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This was the same ambition the company held for the previous Grandeur, which languished in showrooms for almost four years before a new management team removed it late in 2003. Blame was apportioned to a lack of promotional funds, a sullied brand image (still tied with the discount-fuelled "Excel era") and a sales force unused to selling cars on their merit.
But there was more to it than that. Hyundai's first attempt at "grandeur" relied more on large dimensions and a high level of standard features than any sense that engineering excellence and driving finesse were integral to its development.
To this end, not a great deal has changed with the new model. Hyundai might have more marketing dollars, a better reputation and smarter-trained salespeople, but its greatest vehicle still has marked deficiencies deeper than the state of suspension tune.
As before, the Grandeur has a muscular V6 engine (now out to 3.8 litres), a silken automatic transmission and a comfortable ride when the road surface is billiard-table smooth. There is some numbness in the steering, but overtaking out on the open road is a cinch, road and wind noise are well suppressed and the brakes have no trouble hauling in the 1645kg sedan.
Indeed, settling back into the soft leather-faced seats, and slotting some music into the tape deck or CD/MP3 slot, the driver can be lulled into thinking that the Grandeur is more like a grand tourer.
But, truth be told, it is not.
In more demanding conditions, character flaws are soon revealed. At night the headlights lack effectiveness on high beam. In hillier terrain the five-speed auto tends to hunt around for the appropriate gear, while the sequential-manual shift mode places limits on the amount of driver control (shifting up a cog of its own volition, for example).
Under hard acceleration the front wheels tend to scrabble for grip, the transmission can sometimes hesitate between first and second gear and, on uneven roads, torque-steer is evident as the steering wheel tugs at the hands. On rougher surfaces the ride quality deteriorates and noise and vibration rise through the steering column — reaching a crescendo in corners. Tighter bends cause the Kumho tyres to howl in protest, while a mid-corner bump can move the car off course.
There might be a trifle more poise, and a bit more balance, than in the previous model, but this new version falls well short of the standards expected in this class of vehicle. It does little to inspire driver confidence, its behaviour deteriorates in accordance with the road conditions and it relies heavily on its electronic stability control system to keep its untidiness in check.
It also consumes more than the government fuel consumption standard indicates, returning an unremarkable 16.3 litres 100km on our test.
There are other aspects of the all-new Grandeur that leave it behind. Most disconcerting on our Limited test car was the buckled plastic trim on the lower dash section in front of the driver, overshadowing the excellent work done in creating a high-class interior ambience.
The exterior doorhandles feel cheap and the doors themselves feel insubstantial. The rear headrests are restricted to a single position when raised from their hunker-down position. The centre-rear seatbelt has an awkward twin-buckle mechanism and none of the rear seats has an automatic belt locking mechanism for better securing child restraints.
Otherwise, the facilities and features in the Grandeur are up to the knocker.
The Limited tested here has eight airbags, reverse-parking radars, front and rear foglights, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, high-intensity discharge headlights (for low beam), an alarm, sunroof and "solar controlled" windows that alter as the external light conditions change.
The driver is furnished with comfortable seats (with heating), electric steering wheel and seat adjustment (including lumbar and two-position memory), stereo and cruise control switches on the tiller, an auto-dipping rearview mirror, illuminated footwell, backlit instruments, a trip computer (with large screen) and simple-to-fathom controls for the powerful eight-speaker stereo and dual-zone climate-control airconditioning.
Hyundai's interior designers have shown great restraint in the use of chrome and fake wood veneer, creating instead an attractive and elegant cockpit. There is a good range of storage and two power outlets up front.
The back seat has plenty of room in all directions and useful amenities including air vents, door bins, maplights, a power outlet, rear sunshade, pull-down centre armrest with cup holders, and two grab-handles at each window-seat position. The centre position is hard and rather uncomfortable.
The boot is huge, fully lined and contains a full-size spare under the floor. Smaller items can be held with a cargo net or within a small recess, while larger items can be accommodated via the 60/40 split-fold backrests.
On paper, and from the showroom floor, the all-new Grandeur looks like a true prestige contender — and hard to beat. But as our drive illustrates, Hyundai still has plenty of work to do before threatening more established members of the big league.
|Limited||3.8L, ULP, 5 SP SEQ AUTO||$4,600 – 7,370||2006 Hyundai Grandeur 2006 Limited Pricing and Specs|
|V6||3.8L, ULP, 5 SP SEQ AUTO||$4,200 – 6,820||2006 Hyundai Grandeur 2006 V6 Pricing and Specs|
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