Over the past year I have driven 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engines from BMW, Volkswagen, Audi, Range Rover, Lexus, Ford and a handful of other car makers. This week I am testing a Hyundai Sonata Sport with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. What has become immediately apparent is that Hyundai may very well do this better than any other brand. Here’s why.
Hyundai Turbo Uses Regular Unleaded Gasoline
The whole point of moving to smaller turbocharged engines instead of continuing to refine larger normally aspirated engines with more cylinders was fuel economy. Fuel economy means the cost of fueling a vehicle. Fuel efficiency is related, but not the exact same thing. Hyundai’s 2.0-liter turbo is designed to use regular unleaded instead of the premium that almost every other manufacturer requires to get the rated output. Using regular instead of premium saves customers 10 to 15% at the pump with no downside.
Hyundai’s 2.0-Liter Turbo Responsiveness
While researching an Audi this week for another publication, I discovered that Audi seems to agree that most turbocharged engines suffer turbo-lag that is annoying at best. Audi says of its TFSI (2-liter turbo) engine “Audi is the first manufacturer in the world to engineer a turbocharged direct injection engine, which produces high power output and optimum engine response.” I’m glad Audi agrees that there is an issue with these engines, but having driven their engine in the new A3 recently I’m not feeling it. Like most small turbos the Audi, the BMW, the Range Rover and the rest all seem to hesitate noticeably longer than a modern V6 would when one toes the throttle. The turbo lag is made worse in some cases by transmissions with too many gears, 9 in some cases, or a dual clutch transmission, which I find to be sluggish in automatic mode.
Hyundai’s turbocharged engine seems to suffer less from turbo-lag than the other engines I have tried of a similar design. It’s six-speed automatic also seems to be a sane approach to an automatic. You may feel otherwise, but Hyundai seems to offer an engine just as powerful (245 hp) as the rest, but with better responsiveness.
Hyundai Turbo’s One Negative
If I had to pick one thing that Hyundai could improve upon it would be the exhaust note. The Sonata Sport I am testing sounds like a sewing machine, not a performance car. Hyundai should adopt the industry practice of either tuning that note using exhaust tricks, use a “sound inductor tube”, or simply fake it like BMW and others now do and just play me happy sounds through the speakers. I don’t care how it works. I just want my car to sound good, or simply be silent.
Ford also deserves kudos for doing much of the same things Hyundai is. Ford also uses regular unleaded in its turbocharged engines, and they too provide decent throttle response. Interestingly, the Escape I tested, and loved, also had a 6-speed automatic. Maybe the formula isn’t that difficult? In any case, it is nice to report that the mainstream, blue-collar brands are out in front of the premium brands when it comes to both performance and fuel economy in today’s modern engines.