On the Road Review: Hyundai Genesis 5.0

Hello, Mr. Genesis. We exchanged pleasantries in 2009 when you first came to town, but my oh my, you have certainly elevated your game. Your seat at the premium luxury-car table is no longer in doubt, as you are a certifiable player in the big leagues now.

{gallery}genesis{/gallery} Preposterous you think, a Hyundai matching components, performance and cache with cars such as the Audi A6, BMW 5-series, Cadillac CTS, Lexus GS or Mercedes E-class, cars with prices that are thousands of dollars higher than Mr. Genesis? Okay, the cache has to be earned — an honor that is bestowed not bought — yet this second-generation midsize premium sedan from Hyundai gives no quarters and asks no mulligans. The new Genesis is the real deal and will measurably shake up the premium class.

The first-generation Genesis won many awards, lots of acclaim and lots of recognition for Hyundai — helping the brand to cement its efforts to be both a solid mainstream automaker, as well as a capable premium auto-builder. Add the larger Equus sedan and you can see that Hyundai does not intend to shy away from large challenges.

Sales of the first Genesis grew each year, stealing some premium marketshare from rivals. This second-generation car will expand the premium segment as well as continue to steal marketshare from the more established citizens at the premium table. Yes, it is that good.

First, the visual side. The newest Genesis has tighter lines, a bolder front fascia, plus a more balanced rear fascia. Look at the small clearances between the low-profile tire/wheel package and the fenders. Size up the bold front end with the huge LED accent lights, brilliant headlamps and large electronic sensor panel that collects data and sends radar signals for the Laser cruise system, for parking assist, as well as for the various braking assist systems. Out back, the quad tailpipes tell viewers that this Genesis has the potent 420-hp V-8 engine, yet the cues do not overwhelm the car’s upscale street presence. Strong, confident, but stylish too, the latest Genesis will make some viewers wonder if you have an Aston/Jaguar/Bentley parked in the driveway — it looks that good.

Of course, it helps that Hyundai limits the Genesis to one small trunklid badge revealing the car’s branding. Subtle, part of the imaging of this car and how owners will tell the story of how good this car is.

Which is apparently part of the marketing strategy, as Hyundai owners are telling J.D. Power and Associates that they like their new Hyundais very much. Hyundai recently earned top honors in the Power Initial Quality Survey, beating all other automakers. Still thinking that Hyundai does not have the mojo to pull off a top-flight premium sedan?

Earlier this spring, Hyundai brought four new Genesis sedans to New England one evening, promising to leave at least two of the cars behind for continued review by the assembled scribes. There was a big turnout that night, the region’s media recognizing the significance of the new Hyundai and coming from afar to see the new Genesis. We were wowed; blown away might have been an apt description of the impression that the Genesis sedan made.

In three models now, $38,950 for base 3.8-liter V-6 model, $40,950 for new AWD edition, plus $52,450 for the top 5.0 V-8 powered sedan (our sample car listed for $55,700), the new Genesis retains the same exterior dimensions, 196.3 inches long, 74.4 inches wide, 58.3 inches tall, while gaining 3 inches of critical wheelbase length — to 118.5 inches. This number gives the Genesis the longest wheelbase in the segment, which translates into the largest cabin as well as the largest trunk. There also are huge benefits in ride compliance — more in a minute.

The engines are carryover units. The V-6 engine makes 311 hp and earns EPA mileage ratings up to 29 mpg in standard rear wheel drive, or 25 mpg with AWD, while the 5.0-liter V-8 makes an exciting 420 hp running through the rear wheels with EPA ratings of 15/23/18-mpg. All models use a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission. An AWD V-8 model is promised for the short-term future.

There are revisions to the 5.0-liter V-8 that improve noise/vibration/harshness levels as well as overall operation not revealed in additional output. The powertrain makes the Genesis quite swift, very responsive and exceedingly fun to drive when you want to switch from normal or ECO drive mode to the sport selection on the console. This change holds shift points to higher revs, provides more engine braking, tightens up the Genesis’s steering feel as well as firms up the chassis settings to increase turning agility and responsiveness when the pace quickens.

In the past, one of the few critiques against almost all Hyundais was the lack of ride compliance, or refinement. The Genesis was not excluded. The new Genesis shows that the engineering effort has been applied to erase this gap between other brands, and certainly other premium automakers, as this latest sedan was composed, compliant and comfortable at every pace. There were no negative logbook comments about pounding, stiffness or abrupt chassis reactions, as the latest Genesis clearly illustrates that Hyundai has worked on addressing this part of its considerable portfolio.

Portfolio indeed, as the new Genesis has an alphabet soup of new systems and driving aids. In fact, it appears no stone was left unturned, as the Genesis is well stocked with safety aids and driver warning systems that will make every Genesis owner the envy of his neighbors.

The lane departure and lane keeping assist system send warning to the driver via a vibrating haptic steering wheel. Fail to signal your intentions and cross a line, yellow or white, and the steering wheel will vibrate in your hands. Fail to brake for that obstacle directly ahead, and the car automatically starts braking while flashing warning signals. Blind spot detection — also visible in the excellent heads-up display screen at the base of the windshield, plus a smart cruise laser-guided system with stop/start abilities, are among the other features packed into the Genesis.

Normally, one would not employ cruise control in heavy rain — too many things can go wrong too fast. Yet, with heavy spray flying, trucks all around, and visibility markedly reduced, the Genesis “saw” things that I could not and repeatedly warned me and helped to keep me safely distanced from potential hazards. These components will all be necessary in the ‘autonomous car,’ where electronics will do the driving for us.

On the comfort side, the 12-way adjustable heated and cooled leather seats, the 17-speaker HD audio system, as well as the myriad options in the entertainment system — with navigation — will keep you coddled and happy for many miles. A huge dual panel sunroof is available, along with power rear sunshade, manual side shades, plus a power trunk-lid closer. Wood finishing, plush leather and suede and soft-touch materials abound in a tasteful, if not quite Audi-esque, interior.

This new Genesis earns very high marks. Refined, composed, comprehensively outfitted and wearing confident styling, the Genesis has to be considered a worthy competitor in the coveted premium segment populated by brands costing thousands of dollars more. Kudos to Hyundai.

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Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.