LA JOLLA, Calif. -- In La Jolla, the ritzy seaside enclave of suburban San Diego where super-rich residents steer mega-bucks cars with labels like Ferrari, Bentley and Lamborghini, we're rolling along palm-fringed Prospect Avenue in a new rear-wheel-drive sport sedan that sparkles in sleek skin stretched over a five-seat cockpit lined with sumptuous appointments in leather, wood and aluminum.
Our transport -- the V8-powered Genesis 4.6 by Hyundai of South Korea -- amounts to a new flagship for the brand with world-class driving dynamics and Hyundai's first V8 engine as well as its largest sedan.
We drive different versions of the sedan on boulevards and freeways threading through northern reaches of San Diego County and discover that Genesis amounts to a dreamboat of a car outfitted with more sophisticated equipment for safety, navigation and comfort than you can quickly enumerate.
On a twisty course like the Del Dios Highway which winds out to Escondido, Genesis dominates the asphalt with rock-solid stability expressed through precisely carved turns and spurts of speed down the infrequent straightaway.
Not only does this car propel its riders to speed in a confidence-inspiring manner, but it envelops them in an elegantly stylish package which contains elaborate safety gear and luxurious comforts laced through the tony cabin.
Consider it a dazzling display of slick automotive design as well as a moveable showcase for the Hyundai aggregate of high-tech mechanical controls and extensive safety systems.
But here's the inimitable twist from Hyundai: Genesis bears a bottom-line price tag that's only $33,000 for the V6 version, or $38,000 for the V8.
The MSRP for Genesis may well represent the least amount of dollars required to get the most amount of a big car among all 2009 models -- and certainly so for a premium luxury sports sedan.
Then the manufacturer supports this product with an impressive warranty program which extends well beyond protection for most other vehicles -- the powertrain is insured for ten years or 100,000 miles and there's a five-year or 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper shield against defects plus unlimited mileage for a five-year roadside assistance program with emergency towing and even lockout service.
Hyundai developed a new rear-wheel-drive unibody architecture for Genesis with a 115.6-inch wheelbase and a track width (front/rear) of 63.8/64.4 inches.
The body, stretching long and decorated with a raked face, flashes narrow eye-slit headlamp clusters on front corners flanking a bold trapezoidal grille with chrome fins.
It's taut and athletic in a sculptural shape, but also smooth and sleek, even sensuous.
Round wheelwells with only subtle flares house standard 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels with 14 spokes or optional 18-inch and nine-spoke alloys.
Inside a spacious cabin are two rows of seats with a capacity for five passengers.
The front row contains a pair of form-fitting bucket seats while the second row has a three-place bench with fold-down center armrest and a pass-through opening to access the spacious trunk.
Leather upholstery is standard and extends even to a leather-bound dashboard.
The instrument panel contains electroluminescent gauges with easy-read white numbers on a black background. Tucked between large round speedometer and tachometer gauges is a rectangular digital display for the trip computer and vehicle information.
In the middle of the dash atop the center stack is a rectangular video screen which displays information for the audio and climate systems.
A floor-mounted console ahead of the two front seats supports an aluminum plate with the shift knob rising from a shifter gate.
Selecting the optional navigation system plants a multimedia controller behind the shift gate as a round joystick. It rotates and is clickable like a computer mouse navigating through cyberspace to accesses climate, navigation, audio and telecommunications equipment.
Hyundai fills Genesis with lots of safety gear.
Both edition stock passive safety systems like frontal air bags and seat-mounted side-impact air bags front and rear plus curtain-style air bags above outboard seats on the two rows. And Hyundai adds new electronic active head restraints for the front seatbacks.
For active safety, every issue also has a disc brake at every wheel, with electronic linkage to a four-channel anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD).
Each Genesis trim also carries an electronic stability control (ESC) device which automatically coordinates the brakes and throttle to check against lateral wheel skidding.
For dynamic vehicle handling as well as a comfortable ride quality, Genesis employs a four-wheel independent suspension system with advanced five-link design front and rear plus ASD (amplitude selective damper) shock absorbers.
Genesis 3.8 draws power from Hyundai's Lambda V6.
The dual-cam 3.8-liter V6 employs CVVT (continuously variable valve timing). And it romps -- pumping 290 hp at 6200 rpm and 264 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm.
The V6 earns EPA city/highway fuel economy ratings of 18/27 mpg.
Genesis 4.6 stocks Hyundai's new Tau V8.
The DOHC 4.6-liter plant with CVVT surges to 375 hp at 6500 rpm with torque to 333 lb-ft at 3500 rpm when running on premium fuel, and EPA fuel ratings tally to 17/25 mpg (city/highway).
Each Genesis engine links to a sophisticated electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic manual shift mode. The 3.8 uses the Aisin B600 and Genesis 4.6 gets a ZF 6HP26.
Equipment standard on Genesis 3.8 ranges from aluminum alloy wheels capped with P225/55R17 tires to foglamps and automatic headlights, dual power heated side mirrors, leather seat upholstery with heated front buckets, a push-button starter, power controls for windows and door locks, a leather-wrapped tilting steering wheel with audio tabs and cruise control, and an audio kit with AM/FM/CD/MP3/XM.
Options include a Premium Package for $2,000, Premium Plus Package ($3,000) and the Technology Package at $4,000.