- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2003

CARLSBAD, Calif. — The revamped Hyundai 2004 XG350 should give Toyota and Honda a few moments of apprehension.

The Korean automaker claims the XG350 is not challenging the Toyota Camry or Honda Accord, the two top sellers in North America. It calls the midsize sedan a “brand statement,” and it is the flagship of the automaker. Make no doubt, however, that if the XG350 catches the public’s fancy, Hyundai is capable of ramping up production.

After driving the XG350, I have no doubt that it is serious competition for the Camry and Accord. It is the equal in performance and appearance, plus it comes with a price tag that offers buyers a serious chance to save big bucks.

The restyled XG350 has been provided with new front and rear styling. It has a new grille, headlights and air dam with projector fog lamps up front. The rear sports a new deck lid, taillights, bumper and center high-mount stop lamp.

One has to get behind the wheel of the new Hyundai to discover how good it is. It makes no claim to being a sports sedan. It is a midsize family sedan with a ride that is neither too soft nor too harsh. The steering is excellent, and the entire demeanor of the car was impressive during a long drive on twisty back roads.

Inside the cabin are standard leather seating plus a redesigned cruise-control pod. There is a new trunk pull-down handle. New standard features include rear reading lights mounted in the C-pillars, Electrochromic rearview mirror and a HomeLink system.

Some of upgrades to the 2004 model are not readily apparent. The front brake rotors have been increased from 10.9 inches to 12.1 inches. The spare tire is now a full-size tire mounted on a matching alloy wheel.

The XG350 continues to be powered by a 3.5-liter V-6. The double-overhead-cam engine develops 194 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 216 foot-pounds of torque at 3,500 rpm. I found the front-engine, front-drive sedan to offer more than needed acceleration when called upon. It is also a quiet and smooth engine.

Hyundai provides a perfect mate for the engine: a five-speed dual-gate Shiftronic automatic transmission with manual shift override.

Four-wheel disc brakes are standard on both the standard and top-of-the-line L models along with a four-wheel, four-sensor, four-channel anti-lock braking system (ABS).

All models are equipped with Electronic Brake Force Distribution designed to enhance braking control.

L models include all the features of the base model plus new design 12-spoke alloy wheels, Premium Infinity Speakers and 210-watt external amplifier, power tilt/sliding moon roof, leather-wrapped steering wheel and memory driver’s seat. Both front seats are heated.

If you are looking into buying a midsize family sedan and don’t look at the new XG350, you are cheating yourself.

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