The original Hyundai Grandeur first put in an appearance in 1999. Priced then at $33,990, it was a largely forgettable early attempt at ?luxury motoring on a budget? from the Korean manufacturer.
But we should all know by now that Hyundai is a fast learner.
Hyundai?s latest Grandeur is essentially an updated version of the current generation car that first went on sale in Australia in 2006. While it is a much improved car, it is still shaking off the ?luxury pretender? stigma associated with the original.
The new Grandeur has received a mild exterior makeover that includes a new radiator grille, bumpers that now include chrome inserts, exterior mirrors with integrated indicators, new-look 17-inch alloys and a revised exterior colour palette.
The big news however is the addition of the diesel engine variant to the range and that as you will read, is the Grandeur?s trump card.
Sneak up on the recently refreshed Hyundai Grandeur from the rear quarter and it holds plenty of promise. Sure, it?s not ground-breaking, but those rear wheel-arch bulges and the crisp modern lines around the boot aren?t unattractive.
In fact, I?d be so bold as to suggest the Grandeur?s rear quarter view holds conservative promise, with what could even be argued is a ?splash of cool? glinting from the twin chrome exhaust tips.
But that?s as good as it gets, as moving towards the front of the Grandeur (past the B-pillar) is like stepping back into the 1980?s. I was left convinced that the Grandeur?s design team consisted of a young European metro-sexual and a vodka swilling, middle-aged eastern-bloc chap called Vlad or Olaff.
The brief: start at opposite ends and meet in the middle.
The result: a car that is on one hand oddly appealing to Gold Coast retirees, while on the other predictably unappealing to younger middle class Australians.
Is it possible that there is method in this apparent styling madness?
Whatever the case, I personally was left to fall back on an old principle drummed into me by my mother (bless her heart). ?Beauty is only skin deep son...? and by gum, in the case of the Grandeur CRDi, mum was right...mostly.
One size fits all when it comes to the Grandeur, with only one specification level available, let?s call it ?the lot?. Standard features include dual-zone climate control, remote central locking, electric windows/mirrors, leather interior, cruise control, trip computer, a JBL audio system, HALO (Hyundai's auto central locking), electric reach-and-rake steering column adjustment and electric adjustment for the front seats (with memory for the driver's seat).
The Grandeur CRDi costs a $2,000 premium over the petrol V6, with a RRP of $41,990. That extra $2,000 gets you Hyundai?s 2.2 litre diesel, driving the front wheels through a five-speed automatic.
With 114kW and a V6-like 343Nm on tap with peak torque being developed between 1800?2500rpm, it is rated at 7.9 l/100km on the combined cycle.
The rest of the Grandeur is straight-forward, with double-wishbone front suspension, variable power assisted steering, a multi-link independent rear suspension set-up and ventilated disc brakes all round.
On the inside
The new Grandeur?s interior remains largely unchanged from the previous models. The leather trim is complemented by a splash of faux wood trim, while a grained vinyl (that looks not dissimilar to that found in some BMW?s) covers the top of the dashboard and door trims.
The instrument panel, like the exterior, has an 80s feel but it now comes with the benefit of blue illumination (the previous model used green instrument lighting). The rest of the interior is well-made, and comfortable, with ample room for adults in the rear seat.
Hyundai has introduced its HALO auto-locking feature to the Grandeur, which automatically locks all doors once a speed of 45km/h is exceeded. All doors unlock when the key is removed from the ignition or when one of the front doors is opened.
One notable change is the upgraded audio system, which is now a JBL six-disc in-dash unit with USB input and iPod compatibility. It is excellent and frankly better than many standard audio systems in cars costing three times as much as the Grandeur.
The boot is monstrous and will easily swallow a full set of luggage, golf club set(s) or the family?s weekly shopping.
In a nutshell, the Grandeur?s interior is very accommodating and comfortable with ?Hyundai quality? evident throughout; and yes, that?s a compliment.
On The Road
Our testing of the Grandeur involved a mix of urban peak-hour driving with a trip up the Western Highway from Melbourne to Ballarat, to see how it handled the open road.
The Grandeur is ostensibly a cruiser and it?s highly unlikely that many, no make that any, owners will be the type to punt it along a winding piece of bitumen. Needless to say, that was the first thing we thought to try?and we soon had the luxo Hyundai floating from apex to apex in a debatably dignified manner.
With suspension tuned for comfort, eager cornering was ultimately greeted with understeer and with the tall 55-series tyres making it known audibly that they were earning their keep. That?s not to say that the Grandeur doesn?t handle well, it just doesn?t handle as well as we?ve come to expect from our local Falcons and Commodores.
Steering feel is noticeable by its absence with an over-assisted rack aimed clearly at folk who have no plans of ever working hard at the wheel. Thankfully, the brakes were not over-assisted and, if anything, lacked some initial bite, demanding some effort from the driver until you adjusted to them.
But handling is not what the Grandeur is about, at all.
Around town and on the open road the Grandeur cossets its passengers with a soft ride that simply soaks up the bumps. Some may argue the ride is a little too soft, but I?d argue that they don?t quite understand the Grandeur.
Drive down a typical patchy Melbourne back alley and the Grandeur takes the rough stuff in its stride.
Open road cruising is a case of dial up your speed, set the cruise control and select some tunes as this is where the Grandeur is in its element, especially the diesel.
Hyundai is at the pointy end of diesel development and it shows. The 2.2 litre unit in the Grandeur has enough torque to ensure that performance is more than adequate and the five-speed auto is smooth and well behaved.
It?s punchy off the mark, overtakes at highway speeds with ease and, once off idle, you would be hard-pressed to pick that this is a diesel at all. It?s not quite up to the standard set by the Renault Laguna diesel that we tested last year, but it?s close.
At idle, and particularly from a cold start, the compression ignition characteristics are more obvious, but once warm and on the move, this is a diesel that provides oodles of buttery torque while keeping the NVH to a minimum.
Our return trip to Ballarat returned a very impressive 7.4 l/100km and that level of efficiency is almost maintained around town, with stop-start driving returning a slightly higher 7.7l/100km. This is remarkable for a car of the Grandeur?s size and why a diesel option in our locally-made products would make so much sense.
The Wrap Up
The Grandeur is not for everyone. In fact, it is quite cleverly targeted at a rapidly expanding specific group of buyers who can be identified by a rather untechnical process of elimination. The key you see is in the styling.
Luxury car ?status? shoppers won?t give it a second-look, the plain styling just won?t have the desired effect on their neighbours, friends and workmates. So that?s the under 55?s out.
Buyers who want their luxury ride to feel every cats-eye and expansion joint through the wheel will likewise pass it over, which means the 18?40 year age bracket won?t be interested.
Instead, the Grandeur will attract people who like to ?waft?. They?ll put value ahead of style, comfort ahead of handling and fuel efficiency ahead of outright performance.
They?ll rarely be in a hurry (they would have stopped rushing to meetings years ago) and will now spend their time preferring to arrive at their destination unruffled and relaxed. Their Slim Dusty CD?s will sound absolutely outstanding on that wonderful JBL audio system.
They will find in the Grandeur everything they want and with that diesel under the bonnet, maybe even a little more.
For the rest of us, there are a number of vehicle options that offer better dynamics for similar or even better money. The Ford Mondeo TDCi and the Mazda6 diesel are just two that come to mind for those shopping for a diesel.
Arguably, the Grandeur?s real competition comes from within Hyundai?s own model line-up, the Sonata. The more attractive Sonata Elite is available with a 2.0 litre diesel and you get most of the goodies that the Grandeur offers.
Sure, you miss out on that JBL audio system and the Sonata is only available with a four-speed automatic, but the similarities are striking. They are around the same size, 41kgs separates their kerb weights and the Sonata rides a little firmer, in a manner preferred by most (ahem) younger Aussies.
The Sonata Elite diesel also costs $5,000 less than the Grandeur.
But don?t let my not-so-neat pigeon-holing of Grandeur buyers put you off. There is nothing wrong with dancing to a different tune.
The Last Word
?Let?s face it, Hyundai?s Grandeur isn?t for everyone. It is in fact designed for and clearly aimed at a very specific age group who appreciate a ride that is loaded with fruit, runs on the smell of an oily rag (in diesel form especially) and cruises on the soft side. I must be getting old, because looks aside, I actually quite enjoyed the drive...?
- JBL Infinity audio system
- Diesel torque
- Impressive fuel economy
- Comfortable interior
- Ease of driving
- Relaxed cruising ability
- Smooth ride
- Exterior styling
- Lifeless steering
- Brakes lack initial bite
- Floaty suspension