New Hyundai Centennial creates fog of war |

1 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on New Hyundai Centennial creates fog of war |
Hyundai Centennial

New Hyundai Centennial creates fog of war

The Far East’s days of warring may be long gone, but with the new Hyundai Centennial, Dejan Jovanovic reckons the Koreans are loading their Japan-facing missiles.

Want to know what else is big? Hyundai Motor’s new 4.6-litre Tau V8. But with 360bhp and 440Nm of torque, it’s 15bhp down on the equal-displacement Lexus unit in the LS460.

Mercedes-Benz’s S500 trumps the lot with 388bhp though.

Although the Tau is available under the bonnet of the Genesis saloon in other markets, the engine’s pride of place rests within the new Centennial in the Middle East. The Centennial isn’t shy about its dimensions either. Even in America, where my T-shirt size is an M whereas here it’s an XL, the big Hyundai’s 5.16m length and 1.9m width is considered substantial.

In fact the Centennial is longer than the Merc and the Lexus, including the long-wheelbase LS460L.

Hyundai is confident its flagship can take on the best from Germany and Japan, but it would do tremendously well just to take the fight to Lexus. Notching up one over the Germans would only be an added bonus. Thing is, with its Dh239,000 starting price, what’s stopping the Centennial from ruling the whole roost?

Is it a Merc? Is it a Lexus? No, it’s a hYUNDAI

When your top brass spends $338 million over three years on developing one model, more than just a few suits would get the boot should the result be anything less than favourable.

If it were up to me, the least I’d do is have a meeting with the designers, pestering them about why exactly they decided it was a good idea to mash a Merc with a Lexus and slap their own badge on it.

Well, one more root around in the history drawer will remind you how Japan took on the West two decades ago mainly by copying an S-Class and launching the Lexus brand. Toyota’s luxury arm should be flattered that, this time around, they are the ones being copied.

So the styling is about as original as a Louis Vuitton from Naif Souq. Even the model designation is a copy VS460. Ring a bell?

The giant chrome grille in the front really does dominate proceedings. It looks like it accounts for about half of the Centennial’s two-tonne kerb weight. It’s joined by more shiny stuff beneath the wraparound front lights, although the rest of the chrome adorning the car on the sides and rear gets completely lost among the acres of sheet metal and glass.

The 18in wheels, wrapped in 245/50 rubber front and rear, fill the massive arches well, lending the car a more compact look if you’re standing about a mile away. Up close, the Centennial is a mammoth.

After a nice, solid ‘thunk’ of the door you’re cocooned inside a supremely quiet cabin offering 1,125mm and 1,010mm of front and rear legroom. Besides the spaciousness, Hyundai has also used high-quality leather and wood to dress the thing, employing a fit and finish that wouldn’t go amiss in a car sporting a certain blue and white roundel.

Rear passengers get a central armrest loaded with all the controls they could wish for, including switches which operate the front seats. The driver sits high in the Centennial, even if attempting to lower the seat as far down as it can go, giving a commanding view of the long bonnet, finished off with some wings instead of Hyundai’s familiar slanted ‘H’. So we find a bit of Rolls Royce in the Centennial too.

Hyundai, again, seems to have looked at the LS460 when searching for inspiration for the Centennial’s dash, as it seems exactly like a Lexus dash would look had it been designed today and not half a decade ago. Even the simple font labelling the multitude of ergonomically placed buttons appears to have come out of a Toyota product. But you know what?

It all works rather well. Except for the sat-nav and infotainment screen which is about as novel as a solar-powered calculator in a world of iPads.

To set it up is also a chore, since there is no central command button. You need to first find the feature you wish to personalise and then delve into its inner workings. It’s a bit too complicated and far behind what the Germans are offering at the moment.

Otherwise you also get seat coolers and a small fridge in the back, a 17-speaker surround-sound system, the segment-obligatory window shades and a neat 3.5in display screen nestled between the rev-counter and speedometer.

The drive. Or am I floating?

The Tau’s all-aluminium construction, continuously variable valve timing, variable air induction systems and automatic six-speed partner make for an impressive powertrain.

This engine is remarkably quiet, so flying along the road at license-revoking speeds is a position you can find yourself in quite often. You simply can’t hear it, whether it’s idling or spinning leisurely at 160kph.

It’s abundance of low-speed torque is also useful for keeping the fuel pumps at bay, because normal driving shouldn’t drain the 77-litre fuel tank at a faster rate than 12 litres per 100km.

Hyundai Centennial

Most of all, I should praise the transmission, which swaps cogs with the smoothness of a Gillette shave.

Performing an overtaking move with luxury cars is usually something I don’t look forward to, since their soft nature tends to bob my head around as the transmission violently selects a lower gear at kickdown. The Centennial is so finely tuned, that dropping even two gears for a spurt of power doesn’t detract from the blissful drive.

Despite the power, its nature and size obviously don’t make it a sports car, so it does tend to reach for the tarmac during hard cornering. A Bimmer or Merc is better at this bit.

Anyhow, to most customers in this luxury car segment, the ride quality is the deal-clincher. Hyundai’s Centennial VS460 needn’t worry then, because it rides just as well as a Lexus LS460, and there’s no higher praise than that this side of a Rolls-Royce Phantom. The brilliant result is down to a five-link suspension with aluminium control arms in every corner.

Hyundai also included Amplitude Selective Dampers; air suspension which is electronically controlled to provide a level ride.

Also noteworthy is the Electric Parking Brake which holds the vehicle at a stop until the accelerator pedal is pressed. Typically, these systems make for an uncomfortable launch off-the line, with the brief switch over from braking to accelerating power usually resulting in head bobbing. The Centennial’s system seamlessly disengages when you want to move again, without any abrupt and uncomfortable jerkiness.

The Vehicle Stability Management includes the Lane Departure Warning System, Pre-Safety System and Smart Cruise Control. When a collision is detected, the system automatically applies full braking force and reels in the front seat belts. Other safety credentials include two front, four side and two side curtain airbags, as well as a knee airbag, bringing the total to nine.

What’s more, there are cameras helping to eliminate blind spots, with the front one able to transmit its feed automatically every time the vehicle is stopped.

Just about the only bits of kit missing from the Centennial are night-vision,
head-up display and massaging seats, as can be found in some of its rivals.

How things change. Lexus was a copy-cat once, now people accuse Hyundai of doing the same. But it seems to be a recipe for success, because Hyundai’s first attempt at a proper luxury car ended up as a serious rival to the segment’s traditional rulers.

With a brilliant ride, hugely refined mechanicals and spacious interior, how can you not consider it at the price Hyundai is offering it? You’re not still put off by the badge, are you?

Sorry, but I simply don’t buy that. If you come to the party and put on the best overall show, I don’t care if your name is Cletus Clapstickle, you can still be my friend.

So the Hyundai Centennial is Korea’s great hope in the luxury car war, and judging by history, you shouldn’t give it much of a chance. But tomorrow is the future, and I reckon it’s one with plenty of Centennials running about.

Hyundai Centennial
Hyundai Centennial
Hyundai Centennial
Hyundai Centennial
Hyundai Centennial
Hyundai Centennial
Hyundai Centennial
Hyundai Centennial
Hyundai Centennial

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