Hyundai revealed the facelift for The New Grandeur, and the model is gaining more attention than ever for its innovative changes.
As an automotive columnist, I get to test drive many different cars – but sitting right next to the developer is a rare opportunity. I tried to ask her as many questions as possible based on the many different reviews I got.
Lee JiHye is the youngest developer among the three Project Managers(PM) responsible for the development of The New Grandeur. Despite her young looks, she has been developing mid/full-size sedans for over five years. She had no hesitation in answering all the tricky and hard questions.
The first and foremost question was: “So many changes, why?”. It’s not that I don’t believe what Hyundai says – ‘to make The New Grandeur the flagship car of Hyundai’, or ‘to make the model attract its target customers, the Young-forties’, it’s just that public opinion on this issue has been varying, including ‘Hyundai aims to expand its business presence in overseas markets’.
“It’s not true since our target consumers are Koreans. The New Grandeur would have looked way different from what it looks like if we had considered overseas markets,” said JiHye. “We just wanted to change the road vibe.”
Just as she said, Grandeur is Hyundai’s flagship car. It had to survive even when everyone is buying SUVs or when its competitors keep evolving.
The wheelbase of The New Grandeur got 40 millimeters longer, which must have been not an easy choice for an automaker. This is because even a slight change should lead to a bigger investment in developing and manufacturing. The extended wheelbase was not only for a more spacious cabin but also for better-looking design. “To change the character line of the back doors and the passenger side outer panel, we had to change from the C-pillar to add volume. This was also for the sake of a better-looking rear lamp. It was never because of one simple reason,” JiHye said.
The C-pillar looks steeper because of the rear window frame, but the derrière and the rear window leaned further back, making the trunk lid shorter. But make no mistake. The cargo space remains the same. Extended wheelbase was all for larger rear passenger space.
The rear seat positioning remains the same as well. “We designed the seats to satisfy every passenger in the car. There indeed was no need to change the seat positioning because our customers were already happy with it. Adjusted seats could make it less comfortable for shorter people, or sometimes it could elicit motion sickness,” said JiHye.
Though I stretched my (short) legs hard, they still could not reach the driver’s seat. They indeed took good care of making rear seats. The wheelbase got much longer for the spacious cabin. The Calligraphy trim boasted luxurious-looking materials like aluminum and suede, and the headrests were wrapped with quilted Nappa leather just as a decent flagship sedan should be.
ut when you compare it with the old-timer Grandeur back in the 1990s, the backseat could feel a bit bland. There is no longer a rear seat climate controller but a single audio clicker. “The main character of Grandeur became more and more owner-driven. We will be happy if our customers see the model as a ‘value-added product with cool front seats’. The climate legislation is also one of the obstacles,” said JiHye.
Unlike the past, The New Grandeur is becoming a driver-only vehicle. But they did take good care of making rear seats. The wheelbase got much longer for better stability, and Modular Valve System and Three-layered Hydraulic Rebound Stopper were added to the suspension damper. Now the vehicle can respond much more quickly and effectively to road conditions.
The NVH development was the top priority of the New Grandeur. “We decreased the noise of the car standing still to 36 decibels (dB) from 37dB, and the road noise to 62dB from 63dB. You can’t imagine how hard it is to make a quiet car even quieter,” says JiHye. To do so they applied more structural adhesives, improved the torsional rigidity(rear floor and side quarter panels), made the rear window thicker, and used better absorbing materials.
All their work finally paid off. The New Grandeur 3.3 made little road-noise, highlighting the silky sound of its V6 engine. They also improved the steering torque and the quality of the gear ratio. When it comes to the steering, the general aim of the engineers and developers did not change much from when they made the Grandeur IG. Having younger and sportier steering feel, The New Grandeur boasts stable operation and acceptable ride comfort.
It is obvious that the car got heavier because of the additional NVH diagnostic strategy and longer vehicle body. But the difference they made is only 10 kg, “thanks to more expensive but lighter amenities,” says JiHye.
There was also a big change made in the front passenger space. A fully digital instrument cluster joined by a display for the infotainment system, with both measuring 12.3 inches, look high-techy enough. The center console got extra space since the shift lever and the emergency brake are all gone. It will only take some time for the drivers to get used to the brand-new transmission buttons.
The wireless phone charging system, which is positioned on the tray above the center console, enables convenient charging of any smartphone – except for one small problem. A person having a phone bigger than the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ could sometimes have a hard time charging it. But expanding the center console endlessly is not possible. This problem is what all the automakers are trying to solve.
The Hyundai Sonata is the first model to have buttons for the automatic transmission. A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, steering wheel, multi-function switches are also used for Sonata first. “They are not technically the same,” said JiHye. “The graphic details of the dashboard of the two models are different, and we used different materials for the levers. The button for Smart Cruise Control is also different.” Even the exterior mirrors are different, although they might look quite similar. The camera of The New Grandeur is calibrated differently for the rear-view monitor.
The Smart Posture Control II is a special feature co-developed by Hyundai and Seoul National University. This function not only recommends driving positions optimized for the driver’s body type by suggesting information and movements designed to relieve spinal exhaustion, but Smart Posture Control also provides a truly smart driving environment with a focus on the driver’s health. The Passenger Relaxation Comfort Seat, the first of its kind in the world, adjusts to put the passenger’s body in a neutral position to ensure a comfortable and relaxing ride. The Sonata DN8 also features this for having positive customer responses.
The audio/tune switch, on the other hand, feels a bit complicated, and so does the Drive Mode button right next to the defroster button. “You are going to get used to the horizontally arranged buttons in no time,” JiHye says.
The New Grandeur has an air purification system that maintains a pleasant indoor atmosphere (through fine dust sensor, filtering 99% of 1.0~3.0㎛-fine dust from outside) and a smart self-control system that promotes the driver’s health during long drives provide enhanced driving satisfaction. This was JiHye’s idea to make The New Grandeur look high-tech. “I feel proud when customers give positive responses to this feature.” A fine dust sensor monitors the quality of the air inside the car in real-time, offering constant updates on air quality on the screen. Once the fine dust concentration reaches a certain point, such as inside a tunnel, the air-purifying function is activated automatically to ensure a clean and fresh environment inside the vehicle.
This function can be activated through voice command even though it was turned off. The New Grandeur understands when the driver goes “close the window” or “activate air circulator”, allows drivers to keep two hands on the wheel and solely concentrate on driving. It would even open the trunk by just saying it.
The New Grandeur features HDA (Highway Driving Assist) even on motorways. However, the amount of time that the driver can take his hands off the wheel decreased for legal reasons. It will apply to its successors as well.
The New Grandeur features cutting-edge technologies such as Remote Smart Parking Support, Overhead console built-in Hi-pass system, and Built-in cam that the Hyundai Sonata DN8 already showcased earlier. It also houses Back-up guide light of Next and Genesis. However, the New Grandeur does not have Digital Key or special touch sensors built into the door handle, “because they are for car-sharing services. We thought these might not be needed in the upper-medium class.”, said JiHye. It really would have been a full model change if the additional module were to be set in the front door.
Wouldn’t she feel sorry for not having ‘the first’ title? “It’s safe to say that we put all the state-of-the-art technologies we have. And we are happy that we satisfied our customers,” she answered.
Lee JiHye, still enjoying her 20s, finds the commercial ads of The New Grandeur intriguing. Though her generation would never know about the Deuce songs or what an ‘Angle-Grandeur’ is, I was surprised to know that she liked the Railway Episode among the commercial ads. She must be busy thinking about her brilliant ideas about the next-generation Grandeur.
Words. Min ByeongKwon
Min ByungGwon is a freelance columnist who is halfway to crazy in love with cars. He has been working as an editor of RPM9, Motor Magazine, and Top Gear Korea, sometimes as a chief director of an online automobile magazine. He is currently digging the self-driving/electric/connected cars, and working at Digital Today.
Photograph. Choi JinHo