I am really surprised at the poor write-up that Eric of Consumer Reports put up. I can almost guarantee he was at the launch in LaJolla, CA with both the turbo and Hybrid earlier this week. The embargo ended this morning so we can finally write about it but seeing his write-up without a single drive impression was really disappointing. Hyundai wasted a few thousand $USD for his attendance for sure
So here is my own drive impression of the 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid’s (HSH's) drivetrain over a short 9.9 mile city/suburban route at the MAMA Fall Rally in West Suburban Chicago this week. The 20-minute route had just one short stretch of country road about 2.5-miles long w/ a PSL of 55 mph so the Sonata Hybrid was not allowed to show its stuff as we would normally do. And 9.9 miles is barely enough time to figure out how to reset the aFCD’s let alone figure out how to drive the darn thing
Additionally, this is a pre-production prototype with the latest flashes being performed to bring the regenerative braking to the latest Hyundai internal build specs just the day before. Some of the internal panels were smooth aluminum looking plastic which actually looked really slick by comparison to the textured pieces we will see on the production cars.
It is a full hybrid and with a SoC above 75%, you can really get into it before ICE engagement from a stop. Think Prius and FFH. I sat in with a journalist and he was driving like most journalists do, two feet on both pedals at the same time
Anyways, I reset his aFCD as he pulled out of the lot and watched him pull a disappointing 33.x mpg when he had completed the 9.9 mile loop.
My turn… There may be a small bug in the reset of the aFCD as I could not reset it from MFD screen for over a mile on the fly whereas I reset it for the previous journalist as soon as I got in the car from the same screen??? Once reset from the dash vs. MFD and burned off SoC to about 60%, it was time to figure out how to drive it…
-- First, gentle like we all drive. The ICE would not shut down unless I came to a stop at the many lights and stop signs along the route. The SoC built up to what appeared to be 90% and the ICE continued to run and shunt the spare power to the Li-Po pack. After about 1.5 miles of this, I figured out how to get it to glide. It is a more forceful pull from the accelerator pedal to get the ICE to shut down vs. a Prius, TCH, HS, FEH or FFH by far. You have to almost allow a hard regen to occur and then reapply to get the ICE to come off. Also, the instrumentation has absolutely no threshold bar or indication so you have no idea when the ICE will kick on or off. The flowery displays are pretty but not to informative.
Fortunately when the ICE does shut down, a green EV indicator appears in the central dash to the left of the speedo. This display is all there but the mimic in the MFD shows only a hair thin sliver of silver (current mimic) coming from the pack and nothing from the engine. There is another indication in the MFD screen for ICE-On and Off but it is not intuitive or informative given it is to small vs. the large graphic with hair thin lines running from engine to wheels to pack and tranny… I really only needed another 30-minutes or so with the screens in the various modes to make them a second nature glance but the HSH was in demand all day long with probably over 30 of the 70 journalists on hand taking a stab at it.
Ok, we know how to evoke glide, now can we maintain it? The answer is a resounding yes! I only reached 53 mph on the 55 mph PSL section and when pulled back to allow some regen, wait for the 6-Speed AT to transition, EV display is up and a placement of the gear selector into N, the ICE stayed shut down and we had a pure glide. Wheewww, I thought I would never get there
Unfortunately, the 6-speed AT transition is about a second or two from ICE-On and 6-speed AT connected to ICE-Off and the 6-speed AT disconnected. That is a long time while you are bleeding off speed waiting for the fuel saving glide to occur.
Pulling away from lights and signs in EV is a no-brainer and especially with a high SoC. But, even though you have a high SoC, the Sonata Hybrid’s propensity to run the ICE is very strong and it is not a good situation for high FE around town. No matter how gentle, at around 20 to 25 mph or so, the ICE simply wanted to come on and for no good reason from the indications I was presented. Hyundai/Kia have used Press Launches to change both HW and SW before the actual OEM dealership showroom models reach us so I suspect they may be looking for input from the Journalists on what the HSH can and cannot do and what they should change or fix before it reaches production status next spring. In any case, there is a problem with a high SoC area in that the ICE wants to come on when it is not needed and thus allowing the TCH/FFH to best the HSH around town. As it was setup, it would probably never see 60 mpg around town whereas the TCH can easily be pushed to 70 mpg and the FFH well into the mid 80’s…
Again, this is a SW fix more than likely and something the Korean engineers need to get on right away.
-- Again, when you have just 2.5 miles, a steep uphill with a stop sign for entry and a hard 90 degree corner onto a barely 2 lane country road at the end, there is not much time. Once I had figured out how to evoke an EV/Glide at speed, it was simply a matter of transition time from ICE-On to Off that will make or break the car. I thought I may have a little EV to play with at 50 mph but apparently not even though the car is spec’ed for a 62 mph EV/Glide. I simply did not experience it. Glide yes, EV, no. Not really a big deal because using EV at that high a speed is a lossy solution at best anyway but I would like to have glide with minimal intrusion of the 6-speed AT or the hybrid system getting in the way. It was not seamless and fighting that 1 to 2-second transition was a SOB to put it lightly.
I also was not SG-II equipped (I forgot my camera, hat and SG-II on the table when I left for the rally in the morning
) so a rate and range was an absolute guess and I only had the feel of the ICE-On in the car in an attempt for optimization.
In any case, I could evoke a glide at the speeds necessary but it was a painful transition and the aFCD was climbing fast after I finally got into a “Best Guess” rhythm with just two cycles vs. thousands like we normally would have time for in a press vehicle over a week. After ~ 6-miles, the aFCD was only at 38.8 mpg. After ~ 8.5 miles, the aFCD was up to 43.8 during this starting from a standing stop, EV to ~ 20 mph, ICE-On during accel to 53 mph, evoke a glide which saw speed drop to 49 mph rather quickly during the ICE-On to ICE-Off N-Glide transition, glide down to maybe 45 mph, fire the ICE back up, reaccelerate back up to 52 to 53 mph and one more time cycle the car for the glide down to about 20 mph for the 90 degree corner ahead.
Again, not much time but doing the calc’s from ~ 6.0 miles and 38.8 mpg to 8.5 miles out and 43.8 leaves us with ~ .0394 gallons consumed over 2.5 miles yielding just 63.41 mpg over the highway stretch. The regen to the 90 degree corner at the end probably left SoC at or ~ equal to where it started at the uphill stop sign and entry onto the 2.5 mile stretch of road… Elevation differences across the 2.5 miles of road were unknown but there was a descent and a climb though the section and we are talking about a suburb of Chicago here so nothing more than 20’ at most. There is a lot more to be had once optimized but the section was simply too short, not really a good test and I did not have my notepad with me as I left it in the car prior and was trying to remember these numbers in my head before I got my notepad back. It was really a rushed day as you can tell
The 9.9 mile drive ended at 49.3 mpg so there was some optimization for the last stop light to stop light city portion as well but with the limited time, it was the best I could do. A poor overall showing, yes but again, with the time we had, the Highway portion looked promising and to move from the mid 40 range to high 40 range in the last 1.5 miles tells you something far beyond the final tally. That last section was well over 100 mpg but I was consuming SoC to drive the last mile and ended up with an ~ 55% SoC final.
All said, I was a bit disappointed in Hyundai’s optimizations for ICE-On to ICE-Off transitions taking so long but the car is still not a production ready vehicle. By the time it reaches the public, it will be even better. Will it touch a TCH or FFH around town? Not imho the way it is currently setup. Will it reach the level of a Sonata with a stick while going advanced on the highway? Maybe but we’ll need some time to figure that one out too. Will it reach the 62 mpg the FFH allowed on 90% highway drive from Dearborn to Milwaukee and back? That too remains to be seen. I think it has the capability but we just need more time as the short drive impression did not provide anything but more questions.
-- Regarding the seating comfort and all of that, it is just like the regular Sonata. Leather seats like the limited were nice, cup holders, ambient lighting thanks to the LED, two sun roofs for both front and rear… It was a nice car inside with all the room we have all come to enjoy. The Ventilation man control (he is still hard for me to stare at as I think he is staring back at me
) appears to have a top button (his head) that forces air to the top vents only. I did not remember the Sonata GLS we drove having the man’s head control enabled for any ventilation so that may be an addition or maybe I did not notice his head worked as a control in the GLS we drove from central WI to NY City this past summer.
I will turn this into a News item in just a few but at least you all have an idea as to where the HSH stands as of this week.