October 16, 2011

A Road Trip on the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

It was time, our new Sonata YF HEV needed to stretch its legs. Actually, it is a rite of passage in my garage as it seems that every set of wheels we own has done it's fair share of road trips. So, off we went South to California for a few days. The goal? To cruise California's Highway 1 along the Big Sur and then off to Monterrey to attend the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. Then, head back North to Washington with a brief stop along the way to check out the Blackhawk Automotive Museum in Danville. The first day found us driving along I-5 over familiar terrain across Washington and Oregon. The higher speed limits in Washington afforded some decent cruising near the 70 mph speed limit. A place where the Sonata HEV cruises comfortably but not at maximum efficiency.

Once in Oregon, the usual traffic and lower speed limit (65 MPH) kept speed in check and the mileage hovering in the 42-44 mpg. The mountain passes along the Oregon/California border presented good opportunities to run in EV mode for long stretches. With restrained use of the throttle on uphill sections and coasting down long downgrades, it was easy to maintain above 40 mpg. Most impressive however was to see the Sonata's ability to use the electric motor to assist the engine while pushing uphill. All in all, we ran 590 miles before I decided to refuel. That with two bars left on the fuel gauge and the estimated range still indicating about 50 miles left on the tank.
Mt. Shasta in the distance
The second day found us making our way South along the long flat stretches of I-5 along Northern California. This I must say, turned out to be the Achilles heel of this power train. With the Air Conditioner in use often, a bit of a headwind, but most importantly, the temptation of a 70 mph speed limit and a lightly traveled freeway most of the way to Vacaville, there were less opportunities to run on the battery for any significant amount of time. Even with it's ability to use EV mode at 70+ MPH, the mileage dropped to about 38 MPG while pushing hard.
Traffic around the Eastern side of the Bay Area quickly helped to increase our mileage and we soon found us cruising South on US 101 on our way to San Luis Obispo. Really beautiful country. In the end, we made it to Pismo Beach (just South of San Luis Obispo) with enough time to enjoy an afternoon of sunshine in Pismo beach. Here we discovered the beauty of being able to roll silently from one view point to another. The electric drive definitively makes this car the best slow speed cruiser I have ever driven.
Cruising Pismo Beach
Watching Sea Otters in Morro Bay
The third day found us heading back North. This time along the famous Highway 1. Morro Bay gave us a chance to watch Sea Otters, Harbor Seals and other marine life just a few feet from the road. We love this town and are looking forward to a longer stay on a future visit. Looking a bit like the Pacific Northwest, Highway 1 to Big Sur was covered by the Marine Layer that is so common in the area just as it was five years ago when I ran the same route in my Corvette. A car that by the way seemed to have the same cargo capacity of the Sonata and by that I mean - pack light.
This because compared to my Passat W8, the trunk on this car, while adequate for two is a bit on the small side. A challenge I experienced last year when I rented an Altima Hybrid to travel around Maryland and discovered the limitations that battery packaging imposes on this type of car. The back seat however, is huge and is a great place to sleep en route as well as a good place to store "stuff" to be used during the day but I prefer my things to be away from prying eyes while parked thank you very much! Those challenges however did not limit our enjoyment of the car mostly because it feels well put together and turned out to be a decent long distance cruising vehicle.
Taking a break somewhere along Hwy 1
Bixby bridge, a reminder that the best miles of this road are behind us. Time to move get on it to Monterrey for a different kind of fun.
The Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance was a blast as the photos elsewhere on the blog will attest. Besides, where else would you be allowed to park on the green? Our our way out we stopped by Hyundai's exhibit to take a look at the Sonata HEV with the Premium package. I have to say that the leather seats really change the character of the interior but it seemed a bit more equipped than what I need for my daily grind. 

Slow traffic on smooth roads and flat ground somewhere near San Jose afforded us the best mileage that we have seen so far since we got the car (52.1 mpg). It was brief however, as it quickly went back to it's usual spot in the lower 40's as soon as we started to speed up again. All in all we covered 2,210 miles in six days. All that with 52 gallons of regular gas averaging around 42 mpg for the entire trip. All for around $150.00 dollars. Not bad at all
With all the work I have done recently to rejuvenate my W8, the original plan was to stretch its legs on this trip, however thinking about how it would bring me closer to engine re-build time, I changed my mind the day before the trip. No good deed goes unpunished and for me the price of admission were several stone chips on the front facia including a nasty one on the "chrome accent" on the Sonata's hood. All that on what is still a "new" car. It is also getting us closer to it's second oil change as it has over 6,000 miles now. All in less than three months of ownership. I better give it a rest for a few days now that we are back home!

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