Hyundai Centennial Review

The copycat that’s good enough to fool most of the people most of the time

By Shahzad Sheikh

Hyundai Centennial

Look at the spec, take a tally of the toys, and feel the performance of this classy Korean – all for quite a bit less money than the car this luxury saloon understudies: the Lexus LS. It wins, read no further, click off.

Or does it?

The key fob is the first giveaway. Whilst premium manufacturers have actual departments concentrating on the look, feel and weighting of the key, I’m guessing Hyundai does not.

Hyundai Centennial

The plipper for this machine right here, the flagship luxury barge from Hyundai, has all the correct buttons on it and they all work, obviously. It also looks the part, black with silver on one end and appearing to be a fairly chunky thing. Then you pick it up. It is lighter than you think, feels insubstantial and, dare I say it, a little flimsy.

Copycat, copycat!

So let’s turn to the car itself. The styling seems to predate the current Hyundai design trends which are flavoured with swoopy lines, slick details and a cohesive overall appeal. The Centennial, or Equus as it’s called in some markets is a amalgam of design cues from the likes of Lexus and Infiniti with a bit of old-skool Merc thrown in.

Hyundai Centennial

We’re not quite sure where that incredibly OTT bonnet mascot was taken from – a sort of garishly over-done interpretation of the Rolls-Royce’s Spirit of Ecstasy. More Spirit of Mimicry in this case. Certainly distinctive though.

In dark colours with chrome, its remains an important, if perplexingly anonymous beast – it’s one of those cars that Valet Parking Attendants immediately realise is important, even if they can’t quite comprehend why, or for that matter what it is.

Hyundai Centennial

Especially since there is only one Hyundai badge on the whole car, and it’s on the rump. There isn’t even one inside – the steering boss featuring a 2D version of the grille ornament. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day the owner finds that the car park guys have removed the H-badge at the back, believing it to be an act of vandalism by some crass joker making a misjudged point about the evils of capitalistic fat pigs!

Inside it’s a similar story. The rear compartment is pure Lexus LS, right down to the so-called Ottoman seat featured in the LS limos – a fully reclining chair on the passenger side, which automatically folds down the front seat!

Hyundai Centennial

At the front the transmission lever is pure BMW, the seat controls on the doors are Mercedes, the new all-digital LCD instrument panel is Jaguar.

When you go to big international motor shows, you’ll often see people spending a lot of time in, usually, European cars photographing minute details, like buttons, gloveboxes or window screens etc.. In the old days these people were invariable working for the Japanese firms (there were even stories of them taking shavings from leather upholsteries back then), but nowadays I suspect they’re all representing the Korean and probably also the Chinese car makers.

Hyundai Centennial

The interior of this top-dog Hyundai feels like it was put together based entirely on photographs of interiors of other luxury cars. Hence, visually, it all looks faithfully accurate and utterly appropriate for a car of this ilk. It’s only when you start to use it and find that the feel isn’t quite as damped, as solid or as tactile as you’d think, that you realise it’s about as genuine as a movie set.

The indicator stalk clacks cheaply, the transmission lever doesn’t glide as sweetly, and when you look across the dashboard at an angle the wood trim appears to be slightly rippled and warped. The leather looks the part, but is not as luxuriant as it should be, the carpets not as plush and so on, and so on…

Hyundai Centennial

The good stuff

But if you think I’m going to use up all of the words on this page to totally diss this car then you’re completely, okay, partially, wrong.

The fact is that it is a very comfortable car to be driven around in, and exceptionally easy to drive too. It so quietly oozes and floats down the road that you will forget the H-badge – for a bit. The steering is light, the ride is surprisingly well-damped, and then there’s the performance.

Hyundai Centennial

You barely hear the engine at idle – at least once I had to blip the throttle to make sure the car was even running. Even driving around at slow speeds, it appears propelled by inaudible magic forces.

Get it over 3000rpm though and you can not only hear the engine but feel it. Okay, we’re not talking muscle car vulgar staccato, but certainly a grunty roar distinctive to an eight-pot, and there’s a mighty dollop of newfound momentum to accompany it. It’s all rather pleasing I must say!

Hyundai Centennial

The Centennial is astonishingly keen and eager once stirred and the 0-100kph time of 5.8 seconds seems to back up the sensations. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t transform into a sports saloon. The auto does a fairly good job of getting on, but the body control and handling are definitely biased towards comfort and safety. In fact this feels like the like an older, less well-sorted luxury car, slightly unsettled when you start hustling along.

Show it a straight line though and it’ll happily show you who’s boss. It also seems to not want you to deviate much and is overly concerned with your well being and ability to drive, as there are collision alerts sensors all over the car, and it will sound alarms, light lights, and even employs the colour – and very useful – heads-up-display to show you cars and obstacles and exactly which corner they’re at.

Hyundai Centennial

There’s even a birds-eye view camera that gives you a 360-degree view of the car’s surrounds so you can manoeuvre and park with ease – it’s a very helpful car indeed.


This is actually a very good car. Surprisingly good. However, should you buy it? Well there are a few issues that stay me from wholeheartedly recommending it.

Hyundai Centennial

If the price was considerably lower, it would be a lot easier to look past the fact that if you scratch below the surface there’s neither the depth of chassis engineering nor build quality and finishing you’d expect at this level.

The price is also cause for concern because this car is likely to depreciate like a freefalling Felix Baumgartner when you come to sell. People buying used luxury cars, want the best badge they can get.

Hyundai Centennial

And that brings us to the H-badge. You just don’t want to park this executive cruiser in front your Palm Jumeirah villa and walk to the rear and see the H-badge – a very good and worthy brand for sure, but one associated still with cheap and affordable cars. Worst still you don’t want your neighbours to notice it.

So you’re thinking our suggestion is to buy a used alternative instead. Well that’s certainly part of our conclusion: you can pick up a 2012 Lexus LS460 for about AED250k or a well-specced 2011 Mercedes S-class (loads of S350 models for just over the AED200k mark presently available) – the mother-ship itself!

Hyundai Centennial

But you can go the brand new route too, and pick up some key fobs you won’t mind fondling and leaving next to your Vertu phone on the table at that posh restaurant. AED289k will buy you a new Jaguar XJ – it may only be a V6, but it gives you the same performance, and so much more class and style, with a wonderful interior. For just AED270k you can also have a brand new Cadillac XTS – again only a V6, but hey, it’s a Caddy, Godammit!

But if you’re not a badge snob, then you might still want to take another look at the Centennial – in the classifieds. The trouble is, there aren’t any. None that I could find. Perhaps that’s cause no one is buying them in the first place. Says a lot that. Still, pop into the showroom and enquire about Dubai M41080 – this very car should be coming up for sale in their used section soon I reckon. Bargain hard though! Happy hunting.

Hyundai Centennial
Price: AED257k ($70k)
Engine: 5.0-litre V8, 430bhp @ 640rpm, 376lb ft @ 5000rpm
Performance: 0-100kph 5.8s, top speed 240kph (limited), 12.3L/100km
Transmission: Eight-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Weight: 2025kg

One response to “Hyundai Centennial Review”

  1. Kamil says:

    I’d easily go for a used Lexus/Merc/Jag. If you’re paying such a high amount, you want a premium badge of all things. Hyundai MUST come up with a new brand for its premium line of cars, just like Toyota, Nissan, and Honda did with the Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura, respectively.

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