How far can you drive on just $50? Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG - Dec. 8, 2014 2015 Hyundai Sonata ECO - $24,210 to start incl. D&H and EPA rated at 28/38 mpgUS city/highway. Today's ride is the full size Hyundai Sonata ECO on the $50 Planes, Trains and Automobiles Challenge I have been posting about lately. What is unique about the 2015 Sonata ECO is the 3 mpg higher city and 1 mpg higher highway rating over the base 2.4L. This is due in part to the inclusion of a 177 HP and 195 lb-ft of torque direct injected and turbocharged 1.6L I4. A slicker Cd of just 0.27 also helps along with lower RRc tires. No loss in performance and a nice uptick in both efficiency and range. When I say large car, the all-new Sonata is significantly larger than every midsize most compare it to with 122.4 cu.ft. of total volume. Its 106.1 cu. ft of passenger volume is larger than the large Impala and Avalon yet is far more affordable. Knock off almost $10k when similarly equipped. Full Sized Automobiles - Competitive Comparison Column1Column2Column3Column4Column5Column6Column7Column8Column9Column10Column11Column12Column13YearMakeModelTrimInt. Vol. (cu. ft.)Cargo Vol. (cu.ft)EngineTransmissionHPWeightPower/wt (hp/lb)Fuel Economy (city/highway/combined)Price2015HyundaiSonataECO18.104.22.168L I47-Speed DSG1773,250.05428/38/32$28,310*2015Chrysler300S106.316.33.6L V68-Speed AT3004,029.07419/31/24$35,390**2015ToyotaAvalonXLE Prem102.316.03.5L V66-Speed AT2683,461.07721/31/24$36,030***2015ChevroletImpala1LTZ105.018.82.5L I46-Speed AT196 3,730.05322/31/25$36,7202015FordTaurusLimited22.214.171.124L V66-Speed AT2883,917.07419/29/23$38,175**** * With Tech Package incl. basic Active Safety BSD and RCTA. ** Estimated price from 2014 build. *** Incl. power sunroof. **** Incl. basic Active Safety BLIS and RCTA. All the above equipped with Leather, NAVI, proximity key and high end stereo. 2015 Hyundai Sonata ECO Segment leading interior! Except for the Avalon Hybrid, none of those competitors comes close to what the ECO has to offer. That is one large trunk! With the new model arrives with well-tuned struts up front and independent multi-link out back. It rides flatter without the bottoming suspension of its predecessor and even has a little more road feel. 2015 Sonata ECO from the backside. At the short lead earlier this year, Hyundai brought an early prototype. This is the final variant and the 7-speed DSG torque holes have been filled while not losing the responsiveness one might have expected. In addition, the pre-production prototype had the injector tick at idle like most DI drivetrains coming through the firewall. This is far more refined and quieter to boot. A little about infotainment. It already includes the full BlueLink suite. Apple's CarPlay - The 2014 LA Auto Shows Best in Show Was Not a Car - and Android Auto is just around the corner. Siri control that works will soon be the order if the day. And our reason to drive this beauty? With gas prices what they are today, you can drive solo or with a full sized family in comfort for a lot less than you can fly, take a train, or bus on a local or distant vacation. The $50 Challenge Hah? Well here are some personal goals I laid out for this drive with the Sonata ECO leading the way. Goal #1: Detroit (actually Toledo) to New Orleans without refueling. Preliminary distance is 1,007 + actual miles with no detours. I have some cool detours planned too. Goal #2: Drive the distance on < $50.00 in fuel. By comparison, 3 weeks ago I looked up what it would cost to fly from Detroit to New Orleans on Dec. 8th. and it was something like $275. From the New Orleans airport a rental car cost $65 IIRC totaling $340. A single train ticket from Detroit to New Orleans is in the $100+ range. It cost me $40.75 to ride a local Metra train from Waukegan, IL to Chicago and an Amtrak from Chicago to Ann Arbor this morning. A Greyhound bus ticket is about the same if you can stand to sit/live on a bus for > 24 hours straight. Trust me, been there and done that. It sucks. An airplane? Not so convenient and expensive for one let alone a family. Plus renting a car with all three approaches when you get to New Orleans! Metra – Waukegan IL to Chicago $6.75 to ride 40 miles. Amtrak – Chicago to Ann Arbor, MI. Chicago’s Union Station Celebrates 100 Years of Wrigley Field! Anyone remember the Untouchable shootout at Chicago’s Union Station? It happened here. Chicago’s Union Station - To the Trains! All Aboard! - $34.00 to ride 243 miles. So whatever that difference is between how far I can drive on $50 in fuel and the plane ticket plus rental is going to go to the Hyundai Hope on Wheels charity. They provide funds for Children's Cancer Research. Early funding helped my youngest survive when he was diagnosed a little over a decade ago. He graduated from college last year and is in a Master’s program today thanks to research to cure him of this dreadful disease. Hopefully others will benefit in the sane fortunate way that the Gerdes family did. Hyundai Hope on Wheels The first 45 miles with 7 local/suburban and 38 all highway miles allowed over 53 mpg displayed with the 18.5 gal. rated tank - suspect 20.0 actual since she took 1.9 gal. after first click to top off - the Sonata ECO may have 1,000 miles of range in her. This is hopefully enough to cover the distance for < $50 in fuel. Toledo, OH Shell $0.03 rewards card knocked that $2.40 down to just $2.37/gallon. She’s topped off and tank seal applied. Enough of my ramblings, it is New Orleans or bust starting in just a few minutes. And a little trip over to Montgomery, AL to visit the Sonata/Elantra manufacturing facility. And then to Washington DC where journalists from the East Coast will be able to experience what the 2015 Hyundai Sonata ECO has to offer as well. Besides the $23,275 MSRP, this ECO includes the Tech package ($4,100) incl. leather all-around, proximity key, proximity trunk, dual auto climate, heated seats, 8" touch screen with NAVI, high end audio, auto dimming rear view with compass and home link. Add mats ($125), net ($90), cargo tray ($110), First Aid ($30), and wheel locks ($55) + D&H if $810, she lists for $28,560. Discounts abound too! As in $2k on the hood and another $1k + from the dealerships. She's topped off - $2.37 per with my Fuel Rewards Network card, the tank is sealed, the displays are reset and it's time to roll. PS: What does Rockets have to do with the 2015 Hyundai Sonata ECO drive? Stay tuned. Plus a lot of other cool things along the way.