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  1. Join Date
    Aug 2004
    [SIZE=5]Comparison: 2012 Hyundai Sonata GLS vs. 2012 Toyota Camry LE vs. 2012 Volkswagen Passat SE[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=3]Family Court, Round 1: Mainstream of Consciousness[/SIZE]

    2012 Hyundai Sonata GLS vs. 2012 Toyota Camry LE vs. 2012 Volkswagen Passat SE - Comparison - Motor Trend


    "Here are the sales numbers for the midsize segment through August," said associate editor Benson Kong as he handed associate editor Nate Martinez and me a sheet of 2011 data while the three of us were downing a quick breakfast in smoky Tehachapi, California, where wildfires had been running rampant for nearly a month. The Toyota Camry, the best-selling car for the last nine years, sat comfortably in first place with sales of almost 205,000 units.

    "Wow, even in the final year before a new model, the Camry still sells the best," observed Martinez. The Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, and Chevy Malibu occupied spots two through five, selling as high as 176,000 and as low as 160,000. At nearly 157,000 sold, the Hyundai Sonata occupied sixth spot, boasting a year-to-date sales bump of almost 22 percent, the strongest gain among any of the top six.

    "Then, as you'll see, the Passat is way down in last," said Kong of Vee-Dub's entry, "with sales of only 1700." But he quickly added: "Although those were all 2010 model-year leftovers."

    Normally the last-place finisher wouldn't be of any note, but in this case the Passat is different. Absent for 2011, Volkswagen's midsizer is all-new for 2012, bigger and roomier than ever before, and built for the first time in America, in a state-of-the-art plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. VW has invested more than $1 billion in the Volunteer State, and thus has dreams of the Passat one day selling in the 300,000-per-year rate, which would help execute the German behemoth's plan to become the largest automaker in the world. VW will have to snatch that title from Toyota, which sold 8.42 million vehicles in 2010 to remain Big Daddy for the third year in a row. To stay on top, Toyota will need some help from its Kentucky-built Camry, which, like Passat, has been redesigned for 2012. Not so coincidentally, both of these fresh players come just one short year after Hyundai released the sixth-gen Sonata -- built in sweet home Alabama, except for the hybrid -- in all its "fluidic sculpture" glory. Let's just say Hyundai has angered its competitors and delighted its dealers.

    To see which of these bred-in-the-USA "imports" offers the best lineup of midsize magic, we gathered three examples of each -- that's right, nine in all -- and grouped one of every nameplate in the following categories: Mainstream (volume-sellers, gas engine), Fuel Economy (hybrids and diesel), and High Performance (turbo-fours and V-6s).

    And what about the Altima, Fusion, Accord, and Malibu? Well, all are set to debut next-gen models in 2012-'13, so consider them invited to Round 2. Until then, enjoy these brand-new heavies duking it out in three family feuds.

    Mainstream of Consciousness
    Our first battle consists of the four-doors you'll see the most of: the standard-issue gas versions that range from well-equipped price leaders to fully optioned-up mobile offices. These high-value, high-mileage, high-volume sedans feature engines displacing no more than 2.5 liters that average 27 mpg and produce just under 200 hp. With base prices that crest just over $20,000, their sales generally account for around 70 percent of the total mix. For this three-up, we collected the most popular trims -- Sonata GLS, Camry LE, and Passat SE -- to determine which would prove most popular among us.


    If this test were based solely on value, the $22,305 Sonata GLS would be giddily standing atop the podium. For less money than its two competitors, the Hyundai offers heated sideview mirrors (unlike Camry), iPod/USB integration (unlike Passat), and 198 direct-injected horses (more than both) in a swoopy, coupelike body that packs the biggest trunk (16.4 cubic feet). But, alas, picking a winner requires much more than just looking at the bottom line.

    Despite being the most powerful here, the Sonata proved 0.4 second slower to 60 than the 20-hp-deficient Camry, a probable byproduct of the sluggish, disappointing six-speed. "Transmission shifts slowly and reacts lethargically, and the manual shift controller, while smooth, has no positive action to it," noted Kong. Further, the GLS put down last-in-test handling numbers -- 0.76 g lateral accel and 28.5-second figure eight -- that translated directly to the real world. Said Martinez: "I noted body roll for days in the Sonata. Jumping into this from the Passat was a huge step down in road feel and athleticism." Some of the Sonata's lack of road feel is tied to its electric power steering, which felt artificial and too ungainly off-center. A recalibration is in order.

    Although as wide as the Passat, the Sonata felt noticeably tighter inside, proving the most difficult in which to get comfortably situated from behind the wheel. In our back-seat test, we deemed the Hyundai the hardest to get in and out of (watch your head!) and the least coddling on our backsides. Still, there's much to admire with the Sonata, especially the bargain price and top-notch warranty. But, simply put, there's more to love with the next two.


    The lightest of the group by 70 pounds, the 178-horsepower Camry quickly laid claim to the 0-60 (7.8 seconds) and quarter-mile (15.9 at 89.3 mph) acceleration titles as well as the shortest 60-0 braking distance (120 feet). There's no denying that Toyota's revised 2.5 liter and six-speed are peppy, smooth, and responsive, and the standard four-wheel disc brakes robust. We lauded the steering, too, for its direct, linear action, and the ride for its easygoing behavior. "In terms of power, interior space, useability, and fuel economy, the Camry's the best here," said Martinez. So how did it not win?

    Let's just say the Camry returned some middling scores in a few key areas. First, we were unimpressed with its "architectural statement" styling, whose elements lacked cohesion and had an overall look too similar to that of its predecessor. Next, the soft suspension, while great for road trips, was not terribly assuring over the handling loop. "In the tighter sections of our drive, the Camry was not confidence-inspiring," declared Kong. Last, for $23,260 to start, the Toyota omitted such standard niceties as alloy wheels, which were included in our as-tested $22,405 Hyundai as well as a $23,460 Passat S with Appearance Package (our $25,595 SL came with larger 17-inch alloys).

    We have little doubt this new four-cylinder LE will continue to be the top-selling Camry, and that the nameplate will maintain its best-seller status. The redone interior, with its faux leather-stitched dash, straightforward controls, Bluetooth/iPod/USB connectivity, and 102.7-cubic-foot passenger volume (0.5 bigger than Passat's) is richer and more accommodating and user-friendly than before. And let's not forget the Camry's 25-mpg city and 34.1-mpg observed stats, both best in test. Still, we'd rather grab the keys for another sedan


    Given the SE's standard 2.5-liter, 170-horse inline-five -- an engine we've never been especially fond of -- we really thought the Passat stood a better chance of winning the lottery than this test. But that's exactly why we drive cars back to back and put them through our demanding battery of tests. Speaking of which, our first task was strapping the GPS test gear into the Passat, which delivered the slowest straight-line numbers: 0-60 in 9.0 seconds and the quarter mile in 16.8 at 83.8 mph -- not exactly surprising in light of a group-high weight-to-power ratio of 19.2 lb/hp. That said, the I-5 is smooth, quieter than the I-4, and seems at home in the 3271-pound SE. We got nearly 32 mpg observed from the I-5 over three hard-charging drive loops.

    The Passat may have been slower in a straight line, but it spanked the others when the road went all curvy. Not only did the SE put down the best lateral acceleration (0.83 g) and figure eight (27.8 seconds at 0.60 g), it also felt the sportiest and most planted through twisty back roads. "Stereotypically German, the Passat handled the best, cornered more flatly, and felt most at home in the twisties," observed Kong. "Solid foundations and a taut ride without being punishing -- absolutely lovely." Indeed, the Passat returned the most satisfying steering feel and demonstrated the most sophisticated suspension of the threesome, two traits that make it the best driver's car here.

    Then there's the VW's clean, chiseled body that, yes, looks a bit like an oversized Jetta; but a case also can be made that it resembles a downsized Audi A8. Moreover, the Passat's cabin isn't especially flashy or terribly luxurious, but it's handsome, easily familiar, and downright cavernous: Its 39.1 inches of rear legroom betters the A8's 38.7. But where's the iPod/USB integration? Perhaps in the next few years VW will remedy that small oversight, and maybe even install a more inspiring engine. Until then, the Passat SE will just have to live with being almost perfect

    Read more: 2012 Hyundai Sonata GLS vs. 2012 Toyota Camry LE vs. 2012 Volkswagen Passat SE - Comparison - Motor Trend

  2. Join Date
    Aug 2004
    [SIZE=5]Family Court, Round 2: Milestones Per Gallon[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=3]Comparison: 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid vs 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE vs. 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI SE[/SIZE]

    2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid vs 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE vs 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI SE Comparison - Motor Trend

    Three sedans that will pump you up... by rarely going to the pump
    The resurgence of the compact sedan -- Elantra, Cruze, Focus, et al. -- over the last few years is due in large part to the segment's combination of growing dimensions and continued high fuel economy. These small four-doors offer the room of an older-generation midsize while still providing the fuel mileage of a present-day subcompact, and sometimes better. As a result, American families have been eating up these compacts at alarming rates. The Cruze, for instance, has surpassed the Malibu as Chevy's best-selling car. But if a not-so-small small car is still too small, even new midsize sedans are showing glimmers of high-mileage hope. Take the previous test's Camry LE, which sips gas at the miserly rate of 25 mpg city/35 mpg highway yet still offers an E-Class-size interior and trunk. Still not good enough? If your idea of the ultimate sedan is a tantalizing blend of dynamic performance, passenger volume, and, most important, fantabulous fuel economy, the midsize hypermiler is it. Gathered here are three of the latest and greatest: the 37-mpg Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, the 40-mpg Toyota Camry Hybrid, and the 34-mpg VW Passat TDI. To the pumps!


    We first clicked said pumps at Hyundai's proving ground in California City, out in the toasty Mojave Desert. Nearly 300 miles later, we were back at the proving ground to close our fuel logs. I wish I had better news for Hyundai, but its Sonata Hybrid, EPA-estimated to return 35 city/40 highway, mustered a disappointing 27.0 mpg observed, almost 10 mpg less than its hybrid foe from Toyota. What gives?

    "Both the gas engine and electric motor really need to be wrung out to even keep up with the Camry and Passat," judged Kong. "The poor electric motor, which serves as the six-speed auto's torque converter, is overworked, and, as a consequence, the car really struggles under high-load conditions and overall integration is not smooth. If the electric motor were more powerful (it's outpaced by the Camry Hybrid's primary tractive motor by 101 hp), it might help." Not only did the Sonata's fuel economy suffer, so did its track performance, trailing the Camry to 60 by a monstrous 2.3 seconds--and Hyundai claims 6 horsepower more than Toyota with similar weight-to-power. Hyundai also touts its use of a conventional automatic and lighter lithium-polymer batteries, both of which are supposed to work better than their CVT and nickel-metal hydride/lithium-ion counterparts. But the net results say the opposite. Making things worse, we rated the Sonata's steering too rubbery, the brakes too grabby, and the throttle too jerky.

    But it's not all doom and gloom for the Sonata Hybrid. The design differentiators, from the LED headlamp accents and unique LED taillamps to the wind-cutting 17-inch alloys and vibrant hybrid technology display, were all well-executed, giving the Hyundai a rich, techy appearance. And the soft leather-adorned interior and panoramic sunroof made the cabin a welcoming space. Ultimately, though, this Sonata's last name means it needed to be much more competitive with the others, especially the Camry.


    Our collective pick was not the Camry, but not because we weren't immensely impressed. This new topline XLE, returning a slightly worse 40 mpg combined compared with 41 from the marginally lighter LE, treats feathery-footed drivers to better fuel economy than both the Sonata Hybrid and Ford Fusion Hybrid. Better yet, for heavy-footed pilots, the Camry XLE can still deliver in the neighborhood of 37 mpg (we saw 36.9 observed), not to mention surprisingly brisk acceleration times. How brisk? With its new 2.5-liter 156-hp I-4 and 141-hp electric motor, the XLE whirred from 0 to 60 in just 7.2 seconds, only 0.2 behind the 274-hp Sonata 2.0T.

    Perhaps more impressive than its quickness, the Camry is a model of seamless operation. Save for the slightest of vibrations from its engine start/stop system, the Camry keeps its hybridness a secret; the regenerative brakes are progressive, the throttle response linear, and the steering light and direct. Compared with the developmental-league Hyundai, the Toyota plays in the pros. If you didn't know it was a hybrid, the Camry would lead you to believe it was a deftly executed gas-only sedan with some extra pop under the hood.

    What kept the Camry from taking the gold was a driving experience less satisfying and memorable than the Passat's and an interior that, while ergonomically sound and of high quality, came across too overwrought, what with big steering wheel-mounted controls and extra-large buttons and knobs decorating the center stack. Otherwise, this new hybrid is arguably the best Camry ever.


    Two noteworthy factoids about our twin-clutch-equipped Passat TDI: One, with an 18.5-gallon fuel tank and a highway rating of 40 mpg, its cruising range is an interstate-friendly 740 miles. (For manual enthusiasts, the TDI can be equipped with a six-speed stick, which, thanks to 43-mpg highway, bumps range to 796.) Compare that stretch with the Camry's 646 and the Sonata's 688, and you can see why the TDI is our open-road champion. Two, minus any of the hybrids' space-robbing batteries, the TDI retains its huge 15.9 cubic feet of trunk space -- 2.8 more than Camry and 5.2 more than the Sonata.

    Of course, there's so much more to love with the TDI. "The 2.0-liter diesel is the perfect engine for the new Passat. It's got the low-end torque and the power density suitable to propel the car for 99 percent of midsize buyer's needs," said Kong. And by low-end torque, we're talking 236 lb-ft at a basement 1500 rpm, enough oomph to shove the TDI from 0 to 60 in 8.7 seconds. That time is noticeably slower than the Camry's, but the TDI doesn't feel noticeably slower under normal driving conditions, thanks in part to the speedy twin-clutch DSG that snaps off shifts in mere milliseconds, always riding on top of that wave of torque. When the road goes all serpentine, the TDI morphs into a big mongoose, its best-in-test 0.80 g lateral accel and 124-foot 60-0 braking distance working harmoniously with the first-rate steering and taut, lively suspension to deliver a rewarding, responsive drive that can't be matched in this group.

    Forced to find faults, we could only come up with the lack of an iPod/USB interface. This Passat is that well-rounded and that well-executed. Which is why the TDI is the hottest hypermiler available today.

  3. Join Date
    Aug 2004
    [SIZE=5]Family Court, Round 3: Nuclear Power[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=3]Comparison: 2011 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T vs 2012 Toyota Camry SE V-6 vs 2012 Volkswagen Passat VR6 SEL[/SIZE]

    2011 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T vs 2012 Toyota Camry SE V-6 vs 2012 Volkswagen Passat VR6 SEL Comparison - Motor Trend

    What you get when you mix the fast and the furious with a family
    Your name doesn't have to be Andretti or Unser for your nuclear family to have a ferocious appetite for speed and power. Nor does it have to be Getty or Vanderbilt to afford a fast four-door that offers the requisite comforts and convenience of a modern sport/luxury sedan. In fact, for around $30,000, you can get into a powerful, speedy family-hauler that out-accelerates an early '90s 310-horsepower BMW M5 and 315-horse Mercedes-Benz 500E. Coincidentally enough, we have three of these bargain rockets right here with us: the 274-horsepower Hyundai Sonata 2.0T, the 268-horse Toyota Camry SE V-6, and the 280-horse Volkswagen Passat VR6. To the dragstrip!


    Unfortunately for the Sonata, it was the only one that wasn't quicker than the aforementioned M5 and 500E. In fact, at 7.0 seconds to 60 and 15.4 at 91.5 mph to the quarter mile, the 2.0T barely edged the 200-horse Camry Hybrid. When comparing high-performance variants, being last is never a positive, especially when it's last by a lot. And the subpar performance wasn't just in straight-line stats; in all objective handling tests, the Sonata rose to the top in none. Hyundai eschewed a V-6 in favor of a turbo I-4, citing comparable power, less weight, and improved fuel economy. Acceleration was the slowest, and observed fuel economy nearly tied for last. And the 2.0T was indeed the lightest car of the three, but only by 35 pounds compared with the Camry.

    In real-world duties, the 2.0-liter turbo felt plenty powerful and torquey. The ride, while not as compliant as the Passat's, was quiet and comfortable, if a bit too busy for our tastes. The four-wheel disc brakes offered up a firm pedal with ideal travel. And the interior was rated as attractive and high-quality, especially for a car with an as-tested price of only $25,505.

    But you get what you pay for. In this case, a performance sedan high on promise but low on fulfillment.


    The last time we compared the Camry SE V-6, back in February 2008, it beat the likes of Chevy Malibu, Honda Accord, and Nissan Altima. We called it the "finest all-around mix of power, handling, room, and bells and whistles." In this test, the redesigned 2012 SE V-6 will have to settle for "second-finest all-around mix." But given how great the winner is, that title is nothing to be ashamed of.

    Against its 3504-pound predecessor, the new SE V-6 preserves the 268-hp 2GR-FE engine and six-speed automatic; but thanks to a 134-pound weight loss, it is now considerably quicker. Zero to 60 takes a scant 5.8 seconds (yes, unlike the old 6.2-second car, the new Camry is officially a sub-6.0 sprinter) and the quarter mile just 14.2 at a heady 100.6 mph (versus 14.6 at 96.8). That '93 M5 and 500E? They needed 6.2 and 14.6 at 96.7, and 6.3 and 14.7 at 96.9, respectively.

    This new SE is the first Camry to come with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters--which provided quick action and pleasing throttle-blip downshifts--as well as standard "twist-spoke" 18-inch alloys. The suspension boasts 15-percent-stiffer springs and shocks. But while the SE gripped for a respectable 0.81 g and lived up to its sporty badge, we do wish those springs and shocks were about 10 percent softer. As they are, the Camry's ride suffers, relaying just about every bump in the road. And speaking of bumps in the road, there was a big one the Camry just couldn't overcome.


    We've established that the Camry SE V-6 was a speed demon, needing only 5.8 seconds to reach 60 mph. Well, the Passat, with its 280-horse narrow-angle V-6 and race-quick twin-clutch automatic, was even more demonic, requiring just 5.7 ticks. Through the quarter mile, the two stay tied at 14.2 seconds, but the Passat's 100.9-mph trap speed was a smidge higher.

    Bragging rights? Just barely. But when that straight line begins to squiggle, the VW can brag to its VR6 heart's content. In both lateral acceleration (0.83 g) and the figure eight (26.9 seconds), the Passat handily outgunned the other two. Plus, in 60-to-0 braking, the Passat's brawny binders and meaty 235/45R18 Hankooks hooked up to halt the 3504-pound sedan in 119 feet, the shortest of the three.

    Away from the test track, the Passat VR6 didn't lose any luster. Over our 30-mile drive loop, we scored it the highest in ride, road feel, refinement, and roominess. Add that to its being the quickest and most fun to drive, and you have is a sedan unmatched in its class.

    We wish the Round Two contestants the best of luck. They'll need it.

  4. Join Date
    Aug 2004
    It's worth noting that we don't get the same Camry here. Suspension tuning and interiors are different. What is the same, at least, is the local V6 is incredibly quick... (but sub-6 to 60? Only if you use a 60 foot roll-out and SAE the hell out of your numbers... errh... which Car and Driver does religiously...)... though not quite athletic in any other way, with worse braking than the Sonata and a tendency towards clumsiness in emergency handling. Could be worse. The old V6 had slow automatic shifting and drove like a boat.

    And we don't get any of the Sonata variants tested, either. Our 2.4 liter fully loaded Sonata is not sold in the US in the same trim, and from other reviews of US Hyundais (a friend has done both Accent and Elantra), their suspension tuning is completely different, too.

    Ang pagbalik ng comeback...

  5. Join Date
    Aug 2004
    yes our Sonata here seems to be of lesser spec than their north american the ones here should even suck more when the 2012 Camry arrives our shore... which is kind of surprising it has fewer horses than the Hyundai/Kia GDi but still outruns it and has better fuel efficiency... guess Toyota still has some magic tricks up their sleeve.

  6. Join Date
    Aug 2004
    I doubt it actually matters.

    Note... the only model remotely close to our local spec is the 2.4 liter GDi. From reviews, economy and performance test numbers, the GDi doesn't actually provide any performance benefits versus our local non-GDi engine... and possibly in marginal conditions, the GDi will have poorer economy. Especially with the turbo.

    Then again... straightline performance doesn't make a car great. What matters is everything else. And in this, our local Sonata is pretty good. Like I said: Our local suspension tuning isn't the same as the US.

    They get an Accent that's stiff and an Elantra that's soft... the exact opposite of here.

    Their Ford Fiesta is very soft. Softer than the Jazz. The opposite of here.

    Their Camry is a mass-market car, to the Americans what the Corolla is to the Filipino... so there it gets a sporty, stiff suspension, whereas here, the Camry is a "luxury" car, so the suspension is actually borderline wallowy, whereas the Sonata is just slightly soft.

    The local Camry is tuned to Asian tastes, and is nothing like the US Camry. And it will never be anything like the US Camry, so even after the 2012 facelift, don't expect it to be like the ones tested in Car&Driver. Do note, also, that their Sonata and Camry are made in the US... not in Asia, like ours are... so other things, like build quality, trim quality and etcetera, will be different.

    Ang pagbalik ng comeback...

  7. Join Date
    Aug 2004
    for US, they have special "SE Trim" for their Camry that gets beefier suspension (increased spring and damping rates) with 18" wheels that is not available elsewhere....but they do have regular Vanilla (suspension Tuning) flavor that the other gets... though its true our Camry's interior are much nicer because their marketed as luxury cars unlike theirs as the People's car....

    back to Hyundai Sonata, the NA's 2.4li GDi has trumped our multi-point injected version both in Power (178 vs 200) & Torque (23.3 vs 25.4) that should have good impact in improved acceleration with everything else being equal (weight, tranny, etc).

    [fm. Hyundai Ph website]

    [fm. Hyundai US website]
    198hp*6300 -> 200ps/6300rpm
    184lb-ft*4250 -> 25.4Kg-m

2012 Camry vs. 2012 Sonata (Comparison Round1)