Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited shows time is ticking on the luxury-car tradition
19 Sep 2015 - 18:44
By Warren Brown
Rapid advances in technology are undermining traditional notions of automotive luxury - and value.
We have visited this theme before in this space. Traditional vendors of automotive luxury and performance have dismissed that assertion - my assertion - as poppycock.
It matters not that a Timex keeps time as well as a substantially more expensive watch, they argue. The people who buy Timex and those who buy Cartier are not the same people.
But what if the Timex keeps time better than the Cartier, and does so at a more reasonable price? What if modern technology - in cellphones, laptops, televisions, automobiles and myriad other devices - makes owning any watch absolutely unnecessary?
And what about cars such as the 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited? For $35,765, including an $825 transportation charge, it has everything - except prestige.
But the simple truth is that prestige drives nothing except a personal assessment of ego.
Look at this car: It is exceptionally well made - put together as well as any automobile twice or thrice its cost. It comes with a five-year, 50,000-mile warranty; a 10-year, 100,000-mile hybrid-system components warranty; and a five-year, unlimited-mileage roadside assistance guarantee as standard offerings.
With that package, who really needs prestige, especially prestige sold at a higher price?
The time will come in the automobile business when real value will trump ego. I suspect that time is already here, or certainly fast approaching. And it is rewriting everything in the automobile industry - including the traditional concepts of luxury, safety and labor-management relations.
Again, take a close look at the Sonata Hybrid Limited. It will get you anywhere you want to go on anyone's paved road in weather fair or foul. It has a vehicle-stability management system with traction control, blind-side monitoring and lane-departure warning, rearview camera, multiple air bags, forward-collision warning/intervention, rear parking assistance, smart cruise control with start-stop capability, and other items. And it all works quite well. Compare it with any similarly priced automobile, or with any car costing more.
Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, has created industry hoopla lately with his loud arguments that the business of making and selling cars is long overdue for consolidation. Currently, there is too much duplicity, too little profit margin, and too much resistance to rethinking things such as luxury, real value, and, in general, how the industry really operates, Marchionne says. I think he's right.
And woe be to the car executive content with ignoring Marchionne's warnings, or pretending that companies such as South Korea's Hyundai and Kia do not constitute real competition. The 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited is a real sales threat to anything in its class. Ignore it at your risk.
Bottom line: Anyone looking for a well-made, reliable, well-equipped, fuel-efficient midsize family sedan should seriously consider the 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited.
Ride, acceleration and handling: It gets good marks in all three, with one caveat: The battery pack and permanent magnet motor add noticeable poundage. You feel that weight in curves.
Head-turning quotient: I thought I would miss Hyundai's departure from fluidic sculpture exterior styling. I don't. The 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited especially with light blue "seaport mist" exterior paint, presents a nice package.
Body/layout: The Sonata Hybrid Limited, redesigned for 2016, is a front-engine, front-wheel-drive four-door sedan with a combined gasoline/electric drivetrain.
Power system: The gasoline/electric power system delivers a combined 193 horsepower. The system includes a direct-injection 2-liter in-line four-cylinder gasoline engine coupled with a 270-volt lithium-polymer battery pack. Power to front wheels is transmitted via a six-speed automatic transmission.
Capacities: Seating is for five people. Cargo capacity with all seats in place is 13.3 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 15.9 gallons of gasoline (regular grade works fine).
Mileage: It is remarkable for a midsize sedan. I got 39 miles per gallon in the city and 43 on the highway.
Safety: Standard equipment includes front and rear ventilated disc brakes; four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; emergency braking assistance; stability and traction control; dusk-sensing headlamps; remote anti-theft alarm system; alarm notification; and front and rear air bags.
Suggested advanced electronic safety package: Get the "ultimate package" with forward collision and lane-departure warning. It will cost $4,500, but could save much more than that.
Pricing: The 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited starts at $30,100, with an estimated dealer's invoice price of $28,000. Add $4,500 for the advanced electronic safety package . . . and nearly $300 for other ancillary items . . . and an $825 inland factory-to-dealer shipment charge. Price as tested is $35,765. Estimated dealer's price as tested is $32,500.