By on November 24, 2009

the hyundai of engines

Honda has always been proud of the word “Motor” in its name. It’s the world’s largest producer of internal combustion engines (all those lawnmowers), and has a long history of engine technology leadership. From the CVCC to VTEC and the recent i-VTEC, Honda was a consistent leader, especially in high-efficiency and high-output four cylinder engines. No more. The Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) revolution is on in full force, and most major manufacturers have released or announced state-of-the-art DI engine programs. And none more convincingly than Hyundai, with its new 200 hp 2.4 liter Theta II GDI. Where’s Honda’s? While we’re waiting, let’s take a closer look at Hyundai’s:

Gasoline Direct injection has been around some fifteen years, when Mitsubishi introduced its GDI engine in Japan and Europe. But the Mitsubishi approach, which was imitated by many manufacturers, involved the tricky stratified charge ignition of a super-lean mixture, which takes place under low-load operation. The technical challenges of managing that approach and resultant emission problems have increasingly made that a sideline, especially in the more stringent emission limits of the US market. Honda and most other manufacturers have versions of that technology in their domestic markets.

Meanwhile, the technology of super-high pressure injection systems for diesel engines have been adapted to gas engines without the stratified charge ultra-lean mode. GM jumped on the bandwagon back in 2004, and its latest 2.4 L four in the  Buick La Crosse, Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain have class-leading EPA numbers. And Ford has committed to GDI across its line, beginning with its Eco-Boost engines. Hyundai has also announce a wholesale adoption of GDI, and their new four has class-leading specifications.

theta-2-gdi-1280-25_opt (courtesy autoblog)

As this chart shows, Hyundai’s GDI will deliver the goods with not only improved horsepower and torque numbers compared to the non GDI Honda, Ford and Toyota, as well as its claim of a 10% mileage improvement. With 200 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque, Hyundai has wisely decided to kill the V6 option in the 2011 Sonata.For a detailed press release of the Theta II GDI, click here:

This chart also shows an anomaly with GM’s GDI four that isn’t readily explainable. GM’s EPA estimates for the 2011 Regal (20/30) are strangely low, considering that the same engine/transmission combo achieves a 22/32 rating in the heavier and much less aerodynamic Equinox/Terrain  CUVs. It’s not like GM to trumpet low mileage estimates.

Undoubtedly, Honda (and Toyota) will have current-technology GDI coming, but their reputation for leadership has clearly taken a hit. Not only have the Hyundai/Kia combination surpassed Honda in global vehicle sales, but now also in engine technology.

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68 Comments on “Hyundai The New Honda In Engine Design Leadership...”

  • avatar

    I think Honda reached its zenith with the Acura NSX’s V6  then started coasting from then on. All of its current engines are “competitive” with others in the class, but none are clearly superior in terms of horsepower and, especially, torque.

  • avatar

    Also interesting to note that Honda is the only one still using a 5speed auto instead of a 6.
    My question is, which of these 4cyl are still available with a manual transmission?  I know GMs luxury cars aren’t.

    • 0 avatar

      Give them a break, they only just got the 5 speed automatic working correctly.

    • 0 avatar

      The Acura ZDX has Honda’s first six-speed auto.

    • 0 avatar

      BTW I do decry Ford+Bailout Boys for lagging behind in transmission technology.  Yes they have 5 and 6 speed automatics now but good god almighty how long did it take?  And where are GM/Chrysler/Ford’s DSG type gearboxes?  Or even a manual that doesn’t feel like an afterthought.  Oh that’s right I forgot, those guys can only spec a manual that doesn’t feel like a penalty box if it’s for a Corvette/Camaro, Mustang, or Viper.

    • 0 avatar

      Only auto illiterates make a big deal out of the number of gears in a transmission or the number cylinders in an engine.
      The number of cylinders doesn’t matter. Acceleration does. E.g. Porsche 911 turbo is fast enough.
      The number of gears doesn’t matter. Smoothness of shifting does. E.g. Honda Accord shifts as smoothly as any of the competitors listed above.

    • 0 avatar


      I think Acura announced on 07/28/2009 that 2010 MDX are equipped with 6-speed transmissions.
      A big deal? No. As Honda still does not use the 6-speed transmission as widespread as others.

  • avatar

    Not only is Honda falling behind in engine innovation, but where is a good 6-speed automatic?
    Honda Motor Ltd is about 2-3 years behind on that, too.

  • avatar

    to be preachy, it’s sad that for a country that supposedly loves cars so much, Big 2.1 can’t build world-class engines anymore (unless it’s in a Corvette).

  • avatar

    I never thought I’d see “good” and “6 speed automatic” in the same sentence. Slushbox. bleh. I like to see the under-dogs win from time to time, just so long as they don’t make the same mistake most other companies do, and stop making entry level cars. Highly unwise.

  • avatar

    Hyundai is a HUGE threat nowadays.
    Their V8 is as efficient as domestic V6s, and now, it looks as if the 2011 Sonata will have the looks, warranty, and engine to be a world class car.
    Ford and GM should really start to look at what Hyundai is doing….then maybe they will return to profitability…..without Govt. intervention….

    • 0 avatar

      Please, clarify what kind of government intervention are you talking about regarding Ford?

    • 0 avatar

      Actually there is government intervention: like all other industrial nations – except america – South Korea has a very strong national health care plan.  The manufacturers don’t have what we quaintly call “legacy costs”.
      They also have unions.  oooh

    • 0 avatar

      “Their V8 is as efficient as domestic V6s”
      It’s as efficient as their own 3.8 V-6 too. So what’s your point?
      “…..without Govt. intervention….”
      You mean similar to the financial assistance that Hyundai has received from the South Korean Gov’t. Also what gov’t intervention has helped Ford along? If those D.O.E. weren’t around I’m sure Ford would have been fine without.

  • avatar

    To channel Mr. Farago for a moment
    Hyundai… who knew?

  • avatar

    Hyundai/Kia is seriously taking the auto world by storm, and the people that laughed at them a few years ago should be very afraid now. The reputation for poor quality that they earned in the ’80s is falling away, and they are producing some incredible cars these days. I truly think Hyundai will be challenging Toyota in a decade or so. They’ve really shown the right way to build and grow a car company.

  • avatar

    The measure of engine efficiency is not MPG, it’s thermal efficiency.  To say “engine design” results in these mileage numbers misses a lot of points.  Sure, it helps, but so does gaming the test, reducing toe-in, aerodynamics, transmission programming, weight reduction and improvements in bearings.  It’s also possible to design an engine with terrific thermal efficiency but have the car it is in be nasty to drive.  A good story on who has engine design leadership would hit thermal efficiency as a baseline so all these engine-independent variables were not mixed in.

  • avatar

    The 205 HP 4-banger in my TSX is the smoothest, quietest and most refined 4 I’ve ever driven.  30-35 MPG on the highway.  Also, no timing belt to change, 100k service interval, and feels like it will last forever (and probably will).  Not sure Honda needs to be in that much of a hurry.

    • 0 avatar

      And that 4 or 5 year old Acura TSX has similar output (~200 hp, 170 lb-ft depending on year) as the Hyundai engine.  6-speed manual available.

    • 0 avatar

      Your also talking about a 10k difference in price between the the two you are comparing…

    • 0 avatar

      Great engine… (it was a Ward’s top ten at one point), zero torque though :)
      And mismatched tranny (talking about the auto — shoot me it was my wife’s TSX) that never let you get into the VTEC beyond second gear at any street legal speeds.  At least it didn’t blow up like their earlier autoboxes…

  • avatar

    to be preachy, it’s sad that for a country that supposedly loves cars so much, Big 2.1 can’t build world-class engines anymore (unless it’s in a Corvette).

    –Or a Cobalt SS.

  • avatar

    Good numbers. Let’s see how it sounds and feels when revved.

    • 0 avatar

      Since when is “feel when revved” is a criteria when benchmarking engines in familiy car segement? Most Honda have to revved becuase their engines are torqueless wonders.

  • avatar

    I have been seeing lots of comments lately about problems with DI engines getting carbon deposits on the intake valves. Without the fuel charge flowing over them there is nothing to wash the crud off. Apparently the build up can cause problems and the head must be removed for cleaning as a remedy. Some are speculating that is why Honda and Toyota have not jumped on the DI bandwagon just yet. Supposedly some Lexus models have a hybrid system that uses DI and port injectors. The ECU decides when is the best time to use each and this keeps some fuel washing over the intake valves.

  • avatar

    “The 205 HP 4-banger in my TSX is the smoothest, quietest and most refined 4 I’ve ever driven.  30-35 MPG on the highway.  Also, no timing belt to change, 100k service interval, and feels like it will last forever (and probably will).  Not sure Honda needs to be in that much of a hurry.”
    Doesn’t that motor take premium unleaded fuel though? If it does then 20 cents more a gallon fuel up isn’t good as the hyundai.

    • 0 avatar

      Uhh, I don’t see anything in the post or press release that says what type of fuel the Hyundai needs to get 35 mpg.

    • 0 avatar

      Do you really think Hyundai is going to introduce an engine for the Sonata that requires premium? I highly doubt that.

    • 0 avatar

      Durwood, you are right on the mark. The guy that posted this article is clueless and it’s a well established fact that the k series engines are the highest output naturally aspirated inline 4’s ever made… The difference between performance would only become more clear if you were to dyno the tsx vs the highest output naturally aspirated hyundai inline four because it’s well known in the honda community that the 210hp to the crank ratting from honda is an underrated compared to what it actually produces to the crankshaft…

  • avatar

    Maybe Honda is trying to wait out the DI trend and instead focusing on HCCI to trump everyone?

  • avatar

    “Gasoline Direct injection has been around some fifteen years, when Mitsubishi introduced its GDI engine in Japan and Europe.“
    I thought Mercedes Benz did this back in the 1950’s.

  • avatar

    Silly to dismiss Honda for not having GDI. On their first attempt, Honda designed from scratch the sweetest diesel currently made. Who knows what else they’re working on?
    By the way, peak HORSEPOWER ratings are pure marketing oneupmanship which have NO REAL WORLD meaning to a road going car. Neither especially useful is peak torque. Instead there should be standard tests for acceleration to/from certain speeds, as this would have real world meaning…

  • avatar

    The VW group 2.0 litre TFSI turbocharged direct fuel injection engine has been around several years in iterations ranging from 200 to about 270 hp.   I see nothing particularly exceptional about the Korean engine, although the group’s 10 powertrain year warranty is welcome.

  • avatar

    Don’t know how far Hyundai quality has come but I had an experience yesterday while test driving a 2007 Entoutage 4 cyl mini van with just 33,000 miles and a clean CarFax. The transmissioned whined and groaned annoyingly and I swear that every possible door panel and seat rattled to no end. Very unimpressive.

  • avatar

    Looks to me like both Ford and Toyota are close to Hyundai already with their non-GDI engines. Adding GDI will leap them ahead. No Chrysler (at the bottom of) the list? Is their a Fiat I4 2.4L?
    I think Toyota have said a direct injection 2AR (I4 2.5L) will be being made in Alabama come 2011. I can’t find it on the web, so maybe that one arrived as paper in my (sometimes) ten-mile high “press release” tray.

  • avatar

    If GM can’t get better than 20/30 out of the I4 Buicks, I  have to wonder why they didn’t try to hook up a modern transmission to one of their OHV museum piece V6s and just use that as the lowest powertrain option.
    The mileage probably would have been the same.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Handa seems to have lost it’s mojo.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Honda seems to have lost it’s mojo.

    • 0 avatar

      I concur…Honda used to be about engines and every engine they made was top or near tops in it’s class.  It’s 1.6 liter motors were more powerful than the 1.8 / 2.0 counterparts from the competition which then sounded like a tractor when revved – if it didn’t shake apart.
      I think Honda has really focused elsewhere and ignored the expected continuous improvement I’ve always expected from them.  Honda spent so much time on making Acura the FWD BMW (an answer to a question no one was asking or great landing – wrong airport).  Honda spent so much time making big SUVs and it’s truck.  Honda then spent way too much of its development on the Insight and Clarity.  Two very limited appeal cars especially the latter.
      Honda had the opportunities to really apply its engineering brilliance but missed the boat on working on increasing efficiency of smaller engines with forced induction – Instead Honda half assed the RDX’s 2.3 turbo four and put it in a tall heavy CUV with only an auto.  Honda missed out on GDI.  Honda made one of the best diesel engines in Europe but then pulled the plug to bring it here to Acura – one thing that did make sense.
      Honda’s management has really fallen far from the tree with too much focus on the long term and overlooked it’s reason for success – constant improvement.  I bet in the long run, rather than trying for the Hail Mary (think GM’s failure at this all the time) to stay alive, if Honda focused on making it’s engines smaller, more powerful and more efficient – their reputation would have remained the same – fuel efficiency leader and the global offset would have been the same.

  • avatar


    Unless you’re in another country, the Entourage is V-6 only. 

    Now, as to quality, the Sedona/Entourage twins have been behind the curve since introduction.  Not sure why, but Hyundai has not been interested in bringing it up to Toyonda standards.  

  • avatar

    “By the way, peak HORSEPOWER ratings are pure marketing oneupmanship which have NO REAL WORLD meaning to a road going car. Neither especially useful is peak torque. Instead there should be standard tests for acceleration to/from certain speeds, as this would have real world meaning…”
    I’m not sure that backs your argument.  That is one area were honda totally fails.  Their small engines are all gutless with hp and tq peaks at a gagillion rpms.   The best four cylinder on the planet is the VAG 2.ot.  Sur eits turbocharged, but that is how you build a flexible four banger with a broad power curve.  The german motors are the industry standard for  good useable powerbands.

    • 0 avatar

      In defense of Honda, their 2.4 liter 4 has no problem hauling 4000 pounds of loaded Element.  And it’s so somooth I can’t hear or feel it at idle.  Now the Fit on the other hand…I know some people love them, but the one I test drove was pretty gutless.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      Your view is very much out of date. Variable valve systems have given modern Honda engines a surprisingly wide and flat output vs. RPM profile.

  • avatar

    Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t the Accord Coupe’s 2.4 4 banger rated at 200hp sans GDI?
    Either way, it’s a critical achievement for Hyundai as they’ve always been seen to either lag behind in most engineering areas. But they’ve made steady upgrades and leaps over the last 10 years so kudos to them.
    The possibilities for their powertrain lineup from here on out are endless. I’d love to see what the Tau 4.6 V8 would be rated, seeing as how it’s been engineered for GDI.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Maximum horsepower is not the issue. Honda has consistently shown its ability to do that, at high rpms. This is about the balance between power at reasonable rpm levels, torque and efficiency.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    Hyundai makes a car I would want, the genesis coupe, but toyota has nothing I want. Hyundai has huge momentum. Toyota, well, lets see if they can get moving again. Hyundai seems to be mioving the price/performance/quality envelope a bit. Good for us.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree 100%. And not only do they have the momentum, it’s the attitude and what seems to be their corporate culture. Instead of whining about their problems and the public perception of them being wrong, they go to work and put out the best product they can. Would love to have a GDI + twin turbo version of the 3.8 in a Genesis Coupe – a Korean GTR.

  • avatar
    Oregon Sage

    Lawnmower engines get a mention, but not motorcycle engines which are the foundation of Honda as we know it?  Speaking of those motorcycles, Honda has been serving up the Camrys of motorcycles for years.  They rarely lead, choosing to wait until new technology becomes the market norm instead.  Witness their slow embrace of fuel injection, water cooling, dry sump engines, lightweight off-road 4-strokes …
    I used to regularly watch customers at Bend Honda, a motorcycle dealer where I wasted away my high school years (actually I learned a great variety of valuable skills, while also maintaing good grades at school), express dismay that their clever overhead cam Honda engine needed major surgery as the head failed from the camshaft running on the bare aluminum. This was in the early ’70s; long before most of America figured out that Honda was not the paragon of mechanical virtue their image implied.

  • avatar

    Props to Hyundai. But this has been coming for a while.

    Color me impressed when a manufacturer swaps mechanical valve gear for electronic.

  • avatar

                That’s what happens when your country suffers through two “lost decades.” Private risk investment is in the doldrums, and the government is soaking up every cent of savings building bridges to nowhere.
                The export oriented auto makers may well be less directly affected than other sectors of Japan’s economy, but they aren’t Islands onto themselves. The entire microcosm of suppliers, vendors and partners has all felt the ill effects of the bursting bubble, and the massive capital misallocation that has been going on ever since, in a vain attempt to live up to Keynesian religious dogma. Bad policy does have bad consequences, which will eventually become obvious, even when starting out with a jewel like late 80’s Honda.

  • avatar

    Uh…Toyota already has a DI engine(s).  As mentioned above, they also have variants that use DI and port injection.  Specifically, the 2GR-FSE (3.5L V6).  It’s a great engine, and has been on the Ward’s 10 Best Engines for years.  The 4GR-FSE (2.5L four) also has DI.  There are probably others, but those are the ones that sprung to mind.  I think the IS-F engine also has DI.

  • avatar

    i had one of those GDI Mitusbishis. awful engines, never ran properly and they all spew black smoke out the tailpipe (mine especially bad). had to trade it in and lose a bundle

  • avatar

    if the new Kia Sorrento is any indication the price for DI and 6 spd autos is about the same or higher than the competition…

  • avatar

    What I see as Hyundai’s big point is continuous innovation.  How on earth can it continue to put out improved models on such short cycles, year after year?  Nobody else is doing this.
    The current Civic is unchanged over the last few years.  The Civic SI, likewise.  Who are they, Chevrolet?  With a flagship Impala on a platform old enough to drink alcohol, and even in its current makeover it is 5 years old and unchanged, with its performance model, the SS, untouched.
    The only one I see as close to Hyundai is Infiniti, continually tinkering around, not resting on what it did last year.
    This is not all bad.  It should help resale that your five year old car is indistinguishable from this year’s.

  • avatar
    John R

    Cool Beans.  Here’s to hoping they’ll slide that thing into a Kia Forte 4-door. What Civic Si?

  • avatar

    You have got to be kidding me. 1st off you clearly don’t know your honda’s because you just compared the lowest performance k series engine to the highest performance hyundai inline 4 engine. A true comparison would be between the 2006-2008 acura tsx motor which is the full i-vtec 2.4L motor which makes quick work of any inline four on the market to date. How do I know? I own one, and it makes 235whp with bolt ons… Don’t spread your bullshit like you know something. I guarantee you couldn’t even tell me the difference between a k24a2 and a k24a1… Honda’s jdm k20a which was introduced in 2001-2002 was putting out 220hp in stock trim ten years ago and your trying to say they are behind the curve?!?! WOW you have a lot to learn. Not to mention the fact that hyundai has to collaborate with chrysler and mitsubishi just to come up with a design that still cannot compete with the k-series motors which are now over ten years old. I find the name of this site very inaccurate after reading this absolute bull shit of an article…

  • avatar

    Oh, and to clear up some other bullshit I see on this page, the tsx motor (k24a2) makes peak torque at 3500rpm and max hp at nearly the same rpm so don’t give me that high revving honda bullshit argument either. This site is for noobs, no other way to describe it…

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