- The Washington Times - Friday, October 12, 2001

One out-of-the-ballpark home run and two solid doubles may be how a sports writer might describe Hyundai's introduction of three new models.
The four-bagger was the new XG350 sports sedan. It is by far the finest model produced by the Korean automaker. The other two models were a restyled Sonata midsize sedan and a sporty version of its Elantra, the GT.
Hyundai's XG350 is built off its 300 platform, and it is aimed at buyers who may be considering the Toyota Camry/Avalon, Honda Accord, Nissan Maxima and Buick LeSabre. It is priced below the Camry/Avalon, Maxima and the new Altima.
The new XG350 comes with a 3.5-liter Sigma double-overhead-camshaft, transverse-mounted V-6. The engine provides only two more horses than the original Sigma, but it provides a husky 38 more foot-pounds of torque and this is what makes the XG350 such a sparkling performer.
The engine provides two more horses than its leading competitor, the 2002 Camry XLE V-6. I6t is the only model in its class offering a five-speed manual transmission or an automatic five-speed Shiftronic automatic.
I found the XG350 one of the smoothest-riding cars in its class. Its rack-and-pinion steering was precise and positive. We could almost imagine that we were behind the wheel of a BMW 3 Series, a much more expensive car.
The combination of a 3.5-liter V-6 and a suspension system that provides a supple ride makes the XG350 a true competitor and an unbeatable price. The exterior is one of the most handsome in its class, and 16-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels are standard.
Hyundai also has improved its interior. It features lightened switches, Shiftronic indicators and rheostat. The leather seating surfaces have been double stitched. Standard is an AM/FM /cassette/CD with six-speaker stereo system.
Standard safety features include driver and passenger air bags, side-impact air bags, seat-belt pre-tensioners and a passenger-presence-detection system.
The XG350L at $25,599 comes with a power tilt/sliding moon roof, leather-wrapped steering wheel with wood-grain inserts, electrochromic inside rearview mirror, memory driver seat and exterior mirrors, heated front seats and rear reading lamps. The base model sells for $23,999. Hyundai officials believe 90 percent of the buyers will opt for the L package.
If you're buying a midsize sedan and don't give the XG350 a look, you're making a major mistake that could cost you thousands of dollars. It is one of the more impressive sedans I've driven in recent years.
The new 2002 Sonata offers new exterior styling that I found extremely pleasant. It features new hood, grille, bumpers, front fenders, rear quarter panels, headlights, taillights and deck lid. The interior is all new.
Under the hood the engine has been beefed up to 2.7-liters and the V-6 produces 181 horses, 11 more than last year's model. The rear suspension has been improved.
It is a classic looking model that is aimed directly at the four-cylinder models provided by Toyota, Honda and Nissan.
The Elantra GT is a five-door hatchback that provides the comfort of a sedan with the cargo-carrying versatility of a station wagon or sport utility vehicle.
With a price of only $13,999, the GT features a taut European suspension system including gas-filled shock absorbers; larger diameter front and rear anti-roll bars, a European-tuned rack-and-pinion steering/power steering pump combination and Michelin P19560R-15 tires mounted on 15x6-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels.
Other features include four-wheel disc brakes, leather seating, fog lamps, purple-light gauges, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, cruise control, remote keyless entry and AM/FM/CD stereo.
The Sonata and Elantra GT are solid cars at remarkably low prices and like all Hyundai products feature the best warranty in the business.
It is the XG350 that I believe truly makes Hyundai a player not only in the inexpensive compact market but a real, full-time entry in the competitive midsize market. The XG350 can take up residence on my driveway any time it wants.
N. AMERICAN AUTO WRITERS SYNDICATE

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