For some people (you know who you are), the 200 horsepower provided by the 2011 Hyundai Sonata’s 2.4-liter four-cylinder base engine just isn’t enough. The traditional solution: a V6. But Hyundai, taking a page from Chrysler’s Iacocca-era playbook, has opted to offer a turbocharged 2.0-liter four instead. The specs look good: 274 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 269 pound-feet of torque from 1,750 rpm. The pricing? Even better. The Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T lists for $24,865, only $1,550 more than the regular Sonata SE. Are these the cheapest horses new car money can buy in a midsize sedan?
I ran the lot of them through TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool. This made it easy to similarly configure each car with both available engines and then adjust for remaining feature differences. Uplevel engines often come with features that aren’t offered with the base engine. In the case of the Sonata SE, the 2.0T adds dual zone climate control. The tool doesn’t adjust for wheel size, so I’ve added a $250 adjustment here (noted with an *).
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* includes $250 adjustment for one-inch difference in wheel diameter
A trimmed mean was calculated after excluding the outliers (Altima, Impala). The average price per horsepower: about $24.
A couple of GM sedans occupy the top end of the range. In both cases the cost of the optional engine isn’t out of line. Instead, the engine simply doesn’t provide much additional output. Buick might want to reconsider tuning the Regal’s turbocharged four for only 220 horsepower, given the much more powerful mills offered by Hyundai and most others. The Impala? Offering only 19 additional horsepower with the uplevel engine is just one of many ways it’s well past its sell-by date. Even BMW (5-Series included for comparison purposes) charges less power horsepower.
The Ford Taurus, also near the top of the range, is a unique case, since its base engine is about as powerful as the other cars’ uplevel engines. It simply costs more to go from 265 to 365 horsepower than from 165 to 265. In this case, you’re paying for not one but two turbos. These turbos could be providing more power, but the transaxle’s life would be endangered.
Subaru’s excuse? Unclear. They haven’t historically sold many flat sixes, and aren’t a large manufacturer, so lacking the others’ economies of scale their cost for each H6 is likely far higher. They used to charge even more for them.
Though not far from the average, Mazda and Toyota nevertheless charge about a grand more for a V6 than Buick, Honda, and Ford.
While the Hyundai Sonata 2.0T is within the low end of the range, it’s not quite the lowest. That honor goes to the Nissan Altima, by a substantial margin. Even without adjusting for feature differences the Altima would still lead the field. They’re charging fewer dollars per horsepower than anyone else AND tossing in plus-one alloys. So, if you’ve been wanting a VQ…
The Volkswagen CC is an odd case. Last year the VR6 cost thousands more—but could be purchased with fewer features. This year many features are no longer available on the 2.0T turbocharged four-cylinder, but everything is standard with the VR6. Hence the huge price adjustment—which only includes $100 for the VR6’s 600-watt Dynaudio sound system (for its surround sound feature). Essentially, if you’re ready, willing, and able to drop forty-large on a VW, they’re willing to charge only $16 per horsepower for the VR6. Even less, depending on how much the Dynaudio system is worth to you. On the other hand, if you don’t want to pay for all of the stuff, then no VR6 for you.
The LaCrosse is next. Buick has been touting the fuel economy benefits of equipping these heavy sedans with a direct-injected four-cylinder. But their pricing suggests that they’d rather sell you the much more brand-consistent V6. Bonus: it’s a 3.6-liter in all trim levels for 2011. The underwhelming 3.0-liter has been dropped.
Hyundai’s charging only pennies more for each extra horsepower than Buick. Seems they’re as eager to sell turbocharged engines as Buick is to not sell four-cylinders. The Sonata’s bonus: the new turbo four runs on regular unleaded (some of the others require premium), and with EPA ratings of 22/33 is nearly as fuel efficient as the base engine. Next closest: the Accord’s 20/30. Not in the ballpark: the Chevrolet Malibu’s 17/26.
So, what’s not to love? As with nearly every other car in the class, the Hyundai Sonata’s uplevel engine won’t be offered with a manual. Shift paddles will have to do. The unexpected exception: Buick’s Regal.