Star of this week's ninth-annual Hyundai- Kia International Powertrain Conference was Hyundai's new -- and first-ever -- gasoline direct-injected (GDI) engine. Starting early next year, this comprehensively redesigned version of the existing "Theta II" 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder will effectively replace the 3.3-liter V6 and become the top-line motivator for the new, U.S.-built 2011 Sonata sedan. Beyond that, Hyundai plans to incorporate this high-efficiency technology into all of its upcoming gasoline engines as part of its oft-stated goal to become the world leader in automotive fuel efficiency. Hyundai spent nearly $150 million and four years of development time to ensure that its GDI package delivers more of everything that counts. In Korean spec, the new Theta II GDI makes 198 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft of torque compared to the 175/168 stats of its port-injected 2.4-liter cousin that serves as the base engine in the current Sonata. It also tops GM's 2.4-liter direct-injected Ecotec four, which makes 182 horses and 174 lb.-ft of twist. In addition to meeting stringent ULEV-2 and PZEV emissions standards, Hyundai says the new Theta II will get up to 10 percent better fuel economy than a comparable port-injected 2.4-liter while developing seven percent more low-end torque and realizing a 12 percent bump at higher revs. While GDI's inherent charge-cooling capabilities did permit the move to a significantly higher 11.3:1 compression ratio, Hyundai engineers also introduced a host of other efficiency-boosting elements to the mix including a new tri-stage induction system, continuously variable timing on both the intake and exhaust valves, oil-cooled pistons and several design tweaks that help reduce internal friction.
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