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2015 Hyundai Genesis Test Drive Review
[The Genesis'] new suspension is able to sop up bumps in the road without any sacrifice to its composed handling. It will dispense with a pothole as well as it will carve a corner.
Have you ever seen a sports or action movie in which the protagonist makes a first attempt at a goal early in the movie, fails, then embarks on a training montage, only to succeed in the end? The lesson is that sometimes the first attempt isn’t the best, but if the desire is there, it will eventually lead to victory—but only after addressing one’s shortcomings. That is the 2015 Hyundai Genesis.
In 2007, Hyundai brought a concept for the Genesis to the New York International Auto Show and stunned onlookers, not for the car’s design (though it was attractive), but because of the car’s stated goal: Hyundai was getting into the luxury game. The Korean bargain brand? Building a luxury car? The automaker was building highly competent products, but it still came as a shock.
Fast-forward to 2014, and the shock has worn off. The Genesis was joined by the Equus, an even higher-end product. But in this time, the Genesis started to feel dated compared to its more aggressively styled siblings. By 2014 the Genesis was feeling almost anonymous. And that all changed for the 2015 model year.
Look and Feel
Out of 10
Any worries about the anonymity of the Genesis are long gone. Its generally staid styling has been replaced with bold lines, aggressive headlights and a very imposing grille. The latter is the defining feature of the outward appearance of the Genesis and serves a very important purpose. While the first generation attempted to use homogenized styling to hide the fact that it was a Hyundai, the new model looks you right in the eyes and tells you that it is a Genesis first, and the grille is its mark.
Another more subtle but just as crucial design element is the proportions and placement of the wheels. You may not even realize it, but often rear-wheel-drive sedans are defined by a long hood, front wheels pushed farther forward, and a short rear trunk where the C-pillar falls right above the rear wheels. This conveys the notion of speed and agility, even when the car is at rest.
Inside, the interior has undergone one of the most impressive transformations one can find in a car’s redesign. At the time of its creation, the first-generation Genesis featured an interior that was attractive but—like the exterior—became bland in the context of newer luxury vehicles coming to market.
No more is this the case, as an artful woodgrain dash flows into the large center navigation screen, flanked by controls. The center stack features a wealth of buttons, underscoring the multiple layers of tech and comfort features at the driver’s fingertips.
Trims for the Genesis are determined by engine displacement. The entry-level trim is the 3.8 trim, and at $38,000, it comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seating, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, heated front seats and power folding heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals.
At $40,500, the 3.8 AWD obviously features all-wheel drive, but also adds heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel and headlight washers.
The 5.0 starts at $51,500 and upgrades the wheels to 19-inch premium alloys while adding LED fog lights, HID auto-leveling headlights, quad exhaust tips, a panoramic power sunroof, ultra-premium leather seating surfaces, ventilated front seats and a Lexicon 14-speaker premium audio system.
Many of the features that are standard in the 5.0 can be ordered on the 3.8 through either the Signature package ($4,000) and/or the Tech package ($3,500). Our 3.8 test model featured both of those packages, along with the Ultimate package ($3,500), which upgrades the sound system to a 17-speaker Lexicon system and adds a 9.2-inch navigation display and head-up display (HUD) for the driver.
Out of 10
Hyundai has developed an excellent pair of powerplants to propel the Genesis. The base engine is the Lambda 3.8-liter V6, which makes 311 horsepower and 293 pound-feet of torque. The upgraded engine is the impressive Tau 5.0-liter V8, making 419 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. Power with both engines is routed to the rear wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission. V6 trims are also available with all-wheel drive, which our test car had.
The V6 provides adequate acceleration, while the AWD offers improved handling, even in dry conditions. Upgrade to the V8, and you have a world-class ride. Step on the accelerator and the rear hunkers down as it delivers impressive performance. It should be noted that this new suspension is able to sop up bumps in the road without any sacrifice to its composed handling. It will dispense with a pothole as well as it will carve a corner.
Fuel economy for the V6 with RWD is 18 mpg city/29 highway. RWD V8s get 15/23. Our V6 AWD trim was rated at 16/25. We observed about 18.7 mpg in mixed driving over the course of a week.
Form and Function
Out of 10
The Genesis benefits from its large interior and the fact that it's not built by a traditional luxury brand. The space thing is obvious, but the tradition thing may take some explaining. If you look at Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz or even Lexus, they have done away with touchscreens, choosing to operate their digital navigation systems via controllers that are not always incredibly intuitive. Owners of these cars claim their systems aren't that bad, but would you tell people how frustrating BMW’s iDrive is if you had dropped $65,000 on a 5 Series? Probably not.
What is far more intuitive is the standard touchscreen, and even more helpful than that is a touchscreen bolstered by a joystick controller. The touch element is for any part of the system, while most owners will be able to get used to the joystick in the center console at their fingertips and employ it for frequently used features that do not require all the driver’s attention.
The rear seats are spacious, and the center armrest provides a feeling of 2 rear bucket seats. The trunk is Mafia-level spacious and will be able to hold several golf bags. The trunk is also available with power open-close and features a new type of hands-free opening system. Unlike Ford’s system, which requires you to wave your foot beneath the bumper, the Genesis uses a proximity key and can determine if you are standing behind the car for a moment, at which point it will automatically open the trunk. It's quite an incredible system.
Out of 10
Frankly, there's a lot to go over here. The Genesis is rife with tech features, from the base model all the way to the range-topping 5.0 with the Ultimate Package. The Tech Package is mostly stocked with safety features (which we’ll address in a minute), while the Ultimate package has more of the high-tech creature comforts we've grown to expect out of a modern luxury sedan.
One of the standout features in the Ultimate package is the head-up display, or HUD. You may have seen these before in cars, using mirrors to present information right on the windshield. Unlike many other systems that are either monochrome or provide only limited information, the HUD in the Genesis is very comprehensive. It features a color display and can showcase vehicle speed and audio-system status as well as directions from the navigation system and a myriad of other forms of information. Certain alerts will pop up on the HUD when the Genesis thinks it's important to bring them to your attention. Thankfully, the only thing it will not do is say, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that, Dave.”
The one issue we have with the HUD is that one of the menus that adjusts the position of the HUD to suit the driver is buried in a series of menus in the trip-computer display. Having this buried is a distraction, and we hope Hyundai eventually creates actual buttons for the HUD toggle, as most other automakers have.
Where the Genesis does go a little HAL 9000 is with its advanced steering system. Hyundai does not tout it like its other safety features, but it's there. When driving on a standard single-lane road, elements of the lane-departure warning system can identify the yellow center line and white curb lines. When these two lines are identified (it will say so on the HUD) the system will make incredibly small adjustments to the steering. Do you know the feeling of driving straight on a highway but still having to make adjustments? With this system you can just point the car forward, and it will do the rest. We have to say that it was a bit jarring at first, but after some time, we grew quite used to it.
Out of 10
The Hyundai Genesis comes standard with a rear-view camera, vehicle stability control, a host of front and side airbags, front and rear crumple zones, an energy-absorbing steering column and a tire pressure monitoring system.
The Tech Package adds features such as lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, smart cruise control, a haptic-response steering wheel to alert the driver, and front and rear parking assistance systems. In essence, it features some of the most advanced active safety equipment you can find in a car below $50,000. Meanwhile, it's the only IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus in its class.
Out of 10
We have listed a host of new features in the new 2015 Hyundai Genesis, but the real development with this car is a general sense that everything has been brought together in a more meaningful way. The fit and finish is tighter, the ride is more competent, and for once, the vehicle feels like more than the sum of its parts.
Then you consider the Genesis's price. Our 3.8 AWD model with just about every option selected came in at $52,450. This might seem like a lot for a Hyundai, but consider that vehicles like the Lexus GS, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series all start at around $10,000 more than the Genesis. Then consider that, by the time you have fitted a 3.8 AWD Genesis with every option, it's still roughly the same price as an E-Class without any options. Finally, consider how the German luxury brands take their buyers to the cleaners when they want options like heated seats or voice-controlled navigation, and then you begin to comprehend the incredible value of the 2015 Hyundai Genesis.
If you are buying for status, sure the E-Class and 5 Series will always be there, but in the modern world, the ability to spot a savvy deal is arguably a new form of status. And for those who subscribe to this philosophy, the 2015 Hyundai Genesis is their flagship.
From open-wheel racecars to specialty off-road vehicles, George Kennedy has driven it all. A career automotive journalist, George has been a producer and senior writer at WheelsTV, an associate editor at Autoblog.com and a freelance contributor to Hemmings Classic Wheels. He is currently an editor at BoldRide.com and is a featured contributor to the Boston Globe.