Turbo technology has come a long way for passenger cars since SAAB popularised them back in the 1970s. Once fraught with danger, either by revving too high or having fragile components explode, they’re now safe, reliable, more fuel efficient and make driving safer and easier.
However, there’s still a stigma attached to turbo charged engined cars, to the point that governments in Australia ban drivers of certain ages from driving them. Ian Luff, owner of Sydney based Drive To Survive, appears to not entirely agree. Drive To Survive promotes driver training and promotes safety but not merely through buckling up.
A Wheel Thing undertook a day’s further education in Drive to Survive’s Performance Driving course and took Hyundai’s new Sonata Premium (with a turbo engine) along for the ride.
The Sonata Premium sits at the top of the revamped (formerly i45) range; behind the bluff, upright nose, looking very much like bigger sibling Genesis, is a two litre power plant, complete with a very usable 350 Newton metres of torque, spread across a range of revs, from 1400 through to 4000. Peak power is 180 kW, requiring 6000 revs to do so. It’s the torque, of course, that makes the Sonata such an easy going car to live with and such an easy car to drive. Ideal, in fact, for the Performance Driving course.
It’s a six speed auto in the Premium (in fact, there’s no manual option available in the Sonata range….) and bigger brake discs to add extra stopping power (320mm by 28mm), MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link independent rear with both ends getting amplitude selective dampers. They provide a firm, almost sporting ride yet lose no comfort for the occupants. This was important in the first stanza of the Performance Driving course, with a quick right/left slalom before jumping on the anchors to deliberately activate the ABS. Noticeable was the activation of the hazard lights, a European fixture slowly making its way through into other brands.
Sonata is a big car; classified as a medium car solely because of its engine, it comes in at 4855 mm long, with a 2805 mm wheelbase. There’s a slightly narrower track (distance between left and right wheels) front and rear compared to the Active an Elite, at 1597/1604 mm (front/rear) compared to 1602/1609 mm due to the meatier rubber fitted to the 18 inch alloys. They’re 235/45 instead of 215/55 and proved to be a conversation piece later in the course. It stands at 1475 mm and is broad at 1865 mm, offering 1470 mm of shoulder room for the front seat and 1435 for the rear.
Being, effectively, a revamped i45, the profile is almost identical, down to retaining the chrome strips in the front fenders. A redesigned front clip brings the Sonata more into the family look, includes LED driving lights and turning lamps whilst the rear lights cop a mild makeover.
The second part of the course involved a more dynamic use of the car; tight turns (which the 2.78 turns lock to lock steering loved), ABS braking and appropriate braking into turns was the aim. Luff believes that a lot of crashes happen because people look no further than the end of the car’s bonnet. By not watching what traffic is doing ahead of you, you become almost immune to reading the road and being able to judge what is required for your driving style. Also, arm position is important, as if they’re in the wrong position should a steering wheel airbag deploy, there’s a better than even chance severe injury can occur.
The course also shows that better driving comes from looking ahead, look to where the car needs to be in the very short term future, due to the speed and ability of the car working with (or against) the ability of a driver to calculate where they want to be. If you look only to the end of the bonnet, by the time you look to where you need to be, you’re already there. Look further ahead in order to be able to deal with the situation.
Luff is a firm believer in technology being used to work for us, not the other way around. He peppers his delivery with an occasional reference to statistics, interspersed with adult style conversation. He pulls no punches in his presentation, as he shouldn’t, having worked with a number of Australian racing drivers including Mark Webber. Drive To Survive uses Hyundai cars for their work, as Luff also feels they are the best cars, for the money and with the level of safety features, such as the aforementioned ABS.
This is an important part of the course, as statistics show that many people have never experienced a full ABS stop and therefore, when they do, think there’s an issue with the braking system and lift their foot…….the result is a crash.
The Sonata Premium comes fully loaded with all electronic driving aids and safety packages, both passive and active. There’s the expected stuff like Traction Control, Brake Distribution, Vehicle Stability Management then the somewhat unexpected such as Hill Start Assist Control. There’s a full array of sensors for Rear Parking Assist plus the Premium gets Front Park Assist and Auto Hold built into the Electronic Parking Brake.
Naturally there’s airbags galore; front, thorax, curtain, then pretensioning seatbelts all around, necessary, says Luff, as people are taught to steer a car but not necessarily to drive a car. He points out the preponderance of drivers wearing earbuds for sound, instead of utilising the Bluetooth streaming or auxiliary inputs, therefore the driver focus isn’t on driving and being aware.
The tyres on the Premium certainly hand a driver some extra ability for most normal driving situations but the question was raised about tyre pressure. Important, says Drive To Survive, to monitor, as under and over inflation can affect the driving style of a car in a negative sense. In the tighter parts of the tracks laid out and emphasising just how fine a line it is between control and not having it, the Sonata’s handling became that of understeer, with the tyres flexing on the sidewall and “scrubbing under”.
The point here, says Luff, is that coming in “too hot” to a turn will have most cars understeering, hence the emphasis on the braking aspect of the course. The Sonata has a superb ride quality but perhaps a little tuned in tyre pressure towards a softer aspect.
There’s no doubt the Sonata Premium is a cosseting place to be, whether on the road or in a driver education course. Leather seats with heating AND cooling, two position memory for the driver, dual zone climate control, a cleaner and classier looking console layout than the Active, LED interior lights, rain sensing wipers and a steering column fitted for reach and rake.
The audio was superb and having a bigger touchscreen than the Active (8 inches versus 4.3) made that more enjoyable as did having a full length glass roof. An old style touch for the rear seat passengers came in the form of manual (but hugely effective) curtains. Also, by buying the Premium, you’ll get three years free map updates to the navigation system.
The final part of the course tests what has been imparted during the day. A longer, tighter, twistier course combined with some acceleration straights has the Sonata largely unmoved, such is the composure of the chassis. The tyre pressures again came into question; what wasn’t questioned was the sheer ability of the Sonata’s turbo engine and transmission. On the shorter “tracks” the gearbox was told to be in manual mode, as the length of the sections would see second gear and that was it.
Seat of the pants tells zero to one hundred kilometres per hour time is about seven seconds, Hyundai don’t appear to officially quote one. What they do quote is fuel economy; a combined figure of 9.2L per 100 km, with highway and urban lobbing in at 6.7L and a shocking 13.4L respectively. Overall economy averaged out at just over ten litres per hundred from the 70L tank.
Drive To Survive, in essence, is exactly what all drivers should do. Cars come with electronic aids and SRS (Supplementary Restraint System) equipment because too, too, too many choose not to. Note the usage of the word “choose”. A highlight of the course is the emphasis on the human element. Luff makes clear that cars don’t have a brain, they don’t lose control by themselves. The organic component is still the most valuable part of driving but bad drivers choose to drive badly.
The Hyundai Sonata Premium is one of Hyundai’s best cars. It’s a good looker, goes hard, handles well and comes with a pretty damned good feature list. The safety features are world class, as is the fit and finish of the cabin.
It also proves, beyond reasonable doubt, that a turbo engine and a bit of smart driving can go together just fine.
Step up, Sonata Premium 2.0T. (That’s T for Turbo).
Step up, Drive To Survive.
Go here for info: http://www.hyundai.com.au/vehicles/sonata/specifications
and here for Drive To Survive: http://www.drive-to-survive.com.au/
The Car: 2016 Hyundai Sonata Premium.
Engine: 2.0L petrol engine with turbocharger.
Power/Torque: 180 kW/350 Nm @ 6000/1400 – 4000 rpm.
Consumption (quoted litres per 100 km): 9.2L/6.7L/13.4L combined/highway/urban.
Dimensions: 4855 x 1865 x 1475 (L x W x H in mm.)
Wheelbase: 2805 mm.
Wheel/Tyre: 18 inch, 235/45.
Warranty: five years, unlimited kilometres.
Service: Contact your Hyundai dealer to confirm.