2009 Hyundai Genesis
By J.P. Vettraino
On Sale: Summer 2008
Expected Pricing: $30,000-$38,000 USD
Is America ready for Korean-built luxury sedans? Beginning in the summer of 2009, we’ll find out.
Probably by July, Hyundai will smash into new territory with launch of its 2009 Genesis. The company calls the Genesis a “premium sports sedan.” When it unveiled the car at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show in January 2008, Hyundai executives described Genesis as “a 60,000 luxury car for half the price.”
The 2009 Hyundai Genesis will compete most directly with so-called near-luxury sedans from Detroit’s Big Three automakers, including the Chrysler 300 and the new Pontiac G8. But Hyundai insists that its engineering benchmarks for the Genesis were higher up the automotive price chain, and focused on cars such as the Audi S6, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Lexus GS.
The Genesis is a substantial car, bigger and more powerful than any Hyundai previously sold in the United States. It also has rear-wheel drive, associated with high-end luxury sedans. Its exterior dimensions are slightly larger than just about every current mid-size luxury car, from the Mercedes E-Class to the Lexus GS to the BMW 5 Series. The Genesis unitbody is manufactured with a high percentage of high-tensile steel, and Hyundai claims that it’s both lighter and more rigid than class benchmarks like the E-Class and 5 Series. If that’s true, the Genesis should be a smooth, quiet car.
You’ve almost seen the Genesis before, even though you haven’t. Its exterior styling is an amalgamation of lines and styling cues seen on more familiar European and Japanese luxury cars, and while it might be derivative, the Genesis is also quite appealing. Its various styling elements meld nicely into a fluid, handsome, if slightly conservative-looking sedan.
Just months before the Genesis’s launch, Hyundai was still sorting some of its styling details. The company displayed the car in Detroit with two different grilles, hoping to gather consumer feedback on a preferred choice. One was a very traditional grille with a rectangular pattern and the familiar Hyundai H badge. The other had a more expressive, flowing chevron design without the badge. We’ll wager that the chevron grille makes the cut.
The 2009 Genesis will be offered with three engine choices. All feature current state-of-the-art technologies to enhance fuel efficiency and reduce emissions, including fully variable valve timing and a variable intake system, and all three are quite powerful for their size. All the Genesis engines will come with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift feature.
The choices include a 3.3-liter V6 (268 horsepower, 233 pound-feet of torque) and a 3.8-liter V6 (290 hp, 264 lb-ft). Yet the biggest engine news is Hyundai’s first V8, which it calls the Tau V8. This 4.6-liter engine will develop at least 375 horsepower, according to Hyundai, making it more powerful for its size than the V8s in any of the Genesis’s potential competitors.
Underneath, the Genesis’s fully independent suspension applies an unusual five-link design front and rear. This layout is more complicated than familiar struts and control arms, and it’s likely more expensive to build. The Genesis will also offer Hyundai’s first active, variable-rate shock absorbers, which the company calls Amplitude Selective Dampers, or ASD.
The standard-feature list will be expansive, including items such as heated and cooled seats, proximity key, a rear power sunshade and a 600-watt Harman Lexicon audio system with CD changer, Bluetooth mobile phone interface, and USB/iPod auxiliary inputs. For more Wow! factor, the Genesis offers options like a navigations system with eight-inch screen, a back-up camera, radar-guided Smart Cruise Control and an Automatic Front Lighting System that swivels the headlights for better visibility when cornering.
The Genesis comes with eight airbags, including standard side-impact airbags for the rear seat (a rarity), as well as a full complement of active electronic systems to help keep it on the driver’s intended path, or stop it safely in difficult circumstances.
The warranty looks impressive, too. In addition to Hyundai’s standard 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain coverage, the Genesis adds bumper-to-bumper coverage for five years or 60,000 miles, seven-year, no-mileage rust-through protection and five years of free roadside assistance, including limited re-imbursement for trip-interruption expenses.
Hyundai modestly predicts 20,000 Genesis sales in the first year of production. On one hand, given the Genesis’s impressive equipment-to-dollar ratio, that might seem like an easy target. On the other, longer-established automakers, including Volkswagen with its Phaeton sedan, have tried to break into the luxury market and failed.
In addition to the SE, Hyundai will offer an entry-level four-cylinder GS model and a midgrade GT model with the V6. You’ll get both a standard auxiliary audio jack and a USB port to plug in your music on the base GS, along with Bluetooth, powered accessories, stability control, full side-airbag coverage and active front head restraints. The midlevel 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe GT adds richer interior trim and automatic climate control. Along with its many functional upgrades, the SE has xenon headlights, a rear deck spoiler, aluminum-trimmed pedals and red cloth seats with black leather bolsters. The options list includes keyless start, an Infinity audio system and heated seats.