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2009 Hyundai Genesis

Rafay Ansar


Pros and Cons

* Lots of features for the dollar
* Powerful engines
* Luxurious interior
* Capable handling
* Plenty of front and rear seat room

* No split folding rear seat
* No steering wheel paddles
* Limited seat adjustments
* Ride can be bouncy
* Pricey for a Hyundai


Hyundai claims it benchmarked such luxury stalwarts as the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E Class, Lexus GS, and Infiniti M in developing the Genesis, the company’s first rear-drive car. But can this Korean manufacturer of economy cars build a viable luxury-oriented sport sedan? To show off the Genesis’s pedigree, Hyundai invited journalists to Santa Barbara, California, for some street and track time in its new sport sedan. I went to find out if the Genesis marks the beginning of a new Hyundai. A few hundred miles behind the wheel proved it’s the best Hyundai yet, a capable handler, and a legitimate move upmarket for the brand..
Driving Impressions

I drove the Genesis 3.8L and 4.6L models and was impressed by both. No matter what model you choose, there is more than enough power for everyday needs, and the new V8 is just plain fast. Both engines run quietly and both come mated to smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmissions with manual shiftgates. Unfortunately, steering wheel paddles aren’t provided for either model.

Hyundai pulled out the stops to make the Genesis a sport sedan, opting for a rear-drive structure and advanced five-link front and rear suspensions. In the twisties, it has a generally nimble feel and stays fairly flat in corners. Thanks to its lighter weight, the V6 rotates more easily through turns. The V8 model, on the other hand, is quicker through a slalom thanks to electrohydraulic steering that keeps up with quick, frequent changes of direction.

Ride quality is also quite good. Most bumps are ironed out easily, and there is no float or wallow to speak of. However, the ride becomes bouncy when the car encounters humps and ruts at highway speeds. On the whole, the Genesis is a legitimate sport sedan, but it’s not as agile as top performers, such as the BMW 5-series.

Hyundai claims world-class levels of fit and finish in the Genesis. While that may be a bit of an overstatement, the Genesis is certainly well assembled. Panel gaps are tight inside and out, and there are no rough finishes or sharp plastic edges to be found. I got into three different cars and heard no squeaks or rattles in any of them. Part of Hyundai’s allure is the quality you get for the price, and the Genesis represents a new high in this regard.
Interior Comfort and Ergonomics

Hyundai has been making its interiors more and more luxurious and the Genesis is the best yet. Quality materials, thoughtful chrome accents, and soft-touch surfaces abound. The dash can even be wrapped in leather, a feature usually reserved for much more expensive vehicles. While the quality is high, I found the shape of the dash to be a bit stodgy, kinda like a late 1990s Buick.

Ten buttons on the center stack are devoted to the climate control system. That’s a lot to sift through to find the controls you want. I’d prefer the three easy-to-use knobs that many manufacturers are using these days.

Choose the optional navigation system and you get a multimedia controller for the radio, navigation system, iPod interface, trip computer, Bluetooth® phone, and settings in the Driver Information System. It uses a large rotating knob and six buttons mounted on the center console. This system is easier to use than BMW’s iDrive, but simple tasks like programming a radio station still take some extra steps. Nonetheless, this is about the simplest multimedia interface I’ve seen and other manufacturers should study it.

The iPod interface displays songs, artists or playlists on the dashboard screen. It works well, but it can take some time to scroll through artists or albums. Opt for the Technology package and you also get a 40-gigabyte hard drive to hold music files and navigation map information.

Drivers and passengers will find plenty of room, though tall rear passengers may want more head room. Getting in and out of both seating rows is easy. The front seats are comfortable, but they sit up higher than I prefer and they don’t have all that many adjustments for a car with this level of luxury.

Small items storage is adequate, consisting of two cupholders behind the shifter, an ashtray-type bin below the center stack, a decent-sized center console bin, and a fold-out pocket in each front door.

With 15.9 cubic feet of cargo room, the trunk is deep. Unfortunately, Hyundai opted against split folding rear seats for rigidity reasons. For some, this may be a deal breaker, but at least a rear pass-through is standard.

The Genesis 3.8L model is powered by Hyundai’s Lambda 3.8-liter DOHC V6. It makes 290 hp at 6,200 rpm and 264 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. While Hyundai quotes a 6.2-second 0-60 mph time, I was skeptical and ran an unofficial 0-60 mph sprint. The results were as expected. By simply mashing the throttle, the 3.8 is capable of a 0-60 time of about 7.5 seconds. That’s still pretty quick, and the 3.8L moves willingly from a stop and provides confident passing punch. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and quickly, and has a manual shift gate so drivers can select their own gears. The 3.8L model is EPA rated at 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway.

The 4.6L model has Hyundai’s new Tau 4.6-liter DOHC V8. It cranks out 375 hp at 6,500 rpm and 333 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm with premium fuel, or 368 hp and 324 lb-ft of torque with regular fuel. The V8 is considerably quicker than the V6. Floor it, and the 4.6L model launches hard from a stop. Midrange power is willing and highway passing is worry free. Hyundai quotes a 5.7-second 0-60 mph time, and that feels right. Best of all, the V8 comes with little fuel economy penalty. It is EPA rated at 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway. Like the 3.8L, the 4.6L comes with a smooth and responsive six-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift gate. Given the Genesis’s sporty character, however, steering wheel paddles would also be appropriate. Too bad Hyundai opted against them.

Braking in both models is worry free, with good pedal feel. I had the opportunity to drive both models on a racetrack and the brakes held up well, with no fade or pulsing after several laps. That’s pretty impressive for a street car, especially one this heavy.


With benchmark models such as the BMW 5-series and Mercedes-Benz E Class, the Hyundai Genesis aims high. Hyundai gave the Genesis the DNA to compete, with five-link front (no McPherson struts) and rear suspensions and a rigid rear-drive unibody structure.

The Genesis also features multi-vein shocks, which Hyundai calls Amplitude Selective Dampers. These shocks have one mode for small, high-frequency bumps and ripples and another mode for larger motions. On the road, they help the Genesis provide a smooth, quiet ride. We experienced no float or wallow, though we did find that the ride got too bouncy over humps and ruts at highway speeds.

I had the opportunity to drive the Genesis on twisty two-lane California roads and on a road course to test the handling. At the racetrack, Hyundai provided a Mercedes-Benz E Class for comparison, and I can honestly say the Genesis is a viable sport sedan and a fair match for the Mercedes, though with a different character. While the E Class tends to lean a little more and squeal more in tight turns, it also provides a lot of feedback. The Genesis, on the other hand, provides less feedback, but it stays flatter through turns. The Genesis also feels nimble and is perfectly happy being hustle through tight, twisty stretches of road.

Of the three cars I drove on the track (the Genesis 3.8 and 4.6, and the Mercedes E Class), the 3.8L model was the easiest to rotate through turns, thanks to its 52/48 weight balance (compared to 53/47 for the V8). Notably missing from our track test, however, was a BMW 5-series. While the Hyundai handles well, it still has a long way to go to catch the BMW. I’ve also recently driven the 2009 Acura TL, and it feels lighter and more nimble than the new Genesis as well.

In both Genesis models, the steering is direct but not overly quick. The 4.6L model has electrohydraulic steering, while the 3.8L is only hydraulic. A trip through a slalom revealed that the hydraulic steering can’t keep up with several quick changes of direction, resulting in some binding. The 4.6L model’s steering, on the other hand, had not trouble with the cones, making it the better car in this type of environment even though it’s heavier.

If you push the Genesis too far, there are plenty of electronic safety nets to keep you on course, including antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, traction control, and electronic stability control. Other standard safety features include front and rear side airbags, curtain side airbags, and electronic active front head restraints.


Hyundai has historically taken its styling cues from other manufacturers, and the Genesis is no exception. The car looks like the offspring of a BMW 5-series and a Mercedes-Benz E Class. The front grille has a definite Mercedes flair, but instead of rounded headlights, it’s flanked by more modern eye-slit headlights. Fog lights are standard on the lower fascia, which also features a large lower air intake. Halogen headlights are standard, and the Technology Package includes auto-leveling high-intensity discharge adaptive headlights that point into turns to improve night-time vision on dark corners.

From the side, the Genesis is reminiscent of a BMW 5-series, though with softer lines (though still sharper than those of the E Class). The greenhouse is practically identical to that of the 5-series, right down to the dogleg shape of the rear pillars. Attractive 17-inch wheels fill the wheelwells, and the available 18s provide a sportier, meaner look.

Take a peek from the rear, and you’ll notice a high trunk line similar to the BMW design that was so polarizing when it arrived on the BMW 7-series a few years ago. Dual exhaust is also visible from the rear, hinting at the Genesis’s sport sedan intentions.

Hyundai says the overall design is “athletic, not so aggressive, assertive, but not polarizing.” I agree, but I’d like to see more passion in the design. I don’t think the Genesis will attract many customers on design alone (though the upcoming Genesis coupe might).


The Genesis 3.8L model ($32,250) is well equipped, with such features as leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, XM® Satellite Radio, iPod interface, Bluetooth® wireless cell phone link, and P225/55R17 tires on alloy wheels. Available features include leather dash and door trim, navigation system, 17-speaker Lexicon audio system with 7.1 surround, HD radio, 40-gigabyte hard drive, a rearview camera, and 18-inch wheels.

The 4.6L model ($37,250) is even better equipped, with power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, leather dash and door trim, Lexicon 15-speaker audio system with 6-disc CD changer, power rear sunshade, and P235/50R18 tires.

Both Genesis models are fine values that deliver good handling, a smooth ride, and willing power. They also have attractive interiors with plenty of room. Though not quite up to the high interior and handling standards of the European and Japanese luxury cars the Genesis aspires to, it is viable and cheaper alternative to those cars and a better appointed option versus large American sedans.
Who should buy it

The Genesis will be a fine choice for families with one or two kids or businessmen who tote clients around on a regular basis. If you need to haul a lot of cargo, the lack of a folding rear seat is a definite strike against this car, though the Genesis does have a fairly big trunk. The question is, can Hyundai get people to spend $33-42K on a car that lacks the cache of brands the Genesis aims to compete with?

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