Hyundai launched a vehicle at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show that is poised to change customer's perception of the Korean automaker. Dubbed the Genesis, this rear-drive luxury sports sedan couldn't have a more fitting name. This is the beginning of a change for Hyundai as they look to compete with Mercedes, Lexus, BMW and Infiniti for premium buyers -- but at a near luxury price.

The first thing that struck me about this car is its presence. By that, I mean how it looked on the show floor next to other Hyundai models and ultimately as compared to other cars it plans on competing with - namely the Lexus GS, Infiniti M, Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5 Series. I'm not saying the car has super-model good looks or ground breaking design, but it looks the part of a luxury sedan and fits in well amongst its peers.

With a strong front grille flanked by large HID headlights, the front fascia is pleasing without being offensive. The profile of the car seems to take styling cues from the BMW 5 Series (C-pillar and rear quarter panels leading to the trunk) with a little Infiniti and Lexus thrown in for good measure near the front. It may not win awards for originality, but I found the car to be handsome and no less understated than an Acura RL for instance.

The Genesis is built on an entirely new, rear-drive platform and will be available with three engine choices: 3.3-liter (268 horsepower and 233 lb-ft. of torque) and 3.8-liter (290 horsepower and 264 lb.-ft. of torque) V6 engines, and an all-new 4.6-liter Tau V8 with 375 horsepower and 324 lb.-ft. of torque. The V8 model will be fitted with a ZF 6-speed automatic transmission while the V6 models make use of an Aisin supplied 6-speed SHIFTRONIC transmission. Even with their impressive power ratings all three engines meet Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) certification.

Open the door to the Hyundai Genesis and whatever doubts I still had in my head about it being able to compete with up-market cars quickly disappeared. Now, I'll admit, that statement is a bit too forward thinking, as I haven't been able to drive the Genesis and hence cannot properly compare it on all levels. But from where I sat the car felt every bit as good as other luxury sport sedans in this class.

Similar to the exterior, the interior design didn't knock me back but it didn't make me question what I was seeing either. Dominated by a large sweeping dashboard with integrated navigation and stereo controls, the interior seemed warm, comfortable and thankfully is devoid of an abundance of buttons and controls. The center console features a multi-media 'mouse' style controller and woodgrain trim. The cabin was done in two-tone leather with darker upper dash and complimenting brown leather trim on the lower dashboard and doors. It was a very nice touch that only added to the upscale feel.

Talking about feel, I find it important to sit in a car and actually touch, knock and prod the interior to really get a good sense for overall quality and fit-and-finish. This is where I was most impressed by the Hyundai Genesis. Sit in this car blindfolded or hide the Hyundai logo on the steering wheel and I think most people would believe they were sitting in a $60K Lexus. The materials feel soft where they are supposed to and substantial in all the right places. Buttons and controls have weight behind them while something as mundane as the ashtray cover slides with silky smoothness. The seats are comfortable and the steering wheel felt good in my hands. The dashboard and leather trim had nice double-stitching and also included a wonderful detail of chrome trim that ran across the border of the two complimenting colors. A nice touch that shows Hyundai didn't miss the details here.

Pricing hasn't been set yet for the Genesis, but after talking to some people at the show, I expect the car to come in at around $35K - $40K depending on engine choice and options. If they can hit this price point and the car drives as well as it looks and feels on the show floor, I believe Hyundai will have no problem changing buyers perception that the brand is only good for entry-level cars and instead the Genesis is worthy of their consideration.

You can read the full press-release below for more technical details.

DETROIT, January 13, 2008 - Hyundai aims to shatter premium automobile paradigms with the North American International Auto Show introduction of its new flagship, the all-new Genesis sports sedan. With capabilities and features comparable to the world's leading premium sports sedans, Genesis will arrive at Hyundai dealerships this summer.

Genesis is built on Hyundai's all-new, performance-driven rear-wheel-drive architecture. It offers three powertrains, including 3.3-liter and 3.8-liter V6 engines, and Hyundai's all-new 4.6-liter Tau V8. The Tau will produce an estimated 375 horsepower using premium fuel and 368 horsepower using regular unleaded leading all competitors in specific output with 79.5 to 81.0 horsepower per liter. With technology rivaling more expensive luxury sedans, Genesis showcases features such as XM NavTraffic, Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFLS), Smart Cruise Control, Lexicon® audio systems and electronic active head restraints (for a full list of leading features, see page 8).

"While Genesis will compete for customers with cars like Chrysler 300 and Pontiac G8, our engineering benchmarks were Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5 Series, Infiniti M, and Lexus GS," said John Krafcik, vice president, product development and strategic planning, Hyundai Motor America. "Genesis provides a potent combination of performance, luxury, and value. We think it has the opportunity to be an extremely disruptive force in the large sedan and near-luxury segments."

Genesis ushers in a new era for Hyundai. Its all-new rear-wheel drive architecture will spawn more products in other segments, as suggested by the Concept Genesis Coupe shown at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November 2007.

NEW PERFORMANCE-DRIVEN REAR-WHEEL-DRIVE ARCHITECTURE

Genesis is built on an all-new rear-wheel-drive architecture, its first application in a U.S. Hyundai model. Genesis boasts a near ideal 53/47 front-to-rear weight distribution for exceptional handling and more refined steering characteristics. The rear-wheel-drive layout allowed engineers to position the car's front wheels farther forward delivering outstanding handling and steering performance. Standard Electronic Stability Control (ESC), the industry's most important new safety technology, further enhances the vehicle's driving confidence. Hyundai leads all popular car brands in the standard application of ESC, with more than 70 percent of 2007 Hyundai sales featuring ESC as standard equipment.

Genesis reduces interior noise levels and improves ride and handling with a stiffer, lighter body structure. The use of high tensile steel in critical areas in the unibody provides Genesis with 12-14 percent higher dynamic torsional rigidity and a lower body structure weight than the BMW 5-series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class - despite having a substantially larger cabin than either of those benchmarks. Hyundai Genesis has more interior volume than Mercedes Benz E-Class and BMW 7-Series.

WORLD-CLASS TAU V8

Headlining the Genesis' performance capabilities is Hyundai's all-new Tau 4.6-liter V8 engine mated to a ZF 6-speed automatic transmission with SHIFTRONIC® manual control. The Tau V8 delivers an estimated 375 horsepower to fit the demands of performance-oriented consumers. This powertrain combination will launch Genesis to 60 miles per hour in less than six seconds. The Tau produces more horsepower and torque than the powerplants found in Lexus GS460, BMW 750i, Audi A8 and Infiniti M45 and has more horsepower per liter than any of its V8 competitors. The Tau engine is built with flexibility for the future. Future Tau variants may offer larger displacement, forced induction options and other technology enhancements.

STRONG LAMBDA V6 PERFORMANCE

Genesis also delivers spirited performance through its two V6 options -- all-aluminum 3.3-liter and 3.8-liter DOHC V6 engines that deliver an estimated 268 horsepower and 233 lb-ft. of torque and an estimated 290 horsepower and 264 lb.-ft. of torque, respectively. To maximize the power spread, the engines utilize Continuously Variable Valve Timing (CVVT) on intake and exhaust cam shafts and a new Variable Intake System (VIS) that helps cylinders breathe efficiently at low and high RPM. The better breathing results in outstanding off-the-line acceleration and passing performance, and remarkable fuel efficiency. The V6 engines use an alloy block and cylinder heads for lighter weight and thermal efficiency, and feature timing chains with no scheduled maintenance.

Even with their impressive output, all Genesis engines are also environmentally friendly, with all three achieving Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) certification levels.

ADVANCED 6-SPEED TRANSMISSIONS

Both Genesis V6 engines use an Aisin 6-speed SHIFTRONIC automatic transmission that features an overdrive lock-up torque converter for improved highway fuel economy. The transmission offers smooth shifts and a wide spread of ratios that ideally suit both engine's characteristics including a tall-overdrive sixth gear for quiet, efficient highway cruising. Drivers can access the SHIFTRONIC® feature by moving the gear selector into a separate gate. Pushing the selector forward or pulling it rearward will shift the transmission up or down sequentially, adding to driver control. A clear LCD readout on the instrument panel shows the gear that's in use.

The Tau V8 Genesis is mated with an enhanced, high-output ZF 6-speed transmission to handle the added horsepower and torque.

Genesis features a suspension design that is among the most sophisticated and refined anywhere, at any price. The front five-link suspension features upper and lower arms linking the front wheels to the chassis. This artfully articulated arrangement creates a virtual king pin axis that dramatically reduces unwanted kickback through the steering wheel as well as improving responsiveness. The five-link independent rear suspension is equally sophisticated, enabling precise suspension geometry for a premium ride and engaging handling prowess. The capabilities of the advanced front and rear-suspension are maximized through Amplitude Selective Dampers (ASD) allowing tuning flexibility at smaller damper displacements. The ASD suspension provides:

Improved ride comfort with more body / wheel control

Increase driving comfort without compromised handling

Optimizes road surface contact

Technology used in Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz models

PROGRESSIVE DESIGN MIRRORS ATHLETIC CAPABILITY

Genesis' design is a progressive interpretation of the modern rear-wheel drive sports sedan. To match its dynamic capabilities, Genesis combines strong, sculpted forms which integrate precise details, natural materials and innovative lighting to provide a well-crafted, premium design aesthetic.

HIGH-TECH ACCOMMODATIONS AT ACCESSIBLE PRICE POINTS

The new 2009 Genesis is the most advanced Hyundai ever. From its design and spaciousness to its technology and appointments, it delivers a wealth of features and performance befitting flagship European and Asian brands, but delivers them at a much more accessible price point. Starting with its Lexicon state-of-the-art audio system featuring LOGIC 7® technology, Genesis offers an extraordinary combination of technology, premium appointments, and value. Standard is a soft-touch instrument panel with woodgrain accents, Bluetooth® hands-free mobile phone interface, and USB/iPod® auxiliary inputs. A state-of-the-art navigation system with an eight-inch display is available. The navigation unit is accessed by a user-friendly multi-media controller that also controls the radio. Backing out of tight spaces and avoiding mishaps is much easier with the available backup camera that uses the eight-inch display to show the driver a clear view immediately behind the car.

A leather-wrapped dash, door panels, and console lid surround the driver in a luxurious environment, while heated and cooled driver's seat provides optimal driving comfort. An automatic windshield defogger with humidity sensor and rain-sensing wipers allow crystal clear sight lines. No other car in the segment offers an ultraviolet reflective leather steering wheel, which keeps the surface cool to the touch, even in scorching sunlight. Genesis also offers the conveniences of power rear sunshade, automatic electronic parking brake, proximity key and push button starter.

LEXICON® AUDIO SYSTEMS TEAM WITH XM, HD RADIO™, and APPLE TO OFFER UNRIVALED AUDIO PERFORMANCE AND CHOICE

Rolls Royce Phantom and Hyundai Genesis are the only automobiles to offer a Lexicon-branded state-of-the-art audio system featuring LOGIC 7® technology. The Lexicon® surround sound audio system includes a 12-channel digital amplifier and 17 speakers producing more than 500 watts of sound in 7.1 discrete audio. Genesis is also the first popular brand to offer the clarity of digital HD Radio technology from the factory. Navigation-equipped Genesis models also include a 30-gigabyte hard drive and XM NavTraffic. Like every 2009 Hyundai, Genesis comes standard with XM Satellite Radio. Auxiliary USB and iPod® inputs allow drivers to fully control and charge iPods directly from the head unit.

ADVANCED LIGHTING TECHNOLOGY

The 2009 Genesis offers Xenon high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights. The advantages of HID headlamps include greater lighting power, daylight-type lighting and reduced power consumption. In addition, the cut lines of the new HID headlights are extremely precise, providing maximum nighttime visibility without distracting other drivers. The lamps also feature an auto-leveling function which keeps the headlights level regardless of how the vehicle is loaded with passengers or cargo. Genesis also offers an Automatic Front Lighting System that allows the headlamps to automatically swivel for better visibility when cornering.

NEW TECHNOLOGIES DELIVER IMPROVED SAFETY PERFORMANCE

Maintaining Hyundai's emphasis on delivering leading safety technology, Genesis boasts world-class active and passive safety features to help both prevent accidents, and maximize the well being of its occupants in the event of a collision. The Genesis continues the Hyundai tradition of standardizing key life-saving safety technology such as Electronic Stability Control (ESC), eight airbags and electronic active head restraints.

Genesis' total of eight airbags include advanced dual front airbags, front and rear seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and roof-mounted side curtain airbags for both front and rear outboard seat occupants.

An electronic active head restraint system will debut on the 2009 Hyundai Genesis. Hyundai is the first popular brand to offer electronic active front head restraints, an improvement over mechanically based active head restraint systems. Until now, electronic active head restraints could only be found on select Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus models. Active front head restraints have been proven by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to help prevent whiplash.

Genesis has a total of 8 ultrasonic sensors located on the front and rear bumpers. The sensors along with the rear backup camera help detect how close objects are when parking. Distance is indicated on the in-dash screen and accompanied by an audible warning tone.

Forward-looking radar is used in Genesis' Smart Cruise Control system. Smart Cruise Control adjusts vehicle speed to maintain distance from the vehicle ahead in the same lane.

Genesis is brought to a halt by large four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD). The 12.6-inch front rotors have single-piston floating calipers and the rear brakes feature 12.4-inch rotors with single-pistons on V6 models. Twin-pistons and larger rotors are featured on V8 models.

WARRANTY

The all-new 2009 Hyundai Genesis is protected by the Hyundai Advantage, America's Best Warrant. Coverage includes five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper protection, 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, and seven-year/unlimited mileage anti-perforation coverage. In addition, Genesis buyers receive 24-hour roadside assistance coverage at no extra charge for five years (no mileage limit) and that service includes emergency towing, lockout service and limited coverage for trip-interruption expenses. There is no deductible on any of these coverages.


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