Tak­ing on the big guns

Hyundai’s amaz­ing Cen­ten­nial lux­ury sa­lon wil be more than a litle wor­ry­ing for the big lux­ury play­ers

Virtuozity - - AUTOMOBILES -

The old adage goes ‘if it’s cheap, it’s cheap for a rea­son’. In other words, if some­thing is in­cred­i­bly cheap, it’s ei­ther not real or not put to­gether prop­erly.

This gen­eral rule of thumb can eas­ily be at­trib­uted to the car in­dus­try, as lux­ury cars cost a lot of money, be­cause they are, well, lux­u­ri­ous. Any­thing that is cheap can make all the claims it wants, but it’ll never live up to ex­pec­ta­tions.

Well, Korean man­u­fac­turer Hyundai has blown that rule right out of the wa­ter. The com­pany has, over the years, crept un­der the radar, past all the big names, to be­come one of the big boys, and now ranks as the fourth largest car pro­ducer in the world. But the big­gest sur­prise is its flag­ship Cen­ten­nial, which doesn’t even get a Hyundai badge on it.

The Cen­ten­nial was ini­tially built by Hyun-

dai to take on the old guard of Mercedes’ S Class, BMW’S 7-Se­ries and Audi’s A8, but by def­i­ni­tion also goes head to head with the Lexus LS460 and VW Phaeton. That’s quite a line-up and you might be right in think­ing that per­haps Hyundai was set­ting its sights a lit­tle high, but the spec sheet says dif­fer­ently.

For your money, you get a 5.0-litre V8 driv­ing the rear wheels, via an eight-speed tip­tronic gear­box. The en­gine is good for 417 hp and 495 Nm of torque. You also get a head-up dis­play, air sus­pen­sion, power boot lid, so­lar glass, rear and side elec­tric cur­tains, xenon lamps, 360-de­gree cam­era, rear TV mon­i­tors, rain sen­sors, and a re­clin­ing rear seat, where the front seat moves it­self out of the way to give you more room. On top of that, you get a range of safety sys­tems, in­clud­ing blind spot as­sist and Hyundai’s al­len­com­pass­ing AVSM sys­tem. Frankly, that’s a very long list of safety and lux­ury op­tions that ri­vals all of the clos­est com­peti­tors.

But now here’s the key fact. De­spite hav­ing a list of op­tions as long as your arm, the fully loaded Cen­ten­nial is just AED 259,900. Quite how Hyundai can build the car for that amount is any­one’s guess, but the com­pany has and it works.

It also looks good, although the bon­net em­blem (which you can spec­ify to be just a badge, thank­fully) is a bit over-the-top. The rear is neat and tidy and the front very pur­pose­ful.

In­side, it’s a sea of leather, wood and smooth sur­faces, all ex­tremely well put to­gether. It’s clear Hyundai hasn’t cut any cor­ners de­spite the low price. It all feels ‘ex­pen­sive’ and very well built in­deed.

On the road it’s smooth and rapid, although the gear­box isn’t as quick as some of its ri­vals. It also im­me­di­ately un­der steers if you try to cor­ner too quickly, but that’s a com­mon trait with all large lux­ury sa­loons. Weight is weight. You can’t just pre­tend it isn’t there. Physics will al­ways take over.

Tempt­ing BMW and Mercedes buy­ers to trade in their S Class’ and 7-Se­ries’ is go­ing to be a tough call. These own­ers are loyal and love the badge on their par­tic­u­lar brand. Where the Cen­ten­nial will do well, is against the likes of Lexus and Volk­swa­gen with their Phaetons and LS 460s. It may also tempt other smaller lux­ury sa­loon buy­ers to up­grade from their Ger­man mid-sized cars.

Ei­ther way, this is one se­ri­ously specced up car that sets a wor­ry­ing trend for the lux­ury sa­loon estab­lish­ment.

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