For its second generation, the South Korean luxury sedan born to be a rule breaker is completely new and at it again.
|Engine: A 3.8L V6 makes 311 hp and 293 lb-ft of torque while the V8 makes 420 hp and 383 lb-ft. Transmission: An eight-speed automatic is the only transmission offered. Fuel Economy: 18/29 city/highway for V6 RWD or 16/25 with AWD. V8 Models get 15/23. Price: Starts at $38,950 including delivery. AWD models start at $41,450 and the V8 comes in at $52,450.|
Smashing the Glass Ceiling
America builds trucks. Italians craft supercars. The Japanese create transportation appliances carefully masked to look like cars and until several years ago, South Koreans seemed content to complete their part of the picture with inexpensive automobiles. At least that was the case in North America until Hyundai grabbed on with both hands and shook things up with a rear-wheel drive, V8-powered sedan ostensibly capable of applying a value-first philosophy to the luxury world.
The Genesis never sold in high volume, but it wasn’t supposed to. Like hiring the spin-doctors in AMC’s “Mad Men,” it served as a halo car capable of elevating its brand’s public image; but it wasn’t perfect.
Hampered by a front-engine, rear-wheel drive powertrain, the Genesis didn’t appeal to people besieged by snow through several months of the year. Especially at lower trim levels, it also suffered from underwhelming interior materials. The latter is a cardinal sin among luxury car customers.
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New Style Steps in the Right Direction
Give it a fleeting glance or two and you’ll have an idea of how future Hyundai models will look. First to wear “Fluidic Sculpture 2.0,” Hyundai uprooted the organic lines that characterized its first Genesis in favor of hard edges. The 2015 Sonata is on deck for the same treatment later this year.
There’s very little to distinguish the costlier V8 model from its six-cylinder siblings. Standard exterior equipment includes 18-inch wheels with a provision for 19s should the urge strike. Still, there are differences, with LED fog lights helping characterize the upmarket iterations as do a different set of tail pipes.
Transcending trim levels, the new grille is the undeniable focal point. It adds a sense of maturity and lends a cohesive quality to the design. Look closely at the center of that mouth and you’ll notice a square black patch blocking some of the slats. It houses sensors connected to adaptive cruise control and safety systems capable of bringing the car to a full stop in anticipation of a crash.
Needles to say, that is one aspect of the car that is better left untested by members of the automotive media. Official results by government and independent safety organizations are due out soon and Hyundai says it expects top marks.
Hyundai Wants You to Play it Safe
Hyundai claims it’s autonomous braking system can stop the car completely at up to 50 mph and to slow it significantly while travelling at speeds up to 112 mph. After that, you’re on your own.
There’s also a lane departure warning system that sends vibrations through the steering wheel if you’re about to cross a line without signaling. A “lane keeping” feature goes one step further and actually nudges the car back into position. Depending on how you configure the system, it can be set to interfere either before or just after the border is breached.
Adaptive cruse control is optional on V6 models and offered at standard equipment with the pricier V8. For 2015, it gains full-speed functionality, meaning it even works in stop-and-go traffic.
Just like that system, a head-up display is offered on the V6 and standard with the V8. It displays useful information like current speed, but also the present speed limit. Short of installing a radar detector, this is the best way to avoid those damn Smokeys while you’re road tripping in unfamiliar territory.
Speaking of displays, all models come with an eight-inch touch screen at minimum, but the optional 9.2-inch version is a big step up. Not only does it offer more real estate, but it boasts high-definition resolution as well.
That’s one of several areas where Hyundai makes big strides with the Genesis. The whole cabin is greatly improved and finally feels like a legitimate luxury product. Some of the switches and dials are still obviously shared with less prestigious models, but they are few and far between.
Leather upholstery is standard on all cars while plush semi-aniline animal skin is also available. It has a soft feeling of quality that almost seems out of place for the brand, and that’s a very good thing.
The seats themselves are remarkably comfortable. Equipped with the optional 16-way bucket, the driver can tinker with the leg rests, height and even the width of the side bolsters.
Plenty of Real Estate
In total, the Genesis boasts more interior volume than industry contenders including the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series. But unless you’re in the business of carrying packing peanuts, overall volume is worth about as much as those little pieces of foam are themselves. What really matters is rear seat legroom. In that regard, the Mercedes E-Class edges out the Genesis by less than an inch. Regardless, you won’t be left hurting for knee space.
If you spring for the “Ultimate” package, which is available with any powertrain, you also get open pore wood panels similar to what Cadillac offers in its top-tier CTS Vsport sedan. As a side note, that car competes with the V8 Genesis, makes comparable power and costs roughly $15,000 more for a fully-loaded model. Admittedly, the two cars stand on different planes from a performance perspective, but based purely on cabin quality, Hyundai has a real winner on its hands here.
Heated front seats are standard on all models, but you’ll have to pay extra if you want them to come with a cooling feature. All-wheel drive variants are also packaged with heated rear seats and a warmed steering wheel.
The way that Hyundai chose to package options in this car proves that as a company, it has a finger on the market’s pulse. It doesn’t matter which version you buy, they’re all well equipped.
New Platform Sets Stage for Success
Without a decent platform, Hyundai might as well have heaped its high-quality leather and HD screens into a horse-drawn buggy. Thankfully, the South Korean company is packing a real slugger underneath. For 2015, the Genesis migrates to new, stiffer architecture that includes a provision for all-wheel drive. Arguably the most important change to the new car, it is now a viable competitor in places with inclement winter weather.
What’s more, the all-wheel drive system is especially sophisticated and can shift most of the engine’s torque to either the front or rear axle as traction demands change. For now, the company is only selling its V6 version with that layout, but there’s a chance the eight might get it too. North of the border, Canadians will be able to buy models with AWD and either engine.
Wrung Round the ‘Ring
Not only did Hyundai spend time tuning that chassis at the world famous Nurburgring, they also paid Lotus to help out.
Still, you shouldn’t use that as a reason to assume that the Genesis has particularly sports-oriented pretentions. It’s still a soft-sprung luxury cruiser, albeit a much more refined one than in the previous generation. Part of that has to do with a new rear multi-link suspension while V8 models can also be packaged with continuous damping control (CDC) for adjustable stiffness settings.
A total of four drive modes are available. Eco mode is programmed so that the eight-speed transmission will work for optimal fuel economy while normal mode performs… normally. The sport mode delivers sharper throttle responses, revised shift points and a stiffer steering feel and – with CDC equipped – also stiffens the suspension. Regardless of which setting you choose, sharp turns cause noticeable body roll.
As for the steering, it delivers as promised, but each setting feels far too static, unlike the variable setup in, say, an Audi product, that adjusts its feel based on speed.
Old Engines Revised for New Life
The engines and transmissions have been refreshed for 2015 but carry over from the old model. Both are actually a little bit less powerful than they were before, a concession Hyundai says it made in favor of offering a broader power band. The 3.8-liter V6 makes 311 hp and 293 lb-ft of torque while the V8 makes 420 hp and 383 lb-ft. Premium fuel is recommended, but not required although you’ll end up with a little less power by burning the cheap stuff.
Fuel consumption estimates suggest that the cars should see a slight improvement. Rear-drive V6 models should return 18 MPG in the city or 29 on the highway with AWD models rated at 16/25. The V8 offers 15 MPG around town or 23 on an open road.
Hyundai had to increase what it charged for the Genesis this time around, but it insists that side-by-side, the new model is still a better value based on content. It certainly comes well-equipped at the entry point, which is $38,950 including delivery. AWD models start at $41,450 while the V8 variant will run you at least $52,450.
With the second generation, Hyundai made praise-worthy improvements to its mid-size premium sedan. The brand isn’t shy about its aspirations for the car to be a legitimate German fighter. It still lags behind industry leaders, but to a much smaller extent than before. With the Elantra, Hyundai caught Honda by surprise. It wouldn’t be shocking to see the Genesis cause a similar upset in its own segment.