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First drive: Grandeur things for Hyundai

Grander: Hyundai's new TG Grandeur goes on sale here next year.

Hyundai’s redesigned prestige sedan gets serious as it chases quality and respect

5 May 2005

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in SEOUL

HYUNDAI Motor Company Australia will give its Grandeur another go.

Due in the second quarter of next year, the all-new TG series is the fourth to wear the name but only the second to reach Australia.

Production for the front-wheel drive TG Grandeur commences in June at the company’s Asan plant near Seoul, alongside the new NF Sonata that it is loosely based on.

Australian Grandeur models are likely to use a 3.8-litre version of Hyundai’s all-new Lambda twin-cam V6, rather than the Sonata’s 171kW 3.3.

Equipped with Continuous Variable Valve Timing (CVVT in HMC-speak) it generates 195kW of power at 6000rpm and around 350Nm of torque at 4500rpm. A five-speed Tiptronic-style auto is the only gearbox on offer.

Suspension is by independent double wishbones and coils up front and a rear multi-link arrangement, complete with anti-roll bars.

Standard equipment will include climate control air-conditioning, keyless entry, high-end CD/MP3 audio, leather upholstery, power windows, alloy wheels and possibly an electric sunroof.

Electronic Stability Control with Traction Control System (TCS) and ABS, active front head restraints and eight airbags make up the Grandeur’s safety kit.

Being a year away, pricing and marketing projections are still too early to ascertain, although a high-$30s opener is expected.

The previous Grandeur – available from September 1999 to January 2004 – was poorly received by both the public and the press.

Only 4800 units were sold during that period. The Grandeur’s best year was in 2000 when 1970 found homes. In its final full year Hyundai only managed to shift 75.

According to HMCA spokesman Richard Power, Hyundai head office in South Korea failed to recognise the differing needs of drivers worldwide.

The XG model only offered the one, softly biased suspension that generally had more appeal to Asian and US buyers, but was far too pillowy for Australian and European tastes.

Now there are two suspension settings – domestic (ie: Korean), for American market models, and European. The latter features firmer suspension and weightier steering for considerably improved body control.

Despite the difficulties of the previous car, the TG will most likely carry on the Grandeur name despite its less-than-stellar reputation.

In America the TG is tagged Azera. Over here HMCA foresees a fight with Toyota as it uses the phonetically similar ‘Azura’ moniker on some models.

DRIVE IMPRESSIONS:

HE was probably the last person I expected to be pouring all over the new Hyundai Grandeur with a camera in one hand and an interpreter by his side at last week’s Seoul motor show.

So, after I introduced myself, I asked Chris Bangle of BMW of his thoughts on the car, expecting some a hearty laugh.

His response surprised me.

"I’m looking at the constellation (design-speak for the way the various aspects of the car come together) of the back of this to see how they’re doing it," he enthused.

"It’s not easy to do this ... there is a confidence in the way (the Koreans) express their style. It’s very impressive, especially on a car from an emerging market." I expected him to giggle at the Grandeur. Instead he showed it respect – exactly what Hyundai wants from critics and consumers alike.

The TG’s quasi bustle-back styling certainly makes it look a lot less American than its Buick-like predecessor.

Inside there’s adequate space backed up by well-padded seats, an attractively styled dashboard featuring a nicely symmetrical console layout, clear (if simplistic) instrumentation and a comfy driving position.

Build and material quality, trim colours, and high refinement levels indicate HMC has been studying VW/Audi interiors intensely for the former and Lexus cabins closely for the latter.

Frustratingly the ‘drive’ consisted of a brief squirt up and down a one-kilometre straight, with a few chicanes thrown in.

For comparison a Korean-spec car was tried, followed by the tauter European set-up that’s a first for the Grandeur and the one we’ll be getting.

Initial impressions are of a quiet yet gutsy 171kW 3.3-litre twin-cam Lambda V6 engine tied to a smooth five-speed automatic.

1 center image In the Korean-spec TG there was far-more body roll around the chicanes, while the (overly light and lifeless) steering seemed to load up when cornered indecently quickly – something you just don’t expect the Grandeur’s demographic to do.

Obviously the Euro-spec was better, but it was so by an appreciably big margin. Far more body control, tauter handling and meatier steering – how very un-Grandeur! It’s clear HMC has gone to some lengths to lift the quality, appearance and prestige feel of its one-time joke prestige car.

If the price is right, the quality high and the dynamics up to the job, then it won’t be such a stretch to imagine Chris Bangle at the next-generation Grandeur launch in, say, 2011.

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