Monthly Archives: January 2009

Surprise: A High-End Hyundai

Luxury cars run in Simon Smith’s family. His wife drivesan Infiniti, his mom owns a Jaguar, and Smith, who lives near West Palm Beach, Fla., keeps a BMW Z4 in the garage. But the BMW doesn’t get much love these days. Smith, 47, drives another luxury car, which he likens to a classy European sedan. “The workmanship feels solid,” he says, “and you punch the pedal and it goes.” His pride and joy? The 2009 Hyundai Genesis.

Call it a Korean extreme makeover. Hyundai may be known for budget buggies like the Accent and Elantra, but like Japanese carmakers a generation ago, it’s determined to move beyond the econo-box. And the Genesis is its coming-out vehicle. Starting around $33,000, it’s designed to drive alongside the luxury big boys, equipped with a rear-wheel-drive platform, six- or eight-cylinder engine and a cavernous, leather-sheathed cabin. Plus, it’s a ringer for a German or Japanese luxury sedan, as owners like Smith can attest. “People roll down their windows and tell me, ‘Gorgeous car,'” he says.

The Genesis is a bold gamble for Hyundai, which spent $750 million to develop the car and its new eight-cylinder engine–more than on any other model. The Korean firm hopes it will be a “halo” vehicle, whose aura of prestige will lift the whole brand. To help sell it, salesmen have gone to Genesis boot camp, dealerships have received face-lifts, and Hyundai is running a multimillion-dollar ad campaign to convince Americans that a high-performance Korean car isn’t an oxymoron. “This is a very ambitious company,” says John Casesa, an auto-industry consultant. “They want to do in 10 years what it took Toyota and Honda 30 years to do.”

Hyundai has certainly come a long way since its first U.S. model, the $4,995 Excel, trundled onto the market in 1986. The fleet now includes 10 models, from hatchbacks to SUVs. And vehicle quality, once a punch line, is now seriously good. Hyundai scores above average in J.D. Power’s “initial quality” surveys, which measure problems in the first three months of ownership. The Accent and Elantra rank near the top of their categories. And analysts say that Hyundai’s warranty program–10 years or 100,000 miles–has built confidence in the brand. “People are starting to accept that they make good vehicles,” says Neal Oddes, director of product research and analysis for J.D. Power and Associates.

Yet it’s one thing to sell Sonatas; it’s quite another to muscle in on BMW’s turf. And Hyundai’s timing couldn’t be worse. Car sales are down 13 percent this year, and even luxury brands have begun offering incentives for some models. Hyundai is no longer a wunderkind, either. From 2000 to 2005, its sales nearly doubled, to 455,000, making it the fastest-growing carmaker in the U.S. But since then growth has slowed, and Hyundai has scaled back its goal of selling 1 million vehicles in the U.S. by 2010, aiming now for more than 500,000.

Other challenges abound. Foremost among them: persuading folks to give the car a shot. According to J.D. Power, just 5 percent of new-car test-drivers say they’d consider a Hyundai, let alone a premium model like the Genesis. The road to the luxury-car big leagues is littered with models that earned glowing reviews–and dim sales. (Remember the Volkswagen Phaeton?) Another hurdle for Hyundai is that luxury buyersexpect pampering at the dealership, like massage chairs and black-tie valet service. Indeed, Japanese automakers outgrew their pipsqueak image, in part, by creating separate luxury brands; Lexus and Infiniti lured customers early on by “treating them like a king,” says Tom Gauer, an analyst with J.D. Power. But Hyundai has no spin-off plans, and according to J.D. Power’s 2007 survey of sales satisfaction, its dealerships leave customers feeling somewhat less than royal: The Korean firm scored 22nd out of 36 carmakers for service.

Hyundai National Manager of Product Planning Scott Margason says the “dealer body has gotten stronger” and that the car’s quality and value are what matter–not “a badge and a cappuccino when you’re signing the paperwork.” The Genesis, he points out, rivals the performance of models like the BMW 535i and Mercedes-Benz E350, which cost at least $12,000 more. It’s as spacious as the Mercedes S-Class. It’s quieter, smoother and faster than several higher-end rivals, according to independent track tests conducted by Automotive Marketing Consultants. It’s crammed with standard features like a full leather interior, heated front seats and a hands-free phone system. And it offers a high-end Lexicon audio system similar to one found in the Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Hyundai is so confident the car’s a pound-for-pound champ that dealers have installed touch-screen displays so shoppers can compare it with rivals, and ads show it smoking competitors on the test track. But even converts are still self-conscious about the brand. A handful of Genesis owners we contacted say they removed the Hyundai insignias and replaced them with an aftermarket Genesis “wing” to disguise the car’s lineage. For Robert Shelton of San Antonio, it was “a prestige thing.” The car drives beautifully, he says. “I just don’t want to see ‘Hyundai’ on it and wish they’d take it off.”

Source: Smart Money

2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe Review

Explosions, fireworks, and screeching tires: the Hyundai display at the New York auto show today crackled with energy, not to mention smoke and burning rubber. Hyundai was out to impress Mustang and Camaro and Challenger fans with its new coupe, and with some inside-Javits stunt driving and a pair of sleek, powerful coupes, they succeeded.

There are actually two Genesis Coupes set to go on sale early in 2009, a four- and a six-cylinder version. The former, says Hyundai product VP, is “an intriguing alternative to existing front-wheel drive sport coupes,” while the latter 300-hp six-cylinder version could take on the likes of the Infiniti G37, he suggested.

The four-cylinder model uses Hyundai’s turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, which churns out 212 horsepower (223 hp with premium gas) and 217 pound-feet of torque. That version gets the moniker Coupe 2.0t.

The more compelling Coupe gets its engine bay wedged full with a 3.8-liter V-6 that has 306 horsepower (310 with premium gas) and 310 pound-feet of torque. For comparison, the Mustang Bullitt has 315 hp and the Infiniti G37, 330 hp. Hyundai says it will hit 60 mph in about six seconds and go on to a top speed of 149 mph.

A six-speed manual is standard on both the four-pot and the V-6. The four-cylinder gets an optional five-speed automatic, while the V-6 version has an option for a six-speed ZF automatic.

Like the Infiniti but unlike the Mustang, Hyundai’s Coupe sports an independent suspension at all four corners, with a five-link setup in the back. Even the base four-cylinder car comes with 18-inch wheels, while 19-inchers are available. The two-door rides on a 111.0-inch wheelbase, and is 182.3 inches long overall.

The interior gets a pleasant, not entirely edgy theme that includes a big tachometer splayed in the driver’s sight, illuminated blue. A push-button starter and a proximity key are offered. Front, side, and curtain airbags are standard, as is anti-lock braking. A Brembo brake package is a performance add-on.

The audio system includes both iPod jacks and a USB input. An Infinity audio system is available, as are heated seats.

You’ll have to wait until early 2009 to get your hands on a Coupe, but The Car Connection gets our first shot at driving the new two-door later this year, along with the Genesis sedan we showed you in January at the Detroit auto show.

Marty Padgettt

Hyundai Genesis Outscores Competitors, Becomes Consumer Reports’ Top-Rated ‘Upscale Sedan’

Genesis narrowly outpoints Lexus ES 350 to take top spot

YONKERS, N.Y., Jan. 5 — The Hyundai Genesis outscored four competitors to become Consumer Reports top-rated vehicle in the competitive “Upscale Sedan” category. The Genesis, which achieved an “Excellent” overall road test score, now outranks 12 vehicles from Lexus, Acura, Lincoln and others including the Lexus ES 350.

The Genesis‘ performance in CR’s battery of tests solidifies the automaker’s reputation as a builder of high-quality vehicles in several diverse automotive segments. Previously, Consumer Reports named two Hyundais, the Elantra and Santa Fe, as “Top Pick” vehicles in the small sedan and midsize SUV categories respectively.

“The Hyundai Genesis rivals high-end luxury sedans but costs considerably less,” said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center in East Haddam, Connecticut. “Its luxurious and spacious interior and quietness far transcend its relatively modest price.”

The Genesis was tested against four other new or redesigned upscale sedans — the Acura TL, Nissan Maxima, Pontiac G8 and Lincoln MKS — for the February issue of Consumer Reports. Prices ranged from $33,660 for the Pontiac to $40,880 for the Lincoln.

Two other vehicles in the test group also earned Excellent overall road test scores, the TL and Maxima. The G8 and MKS achieved Very Good overall scores.

The eight other vehicles in the Upscale Sedans category including the ES 350, Toyota Avalon, Buick Lucerne and Saab 9-5, were all tested previously.

In addition to the five upscale sedans tested, CR also purchased and tested the Jaguar XF luxury sedan. Though it obtained a Very Good overall score, it still ranked near the bottom of the group of 12 luxury sedans that Consumer Reports has rated.

But the redesigned Honda Pilot has slipped from being one of Consumer Reports’ top-rated three-row SUVs to midpack. The Pilot now ranks eleventh out of seventeen midsized, three-row SUVs that have been tested by CR.

Full tests and ratings of all six sedans appear in the February issue of Consumer Reports, which goes on sale January 6. The reports are also available to subscribers of (Road test vehicles of recently tested vehicles are also available free at CR’s web site.)

The issue also contains a report on the conversion of a hybrid Toyota Prius to a plug-in hybrid. Consumer Reports chose a Hymotion L5 conversion kit sold by A123 Systems, which the company claims can yield more than 100 mpg. Fuel economy in CR’s converted Prius jumped from 42 to 67 mpg overall for the first 35 miles of driving. At almost $11,000, the plug-in conversion clearly won’t save consumers money overall. However, the technology itself proved viable.

The TL is the only vehicle in this month’s test group that is Recommended by Consumer Reports. CR only Recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR’s annual Car Reliability Survey of its more than seven million print and web subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.

CR doesn’t have reliability data yet on the Genesis, MKS, Maxima, G8 and XF.

Spacious and well appointed, the rear-wheel-drive Genesis offers good value and is a compelling alternative to luxury vehicles costing thousands more. This car’s forte is swaddling passengers in silence. The engine sounds polished and road noise is strikingly absent. The interior rivals those of the very best luxury cars, with its optional stitched-leather dashboard facing and consistently high-quality materials. The only real drawback is its ride, which can be unsettled at times and doesn’t live up to the standards set by other luxury cars. The Genesis 3.8 ($36,000 Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price as tested) is powered by a 290-hp, 3.8-liter V6 that feels quick and smooth and delivers a decent 21 mpg in CR’s own fuel-economy tests. The six-speed automatic transmission provides smooth, quick shifts. Braking is excellent.

The redesigned Acura TL is a nice car, with responsive handling, a slick powertrain and commendable fuel economy. But when compared with the previous TL, which was CR’s Top Pick in this segment for years, the latest generation is not as impressive. Vague steering saps the fun out of its handling, the trunk opening is small, and other competitors have roomier rear seats. The base-model TL ($35,715 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 280-hp, 3.5-liter V6 that delivers excellent acceleration and a respectable 23 mpg overall on premium fuel. The five-speed automatic transmission is both quick and smooth. Brakes are excellent overall.

The Maxima is a quick car, but it doesn’t add much over the less costly Nissan Altima overall. While it’s pleasant, it falls short in some ways. Handling is responsive, but at low speeds the steering is overly light. The car is quiet and the ride is decent. But the new coupe-like silhouette compromises visibility, trunk room, and rear-seat comfort. The Maxima 3.5 SV ($33,700 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 290-hp, 3.5-liter V6 that gives the car quicker acceleration than some V8s. Expect 22 mpg overall on premium fuel. The continuously variable transmission works very well overall; it’s also the only one available. The Maxima’s brakes are very good overall.

As a bargain sports sedan that can challenge the performance of models from BMW and Mercedes, Pontiac’s G8 is a success. It handles and rides as well as the best cars in its class. The G8 GT’s acceleration is very impressive, with a zero-to-sixty time of 5.7 seconds. But the downside of that is poor fuel economy — at just 17 mpg overall on regular fuel. The G8 GT ($33,660 MSRP as tested) is powered by a huge 361-hp, 6.0-liter V8 engine that makes it blisteringly quick. The smooth six-speed automatic transmission with a tall sixth gear makes highway cruising relaxed. The brakes are very good overall. (A 256-hp, 3.6-liter V6 with a five-speed automatic is also available in the base G8, but CR didn’t test it because a more powerful V6 with a six-speed automatic will arrive in 2010.)

In the tradition of large domestic luxury cars, Lincoln’s MKS is built for pampering, not for spirited driving. Handling lacks agility, and the engine is too noisy for a car in this class. The interior amenities and finishes are pleasant, but the MKS feels too much like the Ford Taurus, on which it is based, to justify its luxury price tag. The MKS ($40,880 MSRP as tested) is equipped with a 273-hp, 3.7-liter V6 engine that performs well, but is not as quick or smooth as its competition in this class. CR measured its fuel economy at just 20 mpg overall on regular, which is not impressive. The six-speed automatic transmission is not as slick as most in this class. Brakes are very good overall.

With more than 7 million print and online subscribers, Consumer Reports is one of the most trusted sources for information and advice on consumer products and services. It conducts the most comprehensive auto-test program of any U.S. publication or Web site; the magazine’s auto experts have decades of experience in driving, testing, and reporting on cars. To become a subscriber, consumers can call 1-800-234-1645. Information and articles from the magazine can be accessed online at

Hyundai Marks the 10-Year Anniversary of "America’s Best Warranty" with the Launch of the "Hyundai Assurance Program"

Hyundai Assurance Program provides new car buyers who lose their income protection against negative equity and credit rating concerns

Hyundai Motor America announced today an unprecedented program to protect consumers in this uncertain economic environment. Beginning today, Hyundai is providing a complimentary vehicle return program for the first year on every new Hyundai that is financed or leased for owners who experience an involuntary loss of income within 12 months of the purchase date. The “Hyundai Assurance Program” expands the protection offered through “The Hyundai Advantage: America’s Best Warranty,” which has provided 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain protection to Hyundai owners for a decade. The Hyundai Assurance Program is complimentary for one full year, covers all Hyundai models and is available to everyone.

“We understand consumers’ hesitance to commit to large purchases in today’s economic environment,” said John Krafcik, acting president and CEO, Hyundai Motor America. “Ten years ago, Hyundai’s industry-leading warranty provided peace of mind to consumers about Hyundai’s quality and reliability. Today we’re extending that peace of mind to cover consumers’ employment status and personal finances.”

The Hyundai Assurance Program, the first of its kind for an automaker in the U.S. auto industry, allows consumers to walk away from a financing obligation when certain adverse life events occur, providing protection from financial shortfalls that arise from vehicle depreciation (negative equity) up to $7,500.

The Hyundai Assurance Program complements America’s Best Warranty as standard protection on new vehicles financed or leased from a participating Hyundai dealer, and supplements all existing consumer incentives. The program is available to any consumer, regardless of age, health, employment history or financed amount of the vehicle. The program is complimentary for the first 12 months of the financing or lease date for vehicles financed through Hyundai Motor Finance Company and other third-party lenders and financing sources. Covered circumstances include:

– Involuntary unemployment
– Physical disability
– Loss of driver’s license due to medical impairment
– International employment transfer
– Self-employed personal bankruptcy
– Accidental death

Consumers must have made at least two scheduled payments on their loan or lease, be current on all payments and pay for any outstanding balance above the $7,500 benefit amount which results from negative equity. Once the benefit is approved by the Hyundai Assurance administrator and the customer pays any outstanding balance, the customer returns the vehicle to the selling dealer, whose appraisal is factored into the valuation formula, and the consumer avoids further financial obligation or negative impact to his/her credit. The dealer is then able to remarket the vehicle.

For more details about the Hyundai Assurance Program, please visit or


Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co. of Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced through more than 790 dealerships nationwide.