumps in the road when the pavement turns rough, but it's tolerable. While the Sonata's steering is fairly responsive and precise, the wheel lacks any kind of road feel.

As mentioned, I drove both a four-cylinder and a V-6 Sonata, and while I like the low-end power and overall refinement of the V-6, the four-cylinder is by no means inadequate; it doesn't have trouble accelerating the Sonata up to highway speeds, though it is noticeably noisier than the V-6. Additionally, the four-cylinder costs less and gets higher gas mileage: 22/32 mpg.

Hyundai got most things right with its new midsize sedan. The Sonata may not be the most exciting model out there, but it doesn't have to be to do well in this class. The Sonata has been a good value for some time, and the improvements for 2009 make it even more of one.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hyundai's value-packed SUV is impressive

Santa Fe delivers more power, fresh exterior



Whenever I drive a Hyundai product, like my recent testing of the 2008 Santa Fe, I'm reminded of how impressive this Korean automaker's transformation has been since they first started selling automobiles in the U.S.

Today, Hyundai offers well-built, nicely styled vehicles that include a long list of standard features and one of the best warranties in the business.

Like its siblings, the 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe is packed with value. It's been a few years since I last drove a Santa Fe and it's encouraging to realize how dramatically improved the current product is. And that's considering how likable the previous generation was.

The Santa Fe received a major revision last year giving it more interior room, a better ride, and more power under the hood.

Looking at Santa Fe's exterior, the design is modern, aerodynamic and unmistakably Hyundai thanks to its tall front fascia and aggressive grille.

The roof line is sleek and appears lower than past model years, yet plenty of headroom remains for all passengers.

For 2008, the top-of-the-line Santa Fe Limited model gets even better, adding a 605-watt Infinity Logic 7 audio system and power sunroof to the long list of standard equipment and an all-new navigation system to the list of optional equipment.

Combine this with a roomy, well-crafted interior, optional third-row seat and it's easy to see that the Santa Fe continues to raise the bar in the crossover segment.

The 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe midsize crossover sport-utility is available in three trim levels: base GLS, SE and Limited. The GLS (pricing begins around $21K) includes a V-6 engine, 16-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry, cruise control, four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), side and curtain airbags and a CD/MP3 player.

Stepping up to the SE (pricing begins around $24K) adds a larger V-6 engine, 18-inch alloy wheels, auto headlamps, front fog lamps, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, trip computer, and compass.

The top-of-the-line Limited (pricing begins around $28K) adds a LED-style center high-mounted stop lamp, leather upholstery, heated front seats, eight-way power driver seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, premium Infinity audio system with 6-CD changer and sunroof.

Some of the Limited's goodies are available as options in the GLS and SE. A third-row seat is optional in SE and Limited models. Also, Limited buyers can opt for a navigation system and/or rear entertainment system.

Powering GLS models is a 2.7-liter V-6 that produces 185 horsepower. You can get the GLS with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission powering either the front wheels (FWD) or all four wheels (AWD).

SE and Limited models feature a 3.3-liter V-6 engine good for 242 horsepower mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Both models are also offered in FWD and AWD. When properly equipped, the 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe is capable of towing up to 3,500 pounds.

Santa Fe's available electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system automatically routes power to the wheels with the best traction. A driver-selectable AWD lock provides a fixed 50/50 torque split between front and rear wheels, which can improve performance in slippery conditions.

My Santa Fe Limited AWD tester delivered a nice, well-mannered ride. Acceleration from the larger V-6 is very good at all speeds and the five-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. At night, I especially liked the blue backlighting for the instruments. And the luxurious tone of my Limited tester's interior was further augmented with stylish and comfortable perforated leather seats.

Overall, the Santa Fe is very likable. But I did note one dislike. Hyundai doesn't offer a rear cargo shade, not even in the Limited model I drove. Still, I wouldn't let that stop me from enjoying the many rewards.

2008 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD
Engine: 3.3-liter (242 hp) V-6
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Drive type: AWD
Fuel economy: 17 city/24 highway
Base price: $29,600
As tested: $31,470 (includes $0 for destination)
Web site: www.hyundaiusa.com

May 17, 2008
BY IRA SIEGEL SouthtownStar Auto Writer

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

2009 Hyundai Sonata and 2008 Chevrolet Malibu More Fuel-Efficient than Toyota Camry and Honda Accord



The tables are turned when it comes to fuel efficiency in the mid-size sedan segment.

The Toyota Camry and Honda Accord have long been the benchmarks when it comes to fuel-efficient mid-size sedans, but a pair of newcomers have knocked these stalwarts off their perches--the updated 2009 Hyundai Sonata and all-new 2008 Chevrolet Malibu are the segment's gasoline teetotalers.

Both the Sonata and Malibu claim fuel economy ratings of 22 mpg in city driving and 32 mpg on the highway. The Sonata does so with a 175-hp, 2.4-liter inline-four-cylinder engine and a five-speed automatic transmission. The Malibu uses a 164-hp, 2.4-liter inline-four and a segment-first six-speed automatic tranny to get the job done. That is comparable to the Nissan Altima's 23/31 mpg in city/highway driving with its 177-hp, 2.5-liter inline-four under the hood.

Trailing the trio are the Accord and Camry, both with 21/31 mpg figures with their 2.4-liter inline-fours. The least efficient in this field: the Ford Fusion with a 2.3-liter I-4 gets only 20/28 mpg. That's similar to the Sonata with a 3.3-liter V-6, which nets 19/29 mpg as it pumps out 249 horsepower, and the Accord with a 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6.

Before anyone complains we're comparing apples and oranges since the Accord has grown into a full-size sedan, we must point out the Sonata also meets the EPA large-car classification based on its 122 cubic feet of interior volume--more than the 120 cubic feet in the Accord. The others are in the 112–116-cubic-foot range; and are classified as true mid-sizers.

It appears consumers are starting to get the message. GM can't build Malibus fast enough, and Hyundai says the Sonata is raking in conquest sales: for every defector from the brand, it is adding 2.2 new customers.

In terms of overall fleet efficiency, Honda still reigns supreme in 2007 with an average of 22.9 mpg, with Toyota down one tick at 22.8 mpg, and Hyundai right behind at 22.7 mpg. There is a bit of a gap after that, with Volkswagen at 21.4 mpg and Nissan at 20.6 mpg; both are above the industry average of 20.2 mpg. Below that mark are GM at 19.4 mpg and Ford at 18.7 mpg, according to the EPA's 2007 annual report.

BY ALISA PRIDDLE
May 2008

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sisters - and parents - enjoying their Elantras

The family bought two Hyundais and finds them comfortable and economical.



MUNCIE -- An accident that left a Hyundai Elantra a total loss ultimately led a local family to buy two new ones.

The crash occurred this past February when another driver lost control at an icy intersection and struck a 2004 Elantra being driven by Bailey Hall, a senior at Central High School. The car had been bought for Bailey and her sister, Kyle, by the girls' mother, Cate McClellan, and stepfather, Arno Wittig.

Cate is a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the state of Indiana. Arno is a professor emeritus of psychological science at Ball State University.

In researching several cars he considered as replacements for the wrecked one, Arno found the 2008 Elantra offers many of the same advantages that led him to buy the 2004, and it has some extra features and updated styling.

"Consumer Reports rates the 2008 Elantra as the best sedan of its size," he said. "I also found in looking at several cars that for someone my height -- 6'2" -- the rearview mirror often interferes with outward visibility, but this is not the case in the Elantra.

"Cate and I decided to get two of them -- one for the girls to drive and one for us," Arno said.

They purchased the pair of 2008 Elantras at Gaddis Hyundai in Muncie.

Because Kyle attends Indiana University and is often away at school, Bailey has been the main driver of the family's red Elantra. She said she appreciates the car's comfort and trunk space, as well as its audio system.

"It's comfortable and easy to maneuver," she said. "I have enjoyed the three free months of XM radio, and I like that the audio system has a connection for an iPod."

Cate and Arno like the satellite radio feature of their Elantra, as well, and are considering buying subscriptions for both cars when the free trial period ends.

Bailey said she nearly lives out of her car as she drives it to school, athletic events and other extracurricular activities.

"I think I have half of my bedroom in the trunk," she said.

Kyle does get some time behind the wheel, too: Recently, she drove the Elantra to Charleston, S.C., and found it comfortable and efficient, using only two and one-half tanks of gas for the round trip.

Arno said the white Elantra he and Cate drive has been economical, as well.

"The worst gas mileage we've had is 29.9 miles per gallon," he said. "The best is almost 37 miles per gallon."

Even though the family also owns a van, the Elantra's superior fuel economy makes it more desirable for long drives, Cate said.

"We can take the Hyundai to Bloomington and back on a half-tank of gas -- and there's plenty of room in back for our 40 pound dog," she said. "Either one, or both, of the back seats can be folded down to increase the trunk space."

With the back seats up, the car carries four adults comfortably, Cate added.

Completely redesigned last year, the Elantra is now classified as a mid-size car, even though its fuel economy ratings and sticker price are more like those of compact models, said Jim Raines, sales representative at Gaddis Hyundai. "With mileage ratings well into the 30s, Five-Star safety ratings, a 100,000-mile warranty and a range of features not usually found on cars even close to this price, there's a lot of value in the Elantra," he said. "It has features to appeal to the younger driver and the savvy, experienced driver alike."

By KEN WICKLIFFE - For The Star Press - May 18, 2008
The Star Press

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

2008 Hyundai Elantra SE Road Test



As I was walking out of the grocery store, I noticed someone walking up to my Hyundai Elantra SE test car. That's nothing out of the ordinary, right? Wrong. I was a little confused when this person pulled out their keys and attempted to open the car, so I stopped walking and just watched. Granted it was about 9 o'clock at night so it was dark, but not so dark that you couldn't see where you were going. I figured he must have mistaken my car for his, or he was trying to break in and steal my Fibre1 bars that were sitting in plain view! But then again, I didn't know what to think.

I then approached my car and asked him if I could help him. He stood there, in confusion as to what I was asking him. Finally he clued in. His Mercedes C230 was parked right beside mine. Both cars were a similar shade of silver with cool rims, but other than that there were no other physical similarities I could draw upon. He, embarrassed, apologized and asked what kind of car he walked up to. I told him it was an '08 Hyundai Elantra. To that he replied, "Really? That's a Hyundai? Well, the Koreans are definitely doing something right! And I see you like Fibre1 bars. Good call." We laughed about it, and went our separate ways.

While I was driving home, I was thinking about the words exchanged in the Safeway parking lot. Not the words about the Fibre1 bars, but Hyundai doing "something right" with their cars. Actually, Hyundai has been doing a lot 'right' over the last few years that I've been a journalist. Not only did Hyundai implement the 24/7 program a couple of years ago - a program that consisted of launching 7 new products in 24 months; hence the 24/7 name - but the Korean auto manufacturer has continually been upping the safety standards, build quality, refinement and overall appeal of its vehicles. The new Elantra is an example of the above characteristics.

Starting at a mere $13,625, the 4-door Elantra sedan offers its driver a comfortable cabin, a 5-speed manual transmission and a 16-valve, DOHC, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 138 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 136 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 rpm. Up the price tag to $16,325 and you've got the Elantra SE. It not only comes with keyless entry and power door locks, mirrors and windows, but air conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels wrapped around P205/55R16 tires, redundant audio controls on the steering wheel, dual front airbags, fog lights, front and rear disc brakes with ABS, EBD and BA (brake assist), a rear spoiler, and the list goes on. Throw in an amazing 5-year/60,000-mile comprehensive warranty that incorporates a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and life gets even better.

Looking at the Elantra, it's not hard to see why Mr. Parking Lot was impressed with it. The four-door sedan has clean, tight lines on the outside and in. Its body-style is fresh and upbeat (the Elantra went through a metamorphosis for the 2007 model year), but also mature enough to appeal to both the young and not-so-young. Underneath its unmistakable continental silver exterior paint scheme is a steel cage with side-impact door beams and built-in front and rear crumple zones to enhance safety.

On the inside, along with those airbags the Elantra's cabin is spacious and refined, with a total interior volume of 112.1 cubic feet that includes 14.2 cubic feet of trunk space. I particularly liked how the interior is set up. The placement of the buttons and gauges are ergonomically-friendly and the elevated driver's seating position allowed me to have a good view of what was going on around me. The cloth-upholstered yet heated front seats also made my mornings a little warmer, especially since the weather on the Wet Coa... I mean West Coast hasn't been very Spring-esque lately. Nevertheless, the gloomy sky didn't get my spirits down when driving to and from work or wherever life and the Elantra took me. The suspension setup, with gas-charged MacPherson struts and a stabilizer bar up front and a rear multi-link system with a stabilizer bar in the rear was just peachy for everyday driving, absorbent enough over rough inner city roads while still capable of managing corners with verve. Rear seat passengers enjoyed it too, as there's a lot of room back there. Parents will appreciate the LATCH child safety seat anchors tucked between the lower cushion and backrest of each rear window seat.

Whether it's everyday driving to and from work, or to the gym, or for that matter the grocery store, the Elantra has a fuel economy rating of 24 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. So, it doesn't cost an arm and a leg to operate the car, or buy it. Not too shabby.

Overall I quite liked the Elantra. I did find, however, that when putting the 5-speed manual transmission into reverse it was sometimes a little fussy. I couldn't always shift from first to reverse directly. I had to push in the clutch, shift from first into neutral, let up the clutch and then push the clutch in again to slot the shift lever into reverse. My boyfriend liked to call this a 'safety' feature. I liked to call it a pain in the butt. After all, men are from Mars! Just kidding. This only happened occasionally so I'm pretty sure it was an isolated case, as I haven't incurred this problem in any of the other Hyundai's I've driven.

Gearbox niggles aside, it's quite a testament to me to see the growth of Hyundai Motor Corp. in such a positive direction. From the first time I drove the base model Accent to when I drove the top-of-the-line Santa Fe, the cars just keep getting better. While the Elantra SE is no Mercedes C230, literally, it is a finely-tuned piece of Korean engineering that even luxury car owners can be impressed with. And with all of the options and features, not to mention good looks inside and out, the Elantra is a luxury vehicle in its own right.

Source: Automobile.com

Monday, May 12, 2008

FIRST LOOK: 2009 Hyundai Sonata

FIRST LOOK: 2009 Hyundai Sonata

Korean car, American style



It's the Americanization of the Sonata.

In the first major program led largely by its U.S. tech center in Michigan, Hyundai gave its midsize sedan a moderate freshening for the 2009 model year, bolstering the engine and refining the interior to adapt to the tastes of U.S. drivers. The car also gets a more aggressive-looking front end, with a deeper grille and larger headlights.

The upgrades are expected to fortify the Sonata in the ultracompetitive midsize segment, which has seen major improvements in a number of entries, including the new Chevrolet Malibu and Nissan Altima, since the current Hyundai launched in 2005. An all-new Sonata is due in 2011.

Chiefly, Hyundai boosted the 3.3-liter V6 powerplant by 15 hp, to 249 hp, pushing it closer to its Toyota Camry and Honda Accord rivals, which pack 268 hp each. A variable intake system was added to improve acceleration.

The 2.4-liter inline-four-cylinder's power grew 13 hp, to 175, and Hyundai is offering a five-speed automatic transmission with its Shiftronic feature on the Sonata's smaller engine for the first time. A five-speed manual is also available.

Fuel economy improves slightly for each engine. The V6 gets 19 mpg city and 29 mpg highway; the four-cylinder is rated at 22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway.

Inside, Hyundai cleaned up the center console, moving controls farther up onto the instrument panel and filling the space with a large storage area, similar to that in the Veracruz sport/utility vehicle.

"We were never really happy with it," Scott Margason, a Hyundai product planner, said of the 2006 model. "Things didn't mesh together quite as well as they could have."

A navigation system, priced at $1,250, also is being offered on the car for the first time. It has a high-resolution touch-screen display and voice-command system.

Mindful of the seemingly ever-increasing girth of U.S. drivers, Hyundai made the seat cushions wider and longer, while increasing the angle 2.2 degrees. The company has pointed to the car's interior as a main selling point, and its 121.7-cubic-foot volume makes it roomier than its rivals--so roomy, in fact, that the EPA now classifies it as a large car.

Hyundai also paid attention to the Sonata's driving dynamics, increasing the spring rates and adding larger antiroll bars to make for sharper steering and turning response. The sporty SE model gets a stiffer suspension, performance tires and unique 17-inch alloy wheels.

Changes to the exterior were fairly subtle. In addition to the front-end modifications, the car receives new bumper and body moldings.

Hyundai hopes the changes will boost Sonata sales, which dipped 18.6 percent to 24,431 in the first quarter of 2008. Prices range from $18,795 to $26,345. Unveiled at the Chicago auto show in February, the car began arriving at dealerships in March.

SPECS
ON SALE: Now
BASE PRICE: $18,795
DRIVETRAIN: 2.4-liter, 175-hp, 168-lb-ft I4; fwd, five-speed manual
CURB WEIGHT: 3292 lb
0-60 MPH: N/A
FUEL ECONOMY (EPA): 26 mpg

By GREG MIGLIORE
AutoWeek

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Hyundai Santa Fe and Entourage Named Best Cars for Retirees by Forbes.com

Vehicles Help Mature Drivers Be Independent and Stay Behind the Wheel Longer



FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 05/06/2008 -- Hyundai Santa Fe and the Entourage were recognized by Forbes.com (www.Forbes.com) as two of the "Best Cars for Retirees" based on features that help mature drivers stay behind the wheel longer.

In order to determine the list of "Best Cars for Retirees" Forbes.com factored in NHTSA and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash-test ratings, AAA's suggestions from "Smart Features for Mature Drivers" guide and additional features that appeal to mature drivers.

According to Forbes.com, "The Hyundai Santa Fe was chosen specifically for its driver lumbar support to help ease back discomfort, and Hyundai Entourage was chosen based on its power-adjustable foot pedals that help drivers remain a safe distance from steering wheel-mounted airbags."

"Santa Fe and Entourage are great examples of Hyundai's continued commitment to providing affordable vehicles with standard life-saving technologies and convenience features," said Mike Nino, manager, Product Development, Hyundai Motor America. "These vehicles combine the safety and comfort drivers are looking for with sophistication and style."

The Entourage and Santa Fe come standard with Electronic Stability Control (ESC), one of the industry's most effective life-saving technologies, six standard airbags, including side air curtains for all three rows of available seating and four-channel Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), which automatically equalizes the braking force to the front and rear axles, based on the vehicle loading conditions. Both vehicles come standard with active front-seat head restraints which help prevent whiplash in the case of an accident.

HYUNDAI MOTOR AMERICA

Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co. of Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced through more than 790 dealerships nationwide.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Microsoft and Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group to Develop Next Generation of In-Car Infotainment

New partnership will globalize innovative in-car infotainment.

SEOUL, South Korea - May 6, 2008 - Today, Microsoft Corp. and Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group (HKAG) entered into a long-term agreement to co-develop the next generation of in-car infotainment systems. Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft, and Mongku Chung, chairman of HKAG, were present as Martin Thall, general manager of Microsoft's Automotive Business Unit, and Hyun Soon Lee, president and chief technology officer of HKAG, signed the agreement in Seoul.

Together, Microsoft and HKAG will deliver new and innovative solutions based on the Microsoft Auto software platform, bringing the future of in-car technology to Hyundai-Kia drivers worldwide.

"These new systems will redefine consumer experiences in the car," Thall said. "Since the spring of 2006, HKAG and Microsoft have been sharing their vision for the future of in-car technology. We're now aligned to develop the next generation of in-car infotainment systems."

"We are pleased to partner with Microsoft to deliver high-performance infotainment solutions to our customers," Lee said. "The advanced capabilities, flexibility and low price point make the Microsoft Auto software platform an attractive solution for us."

The first product, a next-generation infotainment system that provides voice-controlled connectivity between mobile devices, will be introduced in the North American market in 2010. It will further apply to Asian and European markets, and expand into multimedia and navigation devices. These easy-to-use infotainment systems will allow consumers to enjoy music in various digital formats.

The next-generation infotainment systems are comparable to mini-PCs. Even after product launch, new functions can be added or upgraded in the form of software program updates, an innovation to existing in-car multimedia technology.

The Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group's adoption of the Microsoft Auto software platform increases Microsoft's presence in the Asian car market and enhances the global automotive business. The engineering and marketing teams of Microsoft's Automotive Business Unit in Redmond, Wash., will be working directly with counterparts at HKAG in Seoul to support this goal. Microsoft Auto-powered systems are currently available in Fiat Auto Group vehicles in Europe and South America and Ford Motor Co. vehicles in North America.

In a related announcement, Microsoft and Hyundai-Kia, along with the Institute for Information Technology Advancement (IITA), signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to co-establish an automotive IT innovation center with the goal of promoting innovation and opportunities for Korean software and device vendors in the global market.

Microsoft Automotive Business Unit

The Microsoft Automotive Business Unit is a dedicated partner to the auto industry, providing innovative technologies and flexible software platforms to help deliver simple, more reliable and cost-effective in-car infotainment systems. Developed closely with automakers and automotive suppliers, the award-winning Microsoft Auto and Windows Automotive software platforms connect drivers with a wide range of devices, services and technology while on the go, including hands-free communication, mobile device integration, customized navigation and high-fidelity digital entertainment. More information can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsautomotive/default.mspx.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Azera Stuns with Finesse



Usually when someone comments on the car I'm driving, it's a high-end luxury car or some kind of sporty roadster. But last week, the guy who was helping me out with my groceries said: "You have a nice car, ma'am."

I was driving a Hyundai Azera.

He was stunned it was a Hyundai, I was stunned he called me ma'am. Really? Me? Ma'am? Hmmm. But I digress.

Whenever I mentioned the "H" word during the test week, the stunned reaction was common. People would take a second look at the Hyundai badging with a perplexed expression, then they would turn to me and ask: "When did that happen?"

My answer: While no one was paying attention.

If you haven't looked at Hyundai lately, now would be a good time. With a luxurious crossover like the Veracruz and a nice midsize sedan like the Sonata, Hyundai is a brand on the move with incredibly affordable pricing.

The Azera was new for the 2006 model year, and, in fact, much of Hyundai's lineup was refreshed that same year. The design got a little sleeker. Fit-and-finish has been a constant improvement. Not to mention "America's Best Warranty" that comes with every vehicle. And while no one was looking, Hyundai became a contender.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the 2008 Azera. Standard features include power adjustable front seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, electronic stability control, side-curtain airbags, automatic climate controls and a 3.3-liter V-6 engine that delivers 234 horsepower. This large, elegant sedan that looks like it should compete in the BMW 5-Series, Lexus ES, Audi A6 range has a base price of ...wait for it ... $25,295.

The test vehicle was a Limited model with standard leather seats, XM Satellite Radio, premium Infinity sound system, sun roof, heated front seats and an up-level 3.8-liter V-6 engine that delivers 263 horsepower. Without looking at the sticker sheet, I would have placed it in the $40K range including options like navigation, adjustable foot pedals and rain sensing wipers. I was stunned (there's that word again) that the base price of the test vehicle was a mere $29,245. With the Ultimate Navigation Package ($2,750) and carpeted floor mats ($100), the final MSRP was $32,095. Absolutely, well, stunning.

Really, look at a photo that includes the grille on the Azera. Take your pinky and cover up the circle H emblem. Now, imagine a circle L in its place. It's not a huge stretch.

The outside of the Azera speaks for itself. With long lean lines, a dual exhaust and sparkling taillights, the exterior has a high-end look and feel that gives people pause when they see the word Hyundai.

The interior of the Limited test vehicle was just as nice. I liked the buff-colored leather seats that were soft but not squishy. The wood accents were rich, and the touch points within the Azera were solid. The test vehicle had the optional navigation system, which was well integrated within the center stack. If you have the extra money to spend for this option, I'd definitely recommend it as the system works well, and I'm not a fan of the base level audio and HVAC controls.

Even though this is a large sedan with a length of 192.7 inches, I felt very comfortable in the driver's seat. With the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and the power adjustable seats, I was able to find a great driving position that afforded an excellent view of the road. I didn't even need to use the adjustable pedals that came with the Ultimate Navigation Package.

Front legroom is a generous 43.7 inches, and rear legroom is 38.2 inches. So, behind my driving position an NBA player could probably fit in the back seat comfortably. Behind an average adult, you're looking at a couple of average-sized adults in the backseat.

The ride and handling of the test vehicle was more luxurious and less sporty. It was a soft and comfortable ride that didn't jar too much over the Chicago potholes. The 263 horsepower in the Limited test vehicle was quite nice with great bursts of speed in passing mode and quick off-the-start acceleration when leaving a stop. I thought the Azera moved very well through traffic, and it was highly maneuverable in traffic. The Azera was easy to parallel park and easy to back into my parking space.

Because of the luxurious ride, the handling in the Azera tended to be a bit soft. So, when I hit the sweeping curve of the Ohio feeder ramp, rather than hunkering down and biting into the carousel, the Azera felt a bit heavy.

I had a few skeptical passengers during the test week because of the very fact that the Azera was in the Hyundai family. However, after a ride in the test vehicle, they were won over by the style and the price.

Through perseverance and a plethora of standard features, Hyundai plods along steadily, moving up the automaker food chain and becoming a brand to be reckoned with. I haven't driven a Hyundai I didn't like, and I'm looking forward to the Genesis and Genesis Coupe on the horizon. In the meantime, if you want a lux car with out the lux price, Azera should be on your list to test drive.

May 1, 2008
BY JILL CIMINILLO SearchChicago - Autos Editor

Thursday, May 01, 2008

First Drive: 2009 Hyundai Sonata - Korean bred, redesigned in America



In recent months, Hyundai has made a big splash with the introductions of the Genesis sedan and coupe. While those two models will likely do wonders for Hyundai's street cred, they will definitely be niche players when it comes to volume. Among passenger cars in the US market, the midsize segment has been the highest volume category for nearly two decades. Since the mid-nineties, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord have been the primary players with everyone else having been an also-ran. In recent years, however, Hyundai's entrant in the segment, the Sonata, has put up an increasingly aggressive challenge to the big dogs. The current generation Hyundai Sonata debuted for the 2006 model year and the company unwrapped its mid-cycle refresh back in February at the Chicago Auto Show.

The 2009 Sonatas have been in production since before the Chicago debut and they should be in stock at Hyundai stores around the country now. We went out to the Hyundai-Kia America Technical Center (HATCI) outside of Ann Arbor, MI for a tour of the facility where the new Sonata was created and then set out for a couple of hours to see how it behaves in the real world. Find out if the new Sonata is for you after the jump.

HATCI opened up in Superior Township, MI in late 2005 and the first major assignment for the engineers and technicians at the facility was the '09 Sonata refresh. About 150 engineers, designers and technicians occupy the 200,000 sq. ft building with more being added on a regular basis. The 2006 Sonata was designed and developed primarily at headquarters in Korea. The update was handled almost entirely at HATCI and focused primarily on taking what was fundamentally a pretty decent car and making it more desirable all around. They wanted to go from a car that people bought mainly because it was a good value to one that customers actually wanted to be in.

As a mid-cycle refresh, major styling changes were obviously well beyond the budget. Hyundai National Product Planning manager Scott Margason explained that in this segment, styling changes have relatively little impact on the buying decision. Other functional changes are far more important. To that end, Hyundai's designers created a new nose with a more prominent grille and reworked headlights. The taillights and bumper covers also got some revisions. Aside from the grille, though, observers would have a hard time distinguishing a 2009 Sonata from a 2008 based on outward appearance.

Moving to the inside is a whole different story. Here, it's immediately clear where HATCI spent its money. And they certainly seemed to spend it wisely. In an unusual move for mid-cycle facelift, the interior of the Sonata was gutted and completely redesigned, drawing many cues from last year's Veracruz CUV. The previous, rather lumpy and disjointed design has been replaced by a modern and coherent look.

The center stack is all new with satin-finish metallic trim along the sides and clean simple controls for the radio and climate controls. The lower portion of the stack features two decent sized storage cubbies. Smooth-opening doors close off both compartments. Hyundai also developed a new in-dash navigation system that includes a touchscreen display and voice operation. The nav unit includes a gyroscope to sense vehicle motion and also reads wheel speed data, allowing it to continue dead reckoning the vehicle position even when driving in urban environments where tall buildings can interfere with the line of sight to GPS satellites. In keeping with Hyundai's value orientation, the nav system costs $1,250 compared to the $2,000 charged by most manufacturers.

According to Margason, one of the complaints about the previous Sonata iteration concerned its seats, specifically the lower cushion feeling both too narrow and too short. After a lot of benchmarking and customer evaluation, Hyundai determined that it needed to change the angle of the bottom cushion. Lengthening the cushion by about 18mm and tilting it up by just over 2 degrees was enough to dramatically change the way it felt.

Both the four-cylinder and V6 engines were upgraded by the HATCI engineers. The 2.4L four-pot picked up 13hp and 4lb-ft, putting it at 175hp and 168lb-ft. The engine now has variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust cams, a new intake system for better airflow and what Hyundai calls an "enhanced performance sound". It's also rated as a partial zero emissions vehicle (PZEV) in California. The four can be had with either a five-speed stick or five-speed automatic, although only about four percent of buyers opt for the three-pedal setup. Hyundai is currently ramping up production of the fours at its plant in Alabama and by the end of the year all engines for the Sonata should be locally built.

The 3.3L V6 also got some intake upgrades and new calibrations that bump power up 249hp (from 234) and torque to 229lb-ft. The six is only available with the automatic.

After we got the rundown on the new model from Margason, we paired off and set out on our journey of discovery. All the available test cars had automatics and Gary Witzenburg and I set off in a four-cylinder Limited model. It was immediately apparent that the front seats did feel better than most competing Asian brands. I've often complained about the short seat cushions on many vehicles -- particularly Toyotas -- but the Sonata definitely came through here. The new front seats aren't quite as good as those in the Accord, which I personally find to be exceptional, but they are very good.

The new dashboard layout is much easier on the eyes than the previous iteration. It looks more modern and stylish, and the Limited model, as expected of a "luxury" trim level, had "wood" trim that flowed from the doors into the dash. There's plenty of room inside the Sonata in all directions. Like the new Accord, the Sonata's 121.7 cu.ft. interior causes the EPA to rank it as a large car.

Unlike the Honda, which is over 5 inches longer, the Sonata manages to stay relatively compact on the outside. The current Mazda6 is the only car in the class to come in under the Sonata's 188.9 inch overall length. The Hyundai is among the widest, though, at 72.1 inches. That means there's plenty of space in the back seat as well as the front.

On the road, no one is going to mistake the Sonata for a sports car. The suspension does a good job of absorbing the worst that Michigan roads can provide, and even crossing railroad tracks at an angle doesn't upset the car. The ride's not floaty, but it does feel a bit isolated. Some might find the rim of the steering wheel to be a bit on the skinny side, and feedback is essentially nonexistent.

The four-banger operates smoothly under all conditions, but even the extra power of the 2009 model won't have you mistaking this for anything but a mainstream mid-size sedan. Flooring the go pedal demonstrates the so-called "enhanced performance sound", but the accompanying thrust is merely adequate. That said, "adequate" is more than enough for most drivers, and the 2.4L Sonata does just fine merging onto a highway. As with other aspects of the car, transmission shifts were uneventful. That is, they were generally smooth enough to be unnoticeable unless you were listening to the engine or watching the tach.

After our stopover at the Chelsea Teddy Bear factory, we swapped the four-cylinder Limited for a V6 SE model. The SE gets stiffer spring rates, improved damping and more roll stiffness than its counterparts. On the inside, the faux lumber is replaced with satin-finish metallic trim that should probably be standard across the board. On the road, the V6 SE was composed through the curves and generally felt a little more tied down than the other versions. As expected, the V6 felt a lot stronger than the four and was as refined as anything from the Japanese brands.

Overall, there's nothing about the Sonata to get the enthusiast's blood boiling, but this segment isn't about that. The changes to the '09 make this car a vastly more pleasing place to spend time. It's more attractive, the seats are more comfortable and the car will get you where you're going with minimal commotion. The Sonata has significantly more room than the Camry and the styling inside and out is less controversial than the latest Accord. We'll be waiting for our chance to spend a little more time with the new Sonata.

Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.