Hyundai Sonata 2.4 Facelift: More Distinctive Flash

By Lee Pang Seng
IT HAS been more than two years since the new Hyundai Sonata was introduced here and this Korean executive sedan had settled into its own niche, favoured among those who wished to venture onto new products. A facelift model was introduced early this year, following sporty options introduced late last year to maintain appeal.

The Sonata facelift is mostly cosmetic although the 2.0-litre model gets an engine upgrade. Customary updates include the nose grille and headlights, and those for the 2.4 are HID – High Intensity Discharge – lights topped by LEDs (light emitting diodes). The lower air ducts are widened slightly to increase airflow to the engine bay.

The Nu 2.0-litre four-cylinder is said to be more fuel efficient and lighter. With aluminium block and head, engine weight is reduced by 30 per cent or some 33.6kg. New internal features include an offset crankshaft design to reduce friction between piston and cylinder wall for marginally better fuel economy; and roller swing arms and hydraulic lash adjusters to reduce valve train friction. Output remains the same as before.

On that respect, we opted for the Sonata 2.4. Although we had driven both models more than two years ago, our impression with the bigger model was on a long-distance media drive and not an urban one as we had with the 2.0. The ‘bigger’ Sonata is powered by an all-aluminium Theta II 2.4-litre engine. In engine configuration, it has a wider bore of 88mm against the Nu 2.0-litre while retaining the same 97mm stroke, making it less of an undersquare in configuration and leaving the higher 2359cc displacement to provide the initial grunt. The compression ratio is slightly higher at 10.5:1 (10.3).

Output is better at lower peak points with 131kW (178PS) at 6000rpm and 228Nm at 4000rpm, which should see quicker standing acceleration performance and a higher top speed, given the marginal difference in kerb weight between them. The six-speed automatic transmission with manual Shiftronic option is believed to be similar in ratios although the final drive between them is different, 3.064 to the 2.0’s taller 3.367.

We felt this in the initial get-up-and-go phase when the engine delivered good initial grunt to pick up the pace. There was a slightly louder intake roar and a deeper exhaust resonance to liven the ‘charge’. The bigger displacement engine also provided an easier pace in city crawls, especially when going up slight inclines, to maintain speed without needing to add pressure on the accelerator pedal.

On highways, the quiet ambience continued to impress with the engine turning leisurely at about 2000rpm to cruise at 110-120km/h. We could easily proceed faster as we had done so during the long-haul drive two years back, as the 2.4-litre engine was ready to pile on the muscle to go at a speedy trot.

We were not too happy though with was the engine’s state of tune at the time that the Sonata 2.4 was loaned to us for a few days. At idling, it didn’t make itself unfelt with a smooth engine operation that was expected. Instead, we felt engine vibrations coming through the floorboard and door mirror. Perhaps, it was due for a tuning job despite the relatively low mileage covered when the car came to us.

The internal trappings are familiar although the centre console sees slight changes such as control buttons being moved for better convenience in use and a step-shift gate for the gearshift from the previous straight-through format. The Sonata 2.4 sees the addition of a Dual-Zone Auto Climate air-conditioning. There is also the Lukas Blackbox Video Recorder that provides real time recording of the front scenario on the move. This should help to establish who’s right or wrong in a collision or even identify snatch thieves.

As the flagship model, the Sonata 2.4 has extras to justify status quo such as electronic seat adjustments for the front passenger, paddle shifters, and Audio Visual Navigator for a host of displays, including rear view during reversing and GPS. It comes well equipped otherwise with leather upholstery, engine start/stop button, and panoramic sunroof. We like the engine start/stop button: just push it once and the operation is activated, unlike some systems with which you have to keep pushing the button to start or kill the engine. Other ‘exclusives’ are the 18-inch alloy wheels with 225/45 R 18 tyres and a sport-tuned suspension for the MacPherson front and multi-link rear set-up (Sport model).

The ride comfort was as appreciable as we had recalled it to be, despite the bigger wheels and tyres. It took to the numerous speed-bumps nicely at normal speeds, displaying a good cushioning effect as the tyres rode over them. Rumble strips were also taken with positive effects: low noise impacts and hardly a jarring note. When hitting a few ‘unexpected’ potholes, there was that clunky impression as the suspension components went about the job with a ‘kerlunk’ effect.

There was also this marginal tailing off in impact absorption when running over a series of bumps as if the Amplitude Selective Dampers had a little difficulty adjusting to the quick succession of road impacts. The Sonata 2.4 took to the winding stretches well enough, with controlled body roll, and progressive understeer through the tighter corners. Overall, the Sonata should live up to the ride and handling expectations generally expected of it, in particular as a family sedan.

As the flagship model, the Sonata 2.4 Sport commands a premium price. However, at RM171,662.70, on the road without insurance, it remains very competitively priced. If you prefer a more comfortable ride, the Sonata 2.4 Premium is the cheaper alternative at RM169,240.70.

Photo Gallery