An Arizona test drive for East Coast visitors like myself is always a welcoming reception during the winter Holiday season. Add in drive time behind the wheel of one of Hyundai’s new and innovative automobiles to navigate through town in, and the ante is upped trifold. Yes, the FWD 2020 Hyundai Sonata is smarter, assertive, and far more stunning than the model it replaces.

Lining up alongside the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Nissan Altima in competition, the Sonata is better suited to draw attention with its modern looks in addition to the value it has offered for so long. Hyundai lowered and widened the vehicle, increased its wheelbase, enlarged the wheel wells, enhanced the aerodynamics, and shortened the overhangs for an aggressive 3-dimensional look. But the main design focus was centered on the front fascia, which leaves the strongest impression on viewers. And one of the cooler features is the “Vortex Generators” atop the LED boomerang taillights, which reduces air turbulence along with the integrated trunk lip. These divots act as a spoiler to stabilize the Sonata at higher speeds.

Originally shown at the 2019 Miami International Auto Show back in September, the 8th-generation Sonata — Hyundai’s longest-standing and most successful model — is the first of the family’s sedans to integrate Hyundai’s Sensuous Sportiness design language. The company borrowed some of the styling cues of the 2011 Sonata model, since that left a good imprint on customers, and elevated the vehicle’s craftsmanship for today’s expectations. With a long body, athletic side profile, and bigger, sleeker wheels, the edgy silhouette emphasizes a sporty Korean sedan with proportion characteristics of what you might see in 4-door coupes. Its elongated snout smiles with Hyundai’s indomitable grille and is highlighted by sexy DLRs that connect to a light strip up the side of the hood. Moreover, the taillamps feature a unified integration of lighting in the form of a connecting light bar. Pretty sassy!

For “The Grand Canyon State” on-road experience, my drive partner and I picked out a Calypso Red Sonata Limited with 18″ alloys and the upgraded Smartstream 1.6-liter Turbo Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) 4-cylinder with 180-horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. The Turbo GDI is paired with an 8-speed Smartstream automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC, paddle shifters, and Drive Mode Select. These four drive modes (Smart, Normal, Sport, Custom) let you choose the vehicle’s mannerisms such as “Smart,” which adapts to both the road and driving style, whether aggressive or smooth. However, I would have liked stronger acceleration from this package. Hyundai’s 2.5-liter with 191-horsepower represents as the Sonata’s base engine. Also, dual tailpipes are shifted to the right, whereas a split design would give the vehicle’s rear a more prolific look.

Hyundai says the interior was inspired by the unmatched sophistication of the legendary B-2 stealth bomber. The Korean sedan’s cabin is all-new with a full digital cluster display, detailed Head Up Display, mood lighting, and a unique armrest/door handle for closing the door from various hand locations. It also doubles as a wallet or phone holder. The speedometer and tachometer change from digital gauges to video images when you actuate the turn signals. This technology was first applied to Hyundai’s innovative 2020 Palisade SUV. For the price point, the amount of active technology Hyundai instilled in the new Sonata is definitely incredible. More importantly, Hyundai SmartSense Safety offers up protection systems like Blind Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist with Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist for better peace of mind behind the wheel.

The cabin is comfortable, sizeable, and full of amenities. A quick retracting panoramic moonroof, wireless device charging, fancy center stack with a 10.25” touchscreen navigation, dual automatic climate control, a 12.3” digital instrument cluster, 12-speaker Bose Centerpoint premium audio system, and Surround View Monitor are just a few of the sedan’s keystones. Coming back down to earth, the steering column adjuster is manual, not power. Another tech bonus is Remote Smart Parking Assist (RSPA), which converts the Sonata’s key fob into a remote control. RSPA lets the driver operate the vehicle forward or backward while standing on the outside and could be helpful when there is a need to back the car into a tight spot. However, I wouldn’t want someone to bang my door with their door, so I would never park in a tight spot.

Hyundai is also touting Hyundai Digital Key (using Near Field Communication technology), which is a smartphone app that doubles as a cyber key. Owners can lock and unlock the vehicle, activate the panic alert, or start the engine. You can also offer family or friends access to specific elements of the car, such as particular driving time allotment or entry into the trunk only.

Pricing for the 2020 Sonata starts at $23,400 for a well-furnished SE, $25,500 for the SEL, and $33,300 for the top-of-the-line Limited model. But if you want more pizzazz in your Sonata, then go for the Sonata N Line that provides a better suspension, steering, braking, and flashier looks. Bigger 19” rims with either 245/45/R19 Continental or Pirelli tires, quad exhaust tips, a 290-horsepower, 2.5-liter turbo GDI, and an 8-speed wet dual-clutch transmission are some of the benefits of this import tuner. The steering wheel is sportier, and the performance seats are firmer. Trust me; it moves like Bronny James on fast breaks!

“With the 2020 Sonata, our focus was a no-compromise innovation approach allowing Sonata owners to have great style, comfort, technology, and safety. This focus led to a set of attributes not seen in the midsize car category – attributes such as four-door-coupe looks, 32 mpg, phone as a key technology, standard smart cruise control, and a class-leading value position,” said Mike O’Brien, vice president, product, corporate and digital planning, Hyundai Motor America.