2001 Hyundai XG300

Monte Doran
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Monterey, California - The XG300 is Hyundai's boldest move to date. At $24,000, it's the most expensive Hyundai ever and is pitted against such titans as the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry in a viciously contested market where buyers are pursued as frantically as George Clooney at a bachelor auction.

No doubt conscious of that fact, Hyundai has primped the XG300 with a mother lode of features. The XG300 comes with a 3.0-liter V-6, a five-speed automatic transmission, anti-lock brakes, traction control, and front and side air bags as standard. In addition, there's leather upholstery, woodgrain trim, a CD player, cruise control, air conditioning, keyless entry, and power windows and door locks.

The interior appointments are tasteful, with the exception of the painfully faux wood, and the front and rear seats comfortably accommodate meat-and-potato-fed Americans. Overall fit and finish are good, but there were some worrisome miscues in our test car: The interior door trim was crooked, the rear package shelf rattled, and wind whistled around the frameless door glass.

It isn't until you start driving that the XG300 falls down in comparison with its big-name rivals. The 3.0-liter engine never seems to muster all 192 of its ponies: Initial acceleration is strong, but the engine fades away at 5000 rpm, far below the 6500-rpm redline. It's just as well, as the XG300 isn't very comfortable with high speeds. Dogged understeer and a spongy brake pedal make spirited driving a dispiriting experience. The soft, under-sprung suspension militantly eliminates all feedback from the blacktop, and light steering encourages one-hand-on-the-wheel driving.

Clearly, the maximum Hyundai is meant for leisurely cruising. As such, we think the XG300 will more likely find its 15,000 buyers a year among bargain-minded shoppers of soft, comfy cars with a good frills-to-bills ratio, such as the Buick Century.

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