2004 XG350 New Car Test Drive
Not long ago, a luxurious Hyundai was an oxymoron. Remember, this is the South Korean car maker known in the late 1980s for the Excel, which came to be derided by some as a disposable car. The automotive world, and the world, for that matter, has changed dramatically since then. Hyundai has done more than just keep up. Yes, it still makes seriously affordable, but much higher quality small cars, the Accent and the Elantra. But it now offers a sporty two-door, the Tiburon; a very respectable midsize sedan, the Sonata; and the Santa Fe, a quite capable midsize SUV, all three available with a V6 engine, an offering their competition has yet to match. This ever-expanding lineup makes Hyundai sound increasingly like a mainstream car company.
Still, associating the Hyundai name with luxury might be greeted with a measure of skepticism. That was our first reaction in 2001, when Hyundai launched the XG300.What we found, however, was an impressive flagship offering styling and appointments that placed it in the near-luxury class. It also offered mid-size roominess and practicality with a sticker in the mid-20s, close to the price of a mid-size sedan. Add in Hyundai's five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty coupled with its standard-setting 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and the car represented real value.
The value improved in 2002 when engine size increased from 3.0 liters to 3.5 liters, which boosted torque by a most welcome 21 percent, to 216 pound-feet. Torque is that force that propels you away from intersections and up hills.
For 2004, exterior styling changes yield a more stately look. Upgrades to some mechanical bits improve safety and convenience. And refinements of various interior features add to occupant comfort. Perhaps most valuable of all, the XG350's price is unchanged from 2003.
Hyundai's flagship sedan comes in two trim levels: XG350 ($23,999) and XG350L ($25,599).
Befitting its near-luxury status, even the base XG350 comes with power everything, automatic climate control, leather-faced seating surfaces and a six-speaker CD stereo. Four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel ABS and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) are standard, as are front-seat side-impact air bags and heated outside mirrors. As its nomenclature indicates, power for the XG350 is provided by a 3.5-liter V6, whichdrives the front wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission with the company's dual-gate, Shiftronic manual override system. Also now standard are outboard rear seat reading lights, electrochromic rearview mirror and the HomeLink integrated transceiver system.
The XG350L adds a power tilt-and-slide moonroof, premium speakers and 210-watt external amplifier, heat and memory for the front bucket seats, a leather-and-woodgrain steering wheel, memory outside mirrors that tilt down when reverse gear is selected.
The only factory option available at either level is an 8-disc CD changer ($500). Options available for installation at port of entry are carpeted floor mats ($89) and rear mudguards ($35).