2011 Hyundai Sonata Long Term Road Test - Audio & Technology

2011 Hyundai Sonata Long-Term Road Test

Audio & Technology

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2011 Hyundai Sonata: Making Moms Happy

April 29, 2011


"Why don't you call us more often?" my mom would always ask me. Argh. The fact is I'm not much of a phone person anyway so she really shouldn't take it personally. I rather use text messaging and emails for casual communication. That way I don't interrupt the recipient of said messages in the middle of their day and they can get back to me whenever. Plus, I'm not big on chitchat. In any case, I realized that thanks to cars like our 2011 Hyundai Sonata with its Bluetooth hands-free ability, I do call my mom a lot more now.

I know this isn't something that's special only to the Sonata but I came to the above realization when I was driving the Hyundai the other day. It was an especially heinous rush hour and with nothing to do but stop and go, I decided to call her up again, even though I had just spoken with her the day before when I was in the Kia Optima. Needless to say, she was delighted.

Now regarding pairing my iPhone with the Sonata, editor Carroll Lachnit blogged how she had no trouble at all connecting her phone to the car, while I actually did. No biggie, but I just didn't find it as instantaneous as she did. First the car has to be in Park, not just in Drive with your foot on the brake. Yes, that means, you can't even save time by having your passenger do it for you.

In any case, my iPhone had trouble locating the Sonata signal. It wasn't til I gave up after four tries that I just decided to make the phone call using my phone (still parked). But when I initiated the call, that's when the Bluetooth picked it up and suddenly I was now connected and talking through the car. That may have just been a fluke, however, since Carroll had not problems like that.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS: Late Apex Banked Sweeper

April 18, 2011

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I'd like to know who is responsible for inputing racetrack data in the Hyundai Sonata's navigation system and buy him/her an adult beverage of his/her choice.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton

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2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS: Commuter's Companion

March 11, 2011


In the real (in L.A. anyway) world of a 45-minute, six-mile drive home from work, the Sonata stands as a smart pick for me when the clipboard comes around. Even this base (GLS) version of the Sonata comes standard with three upscale features that go a long way towards making the commute more bearable: iPod hook-up, satellite radio and Bluetooth (with automatic phonebook downloading).

Being able to listen to music of my choosing free of obnoxious commercials (and yammering DJs) and being able to make/take some calls while blazing along at an average speed of 8 mph are great for one's sanity.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 14,602 miles

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2011 Hyundai Sonata: Addressing an iPod Connection Complaint

February 16, 2011


This post is really for my friend Matt. He was complaining how Hyundai doesn't allow for people to hook up their iPhones/iPods to their cars. I was showing him our 2011 Hyundai Sonata long-termer and he listed examples how a Tuscon he rented in Arizona last year didn't allow him to connect his iPod Touch and how his brother's Elantra didn't either. "It doesn't even charge your phone," he complained.

To verify this, he plugged the charging cable that came with his iPhone into the USB port of the Sonata. Sure enough, it didn't even register. No charging and no music. It wasn't until the next day when I was digging around the car that I found the appropriate charging cable that came with the car.

Yup, after plugging in my iPhone, it was charging up and playing music. But Matt does bring up a good point. Why not allow iPod users to use the charging cable that came with their device? Everyone has that cord. I carry that cord with me everywhere just in case I have to charge up my phone while I'm out and about.

But I guess it's not too big of a deal since the connector is standard equipment and if you lose it, it'll cost you about $22 to replace.

Anyway, Matt, there you go.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS: Automatic Climate Control

February 01, 2011


Our 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS test car has the following options:

Sixteen-inch alloy wheels; power driver seat; driver's lumbar support; automatic headlight control; chrome interior door handles; leatherette interior panel door inserts; navigation system with high-resolution touchscreen display; dimension AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio system with seven speakers and external amplifier (360 watts); 90-day complimentary subscription to XM NavTraffic, XM NavWeather; XM sports and XM stock), Carpeted Floor Mats.

For more than 13,000 miles, I've been so blinded by all of these great features, I failed to notice one simple thing it was missing:

Automatic climate control.

Not that the boatload of other standard and optional equipment on the GLS isn't awesome, but seems auto climate control would be a basic luxury that would come before the fancy high-res nav system.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 13,316 miles

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2011 Hyundai Sonata: Long Distance Compendium

January 14, 2011


We've covered the Sonata's long-distance ability in a variety of posts but thought I'd sum up some thoughts.

Ed noted that it's got serious range (perhaps more than 500 miles to a tank) and is reasonably comfortable in terms of seating. Donna and I commented previously that it's pretty quiet (here and here), which is nice since it's got an impressive sound system. There's lots of interior storage to store your stuff. The ride quality is indeed smooth, though Mike noted it's not Camry smooth, and I'd agree; if the road is rough, the Sonata's responses seem just a bit too harsh. And I also agree with Ed about the lifeless steering. Although, personally, I think it makes a difference as it just makes the car less enjoyable to drive, even on the freeway.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS: Homing In

December 28, 2010

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My optometrist moved from an office park in a part of Irvine that I know well to one that I don't. It seems so far away to me that it might as well be in San Diego. But the navigation system in the 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS had no trouble getting me there.

Later, I spent some time surfing the system's points of interest menus, which include categories like travel and shopping. I can see that having categorical information could be handy for road trips. The system offered me every permutation of the name of Long Beach's airport, for example, including LBG and Daugherty Field. If I had been an out-of-towner, I could have used any of those names and found what I needed. The POI menus might be a bit of overkill for local use. Take Costco, for instance. I think could get to this one blindfolded.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @11,840 miles

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2010 Hyundai Sonata GLS: Unnecessary Extra Done Not Badly

December 24, 2010

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Here's an random, inconsequential observation prompted by our longterm 2010 Hyundai Sonata's volume display. Really, it's about volume displays in general. Many many many manufacturers include them nowadays. They're nothing new. Turn the knob and a meter/number/both pops up and tells you how loud the audio system is, as if you couldn't hear it.

What are these displays good for? We're talking about an audio system here -- turn the knob until your ears are happy. So what possible purpose does a visual representation provide? Deep thoughts.

The only thing I can think of pertains to satellite radio. Example, you get in the car and you're in a satellite dead zone, so there's no sound whatsoever. You turn up the volume, nothing. With the display you can pre-emptively turn it down to some known level using the numbers so as not to have your trousers blown off when the satellite reconnects and the compression wave hits because you've inadvertently cranked the knob to 13. Pretty lame rationale, but it's all I've got. What's your theory on why these volume displays exist?

Anyway, questions of actual usefulness aside, Hyundai's implementation of the volume display is actually thoughtful since the readout resides in an otherwise unused corner of the screen so it doesn't obscure information that is actually useful. Our longterm GMC Terrain, Chevy Cruze and Suzuki Kizashi are three random cars I checked (the keys were nearby) and those volume displays obscure otherwise useful information, and do so for 3 seconds (GMs) and 2 seconds (Zook) before the volume display times out. Yes, I actually timed them. I have no life.

But seriously, who needs a volume display? Deaf people?

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS: Pair-fection

December 23, 2010


I'm not an early tech adopter and I'm not a Luddite. So I suppose that means I'm one those people who can be a little daunted by the latest and greatest digital doodad but who sooner or later gets into the swing of things. Usually about the time the Next Big Thing arrives.

I haven't been that anxious, for instance, to pair my iPhone with one of our Long Term Road Test cars for hands-free Bluetooth dialing. And it hasn't really been necessary, since I typically just have a car overnight. Meh, I say to myself, I'm just going to drive and not futz around with the tech.

But I'm driving our 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS over the long Christmas weekend. Somewhere between trips to Trader Joe's, Nordstrom Rack and Bristol Farms, I figure I'm going to need to make a phone call. And although I think Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood might be a little fanatical on the subject of in-car tech, I do think it's unsafe to dial and drive.

For once, I did not tap my in-house iGuru (All-Tech Alec, let's call him) for a pairing demo. I headed out to the car with my iPhone, a commuter cup of French roast and the Sonata's Digital Navigation System manual. It has a 13-page "pre-overview" section, by the way. Not a good sign.

But miracle of miracles: About three minutes after getting into the car, I was making a hands-free call. A minute after that, I was streaming Aterciopelados' latest album through the Sonata's sound system. The instructions were very clear, both in the book and on the screen.

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2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS: Scrolling Satellite Radio Display

December 14, 2010


Here's one way Hyundai got it right in its display of XM radio data. Both the Name field and the Title field of the XM station currently playing are able to scroll to display data which won't fit in the available space.

Hit the jump for more.

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2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS: Digital Gauges

December 10, 2010


Here's a place that I don't mind a digital gauge. The temperature gauge on modern cars is essentially a warning light anyway. It might as well be a three-position indicator: Cold, normal or broken.

But there are other places where I want a real analog gauge.

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2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS: The Screen is Just Right

November 24, 2010


My colleague, Mr. Austria noted in his Sonata post that he thought the touchscreen display was less desirable because it was on the small side. I completely, but respectfully disagree. Allow me to explain...

To me, quality is significantly more important than quantity, and in this regard the Sonata handily beats the stalwart Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. In my opinion, the Sonata's display is as good as it gets in this segment and bests many systems found in more expensive categories. The on-screen controls feature large buttons and are labeled with legible typefaces. Furthermore, the menu organization is intuitive, with enough redundant controls to quickly find what you're looking for.

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2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS: Pint-sized Navi Screen

November 24, 2010

Sonata Navi screen size.jpg

The navigation system in our long-term 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS is quite good. The graphics are clear and attractive, the logic and screen flow are excellent, and the interface is the easiest to use touch panel.

However, the screen size itself is smaller than its competitors. I measured our Sonata's screen at 6.5 inches diagonally. The Camry's display is 7". One-half inch doesn't sound like much, but it makes a difference not only on workspace, but also on my first impression.

And that impression would be one of cost-cutting. Granted, it isn't postage stamped-sized like our MazdaSpeed 3's display, but when you're trying to go head-to-head with Camry and Accord, you'd best bring your Alpha game.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 10,300 miles

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2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS: Useful Navigation Feature

November 15, 2010


I noticed this morning that our Sonata's navigation system offers the pictured warning of a "serious" accident clogging the freeway. And I mean that sincerely. This little debacle burned 40 minutes of my life -- a waste I could have easily avoided by altering my route only slightly had I noticed it sooner.

Next time.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS: What Traffic?

October 26, 2010


A lot of really good things have been said about our Hyundai Sonata, and I agree with almost all of them. I think our Sonata is a great car, however while driving it recently it did let me down a bit. The nav system on the Sonata has a lot of short comings, specifically related to the traffic feature.

Chris Walton already wrote about the nav-traffic scalability, but this time it was a different issue, it was just wrong. Above is what i saw on the nav screen, notice all that green, and below is what I saw out the front windshield. I don't know for sure but that doesn't look to green to me.

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2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS: Audio Review

October 13, 2010


Our long-term 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS has some cool standard tech features for a base-model car with a sticker price that starts at $20,195: keyless entry with pushbutton start, Bluetooth hands-free and audio streaming, USB port (although you have to buy a $35 cable that also plugs into the adjacent aux-in jack to get iPod integration). Pay an extra $1,700 like we did and you also get a navigation system with a 6.5-inch touch-screen display and XM NavTraffic, NavWeather and Sports and Stocks free for 90 days before having to shell out for a subscription.

And you get a premium Dimension 7-speaker audio system. Don't worry if you never heard of the brand because Hyundai just made it up. But sound-wise it can hold its own -- and then some -- with more familiar audio imprints.

The Setup
The Dimension Premium Audio System in our 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS consists of seven speakers powered by 360 watts. The speakers include a 6.5-inch midrange in each front door, a 1-inch tweeter in each corner of the dash, another 6.5-inch mid in each rear door and an 8-inch subwoofer in the rear desk. That's it -- a simple but sweet setup.

The Sound
Per usual, I sound-checked the Sonata's system using musical tracks I've listened to in hundreds of cars to determine clarity/lack of distortion, tonal balance, timbre, tonal accuracy, soundstaging, imaging and dynamics. I also used several non-musical test tracks to gauge soundstaging and imaging, linearity and absence of noise. For more details on the testing process and tracks used, check out the Edmunds.com article Sound Advice.

The Sonata's Dimension system is a prime example of how tons of speakers and the logo of a well-known audio brand gracing the components aren't required to get good sound. Admittedly, I use test tracks that highlight flaws in a system, yet I'm also continually surprised that I don't get burned out on the tunes and find myself getting lost in the music with the best systems. That didn't happen in the Sonata, but the system did play the test tracks without any major deficiencies and with a smooth, satisfying response.

Sure, the bass boomed a bit on certain tracks -- and was good if not great with a rap track I use, Outkast's "Ain't No Thang," to test for low-bass extension -- but it was never overly aggressively. And the high end was slightly harsh exactly in parts I expected it would be. But overall the tonal balance was smooth, with little distortion, and the system had a detailed, spacious and very dynamic sound. Timbre and tonal accuracy were largely faithful to the original recordings, although elements of the music, particularly vocals, had a somewhat artificial sound, which I suspect has something to do with the system's signal processing.

My colleague Chris Walton noticed that the system was tuned by noted audio expert Ken C. Pohlmann. (In the interest of full disclosure -- and to brag a bit -- Ken is a regular contributor to Edmunds.com and recently helped with a test of six budget audio systems.) And the Sonata system includes three of Ken's "signature" EQ settings: Normal, Dynamic and Concert. I listened with Normal engaged since I typically try to turn off any processing to compare systems in two-channel stereo. But Pohlmann confirmed that this setting does still use some slight DSP, as do many OEM stereo systems.

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2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS: (Not) Blinded by the Light

October 11, 2010

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While running various errands yesterday (thumbs-up to the Sonata's spacious trunk that's earned kudos aplenty here), the sun attempted to play that annoying "peek-a-boo" game with my left eye. You know, where it zaps your peripheral vision through the upper, rearward portion of the driver's window. Usually you swing the visor over there to block it, only to discover it's not long enough and old Sol is getting the last laugh. Not so with the Sonata, which has extending visors with a generous range as seen above. Just like the standard Bluetooth connectivity, XM radio and iPod integration, this is another thoughtful feature that comes standard on this, the base Sonata.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 7,911 miles

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2011 Hyundai Sonata: Ken Who?

October 07, 2010

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I dove into our 2011 Hyundai Sonata's sound menu and found Ken C. Pohlmann's name on a screen. Who's Ken Pohlmann you ask?

No, his name isn't on this screen...

You must proceed to the Variable-EQ screen here:

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2011 Hyundai Sonata: Other 1 Isn't So Much Fun Either

October 07, 2010

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In response to "ocramidajzj" (and what kind of screen name is that, by the way?) who submitted here that our 2011 Hyundai Sonata's warnings did not include earthquake, I give you the "Other 1" screen. Still no zombies, but below are more weather warnings, as well.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 7,534 miles

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2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS: Time and Temp

October 04, 2010

Hyundai Sonata Time and Temp.jpg

Are you like me: do you frequently like to know the time and ambient temperature? In some vehicles you have to look all over the place -- in the Navi display, center stack, the multi-info display in the meters, etc. Some vehicles even make you dig through menus for this simple info.

In our 2011 long-term Hyundai Sonata GLS, the time and temp is at the top of the Navi/radio display, but the font is somewhat small.

Hyundai was quite thoughtful and provided a small switch in the upper left of the Navi bezel that when pressed let's you know that you're late and it will be a pleasantly cool evening in SoCal. I think this feature would be particularly useful for older drivers.

Once I discovered this switch, I used it quite a bit. But I still showed up a few minutes late to everything.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 7,330 miles

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2011 Hyundai Sonata: "Other 2" Sucks

September 29, 2010


Sure, our 2011 Hyundai Sonata uses XM data for traffic, but there's more behind the innocuous (((XM))) DATA button than I ever knew--and some things I might not want to know.

Jump with me for the frightening "Other 2" category...

Within the Weather category (sorry about the fuzzy photo).

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2011 Hyundai Sonata: Nav-Traffic Scale

September 28, 2010


While I'm not a fan of the Volvo XC60's nav-traffic scalability, I do wish the Sonata's color-coded traffic legend would be available at a scale larger than 4-miles. I had to make a route decision based on traffic further down the road than what's pictured at this scale, but I couldn't. I had to use this scale and virtually jump around the region by tapping on the screen at those crucial locations--not very good for driver distraction.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor

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2011 Hyundai Sonata: Got 'em all beat

September 28, 2010


Yep, we broke high-temp records all over Southern California yesterday and the official thermometer in downtown L.A. actually broke. I snapped this photo of 113-degrees in the Hyundai Sonata in Fullerton--beating Dan's 106 in neighboring Yorba Linda, and Kelley's 101 in Santa Monica.

I'm happy to report that unlike Mike's experience when he cracked open an already-nuclear Sonata, I was already traveling in a cool car as the heat rose. The HVAC had no trouble whatsoever keeping ahead of the ambient outdoor temps.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor

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2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS: Intuitive

August 19, 2010


I have a litmus test for cars I've never driven before, a measure of their intuitveness, ease of use and control logic design.

You see, I have a 50-mile commute which demands between one and two hours each way to complete. So every time I get in a car there's a routine: Pair my phone and get my iPod to actually play through the car's audio system. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but every car is different. Every car has nuances and not every car has an owner's manual. I've struggled for 15 minutes trying to make both these things happen. And sometimes, I just give up and drive.

Last night, the Sonata, a car I've never before driven, set a new record.

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2011 Hyundai Sonata: Notes From Somewhere in Utah

August 11, 2010


I've already covered the Sonata's impressive mileage feats during my recent road trip to Colorado. Here's what else I found during my extended drive.

The navigation system works great. It's easy to set a destination and it offers multiple routes to get there. I also liked the way you can easily pull up nearby restaurants and gas stations without cancelling the destination point. On top of all that, you can access all the options and menus while moving.

After several extended legs behind the wheel, the seats are about average. They are generally supportive and well contoured, but I did get uncomfortable after several hours. This is true of most seats actually, so I wouldn't consider it a major blemish.

You asked about the cruise control? It is indeed solid. The car's speed didn't fluctuate more than a few miles per hour over the various hills on I-70 and it's easy to set through the steering wheel controls. For the mileage minded out there, you can go up to 78mph and still be in "Eco" mode for whatever that's worth.

One minor gripe: the armrests aren't that soft. I'm talking the ones on the door and the top of the center console. My elbows were killing me after awhile due to the lack of cushioning.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com @ 5167 miles

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2011 Hyundai Sonata: Road Trip Mileage

August 05, 2010


This is the only gas station I've visited since leaving Santa Monica for Vail, Colorado. It was in Cedar City, Utah, which is about 450 miles from home. Made it there no problem, gas warning never even came on.

The driving was mixed. When I started out in L.A. there was plenty of afternoon traffic that made it stop and go for the first 60 miles or so. From there on out, the speed limits were 70-75mph, so I just set the cruise control and kicked back.

When I filled up, the logbook numbers said I managed 31.1mpg for the tank. That might not sound very impressive, but keep in mind that when the speed limit was 75mph I usually set it at 80mph. That made the "ECO" light go out, so I figured it wasn't getting its best numbers.

I'll add up the mileage from the second leg shortly and provide some additional commentary on the car itself. First things that come to mind? It's very quiet, the nav system works when you're moving and the XM channels are hard to sift through.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com @ 4,082 miles

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2011 Hyundai Sonata: Weekend Trip and Odd TPMS

July 26, 2010


On Saturday I decided to check out the 2010 Gilroy Garlic Festival. Ever eaten garlic ice cream? Me neither. It's pretty good, actually (if you like garlic). The ride of choice was our 2011 Hyundai Sonata, which proved to be a pleasant companion. It was roomy, quiet and got about 30 mpg in combined fuel economy.

The one weird issue, however, was the Sonata's tire pressure monitoring system. On my way to Gilroy the TPMS warning light illuminated. "Oh great," I thought to myself. I wasn't too happy with the thought of driving with a space-saver spare tire on for the rest of the trip.

I stopped at a Chevron next to Casa de Fruta, which is a fruit-and-nut store (and popular rest stop) near Hollister, Calif. (pictured above). The Sonata won't tell you what the tire pressures are, so I had to check them manually. I only had one of those cheap-o pencil tire pressure gauges with me, but even with that I could tell that all of the tires were pretty close to the recommended pressures. The left-front was perhaps a couple psi lower than the rest of the tires, but it shouldn't have been enough to trip the warning light.

When I started the Sonata back up, the TPMS light was still on. At that point I figured I'd keep driving to Gilroy and check the pressures again. But about five minutes after leaving Casa de Fruta the TPMS light went out. It hasn't come back on since, and subsequent checks of the tires have revealed no leak or puncture. Like I said, weird.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 2,532 miles

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2011 Hyundai Sonata: Voice Control Navigation

July 23, 2010


Does your car have voice control for its navigation system? Do you use it? I've never really bothered and typically just key stuff in. I noticed our Sonata's navigation system is voice operated, though, so I played around with it a bit this morning. Seems to work fine in my very limited testing. It takes about twice as long to enter an address via voice command than the touchscreen. And Hyundai keeps the navigation menus operational when you're driving (thank you!) so the quick way is definitely the screen. But for keeping your eyes on the road, voice command seems nice.

A video of me entering our office's address to the Sonata's navigation system by voice command follows after the jump. It will likely be the least exciting video you watch today, though it does have a slight movie reference near the end, which you might catch if you haven't fallen asleep already.

Go Sonata!

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2011 Hyundai Sonata: Nice Power Outlet Setup

June 23, 2010


Small point here, but important for a car like this. I'm talking about the power outlets/media plug in the center console. Most cars have them these days, but far too many bury them in out of the way places. Great if you want stuff out of sight. Not so great when you want to plug in quickly and have easy access to the device.

As you can see, in the Sonata they're front and center. Two 12V outlets for power, a dedicated plug for an iPod and a place to put the stuff you just plugged in. That last point is important as all too often there's a plug buried in some corner that leaves no place to put the iPod or phone you're trying to charge. The GTI is guilty of this.

So nothing magical here, just a simple, logical design that most buyers in this class will appreciate.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Edmunds.com @ 805 miles

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