2009 Hyundai Genesis–A Bold Challenge to the Competition

The Genesis is Hyundai’s flagship sedan and first foray into the premium luxury sedan segment of the automotive market. The design goal of the Genesis is to deliver equal parts performance and luxury, but with a significantly lower price tag than its targeted rivals. A Hyundai press release states that this car was positioned to compete against cars such as Lexus GS, Infiniti M, Mercedes-Benz E, and BMW 5-series.

Starting at $32,250 for the standard V6 version, Genesis does come with a very competitive amount of luxury and performance. Also available is the 4.6-litre Tau V8 engine, which bumps the starting price to $37,250. The Genesis package encompasses a clean exterior facade, a spacious and highly pleasant interior, and an ample amount of horsepower.

The physical dimensions of the Genesis provide a generous amount of cabin space and a huge trunk. The visibility is superb from inside. The flow of the curve from the front door through the hinges into the front panel is very appealing. I appreciate the modest, unobtrusive design of the CD/DVD unit in the center console. The instrument panel design is conventional and very easy to read. The test vehicle was equipped with the Tech package, which includes a high-end Lexicon speaker system, a navigation system, 6-disc CD/DVD changer, a rear back-up camera, and an advanced multimedia information centre console with iDrive style control dial placed between the center armrest and the gear selector box.

The leather seats are firm and provide good support without being too hard, and with the Technology package, seat cooling is added with the standard heating function. The Technology package model also includes options from the premium package, which includes a power sunroof and 18-inch wheels. Standard amenities include dual-zone climate control, power-adjusted front seats, leather interior, and HomeLink programmable garage door remote, which is built into the rear view mirror.

The 3.8 litre engine produces a maximum of 290 horses at 6,200 rpm, which gives the car good acceleration. With less than 3,100 miles on the odometer, the engine sounded slightly rough when running below 2,000 rpm in the first few gears, and I found the gas consumption to be slightly on the high side in stop-and-go city traffic. However, the sound smoothed out a good deal after a week of driving, I would expect the sound and fuel consumption to improve after putting more mileage on the engine.

Another thing to note is that the Lambda V6 engine only requires standard grade fuel instead of premium, so it’s a bit less costly to fill up the tank. The 6-speed Aisin transmission carries the power to the rear wheels for well-controlled acceleration and the connection feels solid. The Shifttronic transmission allows manual gear selection when the driver wants more control over the gear change. In fully automatic mode, the control logic upshifts at around 2,000 rpm when driving in crowded city traffic. In manual control mode, it seems that for the first couple of gears, the logic will wait until the engine reaches around 3,000 rpm before it upshifts even if you want to change at around 2,000.

The suspension is sport-tuned. For a luxury sedan of this size, the Genesis corners very well. The 18-inch tires and firm suspension hold the car steady on the road when making aggressive turns. I was somewhat surprised by this characteristic, thinking that potential buyers of luxury sedans would be looking for either a softer ride or something firm but with more dampening, rather than a sporty suspension like this; but this design decision gave the Genesis energy and spirit in its ride.

When it comes to stopping, power-assisted 12.6-inch vented-disc brakes in the front and 12.36-inch solid-disc brakes in the rear bring the car to a stop with control and ease. I was impressed by the stopping capability every time I approached a red light.

The Genesis comes with an impressive array of safety features. Besides the great braking performance, the body itself is a high tensile steel unibody with body side reinforcements. Electronic controls include the usual ABS, electronic brake force distribution (EBD), and traction control. In the unfortunate event of a crash, there is a bundle of airbags including front, seat-mounted side-impact, rear outbound, and side-curtain airbags. Another nice touch is the active head restraints on the front seats, which moves forward to reduce/prevent head and neck injury when it senses a rear impact.

The electronic-assisted power steering makes controlling the car’s direction effortless. The handling is quick and responsive, but there is a little bit of ambiguity in the connection between the driver’s hands and the wheels. This and easy steering combined with the superb amount of engine and braking power isolates the driver from feeling the actual weight of this car. It makes driving this vehicle very easy, but under some situations, I wished I had sense of the loading on the tires. This is not a problem when making turns around corners because you can feel the weight being placed on the suspension, but when you come up to a long, constant, curvy stretch of the highway at high speed (sure, we definitely shouldn’t be driving above the legal speed limit, but it does happen), you don’t feel body lean because of the firm suspension. With a lot of weight riding on the tires you don’t have feedback of how well the tires are gripping the road from the steering wheel. According to Hyundai’s official material, the power-assisted steering is engine-rpm-sensing. It would be great if Hyundai engineers would also add a speed-sensing function to the steering so it becomes heavier at faster speeds.

I personally prefer a heavier and more direct steering feel, but other than that, the Genesis delivers plenty of luxury, amenities, safety, and performance with a remarkable price. In the same price range, potential buyers will be weighing the Genesis against the likes of Lexus ES, BMW 3-series, and Infiniti G37. Backed by a 5-year/60,000 mile warranty, it represents a solid entry into the luxury sedan market.

By Titus Hsu
The Epoch Times

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