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|Spied: 2011/2012 Hyundai Sonata Blue Drive Hybrid|
|Written by Rich Truesdell|
|Friday, 31 July 2009 12:52|
Surrounded by a Toyota Camry Hybrid, a Nissan Altima Hybrid, and with a Ford Fusion Hybrid across the parking lot, this time there's no doubt we encountered the 2011/2012 Hyundai Sonata Blue Drive Hybrid
Last week, when we encountered an unattended Hyundai Sonata prototype we though we had stumbled upon a prototype of Hyundai's mid-sized Sonata Blue Drive. While it was an educated guess, based on what we already knew of Hyundai's hybrid plans, we think we were about one week premature as our analysis indicated that from the high level of trim, and the fact that the interior didn't show any indication of a hybrid-only status gauge, we determined that it was a V6 Limited in very near production specification. But today our initial analysis was proved correct when we encountered two Hyundai Sonata Blue Drive prototypes along with competitive models from Toyota, Nissan, and Ford, along with two dozen engineers who had stopped, en masse, for lunch. Based on past confrontations, especially three weeks ago, we kept a respectful distance from the vehicles and engineers, especially since we had so completely documented the the V6 Limited model last week. See that report for additional details on Hyundai' short- and long-term hybrid product plans.
The giveaway here? First, it's parked next to the Nissan Altima Hybrid sedan, one of the three cars that they are obviously benchmarking the Sonata against. But more telling is the fact that there appears to be only a single exhaust peeking out behind the rear fascia on the right side indicating a four-cylinder rather than a V6, as was seen on the Sonata Limited V6 we photographed last week. The other clue is the fact that this car, unlike the Limited, is shod with Kuhmo Solus KH25 205/65R16 low rolling resistance tires with a narrower cross section mounted on 16 rather thana 17-inch wheels..
Given that these Blue Drive prototypes are wearing even less camo than the previously photographed test prototypes, especially around the C-pillar, should we assume that they will be introduced at the same time--possibly next fall--as their gasoline-only powered counterparts? Not likely as premium spin-off models are usually introduced at least six months after the mainstream models are introduced. Knowing how these things tend to work, we expect that Hyundai will make a big splash at next January's North American Automobile Show in Detroit with limited first customer deliveries next spring. We might be wrong but with such revolutionary technology we think that Hyundai and LG Chem's engineering teams will want one last opportunity to test production-spec batteries in cold weather climes this winter. This extra level of testing, under extremely adverse cold weather conditions that will give them one last opportunity to test the batteries under conditions, 20 degrees or more below zero, that all but a few of their potential customers will encounter.
For even higher resolution views of the 2011 Hyundai Sonata Blue Drive prototypes, visit the Automotive Traveler image gallery.