Hyundai is serious about this luxury car business.
The 2009 rear-drive Genesis Sedan, which seemed to come out of nowhere, fired a Korean warning shot across the hoods of the four-ringed, tri-starred, roundel-badged establishment, and was named AJAC’s 2009 Canadian Car of the Year.
But despite the accolades, and a number of pundits (not me) declaring it every bit as good as a BMW 5 Series, Hyundai has been working hard to up the Genesis’ game.
Indeed, the original was a very good car, highlighted by Hyundai’s first in-house “Tau” V8 that in 375-hp 4.6-litre CVVT DOHC trim was a stellar mill right out of the box. At a recent Hyundai event, we were told engineers in Korea were given a blank sheet and a blank check, with instruction to deliver a world-class V8 – no compromises and no financial restrictions. With the Tau V8 landing on the “Ward’s Ten Best Engine” list for three years running: mission accomplished.
The issue I had with the original Genesis sedan was its not-quite-there dynamics. The suspension delivered an odd mix of float and impact harshness, and on a twisting B-road where a BMW 5 would come into its own, the Genesis lost the plot.
For 2012, the Genesis sees numerous improvements, most notable being the adoption of a new in-house 8-speed auto (replacing the 6-speed ZF unit) and direct-injection in the both the V6 and V8 engines, The all-aluminum Lambda 3.8-litre V6 gains 43 hp and 27 lb.-ft., to 333 hp and 291 lb.-ft., and sees a small improvement in fuel economy, posting 8.1 L/100 km city and 6.9 L/100 km highway. Other advancements include Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (D-CVVT), a tuned variable induction system, a steel timing chain, and iridium-tipped spark plugs.
The Tau V8 gets bumped to 5 litres and puts out 429 hp and 376 lb.-ft. in the $53,499 R-Spec model, now the sole V8 variant in Canada.
Looking at these 2012 offerings, one might say, “I don’t want a V6, but nor do I want this new hyper V8 Genesis.” But after a week in a top-trim $49,499 2012 Genesis 3.8 Tech Package, I’m inclined to think this new V6 model might be all the Genesis most customers will need. The improvements to the 3.8-litre V6 kick this car up several notches. You won’t be wanting the V8 unless hunting down the occasional BMW 550i, Infiniti M56 or Mercedes E550 is your idea of sport.
The Genesis 3.8 sedan starts at $39,999 for the base model. It gets leather, 17-inch alloys and proximity key with push-button start. Step up to the $44,999 3.8 Premium Package (most will) and you net 18-inch alloy wheels, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a Lexicon surround sound system with 14 speakers and a seven-inch touch-screen navigation system with rearview camera.
My $49,499 Tech Package tester built on the Premium with adaptive cruise control, new lane departure warning system, adaptive Xenon HID headlights, park assist sensors, eight-inch touch-screen navigation, ventilated driver’s seat, and a 608-watt Lexicon audio system with 7.1 surround sound.
As with all Hyundai products, price is a big factor. Even fully loaded, the Genesis 3.8 handily undercuts other six-cylinder rear-drive offerings like the $55,900 BMW 528i or $52,400 Infiniti M37. A similarly optioned rear-drive Cadillac CTS 3.6L will run about $58,000.
The overall dynamic character of this refreshed V6 Genesis shows a leaning towards the Lexus side of the luxury sedan equation as opposed to chasing European tautness. It’s a well calculated and well executed direction. The reworked suspension has the sedan gliding silently and smoothly over all but the worst surfaces, yet it feels reassuringly planted during brisk cornering. The electric steering has a natural heft and provides reasonable feedback, although it’s a bit numb off centre. I found highway driving required small corrections to keep a true path, especially in crosswinds – something the Autobahn-bred Europeans don’t suffer from.
This revised V6 delivers its 333 hp in a silken and linear fashion, and there always seems to be a decent shove at the ready thanks in part to the new eight-speed auto. It’s a smoother unit than the Nissan/Infiniti 3.7 V6 and Mercedes’ new direct-injection 3.5 V6.
What you can’t do is hurry the transmission. Indeed, it is a smooth operator, but it’s slow to kick down and responds lazily to prompts from the gear-shift when in manumatic mode. In the real world of the Genesis 3.8 customer, this will likely not matter a whit.
The sedan proved remarkably hushed while cruising, and the finely rendered interior, here with a stitched leather-covered dash, still holds up in its fourth year. Real aluminum and chrome accents complement the precision feel of the controls, and an iDrive-like controller on the console gives reasonably intuitive access to navigation and audio, with the option of running the whole show using voice commands.
The seats are broad and comfortable (although they won’t hug you reassuringly like BMW chairs), and back seat room is generous for two. For 2012, rear seat heat is now available.
A couple of nits to pick: only the driver’s seat gets ventilation and the trunk lid doesn’t swing up on its own when released. It will in the compact Elantra…
Hyundai chose conservative clothing for its luxury sedan, unabashedly borrowing styling cues from a number of makers. If a Mercedes, Lexus, BMW and Infiniti were stranded on a deserted island.. well, you get the picture. For 2012, the Genesis gets spruced up with a redesigned front fascia and grille, larger air intakes, new headlights with LED accents and LED position lights, new rocker panels, brushed aluminum window surrounds, fresh taillights and dual asymmetrical exhaust tips integrated directly into the rear bumper.
With only a small Hyundai badge on the trunk, this Genesis still has ‘em guessing.
In the wide-world of Hyundai, the Genesis sedan is a small player. Total 2010 Canadian sales were 811 units, against 2,382 BMW 5 Series, and while Mercedes won’t release its figures, a similar number of E-Class sedans likely went out the door.
It’s pretty much a given that not too many car buyers kicking tires in a BMW, Audi, Mercedes or even Lexus store will be cross shopping a Hyundai, Maybe they should. I predict we’ll be seeing more Genesis Sedans on the road, not just because the 2012 3.8 is now a very well sorted luxury car, but also due to the people’s gradually changing perception of this Korean automaker.