By Kirk Bell
Pros and Cons
- Lots of features for the dollar
- Powerful engines
- Luxurious interior
- Capable handling
- Plenty of front and rear seat room
- No split folding rear seat
- No steering wheel paddles
- Limited seat adjustments
- Ride can be bouncy
- Pricey for a Hyundai
Hyundai claims it benchmarked such luxury stalwarts as the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E Class, Lexus GS, and Infiniti M in developing the Genesis, the company’s first rear-drive car. But can this Korean manufacturer of economy cars build a viable luxury-oriented sport sedan? To show off the Genesis’s pedigree, Hyundai invited journalists to Santa Barbara, California, for some street and track time in its new sport sedan. I went to find out if the Genesis marks the beginning of a new Hyundai. A few hundred miles behind the wheel proved it’s the best Hyundai yet, a capable handler, and a legitimate move upmarket for the brand..
I drove the Genesis 3.8L and 4.6L models and was impressed by both. No matter what model you choose, there is more than enough power for everyday needs, and the new V8 is just plain fast. Both engines run quietly and both come mated to smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmissions with manual shiftgates. Unfortunately, steering wheel paddles aren’t provided for either model.
Hyundai pulled out the stops to make the Genesis a sport sedan, opting for a rear-drive structure and advanced five-link front and rear suspensions. In the twisties, it has a generally nimble feel and stays fairly flat in corners. Thanks to its lighter weight, the V6 rotates more easily through turns. The V8 model, on the other hand, is quicker through a slalom thanks to electrohydraulic steering that keeps up with quick, frequent changes of direction.
Ride quality is also quite good. Most bumps are ironed out easily, and there is no float or wallow to speak of. However, the ride becomes bouncy when the car encounters 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.
Hyundai claims world-class levels of fit and finish in the Genesis. While that may be a bit of an overstatement, the Genesis is certainly well assembled. Panel gaps are tight inside and out, and there are no rough finishes or sharp plastic edges to be found. I got into three different cars and heard no squeaks or rattles in any of them. Part of Hyundai’s allure is the quality you get for the price, and the Genesis represents a new high in this regard.
Interior Comfort and Ergonomics
Hyundai has been making its interiors more and more luxurious and the Genesis is the best yet. Quality materials, thoughtful chrome accents, and soft-touch surfaces abound. The dash can even be wrapped in leather, a feature usually reserved for much more expensive vehicles. While the quality is high, I found the shape of the dash to be a bit stodgy, kinda like a late 1990s Buick.
Ten buttons on the center stack are devoted to the climate control system. That’s a lot to sift through to find the controls you want. I’d prefer the three easy-to-use knobs that many manufacturers are using these days.
Choose the optional navigation system and you get a 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 mounted on the center console. This system is easier to use than BMW’s iDrive, but simple tasks like programming a radio station still take some extra steps. Nonetheless, this is about the simplest multimedia interface I’ve seen and other manufacturers should study it.
The iPod interface displays songs, artists or playlists on the dashboard screen. It works well, but it can take some time to scroll through artists or albums. Opt for the Technology package and you also get a 40-gigabyte hard drive to hold music files and navigation map information.
Drivers and passengers will find plenty of room, though tall rear passengers may want more head room. Getting in and out of both seating rows is easy. The front seats are comfortable, but they sit up higher than I prefer and they don’t have all that many adjustments for a car with this level of luxury.
Small items storage is adequate, consisting of two cupholders behind the shifter, an ashtray-type bin below the center stack, a decent-sized center console bin, and a fold-out pocket in each front door.
With 15.9 cubic feet of cargo room, the trunk is deep. Unfortunately, Hyundai opted against split folding rear seats for rigidity reasons. For some, this may be a deal breaker, but at least a rear pass-through is standard.
The Genesis 3.8L model is powered by Hyundai’s Lambda 3.8-liter DOHC V6. It makes 290 hp at 6,200 rpm and 264 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. While Hyundai quotes a 6.2-second 0-60 mph time, I was skeptical and ran an unofficial 0-60 mph sprint. The results were as expected. By simply mashing the throttle, the 3.8 is capable of a 0-60 time of about 7.5 seconds. That’s still pretty quick, and the 3.8L moves willingly from a stop and provides confident passing punch. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and quickly, and has a manual shift gate so drivers can select their own gears. The 3.8L model is EPA rated at 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway.
The 4.6L model has Hyundai’s new Tau 4.6-liter DOHC V8. It cranks out 375 hp at 6,500 rpm and 333 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm with premium fuel, or 368 hp and 324 lb-ft of torque with regular fuel. The V8 is considerably quicker than the V6. Floor it, and the 4.6L model launches hard from a stop. Midrange power is willing and highway passing is worry free. Hyundai quotes a 5.7-second 0-60 mph time, and that feels right. Best of all, the V8 comes with little fuel economy penalty. It is EPA rated at 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway. Like the 3.8L, the 4.6L comes with a smooth and responsive six-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift gate. Given the Genesis’s sporty character, however, steering wheel paddles would also be appropriate. Too bad Hyundai opted against them.
Braking in both models is worry free, with good pedal feel. I had the opportunity to drive both models on a racetrack and the brakes held up well, with no fade or pulsing after several laps. That’s pretty impressive for a street car, especially one this heavy.
(Continued on page 2 – Handling | Styling | Value | Conclusion | Ratings )
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