The elite’s ride of choice, from CEOs to mobsters
• BLAST FROM THE PAST– 16 Grandeur
|The original Grandeur was a collaboration with Mitsubishi Motors of Japan, but later models were developed in-house by Hyundai Motor. [JoongAng Ilbo]|
Today, foreign and local luxury carmakers offer dozens of choices for the discerning gangster, but once Hyundai Motor’s Grandeur was the car of choice for Korea’s rich and famous mob lords.
Hyundai Motor launched the car in July 1986, with later evolutions including the “New Grandeur” in September 1992, the Grandeur XG in October 1998 and finally the Grandeur TG in May 2005.
The first model was a follow-up to the Granada, a European-style luxury sedan with a platform based on Ford’s Lincoln Versailles. It was developed with Mitsubishi of Japan.
On the local market, the Grandeur, known as the Hyundai Azera overseas, once held more than 80 percent of the market for large sedans. In its first six years and two months, 122,074 Grandeurs were sold, but that record was shattered by the New Grandeur, which sold 135,424 units in a reign just one month shorter than that of its predecessor. The two other successors continued to grow in popularity.
Interestingly, the Debonair, the Mitsubishi model the Grandeur was based on, went unnoticed by Japanese consumers, struggling to compete with sedans from Toyota and Honda.
The Grandeur also had local competitors - among them the Daewoo Imperial and the Kia Sable. But its image as a luxury car, bolstered by aggressive marketing, was so entrenched that it appealed to almost everyone who thought of themselves as part of the leading class of the country - including leaders in organized crime. According to market watchers, sales of the Grandeur saw a boost in 1996 when SBS aired the soap opera “Sandglass,” in which gang leaders are driven around in the car.
The original Grandeur had a small 2.0-liter engine and five-speed manual transmission, later upgraded to automatic and a 2.4-liter engine, helping it boost sales. The New Grandeur added air bags, Korea’s first large sedan to have them. Still, the key parts of the car came from Mitsubishi.
The Grandeur XG was the first developed in-house based on Hyundai technology. Its V6 DOHC engine boasted a top speed of 210 kilometers (130 miles) per hour and 182 horsepower.
Smaller than its predecessors, the XG was actually classified as a semi-large sedan, because Hyundai fused the design of the New Grandeur with the Marcia, a smaller Hyundai model that stopped being produced in 1998. The final car in the series, the TG, adopted a softer look.
The Dynasty, released in 1996, and the Equus from 1999 overtook the Grandeur gradually, but it will always be remembered for selling over a million units - like the Sonata and the Avante - and for its dramatic connections to the Korean underworld.