Hyundai's 2020 Sonata: Optimized Engines, and an N Line Model Waiting in the Wings
Staying true to its tradition of extremely bold styling revamps, Hyundai’s 2020 Sonata looks like something penned by a team of French and Italian designers. We explored the next-generation midsizer’s many styling highlights earlier this year.
Now that the upcoming Sonata has had its official New York debut, there’s more information to get across. Specifically, power, but also efficiency. The same engine technology that went into the pint-sized Venue unveiled Wednesday also makes an appearance in the Sonata, though the automaker hasn’t forgotten that horsepower (sometimes) sells.
The Sonata will be the second North American model to undergo the N Line treatment.
The Alabama-built Sonata will have two engines on offer when it goes on sale this October: a turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-four and a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four that replaces the current generation’s 2.4-liter mill. Both powerplants are “Smartstream” units designed to maximize thermal efficiency for fuel economy gains.
The uplevel Smartstream G1.6 T-GDI engine generates 180 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and hits peak torque (195 lb-ft) at 1,500 rpm, maintaining that grunt through 4,500 rpm. With a pushbutton-actuated eight-speed automatic handling shifting duties, Hyundai anticipates a lofty combined fuel economy figure of 31 mpg.
The 2.5-liter essentially flips those power figures, generating 191 hp and 181 lb-ft, with the same eight-speed in tow. Compared to the engine it replaces, the 2.5L adds 6 hp and 3 lb-ft — not a huge gain, though its estimated combined fuel economy rises 4 mpg to 33 mpg.
As we told you before, the Sonata’s migration to a new, stiffer platform brings with it rejigged suspension fore and aft, plus a body that’s longer, lower, and wider than before. Hyundai promises improved handling dynamics, plus a quieter cabin environment. There, you’ll find more tech than ever, with available 10.25-inch touchscreen, 12.3-inch gauge cluster display, and Blue Link connected car tech available for those who want to pay more. Standard touchscreen size is 8 inches, by the way, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity comes standard.
Speaking of spending more, doesn’t Hyundai offer a turbocharged 2.0-liter for top-spec buyers? Why, yes, it does. And a refined version of that powerplant is on the way.
Hyundai Motor America’s public relations director, Jim Trainor, told Autoblog that a Sonata N Line is in the works, but won’t appear this fall. Expect to see the N Line variant sometime in 2020, he said, with an engine making “at least 275 horsepower, and probably a lot more.”
A hybrid variant will also return to the lineup at some point, he added.
As the current-gen Sonata’s 2.0T engine generates 260 hp and 245 lb-ft, this represents a meaningful performance boost, and upgraded brakes and suspension, plus N Line-specific exterior add-ons, should tempt the family man who isn’t willing to go the minivan or crossover route.
Speaking of that hypothetical buyer — he’s going extinct, or at least into hibernation. Midsize sedan sales are drying up, even for the segment-leading Camry and runner-up Honda Accord, and the current-gen Sonata’s 2018 refresh certainly didn’t do anything to turn things around. Sonata sales fell 20.2 percent in the U.S. in 2018, with the first three months of showing a 9.7 percent year-to-date sales drop.
Can the radically restyled 2020 Sonata compel American buyers to return to the once-loved midsize sedan? Chances are, you’re silently mouthing the word “no” this very second — and you’d be forgiven for doing so, given the state of the market’s seemingly irreversible shift to utility vehicles. But you wouldn’t respect Hyundai for not pulling out all the stops to prevent it, would you?
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