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Expert Reviews 1 of 3
By Jim Flammang
February 13, 2002
Vehicle Overview Most new models dont get major improvements for the first couple years on the market. But this isnt so with the most expensive model from Hyundai, South Koreas largest automaker.
A bigger V-6 engine goes into Hyundais upscale sedan, which was introduced for the 2001 model year. This upgrade forces a name change from XG300 to XG350. The new 3.5-liter V-6 develops 194 horsepower and 212 pounds-feet of torque, vs. the 178 pounds-feet of torque in the previous XG300. An upgraded stereo system is also new, and ten-spoke, 16-inch wheels were introduced late in the 2001 model year as a running change.
Aimed squarely at the U.S. market, the XG350 is based on the Korean-market XG Grandeur. Built on the same front-drive platform as the midsize Sonata, the XG350 not only displays a more formal look but it measures 4.6 inches longer in overall length.
Until recently, Hyundai was known for small, inexpensive cars. And the company also started off on a bad note, encountering quality problems that have since been addressed. Now, Hyundais products are growing a lot more appealing as each model is redesigned. Launching the XG300 in 2001 moved the South Korean automaker into higher-priced territory. Positioned as an upper midsize model, the front-drive sedan competes against the Honda Accord, Nissan Maxima, Oldsmobile Intrigue, Toyota Camry and others that sell for more than $20,000. A power moonroof is the only major option.
Exterior The XG350 presents a more elegant and formal appearance than the Sonata, which has been marketed in the United States a lot longer. Though its based on the same front-drive platform as the Sonata, the XG350 is larger in most dimensions. A Lincoln-style vertical-bar grille and taillamps help give the newest sedan a memorable appearance. Alloy wheels hold 16-inch tires.
Interior Five-passenger seating capacity consists of front bucket seats and a three-place rear bench. Leather upholstery is standard, which sets the tone for the amenities that a buyer can anticipate. Headroom is adequate and legroom is ample for taller passengers in the backseat. The split rear seatback folds down to yield additional cargo space. Standard equipment includes automatic-temperature air conditioning, power front seats, cruise control, a CD player and remote keyless entry with an alarm.
Under the Hood This years new 3.5-liter V-6 engine develops 194 hp. The five-speed Shiftronic automatic transmission permits manual gear selection. All-disc antilock brakes, traction control and side-impact airbags for the front seats are standard.
Driving Impressions Considering the original 3.0-liter V-6 engine in the XG300 produced rather vigorous performance, the extra displacement and improved torque output for 2002 cannot help but make acceleration even more satisfying likely with more zest on tap for passing and merging. The XG350 is easy to drive; it also handles capably and rides comfortably, though significant road imperfections can result in a bit of jarring to occupants. Those passengers can expect to savor a roomy, well-furnished interior and a pleasantly quiet engine.
More stylish than other Hyundai models, the XG350 promises a lot of automobile for a moderate midsize price. Shoppers at the higher end of the Honda Accord/Toyota Camry spectrum might find a test-drive worthwhile.