Hyundai was moving upmarket in 1999 – or trying to, at least. The brand that brought you driveaway small cars for $13,990 had decided to offer a large luxury car called “Grandeur” with a price starting with a “3” and ending in “9,990”. The trouble was, buyers either didn’t trust that a car from Hyundai could be a luxury land yacht – or were totally unaware of it in the first place.
In Korea the cars were already finding favour with local executives, but when the Grandeur landed on Australian shores the critics condemned the soft, floaty suspension – and no doubt also highlighted how “luxury” means a different thing for a Korean carmarker compared to, say, Mercedes or BMW.
For me, a car equipped with gadgets, leather, smooth V6 and a large silver grille were reasons to buy the car – and the critics moaning about soft suspension just made the Grandeur sound more like a Korean Rolls Royce. So in 2008 I bought one.
The car was advertised as recently having had an engine problem, that was fixed by Hyundai under its warranty. This might have scared off some buyers, but for me it said the car’s engine had been overhauled by the maker, and was an even better buy. Plus it was black, and if you want to emulate the Lincoln Town Car that you see in all the American TV shows, then you need a large black car.
So for $5,500, a car that had cost close to $40,000 8 or so years earlier was in my driveway – the Grandeur XG. And it had around 185,000kms on the clock.
Inside was a nice place – electric leather seats with 2 driver memory, auto that you could drive like a manual, climate control aircon, cruise control, great stereo and fake woodgrain all felt special – in a “pity the person who paid 40k for this, but look what I’ve got to play with” kind of way.
The Grandeur did have its luxury features, but being from Hyundai it also had plenty of faux luxury – apart from the “woodgrain”, the armrests on the doors were covered in vinyl – not leather – so by this time they had begun to crack. However the leather seats were still good.
Image, they say, is everything.. and the Grandeur certainly got noticed. The guy at the video store (long since gone, thanks Netflix!) watched me park outside, and was absolutely floored when I told him what it had cost. Maybe he thought it was like a Chrysler 300C?
I enjoyed driving this land yacht on the Bruce Highway for the school pickup at the time. Going over speedbumps was not a chore – in fact, often the suspension meant the bumps weren’t even noticed!
After a year or so, my work changed and I would have to be travelling into the city every day – so a V6 was not going to be a practical choice for 1 hour+ of driving each way. So, the Grandeur went on eBay, and found a new owner. I did notice the buyer later bought an engine computer for this model, so maybe he wanted to “chip” it to improve performance, or the computer that was in the car fried itself.
I went from pomp and Grandeur to a “smarter” alternative (see other post). But I do miss that grille and that shapely boot, long before anyone had heard of the Kardashians.