Automakers have been carving the luxury segment into finer and finer slices for generations. Territory that once belonged solely to the likes of Mercury, Buick and Oldsmobile is now the fertile hunting grounds of brands from Acura to Infiniti. Thanks to these relative newcomers, buyers without the cash to jump into Bavarian marks like BMW, Mercedes-Benz or Audi can still plant their derrières on supple leather thrones without having to sell the family farm in the process.
Three years ago, Hyundai leapt into the low-buck luxury fray with the company's Genesis Sedan – a vehicle that was intended to prove the Korean automaker could strut its stuff up market without the burden of launching a separate dedicated luxury brand just for the occasion. We were impressed with the big Hyundai when it touched down three years ago as a 2009 model, but domestic automakers like Buick and Chrysler have since sharpened their game in a big way. We jumped behind the wheel of the 2011 Genesis Sedan to find out how the vehicle's first generation has held up before the updated second one arrives as a 2012 model.
Continued reading Review: 2011 Hyundai Genesis Sedan...
Photos copyright ©2011 Zach Bowman / AOL
Hyundai decided to wade into luxury waters just as the automotive market's well began to run dry, and in 2009, the company managed to move around 20,000 Genesis Sedan and Coupe units combined – about half its initial sales projections at the time. As industry-wide numbers have begun to clamber back to their pre-fall heights, Genesis sales have increased accordingly, though we have a feeling the figures still haven't managed to snag that magical 40,000-50,000 unit mark originally imagined by the Hyundai hive-mind.
That's likely no fault of the vehicle's styling, though. There's no denying that the 2011 Genesis Sedan still carries the same high-brow presence of its forebearers thanks largely to one massive, stylized rib-cage grille. Hyundai still hasn't set about slapping a big H on the hood, and from the front, uninitiated onlookers may have a hard time discerning the vehicle from the Lexus GS bloodline. From the side, the vehicle borrows cues from BMW's styling department with wrapped headlights and taillights as well as a shark-fin antenna. Large ovular exhaust exits dominate the lower rear fascia and a single Hyundai badge on the rear trunk deck is the only indication that this beast comes from anywhere other than Japan.
When the Genesis Sedan debuted, it came packing an interior that was several light years ahead of what Hyundai had turned out in the past. Dominated by plenty of excellent stitching, perforated leather and attractive wood accents, the cabin made it clear that the Korean sedan wasn't playing around. Since then, the cockpit has received few updates, and while still a nice enough place to spend time, interiors from both Buick and Chrysler have finally gotten a chance to play catch-up.
Both of those automakers have suddenly taken this whole auto manufacturing thing seriously, and as a result, vehicles like the 2011 Buick Lacrosse and Chrysler 300 are now available with cabins that can easily eclipse the Genesis in terms of design and quality, at least for a price. And that's one point that the Genesis Sedan still has on the lower-luxury domestic marks. The Korean four-door comes standard with heated and cooled leather seats up front, slightly raised seating out back with plenty of legroom and wood grain trim throughout as well as tech treats like adaptive cruise control and dual-zone automatic temperature control for a mere $33,000 plus an $850 destination charge.
If you want those goodies in either the Lacrosse or the 300, expect to pay similar money. Opting for the leather-clad nicety of the TriShield will see you staring at an MSRP of $33,765 plus destination for the Lacrosse CXS, while the 2011 Chrysler 300 Limited comes to the dance wearing a price tag of $31,995 including destination. Don't expect to find heated or cooled seats or dual-zone climate control from the 300, though.
The only place that the Genesis sedan really shows its age is in its dated interior lighting and flimsy switches, most notably for the heated and cooled seats and window mechanisms. Whereas both Buick and Chrysler have made sure to incorporate solid-feeling interfaces, the Hyundai simply doesn't pack the same feel of quality.
Our tester came with the company's lively 3.6-liter V6 mated to a six-speed Aisin automatic transmission that shuffles power to the rear wheels. With 290 horsepower and 264 pound-feet of torque on hand, the six-cylinder has no problem moving the vehicle's 3,748-pound curb weight along, especially given the EPA's fuel economy rating of 18 miles per gallon city and 27 mpg highway. During our time behind the wheel we saw around 23 mpg combined.
Those numbers put the Genesis Sedan 10 horsepower ahead of the 3.6-liter V6 found in the Lacrosse CXS and just two horsepower behind the same displacement V6 in the Chrysler 300. Interestingly enough, fuel economy for all three vehicles is nearly identical at 22-22.5 mpg combined.
With that in mind, it's easy to get the impression that all three of these vehicles are neck-and-neck contenders, but that reality fades from view after a little time behind the wheel. Hyundai still has an excellent driver in the Genesis thanks largely to the vehicle's front-engine, rear-wheel-drive configuration. Plop your foot on the accelerator and the big four door moves forward without any of the scrambling drama of the front-wheel-drive Lacrosse.
But make no mistake, this isn't a sports sedan by any stretch of the imagination, although acceleration is more than ample and handling is predictable without being twitchy. Jump onto the interstate and the Genesis delivers a quiet cabin free of engine, tire or wind noise, and the six-speed automatic transmission has no problem landing on the correct gear for hard-throttle passes.
Hyundai curiously provides flappy paddles for making your way through the six cogs in the gearbox should you get bored letting the vehicle's ECU do all the work. The transmission delivers fairly rapid shifts, though the trickery doesn't do much to lend the sedan any of the sporting tones of its two-door twin. We're guessing that the paddles are significantly more at home with the optional 385-horsepower V8 engine and ZF six-speed transmission.
Despite showing a few gray hairs here and there, the 2011 Genesis Sedan is still more than capable of holding its own in the budget luxury market. While its heaps of standard equipment and nicely appointed interior are all strong points on its résumé, the Genesis still holds one massive trump card over its competition – a 10 year, 100,000 mile warranty. While we can't wait to drive next year's Genesis R-Spec with its 429-horsepower 5.0-liter V8, the current model is a no-worry ace.
Photos copyright ©2011 Zach Bowman / AOL