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October 2010

Viewing posts from October , 2010

2011 Hyundai Sonata arrives ready to impress

When you hear “mid-size sedan”, which cars come to mind?  Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Chevy Malibu, or Ford Fusion?  If you didn’t think about the Hyundai Sonata, it’s time to think again.

2011 Hyundai Sonata - Photographer: Zane Merva

Specifications as-tested

Model Year: 2011
Make: Hyundai
Model: Sonata SE

Engine: 2.4L DOHC  direct injection 4-cylinder / 200 hp at 6300 rpm and 186 lb.- ft. of torque at 4350 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drivetrain: Front-wheel-drive

EPA Fuel Economy: 22mpg city / 26mpg combined / 35mpg highway
Observed Fuel Economy: 29.7mpg

Base MSRP: $22,595
As tested MSRP: $25,915

Standard Equipment: Traction/stability control, key-less entry, steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, USB/Aux/iPod port, dimension audio system, automatic headlight control

Equipped Options:
Navigation & Sunroof Package [$2,600]

Required Fees:
Delivery Charge [$720]

>>See our full 2011 Hyundai Sonata Road Test Photo Gallery<<

Driving Dynamics & Performance

2011 Hyundai Sonata - Photographer: Zane Merva

The 2011 Hyundai Sonata is fun to drive. Let that sit in your mind for just a moment. In a segment usually promoted using safety and fuel economy, “fun to drive” is not a term you’d expect out of a family sedan.  Yet, the Sonata delivers.

On the road we were immediately surprised by how quick and agile the Sonata felt.  We never expected the base 200-horsepower model to feel so good. In this market base engines are almost expected to feel sluggish and anemic. Somehow, Hyundai has bucked the trend. The base 2.4L inline-4 in the Sonata feels more than adequate, in fact it feels quite healthy. Only minimal fanfare is required to accelerate on the highway and around town low end torque provides quick getup and go. Should you desire more power, look for a 274-horsepower turbocharged 2.0T option later this year.

In addition to proper acceleration, the Sonata can be tossed around and feels comfortable on any road surface. A solid chassis and communicative steering empower the driver to feel in control behind the wheel.

There are two factors that contribute to the Sonata’s handling prowess.  First, it weighs 200lbs less than Malibu and 100lbs less than Camry and Fusion.  Second, the Sonata’s base engine, rated at 200-horsepower,  is  30-horsepower up on Camry/Malibu and 25-horsepower up on Fusion/Accord.

The Sonata, which equals rivals at 22mpg city also tops with more highway fuel economy. Even with a horsepower advantage, Sonata is rated at 35mpg on the highway. That’s 4-mpg better than Accord and Altima,  2mpg better than Camry and Malibu, and 1mpg better than Fusion. Have no doubt that 35mpg in a four door family sedan is impressive but we found that advertised economy allusive.  Our best observed highway mileage was 31mpg.

Design Execution, Appearance, Fit & Finish

2011 Hyundai Sonata

There’s something new, yet familiar about the styling on the 2011 Sonata.  Its sweeping exterior side profile is semi-reminiscent of a Mercedes CL and the HVAC “torso-body” button on the interior center console is a close duplicate of what you’d find in a Volvo.  However, set next to a  Toyota Camry or Chevy Malibu the Sonata looks crisp and refreshing. It’s a touch of style that makes a statement without coming off as in your face. The Sonata’s styling will appeal to a wide audience.

Hyundai calls the new design “Fluidic Sculpture” and has also started using the design philosophy in other models, such as the new Tuscon.  Sculpture like or not, we really enjoyed both the interior and exterior styling of the new Sonata.  It felt stylish and interesting without being too busy or distracting. Every button and switch was easy to use and fell within arms reach.

While Hyundai has done many things right with the Sonata, it didn’t take very long to find a few things that felt needed improvement.  Many of our gripes centered around the interior. The choice of plastic found around the cup holders is prone to scratches. At night, we also found that many of the interior indicator lights did not dim as much as they should. For example, the gear shift selector back-light stayed too bright for our eyes.  The same was also true for the headlight/fog-light/high-beam indicators in the gauge cluster.   After dark when night adjusted vision is at a premium these brightness issues were annoying and compromised our ability to see the road in front of us.

Audio, Electronics, & Technology

2011 Hyundai Sonata - Photographer: Zane Merva

The new Sonata continues to impress with its technology offerings. Standard Bluetooth hands-free is a segment first.  Standard USB/AUX input jacks are also well appreciated. For $35 Hyundai offers a iPod/iPhone integration cable that plugs into the USB and line-in port at the same time. While we appreciate that Hyundai and Apple are playing nice, we’re confused why you need the special cable. The Ford Fusion and Chevy Malibu allow customers to use their existing USB cable for iPod/iPhone control. If you try that on Sonata, it just won’t work. If you don’t have an iPod/iPhone, you can always load up a spare USB drive with music for your listening pleasure.

If you splurge for the optional integrated navigation system you’re in for a treat. A high-resolution display allows for easy readability at a glance.   Hyundai has also partnered with Sirius XM to offer Weather, Stocks, and Sports information.  Just like Sirus/Ford Travel-link, you can view weather maps, warnings, sports scores, and stock prices on your screen. Stock and sports information is handy and weather features are not only cool but could be life-saving in severe situations.

Comfort & Ergonomics

2011 Hyundai Sonata - Photographer: Zane Merva

In concert with the typical job of everyday commuting, the new Sonata is comfortable and easy to live with. Steering wheel controls are comfortable to use without contorting your thumbs, audio and navigation operation are intuitive, and Hyundai’s switch-gear feel is solid and precise.  We did find it odd that Hyundai does not offer an automatic climate control option.  We found the manual system to require small adjustments every 10-20 minutes to stay comfortable.

The seats in the Sonata are comfortable for long and short hauls alike. During our week with the car we always arrived at our destination without cramps or aches. That’s not something we’ve always been able to say of the other cars in this class.

>>See our full 2011 Hyundai Sonata Road Test Photo Gallery<<

Conclusion

A right-sized car with a beefy base engine and a thrifty price.  Engaging driving attributes, good looks, and great fuel economy make the Sonata deserving of careful consideration for anyone in the mid-size sedan market.  Hyundai has taken everything good about family sedans and improved on it while simultaneously injecting the Sonata with a spark of style and fun.

Strengths

  • Lowest base price & highest fuel economy among Camry, Accord, Malibu, and Fusion.
  • Standard iPod/AUX/USB input
  • Optional Navigation system includes XM Weather/Sports/Stocks
  • Class leading engine feels more powerful than 200-hp

Weaknesses

  • Semi-soft plastic on steering wheel and center console scratches easily
  • Gear-selector back-lights and gauge cluster headlight/foglight indicators are  too bright for sensitive eyes
  • iPod/iPhone audio control will only work with exclusive Hyundai cable

AutoInsane.com exclusive 360 Video Walk-around in HD

2011 Hyundai Sonata Road Test Gallery

When you hear “mid-size sedan”, which cars come to mind? Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Chevy Malibu, or Ford Fusion? If you didn’t think about the Hyundai Sonata, it’s time to think again.

>> Read our entire road test review of the 2011 Hyundai Sonata SE <<

Specifications as-tested

Model Year: 2011
Make: Hyundai
Model: Sonata SE

Engine: 2.4L DOHC  direct injection 4-cylinder / 200 hp at 6300 rpm and 186 lb.- ft. of torque at 4350 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic

EPA Fuel Economy: 22mpg city / 26mpg combined / 35mpg highway
Observed Fuel Economy: 29.7mpg

Base MSRP: $22,595
As tested MSRP: $25,915

Standard Equipment: Traction/stability control, key-less entry, steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, USB/Aux/iPod port, dimension audio system, automatic headlight control

Equipped Options:
Navigation & Sunroof Package [$2,600]

Required Fees:
Delivery Charge [$720]

Behind the wheel of the new 2011 MAZDA2

A small car with good looks, gas mileage and an affordable sticker. Mazda is hoping to offer a little Zoom-Zoom for every one.

The base price starts at just under $14,000 and tops out at about $17,000. Fuel economy up to 35 miles per-gallon, made possible with an attention to weight savings and aerodynamics.

I didn’t get to spend a lot of time behind the wheel at this press event. I will hold off on making a judgment on the MAZDA2 until I get to spend a little more time in the car.

Mazda says opulence is out, sensible is in. We will see if the American market agrees. Originally launched in Europe, Japan and Australia; it has been the recipient of many awards since its debut in 2007.

Mazda has managed to squeeze a lot of standard safety and luxury features into even the base model.

The 2011 MAZDA2 is available in two trim levels – the entry-level Sport and Touring. Both trim levels are powered by a 100 horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, available with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Standard features include 15-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers, 185/55/R15 all-season tires, body-colored door handles and power mirrors, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with four speakers, audio auxiliary jack, tilt steering wheel, remote keyless entry system, rear window wiper/washer and 60/40 split fold-down rear seats.

The MAZDA2 Touring takes everything on the MAZDA2 Sport and adds upgraded seat fabric with red piping, 15-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, rear roof spoiler, chrome exhaust tip, leather-wrapped steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, trip computer and a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo system.

Available accessories include a rear bumper guard, wheel locks (Touring models only), all-weather floor mats, cargo net, center console with armrest and auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, Homelink® and orange backlit buttons.

MAZDA2 Sport with 5-speed manual transmission features a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $13,980, while the top-of-the-line MAZDA2 Touring with 4-speed automatic transmission has a MSRP of $16,235.

Tell us what you think of the MAZDA2. Will you be considering this as your next ride, maybe in spirited green metallic?

Look for a full review and more information as soon as we get are hands on one for a little longer.

2011 Corvette ZR1 – A fire breathing dragon of speed

Apparently a 505-horsepower Z06 was just not enough for the Corvette team. No, they needed something outrageous. They needed something with a  supercharger for massive power, race ready ceramic brakes,  tons of carbon fiber, a name-plate with some history, and a six-figure price tag.  They call it the ZR1; we call it a fire breathing dragon of speed.

2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

Specifications as-tested

Model Year: 2011
Make: Chevrolet
Model: Corvette ZR1

Engine:
Supercharged 6.2L V8 (LS9) / 638 hp at 6500 rpm and 604 lb.- ft. of torque at 3800 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual

EPA Fuel Economy: 14mpg city / 16mpg combined / 20mpg highway
Observed Fuel Economy: 17.8mpg

Base MSRP: $109,800
As tested MSRP: $124,345

Standard Equipment: carbon-fiber hood/fenders/roof/floor panels , carbon fiber splitters/rockers,  aluminum frame, 6-piston front/4-piston rear ceramic Brembo brakes, keyless start, 19″ front / 20″ rear wheels, dry-sump oil system, magnetic ride control, heads-up display, OnStar, XM Radio

Equipped Options:
3ZR Premium Equipment Package [$10,000] – Includes: Leather wrapped interior, Bose 7-speaker premium sound system w/navigation, heated seats, USB and AUX port for audio
Chrome Aluminum Wheels [$2,000]
Pedal Covers [$295]

Required Fees:
Gas Guzzler Tax [$1,300]
Delivery Charge [$950]

Check out our full gallery of photos shot during this review

A $124,000 Chevrolet?

2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

A Chevrolet that costs over $100k? Sure it’s a Corvette, but are they serious?  Turns out, yes they are.

I had my first ride in a C6 ZR1 just over two years ago.  Ron Fellows from Corvette racing was my driver and nearly relocated my stomach in a quick 5 minute drive down Woodward Avenue. Back then I knew the ZR1 was something special, but only recently when I had a chance to drive one over a long weekend did I begin to understand what the ZR1 was truly capable of.

The ZR1 is a challenge, a statement, and a piece of art wrapped up into one glorious machine.  It’s everything you’d expect from a Corvette, mixed with the upset child of a wood-chipper and nuclear power plant.  Driven lightly the ZR1 is as calm and civilized as any Corvette, but deep inside it carries the power to shame exotic cars from around the world.

Supercar performance

2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

As with any car sporting a house sized price, the engine is an important part of the package.  With the ZR1, on-lookers are not left to guess what engine lies under its carbon fiber hood. A unique clear window on the top of the hood allows the plenum of the LS9′s supercharger to be visible.

The story of the LS9, however, is not how good it looks, but how much power it produces. With 638-horsepower and 604 lb ft of torque, the LS9 bestows the C6 ZR1 as the fastest and most powerful Corvette ever sold to the public. The LS9 is based off the Corvette’s standard LS3 engine, not the 7.0L LS7 engine from the Z06. Enabling that hefty output from 6.2 liters is a four-lobe Eaton Twin-Vortices Series intercooled supercharger.  The LS9 also features titanium intake vales, titanium connecting rods, and a high performance pressurized dry sump oil system.

A high-tech hydroformed aluminum frame lifted directly from the C6.R race car saves the ZR1 138 lbs of weight over a traditional steel Corvette frame.   The car runs the scales at an impressive 3,352lbs, allowing for a weight-to-horsepower ratio of 5.2 lbs per horsepower.  This high-power and low-weight combination drives the Corvette ZR1 0-60 in 3.3 seconds and will complete a quarter-mile in 11.2 seconds at 135mph. Top speed is a blistering 205mph.

2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

The ZR1 can stop just as fast as it can accelerate thanks to a race ready cross-drilled carbon-ceramic brake system. A testament to how serious Team Corvette was about performance, the rear brake rotors were lifted straight out of the front brakes of the Enzo Ferrari. The ZR1′s front brake rotors are very similar to the Ferrari FXX’s front rotors and only differ in size.  Besides weighing half as much as a comparable steel brake rotor, ceramic rotors can withstand temperatures as hot as 1,800 degrees without warping.  A 6-piston front / 4-piston rear Brembo brake system has been spec’d to complement the ceramic rotors.  The ZR1 can stop from 60mph in only 96-feet; a current production car record.

While the brakes do feel fantastic, they do take some getting used to.  Far touchier than a “normal” car, the ZR1 can slow down considerably from just a light brush of the brake pedal.

Corvette civility remains

2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

You’d expect the ZR1 to be uncomfortable, harsh, and loud, right?  Well, not so. In fact the ZR1 is nearly as quiet and unassuming as it’s base counterpart. Part of this is is due to the electronically actuated exhaust baffle, similar to what you’d find on other current sixth-generation Corvettes.

Under idle and most acceleration circumstances, the ZR1 diverts exhaust gas through a sound reducing chamber. At wide open throttle, twin butterfly valves automatically open, allowing for straight-through exhaust and a monster sound.

On the road we found the ZR1 to handle just like you’d expect out of a car with this sort of resume. Standard magnetic select ride control allows for two ride modes (tour/sport) and is fully integrated with the traction control and stability control system to further enhance performance driving.   You can select one of a handful of stability/traction control programs to compensate for wet or dry track conditions.  Chevy has even provided a launch control system to aid in full power starts at the drag-strip.  All this technology ensures almost telepathic response from any input on the road or track.

2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

On the street you’ll never even come close to exploring the potential of the ZR1.  Fortunately, GM has made sure you can come as close as you dare without risking your life. Last year we drove a 610-horsepower Dodge Viper and found the massive V-10 was always on the verge of biting back. Without traction control the Viper had to be handled with care. Even with 28 more horsepower, not so with the ZR1. Staying composed in every situation is one of the ZR1′s strong points.

The entire car allows you to get close to chaos but seamlessly prevents you from going over the edge.  No harsh reactions, no overly aggressive throttle changes, and never the feeling that the car has more control than you.  This is one of the best stability systems we’ve ever tested.

Even with the safety net, it takes some time behind the wheel before you feel safe letting things rip. This is 638-horsepower we’re talking about here and rumors peg the output at around 700-horsepower in near freezing temperatures. Despite massive 335/20 rear wheels, the ZR1 is a very effective smoke machine if you’re not careful. But rest assured, once those wheels lock up you’re in for the ride of your life.

Official performance numbers for the ZR1 confirm it’s maximum cornering acceleration at 1.11G.  That means the ZR1 has so much lateral grip, it can corner at a force greater than that of the gravity holding it to the road.  This statistic was not shocking to us after the ZR1 chewed up and spit out every road we threw at it.  Even the most intense section of switchback pavement we use to evaluate cars was a yawner in the ZR1.

Unassuming yet recognizable

2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

One thing we noticed most during our short stint with the ZR1 was that it doesn’t get nearly as much attention as you’d think. Even with it’s sky-high price and Viper beating horsepower, the ZR1 gets barely more attention than any other Corvette. Only dedicated car nuts who know what a ZR1 is were even bothered to come and take a look.

Less attention; isn’t that a bad thing? Not so much.  In a Corvette that can out-accelerate 99.9% of every car on the road, standing out as bluntly as a Viper or Lotus Exige would be a curse.  We came to appreciate the down-low nature of the ZR1 when our arrest-me-red tester failed to draw even a second glance from passing law enforcement.

Should someone familiar with the ZR1 walk by, prepare for a conversation. On a handful of occasions pumping gas we were berated with questions.  Thankfully there’s a lot to talk about.

For example; that shiny wet clear coat that covers the carbon fiber roof costs nearly $2,000 a gallon and uses a UV protectant that costs $60,000 a gallon.  Also interesting is that the ZR1′s engine puts out over 100 horsepower per liter.

2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

For all you get with the ZR1 in the performance arena, it’s a surprise that you give up little creature comforts from the base model. The one substantial option on our tester was a $10,000 3ZR package which added some-what out of date looking navigation system, heated seats, a premium Bose sound system, bluetooth, memory seat, and a telescoping steering wheel.  We could do without the navigation system but really enjoyed iPod integration and the killer sound system. Unfortunately, you lose the USB port with any other radio option.

Some buff-books rag on the ZR1′s interior and while we’d like to say they are right, we hope customers buying a ZR1 realize it is not a luxury car.  The factory racing technology applied in the ZR1 is alone worth the vehicle’s price.  We think it’s amazing that you can buy a car that does 0-60 in 3.3 seconds all while heating your rump and listening to satellite radio. With that that said, things could be nicer. While the leather wrapped dash is a great touch, we think that you should get more for this much money.

Yes, $124k is an astronomical price for a car that most of us cannot and will not ever be able to afford. If you’re one of the lucky few who can, the ZR1 opens up a new world of possibilities.  Why buy an expensive exotic car when a Corvette ZR1 costs less, performs better, accelerates faster, and can still be serviced at your local Chevy dealer.

Conclusion

A race-ready car disguised as a daily driver delivers supercar performance at a 50% off price point.

Strengths

  • Spectacular engine pulls in any gear
  • Extremely stable & predictable under all circumstances
  • Very quiet and civilized- could pass as a daily driver
  • Shifter is firm yet precise feeling
  • An exhaust note that will give you shivers of joy

Weaknesses

  • Seats are not very supportive or comfortable
  • Cheap feeling/looking steering wheel and interior
  • Fake carbon fiber interior trim looks cheap when compared to the real bits on the outside
  • Navigation system visually looks out of date compared to other GM nav systems
  • “Butterfly” valve on exhaust system keeps the car far too quiet (thankfully pulling a fuse can fix that)

Check out our full gallery of photos shot during this review

2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Road Test Photo Gallery

2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

Supercharged 6.2L V8 (LS9)
638 hp at 6500 rpm and 604 lb.- ft. of torque at 3800 rpm

As tested MSRP: $124,345

Standard Equipment: Carbon Fiber Hood/Fenders/Roof/Floor panels , Carbon Fiber splitters/rockers,  aluminum frame, 6-piston front/4-piston rear ceramic Brembo brakes, keyless start, 19″ front / 20″ rear wheels, dry-sump oil system, magnetic ride control, heads-up display, OnStar, XM Radio
Equipped Options:
3ZR Premium Equipment Package [$10,000] Leather wrapped interior, Bose 7-speaker premium sound system w/navigation, heated seats, USB and AUX port for audio
Chrome Aluminum Wheels [$2,000]
Pedal Covers [$295]

Read our entire take on this car in our article: 2011 Corvette ZR1 – A fire breathing dragon of speed