2009 Hyundai Genesis V6
2009 Hyundai Genesis V6. Click image to enlarge
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Hyundai Canada

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2009 Hyundai Genesis

Santa Barbara, California – A Hyundai designed to compete with a BMW?! You bet your kimchi!

The all-new Hyundai Genesis is a rear-wheel drive, mid-size luxury performance sedan available with a V6 and (Hyundai’s first) V8 engine, plus all the luxury, safety and performance goodies commonly found in luxury brand automobiles.

In addition to the sedan, Hyundai plans to introduce a sporty two-door coupe version of the Genesis later this year. I haven’t seen one in person, but it looks hot in the photos.

2009 Hyundai Genesis V8
2009 Hyundai Genesis V8
2009 Hyundai Genesis V8. Click image to enlarge

Hyundai Canada says the Genesis sedan’s primary competitors are the Chrysler 300C, Infiniti G35, Lexus ES 350 and Cadillac CTS while its “Image Target competitors” include the Lexus GS, Infiniti M, BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The Genesis is bigger than many mid-size luxury sedans, including the BMW 5 Series, but smaller than the 7 Series or S-Class.

Though it’s a handsome car, the Genesis’s styling is heavily influenced by BMW, Mercedes, Lexus and Infiniti: the rear taillights and trunk in particular are very BMW-ish and the nose has a bit of Lexus here, a bit of Mercedes there. Perhaps the Genesis’ most distinctive design feature is the grille with its three twisted grille bars. Interestingly, Hyundai chose not to put the Hyundai badge on the Genesis’ front grille or fenders – you have to walk around to the back of the car to see the Hyundai ‘H’ logo. This is probably a good idea, since it makes the bystander form their own impressions before being faced with their pre-conceived notions about Hyundai. Certainly, casual onlookers will likely mistake the Genesis for one of the luxury automakers, and perhaps that is Hyundai’s intention. At the Genesis media introduction in California, Hyundai Canada’s VP of Sales and Marketing, John Vernile, joked that BMW drivers will only find out what brand of car it is after they’ve been passed.

As you’d expect from Hyundai, the Genesis is priced lower than its German and Japanese competitors while offering similar equipment and performance. Base Genesis V6 models start at $37,995 while Genesis V8 models begin at $43,995. On an equipment-comparable basis, Hyundai says the well-equipped Genesis V6 is almost $38,000 cheaper than a BMW 535i! Which basically means you could buy two Genesis’ for the price of one BMW! Or one Genesis, one BMW 3-Series, and a trip to Hawaii!

2009 Hyundai Genesis V8
2009 Hyundai Genesis V8
2009 Hyundai Genesis V8. Click image to enlarge

Of course, most luxury car buyers aren’t looking for the lowest price, or even the best value. They’re willing to pay more for the image and prestige of an established brand and that is where the Genesis will face its toughest challenge in the marketplace. Still, given the current deteriorating economic conditions and rising costs of living, Vernile believes there will be many people looking for a better luxury car value exclusive of the luxury brand image.

Certainly, the new Genesis is a lot of luxury car for the money. For its base price of $37,995, the Genesis 3.8 offers a 290-hp 3.8-litre V6 engine, six-speed automatic manual transmission with manual shift mode, fully independent multi-link suspension, 17-inch tires and alloy wheels, leather seats and heated front seats, automatic climate control, eight airbags, electronic active head restraints, push-button start and remote entry, AM/FM/CD/MP3/XM stereo with iPod and USB inputs, and Bluetooth hands-free phone feature.

The Genesis 3.8 Premium Package ($39,995) adds 18-inch tires and alloys, power moonroof, front and rear parking sensors, and HID auto leveling headlights.

The top V6 model, the Genesis 3.8 Premium Package ($44,995) adds a fantastic Lexicon 17-speaker audio system with six-disc CD/DVD player, navigation system, backup camera, multi-media console-mounted controller, adaptive headlights, cooled driver’s seat (a cooled passenger seat is coming later this year), power rear sunshade and real aluminum interior trim.

The 2009 Genesis 4.6 V8 model ($43,995) is similarly equipped to the 3.8 Premium Package, but adds the 375-hp V8 engine, unique 18-inch alloy wheels, leather dash and door inserts, wood-trimmed steering wheel, auto-dimming outside mirrors and illuminated Genesis scuff plates.

2009 Hyundai Genesis V8
2009 Hyundai Genesis V8. Click image to enlarge

Top of the heap is the Genesis 4.6 Technology Package model ($48,995), which adds the super duper Lexicon sound system, six-disc player and navigation system, rear backup camera, driver information system, multimedia console controller, cooled driver’s seat, power rear sunshade, aluminum interior trim, and HID auto leveling headlights.

I had the opportunity to drive both V6 and V8 versions of the Genesis on the winding roads north of Santa Barbara, California and on an improvised slalom at Buttonwillow racetrack. With its rear-wheel drive layout, four-wheel independent multi-link suspension and fairly balanced front to rear weight distribution (V6 52/48; V8 54/46), the Genesis handles switchbacks and decreasing radius turns with ease and balance – the suspension includes shock absorbers that automatically adapt to rougher roads for improved control and ride comfort. Both traction control and stability control (ESC) are standard on the Genesis, and the ESC can be turned off if desired. I didn’t find much difference in ride or handling between the V6 and V8 models. Most impressive to me was the Genesis’ smooth, comfortable ride and extremely quiet cabin. The body is rock tight with no squeaks and little exterior noise intrusion – I found it possible to carry on a quiet conversation with my riding partner at high speeds. The V8 motor is so smooth and quiet and wind noise so subdued that I found myself exceeding the speed limit without realizing it.

2009 Hyundai Genesis V8
2009 Hyundai Genesis V6
2009 Hyundai Genesis V8 (top), and V6. Click image to enlarge

With the 4.6-litre DOHC 32-valve V8, which has dual continuously variable valve timing (D-CVVT), acceleration is fast and smooth, much like a Lexus, but off-the-line throttle response may be a little too sensitive. Power output is rated at 375 hp @ 6500 r.p.m. and 368 ft-lb @ 6500 r.p.m. and this engine puts out more horsepower per litre than its major competitors. Hyundai’s quoted 0 to 60 mph time of 5.7 seconds is very competitive in this class. Passing response requires a firm kick down, but there’s plenty of power there. The six-speed automatic provided smooth, comfortable quiet shifts throughout the day, with the option of shifting manually when desired. (Interestingly, the six-speed transmission in the V6 model is built by Aisin while the one in the V8 model, due to the engine’s greater torque, is a ZF model). Notably, the V8 engine will run on Regular or Premium unleaded gasoline. Hyundai-supplied fuel consumption figures are City 12.6 L/100 km; Hwy 8.1 L/100 km, better than the Chrysler 300C, BMW 550i and Mercedes-Benz E 550.

The 3.8-litre DOHC 24-valve V6 with D-CVVT is no slouch either, and it’s also very smooth and quiet. It offers 290 hp at 6,200 r.p.m. and 264 ft-lb at 4,500 r.p.m. With its maximum torque developed earlier than the V8 engine, the V6 feels quite responsive in normal around-town driving. It also uses Regular unleaded gasoline, and fuel consumption figures are City 11.4 L/100 km and Hwy 7.2 L/100 km. Considering the price of the base Genesis V6 model, it may be the better value in the marketplace considering that there’s not a big sacrifice in performance.

2009 Hyundai Genesis V8
2009 Hyundai Genesis V8
2009 Hyundai Genesis V8
2009 Hyundai Genesis V6
2009 Hyundai Genesis V8
All photos Genesis V8 except second from bottom. Click image to enlarge

I found brake pedal feel a bit soft, but braking distances were admirably short once you put your foot into it. All Genesis’ come with four wheel disc brakes, ABS, electronic brake force distribution and Brake Assist for increased power under panic braking. V8 models have variable-assist electro-hydraulic steering which provides firmness based on the speed of the vehicle rather than engine speed. I found it less engaging than BMW’s standard steering system, but responsive enough at higher speeds while easy to operate at lower speeds.

The Genesis’ interior is very nicely finished and very roomy. Overall interior volume, including the trunk, is equal to a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, claims Hyundai. There’s plenty of legroom front and rear but I would have preferred more room under the rear seats for my feet. Also headroom at the rear is limited to six-footers.

The general layout and design of the controls is very good with mostly large pushbuttons for the heater and stereo but I found the silver buttons for the heater are sometimes hard to read at a glance. Standard Genesis models have a smaller information screen in the centre dash while models with the Technology Package have a larger screen which incorporates the navigation system. The illuminated gauges are very easy to read. A remote, keyless ignition system includes a button on the door handles and a button on the dash – you never have to take the key out of your pocket, but there is a slot for it in the lower dash near the shifter. The optional Lexicon 17-speaker sound system is truly one of the nicest sound systems I’ve ever heard. Every detail of the music can be heard and it’s difficult to tell exactly where the sound is coming from – it sort of floats in the cabin.

The Genesis’ standard leather seats are wide and comfortable but don’t have big side bolsters to hold you in during aggressive cornering. This is only a problem if you intend to drive aggressively, and overall I was happy with seat comfort on my day-long drive.

All Genesis’ have eight standard airbags including side airbags for rear passengers. As well, the front seats have electronically-activated head restraints to help reduce whiplash in a rear-end collision, and standard stability control to compensate for skids on slippery roads. Optional are front and rear parking sensors, rear backup camera, and swiveling HID headlights

The trunk is simply huge and liftover height is low. The rear seats don’t fold down but there is a centre pass-through.

While there is no doubt the new Genesis is a fine car and competitive in most respects with much more expensive luxury sedans, it remains to be seen how well luxury car buyers will respond to a Hyundai-badged luxury sedan. Still, the influential Black Book of used car residual values is predicting the 2009 Genesis V6 will retain 52% of its value after three years and the Genesis V8 will retain 50% of its value after the same period. That’s better than the Black Book’s predicted residual value for the Acura TL, Lexus ES 350, Infiniti G35 and Cadillac CTS. For the Genesis, that means lower monthly lease payments making it even more affordable for buyers.

The 2009 Hyundai Genesis V6 and V8 models will go on sale in Canada in late September. They’re built in Ulsan, South Korea.

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