2004 Hyundai XG350L

Oct. 21, 2004
Hyundai's top-of-the-line luxury sedan, the XG350, is somewhat of an oddity.

Most other carmakers wouldn't dare call a $25,000 vehicle a luxury car. They reserve that term for models selling for $40,000 or more. But Hyundai, traditionally thought of as a source of low-cost econoboxes, decided to break out of its mold a few years ago with this sedan. And it should give U.S. consumers and automakers something to think about.

The car gets the digits in its name from a 3.5-liter V6 engine with dual overhead cams. It generates 194 hp at 5,500 rpm and 216 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm, more than enough to give this 3,651-lb vehicle the power for passing and high-speed cruising. It features a five-speed Shiftronic automatic, which gives drivers clutchless shifting. (I'm still trying to collect reader impressions of the shiftless manual transmissions that seem to be the rage on upscale sedans. If you've had the chance to try out this option, please send me your opinion of it.) And while it's no gas miser, it does get 17/26 mpg (city/highway). I have no idea where the "XG" comes from, unless it is supposed to stand for extra good.

The car rides on independent double wishbones with an antiroll bar in front, and a multilink suspension with dynamic toe control and an antiroll bar in rear. Shocks on all four wheels are filled with nitrogen. The front shocks are designed with low-velocity control valving that is supposed to keep the car in control at high speeds but deliver a smooth ride at slower speeds. Brakes are 12.1-in. discs all around, an upgrade over last year's 10.9-in. discs.

The car performs well, keeping passengers comfortable and the driver in control. Steering is not super crisp, but it responds predictably, and like most power steering, the steering wheel can be turned with little more than a finger.

Inside, the car is ergonomically laid out, with most of the bells and whistles drivers should ever need: power locks, windows, seats, adjustable steering wheel, cruise control, electrochromic rearview mirror, reading lights, and even a cigarette lighter and ashtray, a rapidly disappearing pair. Our model carried the L (for luxury) package. For about $2,000, you get a moonroof, 12-spoke alloy wheels, a 210-W amp with upgraded speakers, some leather on the steering wheel, some wood on the dash, heated front seats, and memory on the driver's seat. The only option is to choose a single CD player or upgrade to an eight-disc CD player.

It might not be a stylistic head-turner, but the XG350L is just as good-looking as 80% of the cars out there, and value-wise, it's hard to beat. Maybe it just needs a more memorable and evocative name. (Warranties include 5-yr/50,000 miles on the car, and 10-yr/100,000 miles on the powertrain.)

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