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2009 Hyundai Genesis – Click above for high-res image gallery

Unless you've been living in a mine deep in the hills of West Virginia, Hyundai's newest addition isn't coming to you as a surprise. Around these offices, we've been anticipating the rear-wheel-drive Genesis platform and its offspring of luxury sedan and performance coupe for years. While we'll have to continue waiting for the eagerly-anticipated 2010 Genesis Coupe, we've just taken our first drive in the elegant 2009 Hyundai Genesis sedan. Follow the jump to see if the most expensive Korean sedan ever sold on these shores is enough to take on the segment leaders from America, Europe, and Japan.

All photos copyright Michael Harley / Weblogs Inc.

Hyundai would like you to consider the Genesis a competitor to an exhaustive list of cars. The targets reportedly include the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, S Class, BMW 5-Series, 7 Series, Infiniti M, Lexus GS, Chrysler 300C, Lexus ES350, Pontiac G8, and Cadillac STS. After a day behind the wheel over road and track, we whittled it down to a much shorter list. In one breath, the Genesis will simply compete head-to-head with the Infiniti M, Lexus GS, Lexus ES, Acura TL, and Acura RL. The German buyers want their badge; the American customers are true to their flag.

Taking design cues from the best of the best, the Genesis looks like the offspring of a tryst between a 7 Series, LS430, S-Class, and an Infiniti M. Engaging at first glance, yet completely unidentifiable from the badgeless front end, Hyundai designers put it all together in a very clean yet decidedly conservative package that emits a fair amount of luxury without looking... um, Korean.

Two different Genesis models will roll into showrooms this year. The standard model is the Genesis 3.8 featuring a six-cylinder powerplant and a base price of $32,250. Under its aluminum hood is a 3.8-liter V6, mated to an Aisin B600 6-speed automatic transmission. The powerplant is rated at 290 hp and 264 lb-ft of torque (EPA fuel economy ratings of 18/27). The Genesis 3.8 tips the scales at 3,748 pounds and scoots to 60 mph in a decent 6.2 seconds.

The flagship Genesis 4.6 model offers an eight-cylinder powerplant with a base price of $37,250. Displacing 4.6 liters, the engine is mated to a ZF 6-speed automatic. The V8 is rated at 375 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque (EPA 17/25). With a curb weight of 4,012 pounds, the Genesis 4.6 sprints to 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds.
Whether you choose the six- or eight-cylinder model, both Genesis sedans feature heated leather seating, fully automatic HVAC, Bluetooth hands-free phone, and iPod/USB jacks as standard equipment (to match the upgraded standard equipment on the Genesis 4.6 with a Genesis 3.8 model, simply order the Premium Package).

The Technology Package adds navigation, satellite radio, adaptive HID headlamps, and parking assist to both models. According to Hyundai, a nicely equipped Genesis 3.8 will run about $35,000. With all option boxes checked, a loaded Genesis 4.6 tops out at about $42,000.

As the doors unlock with the standard proximity key, the Genesis sedan welcomes driver and passengers into a very inviting cabin. Soft leather envelopes the seats, door panels, and dashboard, while LED interior lighting (emitting a brighter and whiter light) illuminates the cabin at night. Wood and aluminum inlays complete the package without appearing garish or out of place. The interior quality of materials didn't simply meet our expectations, they exceeded them.

Sliding our six-foot two-inch frame behind the power-operated tilt/telescoping wheel, we found a comfortable driving position within seconds. The driver's visibility outward and to the primary back-lit instrumentation is good, as is the proximity to all of the controls on the steering wheel and dash. Just behind the shifter is the now-obligatory infotainment control wheel, falling readily to hand. If we had to nitpick the cabin, we'd point at the climate controls below the radio/NAV display. In contrast to the round volume knob on the audio system, the HVAC offers a non-intuitive pad of flush silver buttons.

With a push of the start button, our Genesis 4.6 came to life. It quickly settled to idle with only the slightest hint of vibration that it was even running. An exhaust note was non-existent. With the transmission in drive, we dodged the morning commuters on our way out of Santa Barbara. Hyundai pointed us towards Buttonwillow Raceway Park, a popular club racing destination several hours away that would require us to trail through the coastal mountains before dropping down into California's Central Valley. We couldn't help but think a race track was an odd destination for this large luxury sedan.

Compared to its German rivals (both sporting MacPherson suspension designs in the front and multi-link in the rear), the Genesis matches Lexus with a multi-link set-up fore and aft. Like its Lexus competition, the ride of the new Hyundai is soft and very comfortable. Thanks to an impressively stiff chassis (more rigid than the 5 Series, E-Class, and LS 430) and lightweight aluminum suspension components, it takes bumps and potholes in stride. However, if the vehicle is faced with a set of rhythmic dips in the road, the softly sprung Genesis gently porpoises a bit more than expected. At legal speeds it was hardly noticeable. However, in excess of about 85 mph it became unsettling. While the spring rates seemed adequate, increased damping would stabilize everything in the easily attained triple digits. Of course, the engineer's compromise on shock valving gave the Genesis a buttery-smooth ride on all but the most undulated roads. Let the Germans keep their occasionally harsh rides to themselves, the Genesis is a luxury car.

The Korean automaker paid careful attention to aerodynamics and wind management. A low drag coefficient (Cd of .27) and an acoustically laminated windshield and front side windows keep the passengers extremely isolated. Independent testing says the Genesis equals the serenity of the Lexus LS 460 over rough pavement, and our ears believed it. It's what you don't hear in the Hyundai that matters.

The hushed cabin was the perfect environment to enjoy the premium 528-watt Lexicon sound system and its 11-channel digital amplifier... or so we thought. After adjusting tremble, bass, fader, equalizer and surround mode, we couldn't get the 17 speakers to vibrate in pleasant harmony. Far from decent FM reception, and without a CD in pocket, we were forced to listen to metallic-sounding satellite radio during our drive, or sing old television tunes. We chose neither.

Arriving at the Buttonwillow track, Hyundai had set up three different challenges for us. The most interesting, and sure to embarrass the luxury-oriented Genesis, was the track course. So, we took it first. With our only instruction to "safely stay on the track," we were offered freedom to flog both the six- and eight-cylinder models repeatedly. With a bit of apprehension, we grabbed a helmet and a V6 model shod with all-season tires. Knowing it was going to get ugly fast, we left the stability control engaged. To our disbelief, the Genesis did fairly well where the big boys play.

All-season tires slide on a warm track like Crisco on a hot skillet. Without much grip, and soft underpinnings, the Genesis initially rolled like a ship... and then it surprised us by settling down. The RWD chassis and respectfully balanced weight distribution (52:48 on the V6) kept the car relatively stable on the curves as the tires howled and cried in protest. The more powerful V8 didn't help lap times either. In fact, with more weight over the front wheels (54:46 split); it frustratingly pushed over the front tires (demonstrating understeer) more than its lighter sibling. On both vehicles, the ESC was relatively unobtrusive until the vehicle was in a stupid angle in relation to the intended direction of travel. The brakes, beefy four-piston units that bit hard and consistently lap after lap, were the highlight of the track exercise. As expected, it was far from enjoyable tossing either sedan back and forth through the corners of a road course, but Hyundai had made its point – the Genesis chassis was certainly up to the task.

The second comparison was a cone-laden slalom pitting each Genesis sedan against a Mercedes-Benz E350. Held in first gear with the stability control defeated, the two Koreans wagged themselves back-and-forth in quick, if not pretty, fashion without tagging a single cone. The German, refusing to stay in a throttle-controlled low gear, followed a bit slower, but just as precisely. Each was out of its element, but it was fun watching chunks of rubber fly off the tires.

The final comparison took place on an unused straight-a-way. It was essentially a "drag race" between the Genesis 4.6 and a BMW 750i. As expected, the lighter and more powerful Genesis won each time.
Leaving the track-terrorized sedans at Buttonwillow, we grabbed a fresh set of keys and drove back to Santa Barbara in a Genesis 3.8 model. Although it was down 85 horses to the V8, the 3.8 model effortlessly passed heavy trucks on the mountain passes. The car was quiet and comfortable for the 150-plus mile ride back to the hotel. While our enthusiast blood naturally migrates towards larger cylinder counts, we couldn't help but feel the V6 is more than enough engine for this vehicle's luxury mission. Hyundai, expecting 80% of buyers to choose the Genesis 3.8 model, agrees with us.

Two decades ago, few would have bet that a Japanese economy-car manufacturer would ever dominate the North American luxury-car market. Toyota proved everyone wrong with its picture-perfect introduction of the Lexus brand the following year. While this Korean automaker is as determined – and as financially capable – as its Japanese counterparts, the question isn't about product. This time, it is about perception and timing. With its first world-class luxury sedan rolling into showrooms later this month, Hyundai's bold venture is about to be placed in the hands of the consumer.

All photos copyright Michael Harley / Weblogs Inc.

Our lodging for this media event was provided by the manufacturer.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      I've never been this hopeful for any automobile. If the public embraces the Genesis, we could be looking at the biggest upset of all time.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Where did the MB emblem go? Did they forget to glue it on?
      • 7 Years Ago
      This car will not sell until they get it to the 'Ring and post some lap times. And the BETTER be under 8mins or else!
      • 7 Years Ago
      If only humans weren't so easily swayed by brands, their badges and the billions spent to influence, Hyundai might just have the deal of the new millennium. It looks that way to me.
      • 7 Years Ago
      You can get a whole lot of stuff for the money. This is as big as a 7 series but priced like a 3 series. I now accept the 33K base price.
      • 7 Years Ago
      ANd now for my take on the Genesis and Hyundai.

      Once again I am very proud of Hyundai for doing exactly what most people wished other car manufacturers would do, which is listen to what the consumer wants, and not by mere retarded loser-geek focus groups. This car will definitely prove to be a quality leader and maybe even a car that others will have to compare their counterparts to. Even though I am anticipating more on the Genesis Coupe (to replace my aging Mitsubishi 300GT VR4) I find myself quite attracted to the luxury sedan. It looks like the Koreans have been seriously hard at work and paying a very close special attention to ALL details that differs a standard sedan from a luxury car, German luxury vs Japanese luxury, the perfect balance of luxury and sport, and the necessary gadgets to keep the occupants happy during long road trips.

      I have watched this once shamed company grow up fast and learn from their past mistakes. I have been continually impressed when they first redid the Sonata in 2005. Since then Hyundai has been on the right track. More and more people are starting to look past the bad days of the Scoupe and Excel. Something inside of me told me that this company had potential and sure enough I was right. One thing remained the same was that Hyundai's purpose was to give you more car for the money. Now that their quality has gotten much better over the years you can be sure that you are really getting the best bang for your buck. You can also be sure that the quality you get from Hyundai is far better than the domestics and that they are not in the business to profit from parts and service, unlike GM & Chrysler. Hyundai now has a reputation to protect so you can rest assure that you will get excellent customer service instead of the whole "take your money and run" feeling. You hear that GM and Chrysler!! I definitely give Hyundai 5 stars for all of their hard work over the years while continuing to improve their image.

      Keep up the great work Hyundai
      • 7 Years Ago
      Congrats to Hyundai for this new sedan.
      This brand has some worthwhile cars in it's showrooms now.
      I'm not at all suprised by what Autoblog shortened the direct competition list too though.
      • 7 Years Ago
      >>> Very nice, indeed. A tip of the hat to Hyundai for a job well done.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Should do a lot better then the phaeton
      • 7 Years Ago
      It is because it would cost the company roughly about 1 billion or more to spin off the Genesis as a luxury name, although it has been contemplated many times.

      They decided to go this route to see how the public takes on this new sedan. Once this becomes a good seller then they will more than likely spin the luxury name Genesis which will be the sedan you see here, the coupe, and possibly the Veracruz. only time will tell
        • 7 Years Ago
        this is in response to Kakairo.

        Damn reply button
      • 7 Years Ago
      They will have BMW too when they put a sports suspension in it. but its the buyers decision: want comfy stay stock, want sport get a aftermarket suspension kit! problem solved
        • 7 Years Ago
        Oh yes... luxury buyers who buy BMW or Mercedes (which offers both the C and E in sport or luxury suspension) will want to buy a Hyundai so they can 'repair it' to drive the way they want...

        The interior of this car is the complete opposite of any MB, and some car companies don't get that you spend more time inside the car looking inside that gawking at the outside.

        While this car may steal from Lexus, or encourage new people to purchase a 'luxury' sedan, I don't think it fully competes on the innovate safety features that MB offers, the complete dealer experience including MB loaner cars, and the luxurious interior.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Is the Genesis available in dealerships yet? I just saw one this afternoon(in Irvine,CA)...it did not have the "Genesis" name on the back like the pictures do and get this..it had the Flying H grill on the front like this one:


      Is the Flying H grill gonna be available as an option on the Genesis or is it exclusively gonna be the badgeless front grill ?
        • 7 Years Ago
        I took a stroll over to a Hyundai dealer in Orange County, and drove one. So yup they are available

        The car handled really well in the mix of city/highway driving. Not a ton of squat/dive, very composed for something of that size, and it wasn't by any means sloppy at the helm. The steering tracked fairly decent, decent weight and input was about spot on.

        From what I was told only V-6s have been shipped to dealers stateside. Even with that being the case it is a very strong engine. I would venture to say that the V-6 should be good enough for 90% of the people out there. Braking was pretty decent too

        Interior quality:
        It looked good and felt good for the most part. The wood trim wasn't real, but the leather stitched dash was of real high quality. The seats were a little puffy for my taste, but the leather was at least nice. I didn't care for the plastic on the center console as it seemed a bit harder than what it should be, and the buttons for the bluetooth were located in an area near the moonroof buttons (not very ergonomic). Small nags here and there, overall it is executed very well (and no it didn't have nav).

        What I found amusing was the ADM on the V-6. $5K worth of ADM. I don't think so. It pushed the price tag for a moderately equipped V-6 model up and over the $40K mark.
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