Hyundai’s midsize sedan has undergone quite the transformation in the last four model years. Take the 2011, for example – radically restyled compared to the car that came before it, the previous Sonata probably had the most pronounced impact on Hyundai’s catapult rise to the American mainstream. Glancing quickly at this new Sonata, it might be easy to label it a more conservative restyling of the same basic car. But to write it off as such would be doing the 2015 model a great disservice.
Tag - Optima
Photos by Saroja Raman So you finally got yourself a little hot rod in your driveway and you have been telling everyone who will...Read More
Photos courtesy of Infiniti, Lexus and Kia media relations.
It’s hard to believe that more than ten years have passed since the introduction of the Prius–a car which either revolutionized the vehicular landscape for the better or, alternatively, represented the beginning of the end for automotive enthusiasm, depending on who you ask. Over the past decade, hybrids have made their way into just about every segment, and while production hybrid sports cars aren’t quite here yet, several manufacturers have tested the waters of marketing hybrid vehicles to the enthusiast crowd. Honda did it first with the Accord Hybrid back in 2005, if you’ll recall, and the result wasn’t pretty. While very few critics disliked it, it was outwardly identical to regular Accord, and boasted a heavier, more complicated, more expensive powertrain that returned only marginally better gas mileage than the V6 on which it was based. Oh, and the engine interacted with the stereo. That was kind of a big deal back then, though if you lurk on any BMW-friendly message boards, you know it’s still kind of a big deal now.
“… for those of us who lived through these events, the only marker we’ll ever need is the tick of a clock at the 46th minute of the eighth hour of the 11th day.” -President George W. Bush
It’s 1:30 a.m. on Friday, but if you ask my body, it’s still very much Thursday night. I’m cruising southward on a deserted stretch of I-287 in north Jersey. It’s cool and clear, the full moon turning the sparse high clouds a ghostly shade of silver around the edges. I have the music up and the sunroof rolled back, inviting the breeze in to keep me awake, but I don’t really need it. I’ve been on the road for about six hours but I’m still as fresh as if were six minutes. As I gaze out above the trees that line the interstate to take in the beauty of the silver wisps in the stratosphere, I notice something about the coloring of the cloud layer to my east. The misty whites and grays give way to an equally bright, yellow-tinged hue in the center. That isn’t the moon.
When I concluded part I of this feature last week, I said that this piece would be about the Sonata and Optima. It will. But for those of you who came looking for a more traditional road test, I must apologize. You won’t find that here. Feel free to ask specific questions about the cars, but for this piece, we’re going down a slightly different path.
If you ask somebody on the street to identify the most “American” car they can think of, you’ll probably get a predictably narrow subset of answers. SUVs and pick-up trucks will probably top the list, with the occasional Corvette or Mustang thrown in for flavor. Some may even identify entire brands–Jeep or Cadillac, for instance. Others may reflect on our heritage of being one of the largest sources of mass-produced goods in the world, and then prattle on endlessly about the Model T.
But they’re all wrong. You see, the above cars may be icons of the American auto industry, but they simply represent what we’re good at. Those are cars of and by Americans, but not for. Anybody can appreciate a well-built truck or a go-anywhere SUV, but for our purposes we must look elsewhere. Indeed, to find a reflection of American culture, you need to look a a segment which, ironically enough, American manufacturers seemed to have virtually abandoned until very recently–a segment so seemingly devoid of character that it has been dominated for nigh on twenty years by the Toyota Camry. Yes, dear reader, the quintessential American car is the mid-sized sedan.