Every once in a while, car brands take on new challenges such as when Lamborghini announced that they’re making an SUV, Porsche making a 4-door sedan, or Nissan creating a supercar and the results have always been varied.
Hyundai took on a new challenge a few years ago by trying to enter the luxury car market to take on the S-Class, 7-Series and A8, and when I got the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the Hyundai Centennial, I was very intrigued!
A special thanks to Hyundai UAE for my luxurious weekend ride.
Let me start this review off by saying something completely honest; the current Hyundai Centennial is not Hyundai telling us that they have arrived, but a strong message to say that Hyundai are on their way.
Hyundai Centennial Introduction
The Centennial is Hyundai’s attempt to enter the luxury sedan market and hopefully steal market share off the big boys. It comes with two engine options; a 3.8 litre v6 and a 5.0 litre v8, both with an eight-speed automatic gearbox with shiftronic technology. It has a shift-by-wire system, which eliminates mechanical links between the gear-lever and the gearbox. This means the gear-lever can remain stationary in one position (Like on a BMW)
The review vehicle had the 5.0 litre v8 engine, which has 420 horsepower and 500 nm of torque pushing this studio apartment on wheels to 100kmph in 5.8 seconds! Considering that the Centennial weighs almost 2.1 tons, that performance is fantastic.
Being that this luxury limousine is mainly designed to be driven in rather than to be driven, the rear is where all the comfort features are, including; two large first class seats that are air conditioned and fully adjustable!
There is certainly a lot to talk about, and for a sedan that starts at around 220,000AED – roughly half as much as its nearest competitor, I cannot wait to share them!
The Centennial on the outside
There is no denying that the Centennial is quite a large car as it is 5.16 meters long, 1.89 meters wide and 1.5 meters tall. It sits right between the S Class’s short and long wheelbase models.
There is no denying that the front of the Centennial is rather striking, especially when seen in the rear view mirror.
Hyundai have done everything they should to give the Centennial the prestige it needs on the road, starting with a large chrome grill, large headlamps with LED accenting, LED fog lamps and a unique chrome emblem (An attempt to copy Rolls Royce’s flying lady and Bentley’s flying B)
The only issue I have with all that is, people are not aware that this is a Hyundai and this is a problem that emerged with their luxury sedans. They have three brands to deal with, the Hyundai, Genesis and Centennial and all three have their own badges! It is true that people do not associate luxury sedans with Hyundai but launching a brand that people aren’t familiar with in the first place is not ideal in my personal opinion.
I’d assume they should do luxury right, launch a kick-ass car that stands a fighting chance with the big players in the market and shove the Hyundai badge up their exhaust pipes.
Back to the lights for a second.. They have installed Xenon headlamps and LED fog lamps but I cannot understand why the high-beams are standard halogen yellow..
Hyundai has pulled all their tricks for the Centennial, and as much as it is impressive, every cool point comes with a small “but”. Starting off with the Keyless entry and start system; the car detects the keyfob when near the vehicle, unfolds the side mirrors and illuminates the interior lights but does not unlock the car until any of the handles are touched. This is a classy feature as it seems as though the car is constantly looking out for you.
The “but” to that is that the keyfob looks quite cheap, definitely not as elegant looking as its main rivals and with a badge that is unrecognizable, doesn’t serve the purpose of a large luxury sedan.
The large beast is an elegant looking machine, with large wheels, a long wheelbase and plenty of car to go around. The car is loaded with tech and on the exterior you have an array of sensors and 360 degree cameras located under the flying emblem, under the side mirrors and under the rear boot lid. The side mirrors project an LED light on to the floor to help see around the car at night.
It wouldn’t be nice to slam the door on your VIP back seat guest now would it? Soft closing/suction doors make sure you never have to ever again!
Although they have done all the necessary in terms of visual elements; large LED lights, chrome, and exhaust tips attached to the bumper, the Centennial’s rear is as bland as it gets in my opinion. There seems to be no unique design elements, just a straight forward, squarish, rear end. I would hope for more design elements to be competing with brands with extraordinary rear ends.
Large windows all round make the Centennial easy to look out of, 360 cameras make the car easier to park and with suspension that can be raised, it is actually quite maneuverable, taking that VIP where ever he needs to be!
As much as the exterior of the Hyundai Centennial is a big deal, the interior is where people will spend most of their time.. So, lets take a seat shall we?
The Centennial on the inside
This is where most of the Centennial’s development is done, to create an exclusive luxury sedan to rival the Germans.
Let’s start from the front and work our way to the back!
There is no denying that the Centennial has a beautiful interior. It may not have the finest interior design job, but it is quite a luxurious, handsome limo. The car does have some un-luxurious bits and pieces – hard plastics, cheap feeling buttons, and some bits and pieces that are out of place; like the rectangular seat belt buckle that looks like it was stocked from the 90’s with a red button with the word PRESS embossed on it.
Another thing that bothered me was the leather. Yes, it was soft to touch, but had an odd smell to it. I am not sure if it was this particular car or perhaps the leather is just not as high quality.
The driver instrument panel is high tech with a 12.3 inch TFT screen instead of traditional dials. The dials were clear, crisp, bright and quite well laid out, certainly better than a few others on the market today.
The driver has plenty of control over the car from this panel, including the heads up display settings, safety features, music controls, trip computer and service intervals. The panel does give the driver quite a bit of information such as the outside temperature, real time fuel economy, GPS directions, Smart Cruise Control distance, warnings and more!
The blue color is an indicator of normal/economical driving and the whole instrument panel turns red in sport mode.
The Centennial is not short on technology, not one single bit! Let’s start by talking about the Smart Cruise Control demo’d in the video above; simply set the speed you want to go, and how far you want to be from the vehicle in front of you and the Centennial will handle the rest! It will brake and accelerate depending on the distance between both cars up to a complete standstill for signals and emergencies.
The only flaw with this system, as it is with most cars with this system, is the car never seems to decelerate, if it needs to lower its speed, it will use the brakes. The downside of this is that the car behind you will see this as a brake, even if it is to reduce the speed by as little as 1 kmph.
The car is also fitted with a blind spot monitor and will indicate if a car is in your blind spot on the side mirrors.
Safety was clearly a high priority for Hyundai and it doesn’t disappoint. The heads-up display helps keep your eye on the road at all times by displaying vital information on the front windscreen. The system is capable of showing the current speed, Smart Cruise Control, and navigation directions.
Another very important safety feature is Hyundai’s collision detection system, weirdly called the active accelerator pedal. Essentially, when the Centennial detects that the driver is too close to a car without braking or while applying the accelerator, the pedal will pull back, the car will beep and the seat belts will be pulled back in the case of a crash.
Although this system sounds amazing, I have noticed that the detection distance is far and it did alert me once or twice on the Dubai roads, even when I was in complete control.
Highlighting of the interior features; the driver has quick buttons on the left of the steering wheel to quickly toggle and set the heads up display, blind spot monitor, parking sensors, lighting and traction control.
All seats are fully adjustable from the door and the driver seat has 2 memory options.
The Centennial comes with a rather decent Lexicon with only 17 speakers and 13 channels… I’m kidding, it was a very good system!
And while there are some hard plastics and not so luxurious parts, Hyundai did their best to give the Centennial a luxurious feel with leather stitching, glossy wood and some soft touch materials.
The list of options keep going on! There is an incredibly large trunk, the rear seats have a fridge in the center console, all round cooled and heated seats, and more! Speaking of cooling and heating, I have to admit the air conditioning on the Centennial is not as good as I would expect. It took roughly 10 minutes at max cooling and fan to cool down the car during the day at roughly 42 degrees, and while some of you may be laughing at this point, many cars can do that in 2-3 minutes.
Lets quickly move to the back seat..
The video pretty much sums it up. The rear is extremely comfortable as they are, upright seats. The leather is soft, there is tons of room, a lot of adjustable options and of course, they are cooled and heated.
The reason I think it’s best to leave them as they are is because if you’re any taller than 170cms the reclined position does not have enough space for your calves to rest on the cushion. I am 180cms but being that I am a bit large, I compensated them with some credit on height. Perhaps a little recline is enough, and trust me, it is very comfortable.
The rear is a very pleasant place to be as you have full control of the car (except the driving of course) and you are right where you should be if you purchase such a car.
If you are sitting at the front, there are things that would bug you. I think Hyundai needs to continue developing their driver information system (DIS) and take a second look at ergonomics. Why exactly would I need a button called info that allows me to see a variety of settings in the car but not modify them instead of a button to access the radio while my hand is still on the control? Or why would a pre-defined button on the radio be to re-save all the channels? Wouldn’t it be better to have something useful like channel list, scan, something else or even just allow me to select for myself?
Half way down sheikh zayed road, the navigation would alert me that the road speed is 100kmph… I understand that what ever mapping software is used only alerts at that point but half way through, it sounds unnecessary. It all just pushes me to think this is an unfinished project. Ready to go and works, but could be a lot better.
It is a luxury limousine, so everything in regards to steering feel and pedal feel is soft and mushy… after all, this is no sports coupe but more on that in the next section.
How the Centennial drives and rides
So, if you’re in the chauffeur mode, you’ll care about this..
The car is not a nice drive. The car lacks any sort of personality to make it a fun car, even if it does something right, it should do it in a way that it has a personality, and the Centennial unfortunately does not.
There is certainly enough power to really push you forward but the power delivery is not super smooth, the gearbox is quite slow in changing gears that there is a noticeable empty space between gears.. yes.. in 2015. The brakes are strong but it is nearly impossible to come to a complete stop, even at slow speed, without the car wobbling forwards and backwards, which aids it in feeling more like a boat than ever.
The steering is quite light, the controls on the steering wheel make things ever more accessible, the seating position and outside view is spot on for a car of this size, definitely good enough for a chauffeur, not an owner, as I would be slightly disappointed driving my car.
Now this is more like it! This is where you should be! This is where you bought this car to be!
And I got to admit, this is the best seat in the house, and will easily be your favorite spot. The car, aside from the braking wobble, is in fact very comfortable. I think the real soldier in this car is the suspension as it does an incredble job soaking up all the bumps on the road.
I have tested this car over speed bumps, slightly off road terrain and uneven roads and I got to admit, the ride is super smooth. Coupled with an array of controls, air conditioned and reclining seats, and a fridge, there is no way you’d want to get back in the driver seat ever again.
After a weekend with this car, I believe my statement stands quite accurate. The Hyundai Centennial is not Hyundai saying that they have arrived, but they are on their way, and will be there shortly.
Good job Hyundai, you have taken the brand to a new level, and I cannot wait to get behind the wheel of the next Centennial!