In September 2000, Hyundai took a chance and
offered buyers its first $25,000 vehicle. The midsized XG300 sedan came with a 3.0-liter
V6 under the hood and an interior full of luxury car features. Having succeeded beyond
corporate expectations, the revised XG350 arrived for the 2002 model year. The new number
indicated a welcome jump to 3.5 liters of engine displacement.
Subsequent model years have added more content, and 2004 brings new
styling front and rear. The nose receives a new grille with 23 vertical vanes, new
headlamps, projector fog lights, and a sporty air dam. The tail gets a tweak in the
lights, decklid, and bumper, and even the center-mounted third brake light gets switched
from a bulb to an LED.
The XG comes in two models, XG350 and XG350L. Every XG350 has a long
list of standard equipment, including cruise control, fully automatic air conditioning,
automatic-on headlights, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, and even some
surprising items like rear seat reading lamps, an illuminated ignition keyhole, and the
Homelink system. This is no pretend luxury sedan.
The L model (L stands for luxury) adds a power moonroof, heated
seats with memory, leather-wrapped steering wheel with woodgrain inserts, and a premium
sound system. It also includes bonus items like 12-spoke alloy wheels, and external
mirrors with memory that tilt down when reverse is engaged to let you protect those pretty
wheels from nasty curbs.
My Celadon Green tester was the L model, with an 8-disk CD changer
($500) as the only option. Like other Hyundais, its styling isn't drop-dead
gorgeous, but every line looks well thought out and references other respected luxury
vehicles. The overall proportions are of a previous generation Lexus, with the upright
chrome grille of a Lincoln above a German-looking front airdam. There is even a bit of
Rolls Royce in the elegantly proportioned trunk and taillamps.
Inside, a clean, but slightly dated dashboard wears what appears to
be wood burl trim. It is a fairly faithful copy of what you might find in a $70,000
Jaguar, but its just this side of real looking. But there is quite a bit of it. The
overall layout is neat, and the materials are of good quality and seem to be carefully
assembled. A handsome metallic logo in the center of the steering wheel and some chrome
trim contrast attractively with the pseudo woodgrain and real leather. The seats are well
proportioned and fairly firm. The Infinity audio system pours out quality sound.
The 3.5-liter V6 pumps out 194 horsepower and 216 lb.-ft. of torque,
which is enough to push the car down the interstate in a hurry. The XG350L earns 17 city,
26 highway fuel mileage. The five-speed Shiftronic automatic has enough gears to shift up
smoothly, and being fully adaptive, it learns your driving style. If you want to control
the shift points manually, you can push the lever to the other gate and select ratios to
your liking. One surprise is the interior quietness, which is an essential in a luxury
The XG350Ls quiet cruising and smooth ride owe something to an
independent double-wishbone front suspension with anti-roll bar, as well as a multi-link
rear suspension and nitrogen gas-filled shocks all around. I didnt push the XG too
hard, but it never felt overmatched in town or in the rush of freeway commuting.
Hyundai enhanced the brakes for 2004, with front rotors growing from
10.9 inches to 12.1 inches in diameter. The car has standard four-wheel, four-sensor,
four-channel anti-locking as well as Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD). EBD
increases the performance of the rear brakes by balancing the force of braking depending
on weight and vehicle load.
My tester, with the aforementioned CD changer, came to $26,099. At
that price, you can get many well-equipped midsize sedans, but not with all the luxuries
and amenities the Hyundai possesses. And this car, like other Hyundais, enjoys a
10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile new vehicle warranty
with free roadside assistance.
Naturally, some things have to be restrained to meet the price
point. The woodgrain is simply not the same as the tree-based kind. The heated seats
provide only one level of adjustment. The trip information system display does not divulge
average fuel mileage.
Hyundai is growing substantially every year in the United States by
providing value to its customers. From the Accent to the Santa Fe to the XG350L, the
company delivers what people want for a price they can afford.