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First Drive Review: Next-Gen 2020 Hyundai Sonata sings a high-tech song

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata is chocked full of high-tech features and new engine technology that makes it even more fuel efficient.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Hyundai's most family-friendly sedan is singing an updated song; its lyrics encompass a more sensuous design, with new body architecture, powertrain elements, safety and technology features.

The eighth-generation 2020 Hyundai Sonata (only seven have been sold in the U.S.) slots into the small-but-significant midsized segment and competes with the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.

This Korean automaker remains bullish on sedans and the Sonata saying that they Hyundai expects an equilibrium in the marketplace, with a shift in trends in the coming years. Their research shows that 59 percent of sedan owners say they will stay in the segment.

2020 Hyundai Sonata The rear of the Sonata is more familiar to brand enthusiasts than its new face.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

The 2020 Sonata was designed to appeal to a spectrum of younger, tech-savvy buyers, who appreciate the low cost of ownership and improved fuel economy the sedan offers. The model front-wheel drive-only sedan is available in four trims; SE, SEL, SEL Plus, and Limited.

Sonata benefits from Hyundai's new four-door coupe silhouette design, which gives the exterior a next-gen, fastback appearance with a longer wheelbase, shorter overhangs and rear spoiler. The company's digital pulse grille adorns the front, punctuated by state-of-the-art lighting; standard on the Limited is a ribboned-chrome line that brings a light path of eye candy that slingshots from the winged mirrors though the beltline and angles back to the front hood and headlamps. Wheels range from 16- to 18-inch alloys.

2020 Hyundai Sonata The Sonata's headlights features a new design that you won't see on any other cars sold in the U.S.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Sonata is the first model to benefit from Hyundai's third-generation vehicle platform that is engineered with an improved front and rear suspension for more refined driving and an optimized undercarriage for safety and efficiency.

Two four-cylinder engines include a naturally aspirated, retooled 2.5-liter on base models that brings 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque and a new 1.6-liter turbo with 180 horsepower and 195 pound-foot of torque (reserved for SEL Plus and Limited trim levels). Both engines are paired with have an eight-speed automatic transmission and all models have four drive modes- Smart, Normal, Sport and Custom, for individual steering, throttle, and transmission mapping.

2020 Hyundai Sonata The Sonata delivers a smooth ride and it has balanced handling.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Sonatas powered by the 1.6 go on sale soon now and will likely appeal to buyers looking for more vigorous turbo power; 2.5-liter models go on sale in December and will bring slightly better fuel economy. Available the spring, a hybrid version will attract city dwellers and others looking for more fuel-efficient driving.

Crafted with a "Beautifully Smart" theme, Sonata's interior has more premium materials and amenities than in its previous generation, such as available powered front leather seats, with heating and ventilation. A slimmed dashboard and recessed center stack keep driver attention on the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and the road ahead; a head up display adds safety and eyes-up ease.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all but base models.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

A wide-aspect ratio, split-10.25-inch infotainment touch screen integrates audio, video and optional navigation functions. Wireless charging speed has been boosted by 30 percent in the new model. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and three years of Blue Link connectivity are standard on all but the Sonata base model. A 12-speaker Bose Premium sound system is available.

The Sonata is spacious, especially its third row, and the available panoramic sunroof emphasizes that fact. The roomy trunk swallows gear and goods with ease.

Hyundai's standard Advanced Driver Assistance System bundles forward collision-avoidance assist, lane keeping and lane follow assist, driver attention warning, automatic high beam assist, forward collision avoidance, advanced smart and cruise control.

2020 Hyundai Sonata The Hyundai Sonata is filled with high-quality materials, especially in higher trim levels.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

A first-in-class remote parking assist feature maneuvers the Sonata into or out of parking spaces to load passengers or luggage. Accessed through the smart key, it allows the vehicle to move independently up to 30 feet.

On the surface, it is compelling. Sonata's standard equipment, quiet ride, good road manners, and innovative new features, along with competitive pricing, an industry-leading warranty, and high marks in J.D. Power's Initial Quality surveys give buyers a reason to take it for a test drive.

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The 2022 Lexus ES will debut next week.

Photo courtesy of Lexus

The meat and potatoes of the Lexus sedan lineup, the ES, is due for a refresh, and it will get one. The 2022 Lexus ES will be shown publicly for the first time this Sunday as part of the festivities of the Shanghai auto show.

While the photo doesn't tell a lot, there's some things you can bet on in the 2022 ES. For starters, look for all the improvements that the auto has gotten over the last two years to carry over into the new model. That includes the addition of all-wheel drive to the lineup and standard blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert.

The ES Black Line may not make its way to the 2022 version of the midsize sedan. Generally, blacked out editions are available only at the tail end of a model run ahead of a refresh or generational redesign. However, the blacked out elements could become available as part of a package.

The headlight photo that Lexus has offered as a teaser shows a housing that is not dissimilar to the one that the Lexus IS wears. However, the daytime running light is on the bottom here, instead off the top. Like the IS, there are strong hood lines.

At the back, the preview video shows a vehicle that is very similar to the current model. It's taillights, a strong chrome line that runs the width of the year, and rear lip spoiler all look mostly same as before.

As for what to expect underneath the body of the car, there's not a lot of indication from the teasers, which leads one to believe that's where the biggest changes are coming. There's a good chance that we'll finally say goodbye to the Lexus touch pad in favor of a touch screen display that's within a comfortable distance.

It's also likely that Lexus will fine tune the dynamics of the ES in a similar fashion to how the Lexus IS got more performance-focused driving dynamics in its latest redo.

Stay tuned for more specifics are the curtain is pulled back on April 19 in China (April 18 in the U.S.).

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The Hyundai Santa Cruz will debut next week but ahead of that, the design department is giving a closer look at the truck in a new video.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

We'll see the Hyundai Santa Cruz in full for the first time when it debuts on April 15 but ahead of time, Hyundai is setting the stage for expectations with the model. To help with that, the company released a video today featuring the truck's design manager discussing the inspiration for the utility vehicle.

The quick one-minute video is hosted by Brad Arnold, design manager at Hyundai North America. The Southern California native is the leader of the team that created the Santa Cruz, a project that began years ago. He's joined in the video by Senon Franco, the lead designer at Hyundai North America.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America
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As Arnold explains in the video, the design of the Santa Cruz started with a simple premise: "this is not a typical truck". Based on how Arnold describes the capabilities of the truck, that sounds true. It is meant to "thrive in dense urban environments and the open outdoors". One could argue that no full-size truck on the market today does that. Neither do most of the midsize models, though their sizing is better for that landscape.

Arnold says that the Santa Cruz is "small in size", a call that serves to remind viewers that the Santa Cruz isn't a big truck. It's more similar in size to the forthcoming Ford Maverick, a small truck that slots below the Ranger in Ford's lineup.

However, the company isn't even calling it a truck. The new model is being referred to as the Santa Cruz Sport Adventure Vehicle. This sounds a lot like how Kia is referring to the new generation of its Carnival minivan as a multi-purpose vehicle (MPV).

Arnold says that the design is meant to make the Santa Cruz not look like a truck. Rather, it's supposed to look "like a Santa Cruz". Part of that includes the front end, which looks like a carryover from the fascia of the 2022 Hyundai Tucson.

Among the other secrets Hyundai is giving away ahead of the product's reveal is that there will be more than one "efficient" powertrain, a flexible bed, "cutting-edge" connectivity, and all-wheel drive.

Watch the video for yourself below.

Design Inspiration | 2022 Santa Cruz | Hyundai www.youtube.com

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