Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd.'s brilliant Tau V-8 checks off all the boxes you need for a premium V-8, including power, efficiency and refinement. It also adds another key feature: value.
In a car that starts around $40,000, the Tau offers the smoothness, creamy torque delivery and authoritative exhaust note you expect from an engine in a car priced well above our price cap of $54,000.
And yet, unlike most snooty premium V-8s, the Tau deigns to burn regular gasoline without complaint, at a sacrifice of about 7 hp and 9 lb.-ft. (12 Nm) of torque.
“I was tremendously pleased with this engine. Great package. Great value,” says Associate Editor James Amend.
Jurors thoroughly enjoyed the transmission tweaks Hyundai introduced this year that create a bit more sporty driving character and further encourage runs up and down the 4.6L's generous power band.
They reserved their highest praise for the engine's refinement. The intense engineering focus on noise, vibration and harshness, and reducing friction and mass, seems evident with every spin of the crankshaft.
With specific output of 84 hp/L, the Tau easily bests most naturally aspirated V-8s found in much more expensive German and Japanese luxury cars, as well as big American bruisers such as Chrysler Group LLC's 5.7L Hemi V-8.
And, just to underscore their refusal to be complacent, Hyundai powertrain engineers added another 10 hp for the '10 model year, bringing total output to 385 hp.
Despite its power, the Tau also delivers excellent fuel economy, considering the size and weight of the Genesis sedan: 17/25 mpg (13.8-9.4 L/100 km).
This engine also was designed from the get-go to be upgradable. It already has technological goodies such as a 2-step variable induction system and dual continuously variable valve timing. Direct injection, variable valve lift and cylinder deactivation all are expected to be added in the future to further increase output and efficiency.
A 5.0L version went into production last June alongside the 4.6L in Ulsan, South Korea. It powers Hyundai's new Equus luxury flagship introduced in South Korea last year. The car is based on the Genesis platform, and will be sold around the world, including Europe, China and the U.S.
But make no mistake, the Tau is not designed just to be some hoity-toity, low-volume luxury V-8. It's ready to do blue-collar work as well.
It is a member of a growing engine family based on the same architecture that includes a 4.6L version currently in the Kia Borrego SUV. A larger 5.5L is waiting in the wings for a possible truck application.
A supercharged 450-hp variant of the 4.6L also has been developed for performance applications.
HYUNDAI MOTOR CO. LTD.: 4.6L DOHC V-8
Engine type: 4.6L Tau 90° DOHC V-8
Displacement (cc): 4,627
Block/head material: aluminum/aluminum
Bore × stroke (mm): 92 × 87
Horsepower (SAE net): 385 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 333 lb.-ft. (451 Nm) @ 3,500 rpm
Specific output: 84 hp/L
Compression ratio: 10.4:1
Assembly site: Ulsan, South Korea
Application tested: '10 Hyundai Genesis
EPA city/highway (mpg): 17/25