The Hyundai Genesis, with its rear-wheel drive and available V8 power, aspires to the category of the BMW 5 Series, Lexus GS, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Infiniti M, but is priced considerably below those brands. The Genesis seats five, is offered with a V6 or V8 engine and represents Hyundai’s biggest leap yet to go upmarket with a genuine luxury car.
Inside, it 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 Sound and cranks out great music.
Room in the front and rear seats is excellent, though the Genesis could use a little more storage space for small items, and some customers will be disappointed that the rear seats don’t fold down.
The base engine is a 3.8-liter V6 of 290 horsepower, and we found it delivers enough pep for most peoples’ driving needs while returning good fuel economy. We also liked Hyundai’s first V8, a 4.6-liter dual overhead cam engine with 375 horsepower that provides plenty of smooth, willing power and gets quite decent fuel economy, particularly for its performance level. Both engines run quietly and are mated to smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmissions with manual shiftgates.
Hyundai touts the Genesis as a sports sedan, with a rigid structure, rear-wheel drive, 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 lighter V6 feels more responsive through turns. The V8 model, on the other hand, benefits from electrohydraulic steering that provides sure steering assist in the tightest corners.
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 sports sedan, but it’s not as agile as the top performers, such as the BMW 5 Series.
Both Genesis models are excellent values that deliver fine handling, smooth rides, 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 a viable and less-expensive alternative to those cars and a better appointed option than large American sedans.
The 2010 Hyundai Genesis carries over largely unchanged. For 2010, the Technology Package offers a Smart Cruise Control and an electronic parking brake with automatic vehicle hold; touch-screen navigation is standard on the 3.8-liter V6 models with the Premium Navigation Package and on the 4.6-liter V8 model; and ultra-premium leather seating surfaces are standard on the 3.8-liter V6 models equipped with the Premium, Premium Navigation, and Technology Packages.
The Genesis is based on a rear-wheel-drive architecture.
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 18-inchers 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 exhausts 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 (speedometer 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 hold an assortment of small items, though a flat, rubberized tray in front of the shifter would help, too. More storage for small items 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 occupants 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 16.0 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, rear-wheel drive, and a rigid unibody structure give the Genesis the engineering to compete with those cars. But this is Hyundai's first sports sedan, so is it possible that the Genesis is a match for such lofty competition?
We drove the Genesis on twisty two-lane California roads and on a race track to experience the handling. The Genesis proved to be a capable handler, a viable match for a Mercedes-Benz E-Class we drove for comparison. 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, making it more nimble and responsive in the corners than the 4.6-liter V8 model. However, most drivers might never notice the difference.
That's all 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 some of the finest handling sports sedans in the world.
The Genesis is equipped with Amplitude Selective Dampers, which are basically two shocks in one. These shocks have one mode for small, high-frequency bumps and ripples and another mode for larger motions. 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 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, and the electrohydraulic version deals with very rapid directional changes better.
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 pound-feet 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 pound-feet 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 pound-feet 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. Neither model is yet rated for towing, but Hyundai says a towing package will be offered.
The Hyundai Genesis luxury sedan offers lots of features for the dollar. When it comes to sports 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 alternative to established luxury brands. Genesis customers can choose between the capable 3.8 model that provides more nimble handling and better fuel economy or a quicker 4.6 model with more luxury and a higher price.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Kirk Bell filed this report from Santa Barbara, California.