CC Capsule: 2005 Hyundai XG350 – Grander, But Not Grandeur

(first posted 12/19/2017)      Recent years have seen Hyundai grow from the bottom of the barrel value brand it once was to a confident full-line mainstream brand on the same level as Honda and Toyota. Its luxury offerings which have spawned the separate Genesis brand are rather competitive too, even if they lack the same character and prestige as established luxury brands. The same, however, could not be said about Hyundai’s first luxury offering for the North American market, the XG (known as the Grandeur in its home market). While a step in the right direction, it was merely that and little more.

Before delving into any of the bad, let’s start with the good. First and foremost, Hyundai should be applauded for ditching the rebadge bandwagon, investing in an entirely in-house flagship, and daring to sell it in other markets, among them the very brand-whore U.S. market. The list of standard equipment was long, its price was low, and its bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranties were among the best in the business. With that in mind however, the XG simply did not have what it takes to break through the strong barriers of acceptance within the crowded luxury class.

Exterior and interior styling were inoffensive, but very conservative and anonymous, the latter fact only strengthened by a lack of front logo anywhere. The exterior boasted clean, elegant lines, with chrome trim in the right places, though the design carried with it an ever-dated look, especially by this car’s final 2005 model year. Owing a strong resemblance to larger Lexus and Infiniti products from a few years prior, the XG had the odd tendency to look significantly more compact than it really was.

Like the exterior, the interior seemed very mid-1990s, with inspiration coming from cars like the Lexus ES 300 and Infiniti I30. Material quality and fit-and-finish were acceptable for its class, but hardly exuded any confident sense of luxury. Loads of fake wood trim, switchgear and controls shared with lesser Hyundais, and the lack of technology features such as navigation only engrained this further.

Despite weighing more, its 3.5L V6 offered less power than its premium competitors (194 hp/216 lb-ft), as well as the V6s in cars including the Accord and Altima, making for mediocre acceleration and passing power. Contemporary reviews also found handling and ride quality compromised by its excessive under-steer, poor grip from its small standard tires, pronounced body lean, and overly bouncy front end over bumps.

Though ultimately an unsuccessful vehicle, largely forgotten today, the XG was a significant first step into the luxury world for Hyundai, and a sign of much better things to come.

Photographed: Hingham, Massachusetts – January 2017

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