Thursday, May 10, 2012

2013 Hyundai Influenza

Awesome retro good looks hampered 
somewhat by poor performance

Recently, Morgan released a modern version of their three-wheeler.

Cute little thing. The Morgan three-wheeler last saw road use in 1911, or so...probably for good reason. And, yes, that's an air-cooled 1.9 liter V-Twin bolted to the front. That's where the air is, after all.

They even offer the little bugger with RAF roundels and fake bullet holes, for what reason I don't know.

The Morgan, however, has triggered an avalanche of car-makers looking to hop on the retro-styling bandwagon. 

The latest is Hyundai, following Morgan's lead with the retro British aerodrome look. 

Yesterday, Hyundai flew me to beautiful downtown Tampa, Florida so I could review their new model SUV targeted at upscale soccer moms - the Influenza.

I must say, the citizens of Ybor City are very friendly. 

Before the vehicle arrived, I received several offers of crack, along with some packets of meth from some friendly locals. Somehow, I managed to lose my wallet and watch, but I am pretty absentminded sometimes. 

Then Jeremy Clarkson arrived in a rental convertible. 

He told me that he'd flown over from England giddy about driving the Influenza, and had been waiting a full year for the chance.

The company representatives finally showed up with two Influenzas, one for me and one for Jeremy, and my first impressions were mixed. 

I liked the retro looks, the meaty tires well-suited for urban driving, and the optional canvas top. (a $3,400 extra I wouldn't have chosen in this town) 

Still, I was rather puzzled by the suicide doors, as they didn't seem child-safe. Oh, well, no matter.

The Hyundai official assured me they offered much easier access to the roomy interior. And he was right. The interior volume is astounding on such a well-proportioned vehicle.

Driving the Influenza is a pleasant experience. 

I want to note, though, that I never did find the Blue-Tooth connector, and the MP3 player location was poorly thought out, mainly because there wasn't one. 

But other than that, I was really surprised. The canvas seats were comfortable, the dash was laid out well and easy to read...possibly because there are only three dials. The optional yogurt machine is a refreshing treat. 

The air-conditioner has two settings: Sauna and Turkish prison. And I must agree with Hyundai, air-conditioning is highly overrated, especially in Florida.

The engine is Hyundai's new naturally-aspirated 3-liter straight six, coupled with a Fiat-built 4-speed. 

The acceleration was brisk, with 0-60 times of 34 seconds. 

The suspension is supple and firm without being bone-jarring. The brakes are adequate for city driving, but did show some fade when pushed hard. 

The steering was light and delightful, as I don't mind a lot of play because it makes life more interesting.

When Jeremy returned with his Influenza, he told me that his vehicle was exciting and more fun to drive than a Ferrari 458, and I agree completely. 

BMW, Mercedes and Porsche just don't offer this level of workmanship and commitment to detail in their SUV's. 

The price is more reasonable, too, with the base models starting at $56,700. You get a lot for your money, quite frankly. The only bad news was the fuel mileage, which turned out to be 3 mpg in the city and 5 mpg on the highway. 

Jeremy assured me that the potential customers in Great Britain didn't care for such things, being for more concerned with ride comfort. 

I think the same will be true in America. After all, look how well Hummer has done in worldwide sales.

Jeremy did point out something crucial, even though his speech was somewhat slurred by the multiple malt liquor beers the locals had shared with us.

No matter what the failings of the new Hyundai Influenza were in the upscale and wealthy soccer mom demographic....the Influenza was still much better looking than the Porsche Cayenne.

And I agree completely.

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