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MONTEREY, Calif. — While its exterior styling is somewhat lackluster, the new Hyundai XG300 has a lot that commands your attention — especially its price.
Its essential question, though, can’t be answered today, maybe not for years. That is, is the American car buyer ready for a $24,000 Hyundai?
Hyundai certainly hopes so, now that it’s poised to enter a new segment of the market with the 2001 XG300. This four-door, five-passenger sedan is the largest, most luxurious, and most expensive vehicle that Hyundai has introduced to the U.S. Hyundai is betting that success with this new car could reposition its image here, making the company a contender in the growing middle-to-near-luxury sedan segment of the market.
After a shaky start on American shores, Hyundai has recently gained consumer confidence by upgrading quality and fixing some of the shortcomings with its vehicles. Viewed as compact, simple and remarkably affordable vehicles, the Hyundai brand name has meant affordability and value — albeit at the cost of less refined performance.
By positioning this new vehicle in the near-luxury 3.0-liter V-6-engined sedan market, competing with the Toyota Camry XLE V-6, Nissan Maxima GLE, Honda Accord EX V-6 and Lexus ES 300, Hyundai hopes to attract a savvier, more upscale buyer. And, with a base price of $23,499, the XG300 is a few thousand dollars less than the competition, when comparably equipped.
This new player does lag a bit behind the pack in power, with its 192 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque at 6000 rpm; everyone else nudges past the 200-hp barrier. Yet the Hyundai’s V-6 compensates for the low torque with a five-speed automatic transmission, while the competition vehicles are equipped with only four-speed automatic systems.
The automatic also features a Shiftronic gate, which allows you to use its automatic gearbox in a semi-manual fashion.