A New Beginning

2009, Hyundai, Genesis V8

Hyundai now offers a car that could tempt you out of buying a Lexus or a BMW really. From its humble origins in the mid 1980s selling fuel sipping, low-quality Excels to the fine Sonatas of recent years, the ante has been upped again.

The Genesis goes head to head with luxury midsize sedans like the Lexus GS and Infiniti M, not to mention the Mercedes Benz E Class and BMW 5 Series. The company knows this is a bit of a reach, so they have left their familiar logo off the Mercedes style grille to keep from scaring anyone away before they have a chance to take a test drive.

But after a week behind the wheel, I'm a believer. The look, feel, styling, and performance are right up there. The interior feels like it came from a Lexus, although there is no telescoping feature for the manually-adjusting steering wheel on the standard car. The leather-wrapped steering wheel feels right, though, and the brushed metal accents look worthy of admiration.

That wheel moves with the right weighting, with just enough assist but still a feeling of quality and heft. The complexity of the interior design doesn't look like it was built to a price. The rear seats are capacious and with central and side air vents, along with storage pockets on the backs of the front seats, give the air of a true luxury vehicle to fortunate rear seat passengers. As is the case with many cars of this type, you can order up a V6 or V8 and they drive the rear wheels. That configuration puts the Hyundai up against BMWs and historic sports sedans, and the 52/48 almost perfect front/rear weight balance imparts a sporty character. The brand new 4.6 liter V8 delivers an eye-popping 375 horsepower and 333 lb. ft. of torque good for a sub six second zero to sixty time, while earning EPA fuel economy ratings of 17 City, 25 Highway.

The 3.8-liter V6, as found in my Black Noir Pearl test car, had "only" 290 horsepower and 264 lb.-ft. of torque, but that's actually quite a lot. Fuel economy is even better, at 18 City, 27 Highway. Both models use a Japanese Aisin SHIFTRONIC six-speed automatic. The EPA's Green Vehicle Guide gives both engines a 7 for Air Pollution and a 5 for Greenhouse Gas slightly better than average, but fine for that many horses under the hood. If you're looking for great green car ratings, Hyundai will gladly sell you their exceptionally clean Elantra.

The sophisticated independent suspension, with five links front and rear, is typical of those used in Mercedes and BMW sport sedans. As I said, this isn't like any Hyundai you've seen or driven before.

The Genesis 3.8 comes in four levels, Standard, Premium, Premium Plus, and Technology. All models come with heated leather seats, 17-inch alloy wheels with P225/55R17 tires, fog lamps, automatic headlights, dual power heated side mirrors with turn signal indicators, cruise control, proximity entry with electric push-button start, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel with audio controls, dual front fully automatic climate control and an electrochromic auto-dimming interior rearview mirror with Homelink and compass. The audio system features AM, FM, CD, MP3 and Sirius/XM satellite radio, with a three-month subscription. I appreciated the real iPod/USB and auxiliary input jacks.

For safety, you get Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with traction control, an anti-lock Braking System (ABS), advanced front airbags, front and rear seat-mounted side airbags, roof-mounted side curtain airbags, and electronic front head restraints. The latter are another one of those luxury car features never before seen in a Hyundai.

On the safety theme, the Genesis receives all top five-star crash test numbers reassuring.

The Premium level ups the ante with leather-wrapped dash and door trim inserts, power sunroof, a memory system, power tilt and telescopic steering column, power rear sunshade, and the Lexicon 14-speaker surround sound with a six-disc CD changer. This audio system is also offered in Rolls-Royces, in case you wondered.

The Premium Plus brings in 18-inch wheels. The Technology package adds even more-- a 528-watt Lexicon 17-speaker discrete audio system, six-disc in-dash DVD changer and navigation system, rear backup warning camera, Driver Information System, XM HID and auto-leveling headlights, Adaptive Front Lighting System, front and rear parking assistance sensors and a cooled driver seat.

The V8 models add many of the upper level V6-model options as standard equipment. Prices start at a remarkably low $33,000 for the 3.8 V6 model and $38,000 for the 4.6 V8 model. The Premium package adds $2,000 and the Premium Plus $3,000. The Technology package is an additional $4,000 over the Premium Plus. The top-level 4.6 V8 model with Technology package tops out at $42,000.

Those are big numbers, but this car is big news for Hyundai. Without creating a second channel, like Toyota's Lexus and Nissan's Infiniti brands, Hyundai offers an amazingly competitive product. Who would have thought it could happen?

By Steve Schaefer

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Images of the 2009, Hyundai Genesis V8

2009 Hyundai Genesis V8 front shot
2009 Hyundai Genesis V8 front shot
2009 Hyundai Genesis V8 dashboard
2009 Hyundai Genesis V8 dashboard
2009 Hyundai Genesis V8 navigation unit
2009 Hyundai Genesis V8 navigation unit
2009 Hyundai Genesis V8 side view
2009 Hyundai Genesis V8 side view