2009 Hyundai Genesis
2009 Hyundai Genesis Expert Review:Autoblog
The all-new 2009 Hyundai Genesis sedan has been capturing more than its share of the spotlight this year. The luxury-oriented four-door sedan was launched with much ballyhoo over the summer. With a long list of standard features, a choice of six- or eight-cylinder power, and its sights pointed directly at some heavy-hitting established competition, the sedan rolled into showrooms with high expectations. After a few short introductory drives, Hyundai put both models in the Autoblog Garage so we could spend some time getting a bit more intimate with its new players. How solid is the chassis, engine and powertrain? How does the sedan hold up to the daily grind? How does the late-arrival fare against its status-laden competition? Find out after the jump.
Photos Copyright ©2008 Michael Harley / Weblogs, Inc.
Autoblog has driven the Hyundai Genesis sedan on more than one occasion. We sampled it in May, and then flogged it on the track in June during its introduction. While both of our "first drives" were but a quick taste, this time we were generously able to spend ten full days split between the V6 (silver) and V8 (burgundy) models. We commuted to work, drove carpools, took friends out to dinner and embarked on a one-day 250-plus mile road trip. Our goal was to subject the Genesis to a bit of everything and see how we felt about it at the end of the week.
The rear-wheel-drive Hyundai Genesis sedan is available in two models: Genesis 3.8 and Genesis 4.6. As is common in this segment, the chassis is shared with both models but the engine/powertrain is different. The Genesis 3.8 features a 290-hp 3.8-liter V6 mated to an Aisin 6-speed automatic transmission (MSRP starting at $32,250). The Genesis 4.6 rides with a 375-hp 4.6-liter V8 and a ZF 6-speed automatic (MSRP starting at $37,250). The exactly $5,000 price jump between the two models delivers the big engine, electro-hydraulic power steering, premium leather, a wood/leather steering wheel, painted bodyside molding (the easy way to tell the models apart), plus all of the equipment found in the V6's optional $3,000 "Premium Package Plus." Option to option, the 375-hp engine is a $2,000 cash upgrade and you still end up with more than a few exclusive bits and pieces. It's not nearly the model price jump found on some near competitors (BMW charges $50,800 for the 300-hp 535i and $60,000 for the 360-hp 550i – before option packages). Hyundai appears to be paving its own road when it comes to an aggressive pricing model. (It is also interesting to note that the base MSRP hasn't raised a penny since May of this year.)
At first glance, the exterior styling of the Genesis sedan isn't polarizing. In fact, it's rather benign. Hyundai studied its competitors, stole their favorite non-offensive styling cues, and then sculpted the Genesis. What emerged from their design team looks more like a sporty Lexus LS460 than anything else, but it hints at BMW, Mercedes-Benz and even Nissan. Without a double-take, most passers-by think it's just another Lexus before they continue on their way. If they happen to glance a second look, the bright "Klingon" grille and lack of any front-mounted identifying badge draws confusion for another few seconds... then they move on. We received exactly two "thumbs-up" while driving the Genesis for ten days – both were from Infiniti owners. Mercedes owners refused to be caught staring, while Lexus drivers seemed perplexed at the look-alike when we drove alongside. The sleek styling of the Genesis reeks of luxury and quality... and that seems to concern the competition as they hide behind their badges.
The interior of the Genesis is very inviting and roomy. We fit four adults in with ease. As a testament to the generous second-row leg room, small child-seat riding children couldn't kick the seatbacks even with a 6-plus footer in the driver's seat. Although it isn't quite up to the opulent Lexus standard (sorry, no yards of rippled leather), anyone would be hard-pressed to complain about comfort. The dash sweeps across the cabin with a thick band of chocolate leather, while the wood-grained accents are tastefully applied. The dash instrumentation is white on black, and the cockpit buttons glow with a modern blue hue at night. When the doors are opened in the dark, the cabin itself is bathed in LED illumination – it's a bright white light that is immediately noticed (Hyundai calls it a "room" light, not a "dome" light, by the way). The pseudo-iDrive joystick control that comes with the optional Navigation System (it was on our V8 model) works very well. After a short acclimation period, we found it simple to use. The 8-inch display is one of the clearest we've seen, and the graphics are exceedingly clear with excellent contrast. Unlike other automakers in this segment that seem to think complexity equals sophistication, it didn't take us long to familiarize ourselves with the cabin or its logical controls.
The Genesis sedan really doesn't have any quirks to preclude it from family duty. It's easy to climb in and out. Outward visibility is good, and it offers decent cargo capacity. The chassis is solid and the cabin squeak-free. In fact, the sedan effortlessly fell into our daily routine of commuting, errands, carpools and entertaining. We put strollers in the trunk and cleated soccer players in the back seats. After 240 hours of scrutiny, the new Korean flagship emerged mostly unscathed. We were, however, left with several strong impressions.
First, we stand by our original statement – the Genesis isn't going to fool anyone into thinking it is a BMW. The suspension on the big Asian four-door is soft and comfortable, while the Europeans tend to be firm and controlled. The Genesis doesn't challenge the driver to exit the off-ramp at double the posted speed limit like a BMW, or even Infiniti. It can handle it, trust us on that, but the tactile impressions the driver receives through the steering wheel and brakes beg civility, not anarchy. You won't see a Genesis being driven in anger (just like you don't see a Lexus LS diving hot into a corner during your daily commute).
Second, the Genesis is an effortless cruiser. We put 268 miles on the V6 model in one long day. Most of the driving was across the Los Angeles basin – a mix of mind-numbing traffic jumbled with periods of cars doing 75 mph merely feet apart. Then, we repeated the trip in reverse an hour later. Although our "seat time" must have exceeded seven hours, our derrières were pain free and our minds fresh. The cabin was hushed (a Cd of .27 and laminated acoustic glass help), the climate control non-intrusive and the seats accommodating. The optional adaptive HID headlamps keep the roadway well lit, and the self-dimming mirrors keep eye strain to a minimum.
Third, the Genesis 3.8 is the model of choice. Although the enthusiast in us subconsciously gravitated towards the V8, we actually found the smaller V6 more suited to our needs. The lighter six made the Genesis feel less resistant to directional changes resulting in a more enjoyable driving experience. Behind the wheel of a luxury sedan, we never found ourselves in a situation that warranted additional power, and the V6 was much more frugal at the gasoline pump when compared to its bigger and thirstier brother. If you must have a V8, go for it. However, Hyundai is betting most will opt for the 3.8 model – it's the right selection in our eyes.
Finally, this luxury sedan is one extraordinary value. Taken strictly as a luxury sedan, the chassis, powerplant, and driving dynamics are on par with the best from Europe and Japan. Throw in the variables such as luxury amenities and innovative technical features, and the Korean again closely matches them at their game. Then, look at price. A fully-optioned 290-hp Genesis 3.8 won't break $40,000 – that is nearly $5,000 less than the base price of the Lexus GS350. Optioned like the Genesis, the GS350 tops $52,000. The flagship Lexus LS460 starts at $63,675... nearly double the base price of the Genesis 3.8 sedan. Yes, the Hyundai Genesis is more than 90 percent the car of that award-winning Lexus flagship, yet at 60 percent of the price. Of course, the Hyundai isn't going to carry the cachet of the Lexus... but most of your friends won't know the difference until they are sitting inside the cabin, if then. We sample a lot of cars around here, and there is a "feeling" you get when you are behind the wheel of certain luxury marquees. The Hyundai Genesis has that same aura.
We are rightfully shoveling tons of praise on the Genesis, but there are still a few areas that could use some improvement – no, it is not perfect yet. If one is going to nit-pick the luxury sedan, the HVAC system could move a bit more air volume. On a blistering day when the car has been baking in the relentless Southern California sun for hours, the A/C seems to blow a summer storm when you really want an all-out hurricane. The LED interior lighting, some of the best we've seen, immediately goes full blast when the doors are open. At night, some unsuspecting passengers compared the abrupt cabin lighting to a flash bulb hitting their eyes (keep the LEDs, but give us progressive illumination). Then there is the sea of silver buttons under the navigation display. While the smooth and curvaceous dashboard may be aesthetically pleasing, it falls short ergonomically – it will never be intuitive. Drivers will have to pull their eyes from the road to adjust just about everything not found on the steering wheel.
It is only fair to also mention our complete exoneration of the 528-watt Lexicon sound system. In June, when forced to listen to satellite radio in the boondocks of Central California, we reported that "...we couldn't get the 17 speakers to vibrate in pleasant harmony." Back in Los Angeles and armed with an iPod, the upgraded sound package sounded great. We don't masquerade as audiophiles, but the music flowing from the digitally-amplified system is sure to please any Genesis customer. Oh, the satellite radio still sounded horrible when compared to the radio, CD or iPod input.
We've secured the enviable task of evaluating dozens of new cars each year. While some are as unforgettable as last Wednesday's fast food lunch, others (like the Lamborghini Murcielago LP640 and Nissan GT-R) will have us reminiscing the experience for decades. The all-new Hyundai Genesis sets a unique tone among our garaged vehicles. It's not the fastest, smoothest, most comfortable or most luxurious. It's not the most aerodynamic, innovative or technically advanced. What makes the flagship Hyundai memorable is its accuracy. While automakers are constantly shooting arrows into new segments hoping they will stick, few are able to hit their intended mark with their first shot. Hyundai has done it. Now, the automaker just has to figure out how to get the consumers behind the wheel in today's shattered marketplace.
Photos Copyright ©2008 Michael Harley / Weblogs, Inc.
Click the image above for a hi-res gallery of the 2009 Hyundai Genesis Sedan.
Autoblog recently spent time in Korea driving pre-production versions of the new Hyundai Genesis. This is the car that, according to Hyundai, will usher in a new era of luxury. Them's big words, and we only got a limited amount of time to figure out how true -- or not -- they were. But the main thing you need to know about the Genesis is this: unless they pull a bait and switch on the price range they mentioned, the car will be worth every penny Hyundai charges. Follow the jump to find out why.
The parking lot statistics are these: the Genesis is a big car with a fair bit of horsepower. The car is longer, wider, and has a longer wheelbase than the BMW 530i, Mercedes E350, and Lexus ES350. It's also good looking -- massive and curved without being bulbous -- although it's not designed to be controversial or, frankly, beyond the grille, that memorable. All you'll be left with a few hours later is, probably, "It was a good looking car." That is not a bad thing, since most people wouldn't remember exactly what an ES350 looks like, either, and this slice of the mass-market segment is not where you're trying to compete with Gaudi or Scaglietti... or Bangle. But if you're really worried about the price of gas, you'll be happy to know it also has a better Cd than any of those other cars, too.
Under the hood you get your choice of a 4.6-liter V8 or 3.8-liter V6. The bigger lump corrals 375 horses when sipping premium, and 368 with regular gas. Torque numbers are 333 lb.-ft. and 324 with premium and regular, respectively. Those numbers put it in the mix of luxury offerings from Infiniti, BMW, and Mercedes, the Lexus GS460, along with the Chrysler 300C, and Pontiac G8, with slightly more horsepower than all but the E550, and slightly less torque than any of them. Hyundai's first in-house V8 also gets high-zoot tech like a two-step variable induction system and dual continuously variable valve timing. The 3.8-liter Lambda V6 gets 270 hp and twists 233 lb.-ft., which keeps it in good company as well. It also provided quite the surprise when we got behind the wheel, but we'll get to that in a moment. Through the six-speed automatic transmission, your mileage will be 17/25 in the V8, and 18/27 in the V6.
Inside, the Genesis is nice. No, we mean nice. We admit that we're suckers for a cockpit that looks like mission control, but that's until we're actually driving at speed and have to figure out where the button is to stop cold air from blowing in our face. Then we hate it. Credit goes to Hyundai for creating an IP interface that we like almost as much as the Jaguar XF's, which has just the right amount of buttons to get crucial functions handled quickly. The difference is that the Hyundai doesn't have a touchscreen, which would have been wonderful, but hey, this is only round one, and that Jag screen will cost you quite a few Korean won more...
Seating, driving position adjustability, and the view from inside are all top notch. The back seat, however, was our favorite place. That had nothing to do with not wanting to drive the car -- it's simply an enormous back seat area. With the cars exceptional length and wheelbase, there is enough room for people in front and back to stretch out at the same time. If you don't get too rowdy, you could probably even have a game of ring-around-the-rosie back there. And swing a few cats. It's that roomy.
Fit and finish, stitching, touch, materials, and integration are all very good. Now, before anyone goes scanning pictures through an electron microscope and saying "Well, it kinda looks like...", remember, we're talking about a car that will probably come in well under $40K -- and that's for the V8. And while we don't want to hit the price refrain too often, this isn't about making excuses, it's about keeping in mind what the competition is. Is it as nice as a BMW interior? In absolute terms, no -- if the BMW is a 10, the Hyundai is 9-and-change. But for practical purposes, yes, because that extra percent will cost you at least $7K more to access, and it's not that much nicer. Sit in a Genesis and see what you think. In fact, sit in a BMW 530, sit in a Genesis, and then sit in a fully kitted out V6 Honda Accord, and you'll see where the Genesis is playing.
BMW can take credit, however, for Hyundai's Driver Information System (and COMAND, and MMI, and so on...). BMW, having pioneered that type of interface, has had to watch as other companies got it (more) right. And the DIS is a pretty straightforward and simple to use, incorporating HDD nav, voice recognition, Bluetooth handsfree, multimedia, climate control, and vehicle dynamics.
But let's get to the driving. We only had a day with the Genesis, and that was on a proving ground, so we can't really talk about the finer points of long distance driving and handling. Things like day-long comfort and suspension capabilities will have to wait until we can spend a week with the car next month. For now, know that the V8 car has a weight balance of 54:46, the V6 posts a 52:48. We were told there was about a 400-pound weight difference up front between the V6 and V8, factoring in both the engine and associated components.
The car gets a five-line suspension front and rear with some aluminum components like knuckles, links, and brackets. The shocks have amplitude selective damping. The power steering motor and pump unit have been isolated from the engine to improve steering feel, and that feature also improves fuel economy. The body is 74-percent high-tensile steel, with an ultra-high-strength steel cage around the cabin that is laser welded to form a continuous seam and provide appreciably more stiffness and rigidity and less flexing than the luxury competitors.
We tried increasing speeds through the slalom, and the car handles admirably, with almost no wallow. Irretrievable pendulum action didn't occur until we got to toward the end of the six cones at speeds a little higher than those we were advised to drive at, having accelerated through. Let off the throttle in the middle of a screeching tire turn, and the car settles right down. The car isn't begging to be driven like that -- you won't race through a slalom and be itching to turn around and do it again -- but the car's capabilities are more than enough when emergencies dictate sawing at the wheel.
Take the car up to 70 mph and hit the brakes, and you'll find yourself back at zero in just over 160 feet. Among its luxury competitors, that beats everything but the BMW 535i by almost ten feet or more.
On the handling course, the V8 has a rewarding, linear curve. Again, it's not the kind of car that you're going to throw into Eau Rouge at top speed -- and that's not the point. But you know what the car is doing, and you can walk it toward its limit without worrying that you'll go beyond it first. It's a big car, so there's quite a bit of weight, so while the car is taut, you're going to feel it shifting and settling when you're blazing through sweepers. But the Genesis didn't need a few moments to decide what it was going to do around the corner, and didn't complain. You set your speed, turn the wheel, and the Genesis sorts it out.
Get frisky through hairpins and the sedan -- specifically its integrated ESC system -- will have something to say about it. Throttle control kicks in first, and if matters out back are still too loose, the rear outside brake clamps down for a fraction of a moment. However, none of the intrusions are abrupt, there are no shrieking chimes or strobing lights, you're not suddenly out of power in the middle of a turn, and you know where the car is the entire time.
It was on the high speed oval that we began to wonder about the V6 versus V8 question. The V6 at top speed, (130 mph) in the highest lane, was rock solid, while the V8 at about 145-MPH suffered some suspension squash and wandering. In the middle lane, at 100 mph, the V8 was solid as granite, with the V6 just a fraction behind it in solidity. All of this is mainly due to heft of the engine.
The important things to take from this are: 1. We drove a Hyundai at 145 mph and didn't have any concerns about it; 2. we drove a Hyundai at 130 mph and 100 mph and described the experience as rock solid; 3. Nearly all Genesis drivers will never have to worry about how the Genesis handles on a high-speed oval; 4. Nearly all Genesis drivers will be pleasantly shocked that a Hyundai handles superbly past the century mark.
And the final thing to take away is this: we couldn't understand why we should buy the V6 over the V8. They perform nearly identically. The V6 is almost as fast. The interiors are the same. They look almost identical, with nothing other than a small badge on the rear valance to differentiate the two. Even the tailpipes are identical. And the V6 gets better gas mileage. We're a high-horsepower guys... but if we were going to buy a Genesis, we'd buy the V6.
Is there anything wrong with the Genesis? Sure, there are certain luxury trimmings they didn't include: the turn signals don't click three times (and even Volkswagens have that). You need to use the key or the button inside to open the trunk-- there's no release on the lid. And there are some places, such as the trunk, where the trim isn't quite finished. But again, this is round one.
The real question: who will this car compete with? It's being pitched as a competitor for the 5-series et al. Let's not look at this as a luxury lifestyle proposition yet, where brand-brand-brand rules the day. Let's look at this as a financial proposition, because, really, that's what it is for the time being. We all know that Hyundai doesn't have the brand equity to stand toe-to-toe with BMW. Yet. And we're not saying they will -- that's up to them. But remember, at one time, even BMW didn't have the brand equity to compete with today's BMW.
If the Genesis is reliable and Hyundai stands behind it until can make an impact with the brand-conscious, it is going to sell. That is not in question. Based on what we know of the Genesis so far, anyone in the market to spend $35K on a luxury sedan must at least give the car a chance. After that, the question any potential buyer should ask is: Do I want to score a 9.5 out of ten on the European luxury scale and save myself $10,000 or more while doing it? We can only believe there are a lot of people out there who will answer "Yes" to that question.
Unless you've been living in a mine deep in the hills of West Virginia, Hyundai's newest addition isn't coming to you as a surprise. Around these offices, we've been anticipating the rear-wheel-drive Genesis platform and its offspring of luxury sedan and performance coupe for years. While we'll have to continue waiting for the eagerly-anticipated 2010 Genesis Coupe, we've just taken our first drive in the elegant 2009 Hyundai Genesis sedan. Follow the jump to see if the most expensive Korean sedan ever sold on these shores is enough to take on the segment leaders from America, Europe, and Japan.
All photos copyright Michael Harley / Weblogs Inc.
Hyundai would like you to consider the Genesis a competitor to an exhaustive list of cars. The targets reportedly include the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, S Class, BMW 5-Series, 7 Series, Infiniti M, Lexus GS, Chrysler 300C, Lexus ES350, Pontiac G8, and Cadillac STS. After a day behind the wheel over road and track, we whittled it down to a much shorter list. In one breath, the Genesis will simply compete head-to-head with the Infiniti M, Lexus GS, Lexus ES, Acura TL, and Acura RL. The German buyers want their badge; the American customers are true to their flag.
Taking design cues from the best of the best, the Genesis looks like the offspring of a tryst between a 7 Series, LS430, S-Class, and an Infiniti M. Engaging at first glance, yet completely unidentifiable from the badgeless front end, Hyundai designers put it all together in a very clean yet decidedly conservative package that emits a fair amount of luxury without looking... um, Korean.
Two different Genesis models will roll into showrooms this year. The standard model is the Genesis 3.8 featuring a six-cylinder powerplant and a base price of $32,250. Under its aluminum hood is a 3.8-liter V6, mated to an Aisin B600 6-speed automatic transmission. The powerplant is rated at 290 hp and 264 lb-ft of torque (EPA fuel economy ratings of 18/27). The Genesis 3.8 tips the scales at 3,748 pounds and scoots to 60 mph in a decent 6.2 seconds.
The flagship Genesis 4.6 model offers an eight-cylinder powerplant with a base price of $37,250. Displacing 4.6 liters, the engine is mated to a ZF 6-speed automatic. The V8 is rated at 375 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque (EPA 17/25). With a curb weight of 4,012 pounds, the Genesis 4.6 sprints to 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds.
Whether you choose the six- or eight-cylinder model, both Genesis sedans feature heated leather seating, fully automatic HVAC, Bluetooth hands-free phone, and iPod/USB jacks as standard equipment (to match the upgraded standard equipment on the Genesis 4.6 with a Genesis 3.8 model, simply order the Premium Package).
The Technology Package adds navigation, satellite radio, adaptive HID headlamps, and parking assist to both models. According to Hyundai, a nicely equipped Genesis 3.8 will run about $35,000. With all option boxes checked, a loaded Genesis 4.6 tops out at about $42,000.
As the doors unlock with the standard proximity key, the Genesis sedan welcomes driver and passengers into a very inviting cabin. Soft leather envelopes the seats, door panels, and dashboard, while LED interior lighting (emitting a brighter and whiter light) illuminates the cabin at night. Wood and aluminum inlays complete the package without appearing garish or out of place. The interior quality of materials didn't simply meet our expectations, they exceeded them.
Sliding our six-foot two-inch frame behind the power-operated tilt/telescoping wheel, we found a comfortable driving position within seconds. The driver's visibility outward and to the primary back-lit instrumentation is good, as is the proximity to all of the controls on the steering wheel and dash. Just behind the shifter is the now-obligatory infotainment control wheel, falling readily to hand. If we had to nitpick the cabin, we'd point at the climate controls below the radio/NAV display. In contrast to the round volume knob on the audio system, the HVAC offers a non-intuitive pad of flush silver buttons.
With a push of the start button, our Genesis 4.6 came to life. It quickly settled to idle with only the slightest hint of vibration that it was even running. An exhaust note was non-existent. With the transmission in drive, we dodged the morning commuters on our way out of Santa Barbara. Hyundai pointed us towards Buttonwillow Raceway Park, a popular club racing destination several hours away that would require us to trail through the coastal mountains before dropping down into California's Central Valley. We couldn't help but think a race track was an odd destination for this large luxury sedan.
Compared to its German rivals (both sporting MacPherson suspension designs in the front and multi-link in the rear), the Genesis matches Lexus with a multi-link set-up fore and aft. Like its Lexus competition, the ride of the new Hyundai is soft and very comfortable. Thanks to an impressively stiff chassis (more rigid than the 5 Series, E-Class, and LS 430) and lightweight aluminum suspension components, it takes bumps and potholes in stride. However, if the vehicle is faced with a set of rhythmic dips in the road, the softly sprung Genesis gently porpoises a bit more than expected. At legal speeds it was hardly noticeable. However, in excess of about 85 mph it became unsettling. While the spring rates seemed adequate, increased damping would stabilize everything in the easily attained triple digits. Of course, the engineer's compromise on shock valving gave the Genesis a buttery-smooth ride on all but the most undulated roads. Let the Germans keep their occasionally harsh rides to themselves, the Genesis is a luxury car.
The Korean automaker paid careful attention to aerodynamics and wind management. A low drag coefficient (Cd of .27) and an acoustically laminated windshield and front side windows keep the passengers extremely isolated. Independent testing says the Genesis equals the serenity of the Lexus LS 460 over rough pavement, and our ears believed it. It's what you don't hear in the Hyundai that matters.
The hushed cabin was the perfect environment to enjoy the premium 528-watt Lexicon sound system and its 11-channel digital amplifier... or so we thought. After adjusting tremble, bass, fader, equalizer and surround mode, we couldn't get the 17 speakers to vibrate in pleasant harmony. Far from decent FM reception, and without a CD in pocket, we were forced to listen to metallic-sounding satellite radio during our drive, or sing old television tunes. We chose neither.
Arriving at the Buttonwillow track, Hyundai had set up three different challenges for us. The most interesting, and sure to embarrass the luxury-oriented Genesis, was the track course. So, we took it first. With our only instruction to "safely stay on the track," we were offered freedom to flog both the six- and eight-cylinder models repeatedly. With a bit of apprehension, we grabbed a helmet and a V6 model shod with all-season tires. Knowing it was going to get ugly fast, we left the stability control engaged. To our disbelief, the Genesis did fairly well where the big boys play.
All-season tires slide on a warm track like Crisco on a hot skillet. Without much grip, and soft underpinnings, the Genesis initially rolled like a ship... and then it surprised us by settling down. The RWD chassis and respectfully balanced weight distribution (52:48 on the V6) kept the car relatively stable on the curves as the tires howled and cried in protest. The more powerful V8 didn't help lap times either. In fact, with more weight over the front wheels (54:46 split); it frustratingly pushed over the front tires (demonstrating understeer) more than its lighter sibling. On both vehicles, the ESC was relatively unobtrusive until the vehicle was in a stupid angle in relation to the intended direction of travel. The brakes, beefy four-piston units that bit hard and consistently lap after lap, were the highlight of the track exercise. As expected, it was far from enjoyable tossing either sedan back and forth through the corners of a road course, but Hyundai had made its point – the Genesis chassis was certainly up to the task.
The second comparison was a cone-laden slalom pitting each Genesis sedan against a Mercedes-Benz E350. Held in first gear with the stability control defeated, the two Koreans wagged themselves back-and-forth in quick, if not pretty, fashion without tagging a single cone. The German, refusing to stay in a throttle-controlled low gear, followed a bit slower, but just as precisely. Each was out of its element, but it was fun watching chunks of rubber fly off the tires.
The final comparison took place on an unused straight-a-way. It was essentially a "drag race" between the Genesis 4.6 and a BMW 750i. As expected, the lighter and more powerful Genesis won each time.
Leaving the track-terrorized sedans at Buttonwillow, we grabbed a fresh set of keys and drove back to Santa Barbara in a Genesis 3.8 model. Although it was down 85 horses to the V8, the 3.8 model effortlessly passed heavy trucks on the mountain passes. The car was quiet and comfortable for the 150-plus mile ride back to the hotel. While our enthusiast blood naturally migrates towards larger cylinder counts, we couldn't help but feel the V6 is more than enough engine for this vehicle's luxury mission. Hyundai, expecting 80% of buyers to choose the Genesis 3.8 model, agrees with us.
Two decades ago, few would have bet that a Japanese economy-car manufacturer would ever dominate the North American luxury-car market. Toyota proved everyone wrong with its picture-perfect introduction of the Lexus brand the following year. While this Korean automaker is as determined – and as financially capable – as its Japanese counterparts, the question isn't about product. This time, it is about perception and timing. With its first world-class luxury sedan rolling into showrooms later this month, Hyundai's bold venture is about to be placed in the hands of the consumer.
All photos copyright Michael Harley / Weblogs Inc.
Our lodging for this media event was provided by the manufacturer.
New Car Test Drive
All-new luxury car is super smooth.
The 2009 Hyundai Genesis is a totally new luxury sport sedan. With its rear-wheel drive and available V8 power, the Genesis aspires to the BMW 5 Series, Lexus GS, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Infiniti M, but is priced more like American competitors such as the Chrysler 300 and Pontiac G8.
The Genesis seats five and is offered with V6 or V8 engines. Hyundai is best known here for the econoboxes it sold when it first came to America, but the Korean automaker has been moving upmarket for several years. The Genesis represents its biggest leap yet and is the company's most expensive and most luxurious car.
Inside, the Genesis is nicely appointed, with chrome accents, wood and aluminum trim, and soft-touch materials. Easy-to-read electroluminescent gauges greet the driver, and the available navigation system includes voice activation and a multimedia interface that is easier to use than those from most luxury manufacturers. An iPod interface is standard, and customers can choose a 17-speaker audio system that has 7.1 surround and sounds great. Room in the front and rear seats is excellent.
The Genesis marks the debut of Hyundai's first V8, a 4.6-liter dual overhead cam engine with 375 horsepower. The V8 provides plenty of smooth, willing power and gets decent fuel economy. Also available is a 290-hp 3.8-liter V6. The V6 offers enough pep for most needs and has the benefit of an extra couple mpg. Both engines run quietly and are mated to smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmissions with manual shiftgates.
Hyundai touts the Genesis as a sport sedan, with a rigid rear-wheel-drive structure and advanced five-link front and rear suspensions. On twisty roads, it performs well, with a generally nimble feel and a fairly flat disposition through corners. Of the two models, the V6 rotates easier through turns, while the V8 is more prone to push. The V8 model, on the other hand benefits from electrohydraulic steering that keeps the boost up in the tightest slaloms, while the V6's hydraulic steering can bind in quick changes of direction.
The Genesis rides well, ironing out most bumps with little effect on passengers. It doesn't float or wallow like other Hyundais, but the ride can get bouncy over humps and ruts at highway speeds. On the whole, the Genesis is a legitimate sport sedan, but it's not as agile as top performers, such as the BMW 5 Series.
Both Genesis models are fine values that deliver fine handling, a smooth ride, and willing power. They also have plenty of interior room, with nicely appointed interiors. Though not quite up to the high standards of the European and Japanese luxury cars the Genesis aspires to, it is viable and cheaper alternative to those cars and a better appointed option versus large American sedans.
The 2009 Hyundai Genesis is offered in two models. The 3.8 model has a 3.8-liter V6 that makes 290 horsepower and comes with a six-speed automatic transmission. The 4.6 model has Hyundai's new 4.6-liter Tau V8. It puts out 375 hp (with premium fuel, 368 with regular fuel) and also comes with a six-speed automatic. Both transmissions have a manual shiftgate.
Genesis 3.8 ($32,250) comes standard with leather upholstery; dual-zone automatic climate control; tilt/telescoping, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; cruise control; heated front seats; eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar adjustment; four-way power-adjustable passenger seat; heated power mirrors; power windows and door locks; remote keyless access and starting; seven-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo; XM satellite radio; auxiliary audio input jack; iPod interface; Bluetooth wireless cell phone link; auto-dimming rearview mirror; compass; universal garage door opener; automatic headlights; theft-deterrent system; fog lights; and P225/55R17 tires on alloy wheels.
Options for the 3.8 include a Premium Package ($2000) that adds a sunroof; leather-wrapped dash and door trim; power tilt/telescoping steering wheel; memory for the driver's seat, exterior mirrors and steering wheel; Lexicon 15-speaker audio system; six-disc CD changer; automatic windshield defogger; rain-sensing wipers; and a power rear sunshade. A Premium Plus Package ($3000) has the same equipment, plus P235/50R18 tires on alloy wheels with chrome inserts. The Technology Package ($4000) includes front- and rear park assist, navigation system, heated/cooled front seats, 17-speaker Lexicon audio system with 7.1 surround, HD radio, XM NavTraffic with one-year subscription, 40-gigabyte hard drive, rearview camera, and adaptive, auto-leveling xenon headlights.
Genesis 4.6 ($37,250) adds a power tilt/telescoping wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel; leather-wrapped dash and door trim; memory for the driver's seat, mirrors and steering wheel; sunroof; Lexicon 15-speaker audio system with six-disc CD changer; rain-sensing wipers; power rear sunshade; auto-dimming exterior mirrors; and P235/50R18 tires. The only option is the Technology Package ($4000).
Safety features include dual front airbags, front and rear side airbags, curtain side airbags, tire-pressure monitor, electronic active front head restraints, antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, traction control, and electronic stability control. Front and rear park assist and a rearview camera come with the Technology Package.
The Genesis is based on an all-new rear-wheel-drive architecture. (This same structure will host an upcoming two-door Genesis coupe.) The Genesis is sized similar to the Pontiac G8, both in length and wheelbase, and is about six inches shorter than the Chrysler 300.
On the outside, the Genesis looks like the lovechild of a BMW 5 Series and a Mercedes-Benz E Class. Hyundai says the design is 'athletic, not so aggressive, assertive, but not polarizing.' We agree, though, we feel a little more flavor might draw more customers.
Up front, the trapezoidal grille is reminiscent of a Mercedes design, but instead of rounded headlights, it's flanked by more modern eye-slit headlights. Fog lights are standard on the lower fascia, which also features a large lower air intake. Halogen headlights are standard, and the Technology Package includes auto-leveling high-intensity discharge adaptive headlights that point into turns to improve night-time vision on dark corners.
Character lines echoing the shape of the grille flow into the hood and resolve themselves at the front pillars. The rest of the car has more angular shapes like a BMW instead of the softer, rounder shapes of a Mercedes. The greenhouse is practically identical to that of the 5 Series, right down to the dogleg shape of the rear pillars. Ornamentation along the flanks is minimal, with only an upper beltline that flows from the front wheel openings to the taillights and a kickout at the bottom of the doors. Standard 17-inch wheels fill the wheelwells nicely, and the available 18s look even better.
At the rear, the Genesis has the high trunk line that was so controversial for BMW five years ago but has now come into use by several manufacturers. A lower fascia flanked by dual exhaust gives a hint to the Genesis's sporty character.
Nowhere are the Genesis's luxury intentions more clear than in the cockpit. From the driver's seat, customers are greeted with tight tolerances, chrome accents, and numerous soft-touch materials, including a leather-wrapped dash, a feature usually reserved for much more expensive vehicles. While the materials are certainly nice, the rounded shape of the dash isn't as appealing or modern as the best from Europe.
The driver is presented with electroluminescent gauges with white numbers on a black background and blue accents. The gauges are easy to see and read. There is a small, rectangular display between the two main gauges (speedo and tach) that shows trip computer information.
The base setup includes a small screen at the top of the center stack that shows radio and climate information. Below that are the radio controls and at the bottom of the rounded center stack are 10 buttons devoted to climate control. We would prefer the three easy-to-use knobs that many manufacturers are using these days. The CD slot sits below the center stack and below it is a small cubby to fit CDs and the like.
The center console has an ashtray-type bin below the center stack and behind that is an aluminum plate that houses the shift knob. Two cupholders sit behind the shifter, and the center console bin is big enough to carry most of the small bits we carry day to day, though a flat, rubberized tray in front of the shifter would help, too. More small items storage can be found in fold-out pockets on each door.
The navigation option features a central multimedia controller for the radio, navigation system, iPod interface, trip computer, Bluetooth phone, and settings in the Driver Information System. It uses a large rotating knob and six buttons. Compared to BMW's iDrive, the Hyundai system is simpler to use, but it still adds a couple steps to simple tasks like programming a radio station. The iPod interface works well, too, displaying songs, artists or playlists on the dashboard screen. However, returning to a previous menu always starts you over alphabetically. It would be nice if the system returned to the last spot you visited. Nonetheless, other manufacturers would do well to study the simplicity of Hyundai's multimedia interface.
The Technology Package includes a 40-gigabyte hard drive to hold music files and navigation map information. Songs can be loaded from CDs or through a USB interface.
Front and rear head and leg room are plentiful. Only tall rear passengers will have a complaint, and probably only with head room. The rear center passenger will also have to deal with the driveshaft hump as well as a seat hump, but four passengers should ride with ease. The front seats are comfortable, but sit up higher than we'd prefer and they don't have all that many adjustments for a car with this level of luxury. Getting in and out is easy.
The trunk is deep, with 15.9 cubic feet of cargo room, but it is a bit compromised by the lack of split folding rear seats. Hyundai opted against them for structural reasons. For some, this may be a deal breaker, but at least a rear pass-through is provided.
Hyundai says it benchmarked the BMW 5 Series, Infiniti M, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Lexus GS when developing the Genesis. Advanced five-link front and rear suspensions and a rigid rear-drive unibody structure give the Genesis the engineering to compete with those cars. But this is Hyundai's first sport sedan, so is it possible that the Genesis is a match for such lofty competition?
Hyundai gave journalists the opportunity to drive the Genesis on both twisty two-lane California roads and on a road course to test the handling. They were even kind enough to provide a Mercedes-Benz E Class for comparison. The Genesis proved to be a capable handler, a viable match for the Mercedes. By comparison, the Genesis feels a bit more numb and doesn't have as much steering feel, but it stays flatter through turns.
The Genesis 3.8 V6 is lighter and has a 52/48 weight balance (compared to 53/47 for the 4.6 V8), making it easier to rotate through high-speed corners than the Genesis 4.6 or the Mercedes.
That's all pretty darn good news, but the Genesis lacks the balance, agility, and direct steering of the BMW 5 Series. Hyundai shouldn't be ashamed, though. BMW builds the finest handling sport sedans in the world.
The Genesis is equipped with Amplitude Selective Dampers, which are basically two shocks in one. These multi-vein shocks have one mode for small, high-frequency bumps and ripples and another mode for the larger motions shocks usually deal with. Hyundai says they improve ride comfort, optimize road surface contact, and increase body and wheel control. On the road, they help the Genesis provide a smooth, quiet ride. We detected no float or wallow, though we did find that the ride got too bouncy over humps and ruts at highway speeds.
Steering is direct but not overly quick. The 4.6 model has electrohydraulic steering, while the 3.8 is hydraulic. A few turns through a slalom revealed that the hydraulic steering can't keep up with quick changes of direction, resulting in some binding, a phenomenon we've observed in many fine automobiles. The 4.6 model had no such issue, so it was better in the slalom despite the 3.8 model's better overall balance. (You do run your car through slaloms, don't you?)
The Genesis 3.8 model is powered by Hyundai's Lambda 3.8-liter DOHC V6, which produces 290 hp at 6200 rpm and 264 lb.-ft. of torque at 4500 rpm. The V6 is EPA-rated City/Highway at 18/27 mpg.
On the road, we found that the V6 had plenty of zip for most every need. Hyundai quotes a 6.2-second 0-60 mph time, but it didn't feel that quick so we tried an unofficial 0-60 mph run and found that the time was more like 7.5 seconds. That's still pretty fast and competitive with most other cars in the class, but not as spritely as we were told. No worries, though, because the Genesis gets up to speed quickly and highway passing is a breeze.
The V8 model offers Hyundai's new Tau 4.6-liter DOHC V8. This engine has continuously variable valve timing for both the intake and exhaust, and also comes with a Variable Intake System designed to allow the engine to breathe more efficiently at both low and high speeds. The result is 375 hp at 6500 rpm and 333 lb.-ft. of torque at 3500 rpm with premium fuel. Save some cash and choose regular fuel and those numbers drop slightly to 368 hp and 324 lb.-ft. of torque.
The V8 is substantially quicker than the V6. It has plenty of power from a stop, in the midrange, and at highway speeds for passing. Hyundai quotes a 5.7-second 0-60 mph time, and we believe it. The V8 is EPA-rated at 17/25 mpg City/Highway, which isn't much of a fuel economy penalty given the extra power.
Each engine is mated to a different six-speed automatic transmission. Both are responsive, shifting quickly and smoothly. Both also have Hyundai's Shiftronic manual shift gate. However, it does not have shift paddles on the steering wheel.
The 2009 Hyundai Genesis luxury sedan offers lots of features for the dollar. When it comes to sport sedan credentials, the Genesis is surprisingly capable, though not a match for the best in the class. With a smooth ride, lots of interior room, and willing power, the Genesis is a viable choice that fits between established luxury brands and the less-expensive but capable Chrysler 300 and Pontiac G8. Genesis customers can choose between the capable 3.8 model that provides better handling and fuel economy or a quicker 4.6 model that has better steering but pushes a little more in fast turns.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Kirk Bell filed this report from Santa Barbara, California.
Hyundai Genesis 3.8 ($32,250); 4.6 ($37,250).
Options As Tested
Technology Package ($4000) with front- and rear park assist, navigation system, 17-speaker Lexicon audio system with 7.1 surround, HD radio, XM NavTraffic with one-year subscription, hard drive, rearview camera, heated/cooled front seats, and adaptive, auto-leveling HID headlights.
Hyundai Genesis 4.6 ($37,250).
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