- The Washington Times - Friday, June 28, 2002

In the bad old days, calling a Hyundai car a flagship model would have been an oxymoron. But this is now and the Korean automaker has raised its quality and its sales have been rocketing. Its new XG350 midsize sedan deserves the title "flagship."
The XG350 is the largest, most luxurious and most expensive Hyundai vehicle sold in the United States. Competing in the tough upper-middle sedan segment, the XG350 is a formidable competitor for the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima and at a price that must make its Japanese competitors shudder.
Leather seating surfaces, four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock and traction control, full automatic temperature control, cruise control, remote keyless entry with alarm, halogen headlamps with low-beam projector lights, 16-inch alloy wheels with Michelin tires, trip computer and driver and passenger front and side air bags are all standard features.
All this and more comes at a price of $24,494 including destination charges. Is it any wonder that Hyundai sales of the XG350 and the remainder of its product line jumped 40 percent-plus for each of the past two years. Hyundai is now the fifth-largest car importer in the United States and is nipping at the heels of Volkswagen the No. 4 import brand.
There is also an L model that offers a moon roof and heated seats for $26,094, including destination charges.
For the current model year the transversely mounted, front-drive V-6 engine in the XG sedan has grown from 3 liters to 3.5 liters. It provides 194 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 216 foot-pounds of torque at 3,500 rpm.
The engine is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic manual control that allows the driver to operate in automatic or manual shifting mode.
The engine provides more than enough acceleration for the sports-minded driver and at the same time makes passing and entering busy freeways easy.
Fuel economy is similar to other luxury-oriented midsize sedans. The Environmental Protection Agency rates it at 18 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. The test car averaged 19.8 mpg in combined city/highway driving weighted heavily on city side.
One of the nicest things about this Korean import is its styling. It doesn't copy the competition.
The flawless paint job provided a handsome contrast with the heavy grille and high shoulders down the side of the car. A woman stopped me in a parking lot to ask what brand it was.
She remarked that it was one of the better-looking cars she had seen recently.
All of the above would mean little if the XG350 didn't offer an excellent ride both on city streets and freeways.
Hyundai's engineers have done an excellent job on the suspension system. It is a very nimble car with an excellent ride over most surfaces.
The suspension features independent double wishbones in the front with an anti-roll bar.
The rear features a multilink suspension with dynamic toe control and anti-roll bar. Nitrogen gas-filled shocks are used on all four corners.
I was particularly impressed with the speed-sensing power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering. Precise is the best word to describe the system and it provided excellent road feedback.
Another feature that impressed me was the standard four-wheel disc brakes with ABS as standard equipment. I put the XG350 through several panic stops and each one proved the system was up to the task.
The quality of the interior was up to the rest of the car. Its black and gray colors contrasted with the exterior paint and we even found the fake wood trim to be excellent. All controls are within easy reach of the driver.
A pleasant surprise was the use of power to operate both front seats.
Another surprise was the sound of the AM/FM-CD-stereo system with six speakers. Many more expensive cars don't offer a sound system this good.
With its long list of standard features, the XG350 is a value-packed car priced at less than $25,000. Check out the competition similarly equipped and you will find out that it could save you several thousand dollars and don't forget that it carries the industry's best warranty.

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