[First Drive] 2023 Hyundai Grandeur (Azera) – V6 3.5L Gasoline HTRAC Caligraphy

Ratings: 8.0 / 10 ★★★★

HighsLows
– Neat and Interior design and interface that are neat and harmonize the past and present
– Driving characteristics that anyone can drive easily and comfortably
– Well-equipped functions and equipments suitable for the vehicle class
– Appearance that seems to be divided into likes and dislikes
– Unsatisfactory rear seat space and ride comfort
– Values that become too burdensome as equipment and functions are added

    Hyundai Grandeur has 36 years of history and it just transformed into the 7th generation. The Grandeur has undergone many changes along with the growth of Hyundai brand. It started as the top model of the Hyundai brand, but had to be lowered for a while, and was able to regain its place only after the Genesis brand became independent. Ostensibly, it regained its flagship position on the Hyundai’s model lineup from the previous generation, but considering the development process, this 7th generation Grandeur can be said to be the first generation planned and made to suit the changed top position from last 20 years. The significance of the new Grandeur can be guessed from the fact that a completely different platform was used and elements of previous models were evenly brought into the design and implemented in a new way.

    The car i’ve tested was a fully-equipped top trim ‘Caligraphy’ model that added all optional equipments – except for the special package named ‘Black Ink’ – including 3.5L gasoline engine and the HTRAC four-wheel drive (AWD) system. In particular, the AWD system is used for the first time in the history of the Grandeur. And except for the AWD system, the powertrain configuration is the same as K8 from Kia, consisting of 1.6L gasoline turbo hybrid system, 2.5L and V6 3.5L gasoline engines and V6 3.5L LPG engines.

    Based on the current market trend, it seems that the 1.6L gasoline turbo hybrid will be the best-selling model. It means that consumers who choose a gasoline engine model with a large displacement, such as a test car, may have relatively conservative criteria for choosing a car. Although exterior design have mixed expression of the past and present, people who opted for V6 engines are more attracted to conservative characteristics and values of the Grandeur as a traditional luxurious sedan in Korean market.

    The interior, at least in the visible side, is well organized with materials and colors to look luxurious. In particular, the fact that the interior materials are not divided into several pieces and used on a wide surface plays a big role in creating a calm indoor atmosphere as a whole. The interface around driver’s seat that controls various functions is composed of physical elements such as buttons and dials but many of them are integrated into two big touchscreens. In particular, almost every buttons and other physical input interfaces have same touch-and-feel regardless of the location of the operation and that feeling increases the emotional satisfaction. However, the size, weight and feeling while it moves of the interior door opening handle are far from the other controls.

    From the driver’s point of view, it is satisfactory in many ways. Although the center console width is not narrow, the space around front seats is sufficient. As the electronic gear selector is moved behind the steering wheel, the center console with a smooth top creates a calm interior atmosphere with a neatly designed dashboard which have a thin and long instrument panel and an infotainment screen on top of it. Except for the area around the front edge of the front door glass, where the quarter glass is separated, forward and left-right visibility is also good. The mood lamp spread on the dashboard in front of the passenger seat is a bit excessive to look at apart from its function.

    The angle and cushion thickness of the ‘Ergo Motion’ driver’s seat can be adjusted in detail, so it is good to set the right posture regardless of the body shape. Appropriate curves and firm cushions help to understand the driving condition of the car. However, it is a bit hard to reach hand to adjust the functions on the right side of the infotainment screen while driving. Of course, most of the key functions can be operated with the interface on the steering wheel, and can be checked through the instrument panel and heads-up display.

    The Hyundai’s new ‘ccNC’ infotainment system is nice with a screen that responds quickly to operation along with a simple and clear design. The complexity of the menu structure has also been reduced, but since there are so many functions that can be adjusted, the number of times to touch the screen to find the necessary function seems to be almost the same, even though the actual operation steps are reduced. Nevertheless, the interface design, which makes effective use of colors, layout and size of menus to recognize and use, is excellent.

    Another welcome addition is the air conditioning interface made with a 10.25-inch touchscreen. Although you have to move your gaze down a lot, the large touch-sensitive display and haptic feedback function increase usability. It is also convenient to be able to select the display theme of the control function according to driver’s taste and displayed items in simplified or customized form.

    In this generation, the convenience of the rear seat is emphasized more than before, with added some convenience features such as the optional rear seat recline function. However, the fundamental approach to rear seat space is not much different from the previous generation model. Despite of added features, the back seat was not decorated with the concept of a full seat. Air outlets for the rear seats are located behind the center console between the front seats, but you cannot adjust climate control from rear seat. And although rear side window sunshades are electrically adjustable from rear seats via power window switch, the rear glass power sunshade is adjustable only from front seats.

    Of course, when fully-equipped just like tested car, it has almost everything you need from rear seats of large-sized family sedan. All seats except center seat have three-level adjustable heating and ventilation functions, side window power sunshades, and audio control functions – controls cannot use when a person occupied center seat, of course – seem to be nothing to regret. In addition, as there are Genesis brand sedans, it is unreasonable to put more consideration and care into the back seat of top model from Hyundai. Tested car also has Active Road Noise Control (ANC-R) technology, but I don’t know how much of a difference the presence or absence of the technology makes. However, at least the fact that its sound doesn’t feel awkward when driving can be evaluated positively.

    Even so, it is shame that the back seat space is not wisely composed. Later version of previous generation Grandeur had a large enough space to give a feeling of being ‘extra wide’. However, this Grandeur is relatively less generous. Eye-catching parts such as the back of the front seat and the door trim are composed of wide and simple surfaces to pursue visual relaxation, but the feeling when you sit and lay your body on the seats is not as good as before. Even though ceiling was dug up to secure head clearance, relatively low roof and high center tunnel in consideration of the AWD system make feeling that rear seat space is not enough.

    It’s the back seat itself that has a bigger impact than those factors. The seat itself is a little high and the cushion is thin, perhaps because a moving structure was put under the seat to add a recline function. Although attention was paid to the curvature of the surface, the cushion itself is thin and the leather on the seat surface is stiff with little elasticity. It could not matter when you sit in the front, but not in the back. It is also different from the traditional back seat character of the Grandeur, which used a soft cushion to offset the impact coming from the bottom to some extent. The switch for the seat adjustment function is located on the center armrest, but it is also difficult to understand that the center armrest does not move with the right seat, which is the usual seat of honor, because the rear seats are divided in a 6:4 ratio.

    As soon as wheels start to roll, the car reveals that it was made with a higher emphasis on the driver, as can be felt from the interior composition. As it must be able to respond to a wide range of consumers’ demand, the parts related to driving have been adjusted so that anyone can easily handle them and give a familiar feeling. The steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedal all have light elasticity added to make them feel soft and natural. The same goes for driving response. Neither one is rough or rushed, and it moves smoothly as the driver handles and leads the car.

    The overall ride is calm and smooth. When you drive at low speed, ride is really smooth and comfortable. It’s solid, but it doesn’t bounce abruptly when going over bumps, and also not harsh when going over speed bumps. It is impressive that it has been tuned to handle shocks elastically while suppressing up and down movement. Anyone who has experienced the previous generation Grandeur, including the previous generation, may feel that the ride has become a little harder. But in fact, it is not harder but gentler with moderated up-and-down movement.

    Add speed and reach to the mid-speed range, some vibration is transmitted through the steering wheel and seat, but the rough feeling is filtered out and transmitted just enough to read the road surface. Even when changing lanes, it moves while maintaining its posture well unless the steering wheel is operated very urgently. Even when running a long corner while maintaining speed, the front of the body moves smoothly while the rear maintains stability, so ease in mind continues steadily.

    However, there is a difference in comfort between the front and rear seats. In the front seat, there is a good balance of stability and comfort that makes me think that there is nothing more to ask for in a car of this size and price. In the rear seat, the feeling of accepting and releasing the shock is a little less generous, relatively, but the difference in ride comfort is slightly reduced when the road condition is good or when running at a steady speed of 60 km/h or more. And fundamentally, more emphasis is placed on undisturbed movement and sophisticated handling over ride comfort.

    The V6 3.5L naturally aspirated gasoline engine with a maximum output of 300 ps (221 kW) and a maximum torque of 36.6 kg・m (359 Nm) sends driving power to all wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission and an HTRAC four-wheel drive system. Acceleration is consistently smooth. Even if you step on the accelerator pedal deeply for highway entry or overtaking, the numbers indicated on instruments panel does not seems to impress. This is the result of the complex effects of a naturally aspirated engine that generates large torque only when it goes up to a high rev range, an AWD system that actively adjusts the driving force of the front and rear wheels in a large and heavy body, and 20-inch tires with a wide tread.

    But that’s just sense of feeling. In fact, the speedometer quickly shows big numbers. Rather than being sporty, the steady and smooth feeling of acceleration better matches the character of the car. The higher the rev range, the more intense the engine sound. However, the soundproofing is good, so it doesn’t bother me. In the highway speed limit area, you can hardly hear the wind noise and the frameless side windows does not reveal any loopholes up to that speed range. However, in a much higher speed range, the rear door side window glass lifts slightly and make some the air hitting noise, but if you drive only under legal speed limits, there will not be a big problem.

    Considering the size, position in market, and character of the car, the overall composition is so good that it is difficult to find a place to fault. Since there is no particular competitor except for the Kia K8 in South Korea, which is another car brand shares same technical umbrella of Hyundai Motor Group, the Grandeur will of course sell well as long as it has better value than the K8 at least one criteria. And Hyundai could justify even if it did not progress or evolve enough, as a model that dominates the market. But it is worth appreciating that it complements the points that were disappointing in the previous generation model and comprehensively refines it along with the new platform.

    However, when I consider the 3.5L gasoline engine model to take as a standard, it is questionable whether people who choose a car based on stereotypes and traditional sensibilities will be able to be satisfied with the solid driving characteristics or the rear seat with reduced roominess with a little youthful taste. I wonder if there will be a slightly different evaluation than those who choose a model with a 2.5L gasoline engine or a 1.6L turbo hybrid system.

    There is another thing to point out. I cannot help thinking that the price has become too burdensome. Even considering the fact that much more tech, feature and equipment than the previous generation model are included, the price has risen to a fairly high level. Of course, Hyundai have plenty of reasons for justify that. And even without that reasons, the Grandeur will sell well in South Korea. However, it is regrettable that there will be more consumers who feel that the Grandeur, which was within reach with a little effort, will no longer easily approachable.


    [ Specifications ]

    2023 Hyundai Grandeur – V6 3.5L Gasoline 3.5 HTRAC Caligraphy
    Body type
    Unlaiden weight
    4-door 5-passenger sedan
    1,800kg
    Length x width x height
    Wheelbase
    Track front / rear
    Typre size front / rear
    Trunk volume
    5,035 x 1,880 x 1,460mm
    2,895mm
    1,624mm / 1,631mm
    245/40 R20 (same)
    480L (VDA)
    Engine type
    Power max.
    Torque max.
    Fuel tank volume
    V6 3.5L (3,470cc) N/A gasoline
    300ps (221 kW)/ 6,400rpm
    36.6kg∙m (359 Nm) / 5,000rpm
    60L
    Transmission
    Driveline
    8-speed automatic
    All-wheel drive
    Fuel Consumption (Combined, KR)
    CO2 emission
    9.0km/L (11.1L/100km, 21.17mpg)
    170g/km
    Base price (Dec. 2022)
    Price as tested (Dec. 2022)
    51.6 million won (V6 3.5L gasoline + HTRAC AWD) – est. $41,460 / est. €38,100
    57.1 million won – est. $44,780 / est. €42,160

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