Friday 29 May 2009
Some car manufacturers don’t make life easy for themselves. A few years ago, for example, Mitsubishi brought out a saloon which wasn’t exactly the Madonna of the showrooms. Inexplicably, they decided to call their mid range entrant the "Carisma". Predictably, the Carisma became the subject of easy ridicule, whatever its virtues.
So why on earth would Hyundai want to call their flagship "Grandeur"? Are they asking for trouble?Or merely suffering from delusions of grandeur?
Not quite. After all, this Hyundai is just a staging post for the Korean Hyundai/Kia combine - a work in progress as they continue their assault on the more established brands in the business. Hyundai have unveiled a couple of full-size rear drive V8-engined saloon/limos to challenge the well-known German, British, Swedish, American and Japanese makes. (They’re called "Genesis" and "Equus", by the way). For now we have this less rather less promising front wheel drive 3.3 litre V6 effort and, leaving that hubristic name to one side, the Hyundai does deliver more than you might expect.
First, it isn't cursed with a face like a gargoyle, like so many other Korean products have been in the past. The styling is certainly on the bland side of bland, mind you. It do look like a bloated late 1990s Corolla, with big muscley blisters at the rear wheel charges giving it a - slightly - more athletic posture. The bootlid has been given a touch of the Chris Bangle treatment, so it bears a glancing resemblance to the old BMW 7-series’ least attractive feature. But the Grandeur is more attractive than the outgoing Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the recently-defunct Peugeot 607. So not bottom of the class.
Apart from the door release handles, which are made from some sort of frightful chrome effect plastic, the interior is restrained and tasteful. It has most of the usual toys, though not goodies like a reversing camera, as you might expect given Korea's pre-eminence in some of these fields. You will also miss a screen-based sat nav, perhaps because the Grandeur is imported in such tiny numbers (26 so far, I think). It does give you the Trafficmaster system, with real humans at the end of a phone line to help you get the golf course or boardroom.
Most cars in this sector, let us be frank, are built to transport well padded passengers around in well padded comfort, and again the Grandeur fulfils its remit. Its V6 is a smooth and pokey motor in fact, though thirsty and a little too powerful for the chassis.
Be sure of one thing, however: with no diesel option the Grandeur will depreciate heavily, despite its five-year warranty and extreme rarity. However, with a little patina around the cabin a faded Grandeur could have its own shabby-genteel appeal.
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