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2009 Hyundai Genesis V6 Sedan Review

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MORE: Compare Hyundai Specs and Prices-Hyundai Buyers Guide

A Luxury Bargain
By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

The Hyundai Genesis marks a milestone. On the market less than a year it’s the Korean maker’s first full-size, rear-wheel drive luxury sedan. That means they are one step closer to being a full-line auto maker. Who would have guessed just a few years ago that Hyundai would be competing head-to-head with some of the top automakers in the world?

What exactly constitutes that elusive term “luxury?” One element, of course, is the lack of acoustic annoyance – that is, its quiet quotient. The Genesis gets solid marks in that category. I’ve had plenty of passengers this week and they’ve all commented on how quiet it is at speed, or even just on our broken-up country roads. We hear no mechanical noises, no tire noises, no engine or transmission noises – just our soft conversations.

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We can say this Genesis looks the part of the modern luxury sedan, with obvious homage to Mercedes, BMW and Lexus. The front – particularly the grille – bears a striking resemblance to the classic Mercedes E-Class. The stepped tail and deck lid have a hint of BMW 7-Series lift, often called “Bangle butt,” after controversial designer Chris Bangle. And from many angles we see influences of Lexus. None of these resemblances, in my view, would constitute a blatant copy-cat mentality. Rather, it seems more of a conservative approach to trusted design elements. There is plenty of room for updating with a design refresh in a few years, as exemplified by the sexy new Genesis Coupe. It will be hard to improve on the amazing 0.27 coefficient of drag, though.

A car cannot compete in the luxury segment without a powertrain that goes beyond adequate. And that powertrain has to feel sophisticated as well as competent. It has to motivate the car a step beyond what we would expect from a common sedan. This one fills the bill completely. The 3.8-liter, 290-horspower V6 does just that. A thoroughly modern engine it makes a substantial 264 pound-feet of torque and features continuously variable valve timing, 24 valves, and dual overhead cams. It feels smooth and sophisticated even when flogged mercilessly. The Aisin 6-speed automatic transmission has a manual mode but it won’t let us rev all the way to redline before it shifts for us. Otherwise it is a smooth and well programmed transmission.

The EPA rates the V6 at 18-mpg in the city and 27 on the highway using regular fuel. (The available V8 gets just one mpg better mileage and boasts 375 horsepower with a half second better 0-to-60 time.) Zero-to-60 time on the V6 is just 6.2 seconds – plenty fast for this 3,750-pound car. The 19.3-gallon fuel tank gives us well over 400 miles of range.

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Luxury continues inside. Generous, comfortable leather seats accommodate my broad beam nicely with just enough bolstering to hold us steady in fairly spirited driving. My pretty blonde barely fills the passenger seat with her shapelier, and much more modestly sized, beam. Materials, fit and finish are all excellent, though a few plastic parts call a bit too much attention to themselves.

Rear seat room is generous as well, but a considerable hump in the center would make the fifth passenger pretty uncomfortable on a ride of more than a few miles. A large center armrest in the rear folds down to reveal a pass-through door to the big, 15.9 cubic-foot trunk. Too bad the rear seats don’t fold for added cargo capacity. Well, after all, this is a luxury, not a utility, vehicle.

An attractive, functional instrument panel in front of the driver flows well into a stylish center stack with an inverted arch shape housing most of the easily understood and managed functions. A beautifully executed band of leather trim flows from one front door to the other, uninterrupted across the dash. The steering wheel-mounted controls are much less ambiguous than most, particularly the Germans. Many of the German makes seem to have just too much gratuitous technology. The Hyundai’s controls are all simple and unpretentious.

My only complaint inside is that the front seat belt receptacle is too short. We have to reach too far down beside the seat to engage it. If it were just a few inches higher it would still not be in the way, but would be much easier to access. Otherwise, tactile qualities are first rate, controls are well-placed and visual elements are quite attractive. Most noticeable is the three-dimensional look of the electroluminescent speedometer and tach.

Suspension is both firm and compliant enough to fit the Genesis’ image as a sophisticated, luxury ride. Suspension design is fully independent, of course, featuring an unusual 5-link system with gas shocks, coil springs and anti-roll bars front and rear. It feels tight and under control at all times and is continuously adjusted electronically to match driving conditions. The power rack-and-pinion steering is still belt driven off the engine and has just enough resistance and feedback to please most discriminating drivers while brake pedal effort is a tad high. The Genesis V8 has an electro-hydraulic power steering unit.

The Genesis shows a base price of $32,250 and it comes mighty well equipped at that price. Standard are: power, heated leather front seats, power adjustable steering wheel with audio and cruise controls mounted thereon, a Lexicon, 14-speaker premium sound system, all the expected chassis dynamic controls, six air bags (no knee bags available), automatic headlamps, fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, 17-inch alloy wheels and dual chrome-tipped exhausts.

We were all a bit surprised at the North American (Detroit) International Auto Show when the Genesis was named Car of the Year, though I can certainly see why. It has also won the IIHS award as a Top Safety Pick.

The new car warranty covers the whole car for 5 years or 60,000 miles and the powertrain for 100,000 miles. Just about the best coverage out there. In order to boost sales during this debilitating recession Hyundai is offering another, very creative, kind of guaranty. They will allow the return of the car without effecting the buyers credit if he/she losses their source of income. This is not a money-back sort of deal, but it could take some of the pressure off new car buyers.

Hyundai’s advertising line when the car was launched claimed that the Genesis is the size of a BMW 7-Series, with the performance of a 5-Series and the price of a 3-Series.

That really constitutes a bargain, it appears to this reviewer.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

MORE: Compare Hyundai Specs and Prices-Hyundai Buyers Guide