This car runs on butter, not gasoline |
Hyundai’s engineering team has really outdone itself this time.
When the Lexus brand was introduced to North America in 1989 with the LS400, this car had a new standard to deliver. It had to prove to the car buying market that the Japanese could build a worthy luxury sedan to compete head-to-head with tough competition from Germany. That car definitely delivered on its promise, and to this day, Lexus is a well-reputed brand with a lineup of wonderful, reliable and luxurious vehicles. Hyundai faced the same challenge 5 years ago with the Genesis; it was the Koreans’ first venture into the premium market.
Model year 2015 marks the introduction of the second-generation Genesis sedan, and Hyundai’s engineering team has really outdone itself this time. I was loaned a 2015 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 with the Technology Package, and I drove it a considerable amount over a week to gauge just how good this car really is. Back in the summer, I spent a bit of time with its more-powerful brother, the 5.0 Ultimate with the fire-breathing V8, and I came out impressed, but I really did want to spend more time with the V6 model. My tester was painted in a unique Ibiza Blue and possessed a stance that exuded elegance no matter what environment it was parked in.
The first thing you notice approaching the new Genesis is the projection of the “Genesis” logo onto the pavement beside the front doors, almost like a welcome mat you must cross in order to get into your car. Though some people find this gimmicky and unnecessary, I think that cool touches like this help Hyundai stand out as a real player in the premium game. The styling of the car is conservative yet not nearly as bland as, say, the Kia Cadenza, a distant cousin of the Genesis. LED daytime-running-lights, fog lights, and taillights are crisp and not overdone at all; the car is stunning to look at under the perfect amount of moonlight.
Being the V6 model, my Genesis was packing a 3.8L, you guessed it, V6, under the hood. This GDI motor is good for 311 horsepower and 293 lb-ft of torque, mated to an in-house 8-speed automatic transmission with both Eco and Sport modes, accessed via a button beside the shifter. Throttle response is considerably more urgent than the V8 Genesis, and the car feels a little bit more sprightly. Highway passes in the V8 are considerably quicker, but at no moment did I find the V6 lacking in either horsepower or torque. The engine sounds great on acceleration too, and the transmission is very reminiscent of the ZF 8-speed box that I like so much.
All Genesis sedans sold in Canada are equipped with HTRAC all-wheel-drive; no rear-wheel-drive models are available. Though I had this car during a cold week in the heart of the Canadian winter, I didn’t see any snow during my time with it. As such, I can’t really report on how it behaves in the white stuff. I don’t have my doubts that with the Hankook I-Pike winter tires fitted to the wheels, the Genesis would be a beast through a blizzard. However, I will say that the steering is very good for such a large car, and the big sedan is surprisingly responsive and twitchy when you want it to be.
On longer highway hauls, the car feels like it runs on butter, not gasoline. It’s just unbelievably smooth, not unlike the Lexus LS460 I took down to the States a couple years ago. The ride quality is excellent; the suspension does a brilliant job absorbing all bumps and ensuring a supple ride for everybody. Interior accommodations are excellent too – the matte open-pore natural wood feels good to the touch and doesn’t look artificial. Leathers around the cabin are soft and look durable; my test car had just under 10,000km and the leather was spotless. The seats are upholstered in Napa leather and are supremely comfortable.
Being the Technology trim, my Hyundai Genesis 3.8 came equipped with a plethora of gadgets and gizmos to keep my inner geek entertained. At the same time, these gadgets have enough ease of use to ensure that those of the baby boomer generation won’t be scratching their heads in confusion. For instance, an 8” touchscreen with navigation, Bluetooth, satellite radio, and full infotainment suite is standard, along with dual-zone climate control, 12-way power seats (heated and cooled!), electronic thigh support, a 7” electroluminescent gauge cluster, and heads-up display. Some interesting tidbits I found unique included the high-beam assist and Smart Trunk, which opens if you approach it with the key fob in your pocket.
As I briefly touched on earlier, ease of use with regards to infotainment is very important in a car where the target audience isn’t primarily young people. I found the touchscreen and everything else in this Genesis very simple to use, but it could benefit from a primary controller close to the armrest, eliminating the need to stretch over to the screen, something shorter drivers might find difficult. It’s a small thing, but an improvement could make a huge difference. This is a car that’s so close to perfection that the slightest improvements could help it drastically.
Fuel efficiency is something that wasn’t a forté of the V8 Genesis I previously drove, but was dramatically better here. I did a lot of highway commuting during my week with this car, almost to a point of an 80/20 split between highway and city driving. My average over about 700km was 10.3L/100km. Factoring in temperatures approaching -10 degrees Celsius, aggressive winter tires and winter gas, this isn’t a bad number, although I was expecting numbers closer to the 9.4L/100km highway mark Hyundai suggests. I fed the Genesis premium fuel, but from what I read on various enthusiast forums, it can get away just fine on regular without experiencing any noticeable losses in power or smoothness.
My father is a man of strange automotive tastes. He bought what felt like six billion Camrys, then gravitated towards Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedans, but he maintains that his loyalty lies with Toyota and Lexus. The first time I brought by a Genesis sedan for him to look at, a previous-generation 3.8L with the Technology package, the identical predecessor to this test car, he fell in love with it. For the next few months, anytime one of his middle-aged friends asked for his opinion on a luxury sedan, he was head-over-heels for the Genesis. I took him for an extended drive in this car too, considering he fits right into the target market for this car. He approved, and honestly couldn’t come up with anything negative to say about it.
I liked this Genesis so much that I feel it actually makes Hyundai’s own Equus sedan rather redundant. This car is simply amazing, and with a starting price in the mid-$40,000 range, you can’t even come close to touching it. My test car sat right around $54,000 for the loaded V6 model. A similarly equipped Mercedes-Benz E400 pushes $80,000, and same with the Audi A6. If the Germans weren’t previously intimidated, the time for them to start feeling a little bit of competition from the Koreans has finally arrived.