2014 Hyundai Sonata 2.0 T Extended Drive

06.9.14

If you saw me around town last week I was driving a deep red Hyundai Sonata. It’s an attractive mid-sized sedan with distinctive swage line that adds the look of speed. It’s just a look though, the Sonata, though very perky, is not the car you’d be racing for pink slips at the bottom of the LA River.

You also wouldn’t want to be racing the Sonata at the bottom of the LA River because it’s a really fantastic vehicle that you wouldn’t want to abuse.

The 2014 Sonata that I drove was equipped with a 4 cylinder turbo engine. It was exceptionally perky at 274 hp and somewhere between 3,505 and 3,616 pounds curb weight. Getting on the freeway is a lot of fun and I was actually able to catch a break and the traffic allowed me to go around 85 mph where the ride remained smooth and quiet enough that I didn’t need to turn the radio up.

There is a tremendous amount of space in the rear seat so this is a great option as a family car. The fact that it has rear sear air vents and dual climate controls for the front means that everyone stands a pretty good chance of being comfortable (I say pretty good because my somehow family manages to freeze me out anyhow).

The Sonata is safe and affordable. When I’m looking at vehicles for the people I love safety always tops the list. It’s got an overall 5 star rating from NHTSA which is an incredible endorsement for a family car. There’s plenty of room for all, the rear seat is comfortable with our growing carpool (up to 5’10” this year!) and the trunk is enormous. The interior of the Sonata feels like a full sized vehicle even though you’re in a solidly midsized sedan.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Hyundai’s technology. The navigation system is intuitive and helpful, it’s easy to connect a phone and equally simple to switch between two phones. At $29,555 the car I drove came wonderfully equipped. In addition to all the safety standards like Advanced dual front airbags with Occupant Classification System (keeps airbags from deploying if you or your passenger doesn’t weigh enough), an energy absorbing steering column (you’ll want this if you’re in an accident), and remote keyless entry (my luxury car does not come with this) the Sonata also has options like the blind spot detection system, which I really appreciate.

The Sonata has two flaws that you might not notice on a test drive and it’s entirely possible that they won’t be problems for you. If you have a Sonata with a sunroof there’s a little blue LED light that faces toward the front of the vehicle. If, like me, you sit upright (as opposed to reclined) it’s possible that this light will shine in your eyes at night. Had I owned this vehicle I’d have put a little piece of electrical tape on it but it wasn’t mine so I just jammed a tissue in there so that I wasn’t distracted at night. It’s not insurmountable but it’s also not something you’d be aware during a daytime test drive.

The second problem is that I get in my car and drop my junk, there’s a lot of junk, on the center console. The Sonata has it’s seat warmers on the console and the buttons are really easy to press which means that more than once on a 100° day I’d be sitting in the car wondering why it was so damn hot. I suspect that this is something I’d get used to checking for. With my car the sport suspension button is in the same spot and I end up burning diesel sitting in LA traffic so this may be an issue for just me or this may be an issue you have as well.

2014 sonata dash

One thing that I’ve noticed about Hyundai (and I’ve noticed this because we just bought Jane a car and Hyundai was all over our list – including the Sonata) is that they haven’t really figured out how to lock buyers into leasing the way that some brands do. If you lease with them you are less likely to get stuck in a cycle of never-ending upgrades to the next vehicle where you’re factoring in your overages.

2014 sonata

14 hyundai sonata red

14 hyundai sonata side

A Little Bit of Information About Junkets

04.13.14

I only have a little information to share. In fact, what I know about junkets could fill a thimble so I’ll graciously share my thimble full of mom blogger automotive junket wisdom with you.

The reason I want to talk about the Mom Blogger Automotive relationship is that while sitting in a hotel room last night I popped into Facebook and three of my private groups were busy talking about an article on The Truth About Cars that “exposes” a mom blogger as being a marketing tool.

I’m not sure that this was the best instance of exposure. Bloggers of every type long ago agreed to be part of a marketing machine with sponsored posts (certainly I’ve done it) and accepting swag, experiences and/or trips. I’ve done that too.

What The Truth About Cars does very effectively is demonstrate to us all, readers and writers, that blogging and journalism are quite often at odds. I’m not a journalist. I’m prone to hyperbole, I leave out information that doesn’t suit my agenda and my writing likely has both Strunk and White spinning in their graves like rotisserie chickens. I’m a blogger and people come to be for one sided arguments, opportunities to feel better about their own parenting and some tips on spending too much money. If you want fact checking, verified sources and literacy may I recommend the New York Times?

I’m often invited on blogging trips. Some of them are tech related, some food, some automotive. I decline almost all of them because they’re disruptive to family life and the past 18 months have been busier than normal at Mr. G’s office. Periodically I say yes because the opportunity is too grand to miss. I traveled with Oprah Winfrey, with Go Pro and NASA Scientists, with multiple car companies and most recently (three hours ago) with Continental Tires.

Caroline at The Truth About Cars doesn’t see the value in having mom bloggers or lifestyle bloggers review cars. She said it a little differently:

However, the issue here isn’t Xenia in particular, or mommybloggers in general. It’s the total misunderstanding that car manufacturers seem to have about digital marketing and the blogosphere. It would be hard to think of a worse way for Honda to spend the money they spent on this event. Even if Xenia and every one of her commenters had immediately purchased a Fit as a consequence of reading her review, Honda would still have wound up in the hole. What percentage of readers of her blog, or any non-automotive blog, are in-market car shoppers?

Well, I’m not sure that’s the point. If the only people the automotive industry marketed to were in-market car shoppers we’d never see billboards, TV commercials or hear radio spots. Car shopping isn’t done impulsively (unless you’re me and I won’t be doing that again). Car shopping is something that happens over a period of years. You get your first HotWheel and you know that you’re either a Chevy or a Ford person. You don’t know why you know it to be true but it happens. You pick a team.

Think of Volvo. What’s that I hear? A safe boxy car? Absolutely true. To be fair for quite some time Acura had a full line up of 5 star safety rated vehicles. Acura isn’t the car we think of when we think safety. Why is that? It’s possible that Volvo’s marketing budget in years past wasn’t limited to the automotive enthusiasts or in-market audiences. If they listened to Caroline’s logic we’d only know that Volvo is boxy and ugly, not that they’re safe. There’s a slow drip of brand affinity that everyone embraces at some level. Even folks who take the train to the office.

Ford has many successful programs with influencers, most of whom are not part of the automotive industry. One look at the Fiesta Movement should make it clear that digital marketing isn’t only about in-market audiences and that as much as Caroline may be expert in many things automotive she is not expert in marketing. Which is fine, few people are (I certainly am not).

I love The Truth About Cars. I remember meeting a couple of guys from TTAC at the auto show sometime around 2009 and being captivated by their enthusiasm and knowledge. When they said the industry hated them they were proud. They should be. We need truth tellers in every industry.

My site is not an automotive site. I don’t even know what it is anymore. People call me a mom blogger but I’m not sure that I talk about parenting a whole lot these days. I don’t have an editorial calendar, I don’t do many giveaways, I haven’t blogged about my last three trips and I forget to use images because I don’t think in pictures. I do know that when my readers are buying a new car (or new to them) they email me for suggestions. They read and reread my reviews and then they revisit my advice on vehicle shopping.  I’ve had more than a few emails thanking me for my reviews. Men and women alike want to know about the experience of driving a car. The experience can be anything from having a lot of attention from rich people to getting snubbed by the valet. The experience of driving can be about a great navigation system, or a quiet cabin, the ability to get three car seats in the back or the strength of a rear seat air conditioner.

Driving experiences matter in languages other than those spoken in a pit. We all buy cars at some point.

Last weekend I was with Hyundai driving the 2015 Genesis. It wasn’t a mom blogger junket but it was a blogger junket. There were lots of tech and lifestyle bloggers and it was fairly evenly divided with men and women. Sites like TTAC would ask where the value is in the junkets and I would say that with a vehicle ready to hit the dealerships they were able to move nearly 100 reporters through their lineup in less than two weeks. With fleet deliveries a car is dropped off for a week at a time. They couldn’t possibly get that many folks in the 2015 Genesis in a good amount of time.

As to the tweeting and hashtags? Well here’s a snapshot of one day with the 2015 Genesis (which I’m not done talking about).

2015 genesis buzz words

During the course of one day of bloggers playing with their vehicles #NextGenesis was delivered to more than six million twitter timelines. See the full report here.

People will try to tell you that blogger trips are OMG SO MUCH WORK. Do not trust these people. OMG SO MUCH WORK is what you’ll hear me say after my 15 year old has had 6 friends spend the night and I’m mopping the floor at 11pm. OMG SO MUCH WORK is what my husband sometimes says after working an 80 hour week. OMG SO MUCH WORK does not apply to a blogger junket. Ever. If having a few days alone in a nice hotel feels like a burden then they’re too tender for this world.

What does become sticky is who pays for what. I think it’s perfectly fair that I show up for the two days with a stick of gum in my pocket and somewhere around $50 for tips. The brands will arrange car services and they need tipping as do bellmen and housekeeping. Other than that I’ve never been out of pocket and don’t expect to be. These aren’t trips I’d take on my own it’s fair for them to buy my meals and pay for my transportation.

Typically when I check in at the hotel I leave a credit card for incidentals. Last week at Hyundai they didn’t ask for a credit card so in addition to the airfare, room and board I am indebted to them for a Toblerone from the mini bar that I ate in a moment of weakness. This weekend Continental gave us $150 resort credit which I spent on a glass of wine, a cheese plate and an eye pillow. There was money left over and I was offered it as I left the hotel by a newish employee. It made me want to go back and pay for my own cheese, booze and pillow.

Does $65 worth of room service make me less of a journalist than Dan Neil? Nope, everything else makes me less of an automotive journalist than Dan Neil. I’m not an expert in cars. I don’t have expertise writing. My expertise is limited to this blog. To writing about things I love (and things I don’t love, okay, hate), sharing experiences with you and periodically a recommendation. I have never worked with an automotive company and it’s probably the only industry where I will not accept a sponsored post. I love getting press fleet cars and I don’t have any affinity for one brand over another. I love Ford and Chevy (though Chevy’s not doing the right thing at the moment). I don’t want to endorse a car, a tire, a muffler or an aftermarket add on. I want to offer them to you as things I’ve tried and liked, disliked or found a useful.

The truth is that junkets make sense and not every blogger is the blogger you’re interested in listening to but when you’ve found a voice you trust it’s nice to hear what they think about a car.

Of note: if Xenia was befuddled by the Engine Start/Stop Button some of her readers might be too. Befuddlement has it’s place in blogging.

Women Don’t Care About Horsepower and Other Myths

03.19.14

Every so often an event rolls through town that captures one or more of my passions. I have to be passionate to leave the house on a school night. If I’m going to be honest about my default refusal to leave the house it’s actually because the kids and Mr. G are trapped here by homework and early wake ups. I don’t want to miss a night of the four of us being together. Friday, Saturday or Sunday? They’re mostly busy with friends and things I’m like a rat on a sinking ship, invite me anywhere and I’ll go.

Recently there was an event that combined the automotive industry and social media. Two passions under one roof, I’m all in and I loved the first hour.

Then a marketing executive dropped a nuclear bomb.

“Women don’t care about horsepower. Even the ladies in the office don’t care. All they want is luxury inside the vehicle.”

What. The. Fuck.

Coincidentally this message was delivered by the whitest most middle aged Murican man I’d set eyes on in a long time.

At first I thought I’d heard wrong. Maybe I spend too much time reading Ms Magazine and attending women’s events. Maybe I have a build up of salt in my ears from afternoons in the pool? I looked at the women next to me and the full row of women behind me and asked, “Did he just say that?” And everyone nodded with grim faces.

Because with one sentence an automotive executive dismissed us all. The saddest part is that not one person there corrected him. Including the woman sitting next to him.

Maybe it’s true that women don’t want to talk about horsepower, balancing or torque but it’s undeniable that women care about these things and from a marketing standpoint it should be terrifying to shareholders that top level brass doesn’t understand his customer.

You see, a group of women won’t sit around talking about horsepower but they will talk about how fast their vehicles are. They won’t talk about chassis balancing but if they test drive a minivan and it “feels tippy” no one’s buying that thing because we all want to be safe. Many of my friends tune out when you talk about torque but they all want to know how long it takes a car to go from 35 to 70 on the off chance that the 405 won’t have traffic. The terminology may be different but the discussion is the same. Everyone likes a car with (at a minimum) adequate power.

Women are having these discussions. They’re just having them differently and car companies would be wise to learn how to listen.

According to Forbes women influence 85% of the car purchases in America. How many car purchases does the automotive enthusiast community influence?

2014 Hyundai Equus Signature: Obscene Luxury

03.11.14

I’d asked the folks at Hyundai if I could please drive the Equus. I’d heard rumors of a fully reclining passenger seat complete with massages, reclining rear seats, a spacious cabin, wood trim and heated steering wheels. I about kicked my heels up when the car arrived and there were no disappointments. I spent a week in the Signature package

Here’s the thing about loving the Equus. Until yesterday (days after the Equus had left my house) I hadn’t read any reviews of it from the automotive magazines. I seldom do because I want to have my own experience, and in this instance that was unquestionably the right decision.

I enjoy the Hyundai brand. My last car was a Japanese car and I was content with the handling. Although Hyundai is a Korean brand it compares most easily with the Japanese car companies Honda, Mazda Toyota and Nissan. Much like their Japanese counterparts Hyundais have a loose suspension and driving them won’t feel like a Mercedes or BMW so if you hop into a $61,000 Equus and expect it to feel like a $61,000 Mercedes Benz then your world will be full of sadness.

With that being said, if you hop into a $61,000 Equus and expect it to feel like a Hyundai you’re going to be having a party in a pretty swanky cabin. Let me explain why.

There is wood all over the Equus. The dashboard and steering wheel are richly appointed (as they should be at this price point) and all four doors feature wood trim. In addition to the expected the Equus delivers on the unexpected. The rear seat armrest opens up to reveal climate control and entertainment control for the rear seat passengers, naturally there’s wood inlay there too. There’s a warmth to the wood that reminds you that you are now driving a luxury vehicle.

The Equus blows away the competition with heating and cooling (forgive the pun). Front seats are heated and cooled, the steering wheel is heated, the rear seats are heated and most impressively there are three air vents in the back seat that operate independently of the front. In fact, the Equus has three zone climate control with one for the driver, one for the passenger and another for the rear seat. We had the vehicle for a couple of 90 degree days and for the first time ever (in a sedan) my kids were able to cool the rear seats without freezing me out. The only oddity is that the steering wheel is only heated at 8 o’clock and 4 o’clock where there’s leather and your hands should not be resting – 9 and 3 is fine for me.

There are details in the Eqqus that I’d not previously seen in any vehicle under $100,000. The driver’s seat cushion extends. Since this vehicle is large (quite a bit larger than a 7 series BMW or an S Class) my long legged friends will appreciate not feeling like they’re in a seat that’s quite simply too small for them. Conversely the car also fits someone like me who is neither tall nor short and doesn’t want to feel like Goldilocks sitting in Papa Bear’s chair.

The car is long enough to be used for car service and I think that with that in mind you’re able to control the front passenger seat from the driver’s seat. If, like me, you have a car full of kids in the back this is a fantastic feature.

hyundai equus 2014

The rear seats also recline. Since my chauffeur had the week off I had to rely on the kids and they assure me that this is wonderful.

When the Equus arrived my friends started coming over and I popped by Marsha and Curt to give Curt a little test drive. Fortunately for me I have friends in social media and they immediately said, “Oh my god the trunk is huge.” And hopped in.

And for added perspective here’s the trunk with some groceries. The flash from my camera doesn’t light up enough to show you the depth of the trunk. Moms like me who never want to own an SUV again can easily take a road trip with a family of four and not worry one bit about packing light. Packing light is for suckers.

equus trunk 2014

The Equus is a sturdy car and like any luxury vehicle you’re encapsulated in quiet but unlike the others there’s a 17 speaker sound system. When I checked the window sticker I thought it was overkill, when I listened to my music I thought it was brilliant. The romance for me was in the details. I love that when you lock the Equus the mirrors fold up. I’m never really sure if my car is locked and I certainly never take the time (okay a few seconds really) to fold my mirrors in, but this little luxury delighted me. When you approach the car holding your fob the side view mirrors return to their driving position. Joy.

Much like the car I currently drive the Equus has a sunshade for the rear window. Unlike any other vehicle I’ve driven that sunshade automatically lowers when you put the car in reverse and then raises again when you’re in drive. At first I loved it and thought it was a luxury feature and then when I switched back to my own car I saw how it’s a safety feature and was more than a little bugged that every car doesn’t have this.

As I’ve stated a million times before I love the Hyundai driver’s interface. It’s easy and intuitive and it streams my apps nicely. I much prefer Sirus radio on my phone to Sirius radio in a car because I can pause and rewind. Streaming through the Hyundai bluetooth system was flawless though I wasn’t able to accomplish the same with the USB connection.

Let’s talk performance. As I’d stated before the Equus drives more like a Japanese car than like a German or American vehicle. So with that in mind it performed well. With 429 horsepower in a V8 engine it’s certainly got plenty of power. The paddle shifting is fun but nothing is ever as fun as a manual transmission (how else could you get me to love a 100 hp Mazda 2?). The Equus corners like a champ and brakes on a dime. I raced every 17-year-old boy I could off the red light and it’s fast but there’s something about it that will never feel fast. Maybe it’s because the steering and suspension aren’t tight? Maybe it’s because the cabin is quiet or perhaps because the muffler actually works? It just doesn’t feel like a fast car and that’s not a bad thing. It’s just a thing.

The Equus is sensible and luxurious and we also noticed that people were really nice to us when we drove it. It’s missing some of the douche factor I suppose. That can only be a good thing.

2014 equus 2014 equus rear

This is Why UBER Should be on Every Kid’s Smart Phone

07.29.13

I’m at a party with my friend Laurie and we’re talking to this really nice guy who has a seven month old daughter. I’m typically really cautious when I talk to new parents because I don’t want to scare them. Especially Dads. Especially the Dads of daughters.

We totally failed when I started talking to Laurie about how unpanicked I am about leaving Jane to wander Century City with her friends. “She has Uber.” I said. And sort of shrugged.

Then Laurie and I started talking about why every kid should have Uber on their phone and when we got to the part about being a teenager and on occasion not wanting to get into a car with a Dad who plays grab-ass the new Dad looked at us with horror in his eyes. Even though 100% of the adult women at the party sort of nodded and knew what that felt like I was all, “Oh but times have changed. I’m sure it will never be an issue.”

Because ya know… new parents… sometimes you’ve got to lie to them.

Laurie was insistent that I’ve got to blog about it so, here’s how I use Uber with my kids.

I’ve installed the app on Jane’s phone because she’s out and about with her friends both during the day and at night. She also goes to parties and not all of them are with close friends. I’ve told her that she should use Uber to get herself home if she is ever uncomfortable getting into a car with anyone for any reason. Some of the reasons I’ve talked to her about are parents who have been drinking, parents who make her uncomfortable (and there doesn’t have to be a name for the discomfort), teenagers who make her uncomfortable (same thing, no reason needed) or if there’s anyplace she wants to leave and she doesn’t want me picking her up.

I’ve told Jane, and I will honor this, that if she gets herself home with Uber from a sticky situation at noon or at 2am there will not be any negative consequences. She won’t be in trouble for going to a party with alcohol or drugs. She won’t be in trouble for being out with friends. She will never be punished for getting herself home safely.

I’ve decided to give the kids Uber for a variety of reasons. Each and every reason in it’s essence is because I love my children.

When I met the Push Girls last year I noted that four of the five women I met were in wheelchairs because of car accidents. The accidents were all excessive speed or alcohol fueled. If a smart phone app can get my child home without risking dangerous driving conditions I’d be a fool to not use it.

Parents of teens: I’m going to ask you to do something we should all do at least once a day. I want you to be still and quiet and try to remember being 14 or even 17. Now put yourself at your friend’s house and their parents have just left. All of a sudden 5 other kids appear and they’re thinking about drinking a beer and smoking some pot. What does the 14 year old you do?

The only answer I have is that I know the 14 year old you doesn’t call Mommy for a ride home.

Now imagine the same scenario. The 14 year old you pulls out a smart phone (it’s probably already out) and texts for a town car. 14 year old you can hop into the back seat of a limo and get home. My credit card information is already stored in the app, no money changes hands and your private driver gets you home.

Boom. Done. Decision made.

Taxis in Los Angeles are filthy, dangerous and unreliable. Public transportation is something we struggle with and is only marginally safe. Plus there could be walks of up to a mile, kids can’t do that when they’re already feeling unsure. Los Angeles is not the worst city for public transportation but it’s close.

I’m totally okay with UberX and I’ve loved my drivers but I’ve asked my kids to use a black car first. I’d rather have a professional driver with them but if there’s an exceedingly long wait they should use UberX. With little kids I like that extra level of vetting but at the end of the day UberX would probably be just fine.

Thus far Jane’s only used Uber with friends during a scavenger hunt (long Hollywood story). I wasn’t exactly thrilled but part of me is delighted that she and her friends can get themselves around town and have experienced the app without me.

Remember when you’d go out and your parents wanted to be sure that you had $20 on hand to not spend, it was just in case money? Well, this is the just in case app and I think it’s brilliant.

If you haven’t signed up for Uber you can use my link here to get a $10 credit.

Uber ratings safety

This is my Uber account history