By Jim MacPherson
Hyundai's ascent in recent years has been nothing short of amazing.
The company has gone from making cars 25 years ago that disappointed to vehicles that today can stand up to the most stringent scrutiny. Along the way, Hyundai has broadened its lineup to include premium luxury models.
The Genesis was the first luxury Hyundai sedan. It burst upon the scene in 2009 and immediately garnered the coveted North American Car of the Year award. For 2012, it's on the receiving end of some significant improvements.
The 3.8 liter, V-6 version now sports direct fuel injection and a 333-horsepower rating. Last year's five-speed automatic transmission has been jettisoned, replaced by a Hyundai-developed eight-speed automatic. As a result, Hyundai can not only boast more power, but also better fuel economy in this V-6 model, with EPA city and highway ratings up by 5.6 and 7.4 percent, respectively.
For buyers interested in more power and sportier handling, the Genesis is also offered in a new 5.0 R version, equipped with a 5.0-liter, direct fuel injection V-8 rated at 429 horsepower. Hyundai continues to offer V-8 buyers a 385-horsepower 4.6-liter V-8 with port fuel injection.
For this review, Hyundai loaned us a V-6 sedan. It delivered impressive refinement and performance. Sixty miles per hour arrived in just 6.2 seconds while demonstrating the smoothness of the new eight-speed automatic transmission. Single gear downshifts for passing and merging are quick, but the transmission lagged a little when asked to downshift and skip two or three gear ratios.
Still, performance and fuel economy were exceptionally good. In mixed driving with a significant highway time, I averaged 25.9 miles per gallon. The trip computer, however, showed a much less impressive 17.4 miles per gallon when driven around town with a heavy accelerator pedal foot.
The ride gets good grades. Over most surfaces, the Genesis is smooth, comfortable and well controlled. While Hyundai has tinkered with suspension settings for 2012, the Genesis falls a little short of the riding comfort over rough pavement delivered by more expensive competitors. Most people wouldn’t notice this minor shortfall without a direct comparison and, regardless of the surface, this review Genesis was quiet and impressively solid. There were no squeaks, rattles or buzzes.
Handling is very good. The Genesis is not particularly sporty, but it's very competent with accurate and nicely weighted steering, good balance in turns and secure braking. Its rear-wheel drive setup undoubtedly contributes to this solid performance.
The interior is nicely done. Front and rear seats accommodate up to four adults in comfort. A fifth passenger fits in the middle of the back seat, but the driveshaft hump in the floor will limit comfort.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Hyundai Genesis is its pricing, which starts at $34,200. While that may seem a significant sum, keep in mind that the Genesis is generally comparable in size, overall refinement and performance to competitors that are priced $10,000 higher. That makes the new, more powerful Genesis an even better buy.
Hyundai Genesis: Starts at $34,200
Engines: 3.8 V-6 4.6 V-8 5.0 V-8
HP 333 385 429
Torque (lb-ft) 291 333 376
EPA 19/29 17/26 16/25
Next week: Honda Civic HF and Natural Gas