Hyundai grabbed our attention with its first-generation Genesis. Now, with this second-gen model, the company's job is to keep it. The 2015 Genesis, known internally as "DH," wisely follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, a model that showed the automaker's naked ambition, putting it on the map of not just bargain hunters, but the upwardly mobile, too.
The outgoing Genesis proved Hyundai was capable of producing a premium car of superior quality, complete with a plush interior, handsome looks and a relatively sporty driving demeanor, all for the sort of cut-rate price the brand built its reputation on. The first Genesis worked wonders for expanding Hyundai's allure, opening it up to all kinds of new car shoppers who previously wouldn't have given its other models a second glance.
This 2015 Genesis has even loftier intentions. Hyundai has placed its crosshairs directly on venerable midsize luxury sedans like the BMW 5 Series, Lexus GS and Cadillac CTS in an effort to further the case that it deserves car shoppers' attention and hard-earned dollars. The Genesis has been radically transformed, both inside and out, in its bid to cement its place as a legitimate alternative to segment leaders wearing more prestigious badges.
Back in November, our own Seyth Miersma got the chance to test an early 2015 Genesis prototype over in Korea, but his seat time was sadly limited. Now that the production model is ready, we've been able to get behind the wheel for several hours of Arizona desert driving, putting the new sedan through a more extensive evaluation.
The 2015 Genesis employs Hyundai's new "Fluidic Sculpture 2.0" design language, which is a fancy way of saying "out with the swoops." True, the Genesis never had a body as curvaceous as the current Sonata or Elantra, but its new look is indicative of the kind of crisp and more conservative styling shown on the next Sonata, an influence we will soon see on the rest of the company's lineup.
Indeed, it may be more restrained, but this new design is still quite striking. And it works remarkably well on the Genesis, coming across as both modern and elegant, with a noticeable presence on the road. That presence can be attributed, in large part, to its enormous new hexagonal grille, which, when combined with a pair of stately angled headlights, leads the car down the road with the kind of panache generally reserved for a vehicle with a much higher price tag.
It may be more restrained, but this new design is still quite striking.
The Genesis has been elongated to 196.5 inches, which makes it the longest car in its class, and this newfound span gives it a combination of luxuriousness and aggressiveness. From the rear, the body's sportier stance is noticeable, as the roofline slopes forward and the front of the car drops off abruptly at the end of the windshield. Large, chrome exhaust pipes and 18- or 19-inch, 15-spoke wheels round out the package. The previous Genesis was knocked for its too-close-for-comfort resemblance to some competitors, notably the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The DH puts this notion to bed, with an aesthetic and presence on the road all its own.
The Genesis' feature set has always been a strong point. In fact, one could argue it's what made the previous-gen a winner in the first place. Quiet, comfortable and full of standard amenities, it was surprisingly well-equipped for being priced thousands of dollars under its competition.
For 2015, the interior has been entirely redone with new features and a new look. The cabin lands on the cushier side of the spectrum, with a focus on all-around comfort. This philosophy stands opposed to some of the segment's sportier interiors that place an emphasis on the driver, with the resulting environments offering more of a cockpit feel at the expense of overall spaciousness. Indeed, Hyundai proudly points out that the Genesis offers more cubic feet of interior room than just about anything in its class, including entries from BMW, Cadillac, Infiniti, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz.
Hyundai proudly points out that the Genesis offers more cubic feet of interior room than just about anything in its class.
And it's not just that there's more space, the way it's laid out is pleasing. Smart ergonomics allow for easy control of the climate and audio systems, and we're happy to report that the seats have been much improved, offering a great combination of support and cushion. It's dead quiet, too – on the move, road and wind noise is essentially nonexistent, thanks to serious behind-the-scenes noise, vibration and harshness tuning efforts.
That hushed ambience will help occupants enjoy the ride, as will the upgraded furnishings. The Genesis' redone cabin employs some fine materials, especially on higher trim levels, including real black ash wood and polished aluminum. Full disclosure: your author isn't a fan of the charred look seen on this tester's dashboard. Part of the $3,500 Ultimate package, I find it somewhat tawdry and would opt for a more conventional wood treatment. In fairness, this is a matter of some debate – others on the Autoblog staff love this cabin's low-gloss stuff. Thankfully, Hyundai offers both matte looks like this and more traditional shellacked timber, so it's up to the buyer.
The 2015 Genesis is available with a wide swath of technology and infotainment features, including the standard – and brilliant – smart trunk. To pop the lid on this Hyundai's rather cavernous trunk, all you have to do is stand near the rear of the car with the key fob somewhere on your person for three seconds. This feature is great for those bigger trips to the grocery store when fumbling for your keys might otherwise result in a messy pool of broken eggs on the concrete.
Hyundai has massively improved the Genesis' cabin, the very area that needed the most attention.
Other features include an available 9.2-inch high-definition touchscreen, head-up display, second-generation BlueLink (which includes a smartphone app), optional 17-speaker Lexicon audio system, Google destination search and a BlueLink app for Google Glass.
As a whole, Hyundai has massively improved the Genesis' cabin, the very area that needed the most attention.
The company says it's aiming for a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, a designation surprisingly not yet held by any midsize luxury car. To do so, engineers have undergone a lot of work on the car's architecture to ensure that it will nail the new small frontal overlap crash test. Also included is an impressive wealth of standard and available safety features, including a lane departure warning system (with merciful haptic feedback, not a screaming electronic beep), adaptive cruise control that can bring the car to a complete stop, automatic emergency braking and even an interior carbon dioxide monitor that pumps fresh air into the cabin when it senses the driver may be getting a heavy dose of the fatigue-inducing compound.
While the exterior and interior of the Genesis are thoroughly impressive, this generation will really need to shine in its driving dynamics if it wants to compete with the Germans and Japanese: power was never an issue in the last car, but its handling left a lot to be desired. In an effort to improve the Genesis' driving demeanor, Hyundai has made numerous updates to its available powertrains, as well as its suspension and steering.
The 3.8-liter V6 and 5.0-liter V8 carry over from last year, although both powerplants have received tweaks.
The 3.8-liter V6 and 5.0-liter V8 carry over from last year, although both powerplants have received tweaks that change their output to 311 horsepower and 293 pound-feet of torque, and 420 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque, respectively. The V6 is still a solid engine, and although the Genesis has put on some weight (it's now heavier in every trim level thanks to the addition of more goodies and safety features – and that's before the available AWD), mashing the gas pedal gets the Genesis moving with gusto. Passing, even on inclines, is a breeze. The 5.0-liter is the same beast we've come to know and love from the BH Genesis and the Equus. It comes to life with a deep bellow that can be heard and even felt even from within the sound-dampened cabin.
An updated eight-speed automatic transmission is included, and it improves on the old eight-speed with smarter, quicker shifts, better acceleration and sport-mode mapping. It also helps the rear-drive V6 achieve fuel economy figures of 18 miles per gallon in the city and 29 highway (that's up 2 mpg over the 2014 model on the highway) while the AWD model tallies a slightly worse 16 mpg city and 25 mpg highway rating. Those who opt for the additional power of two extra cylinders can expect to see 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, but all-wheel drive is conspicuously not available with the 5.0L. Hyundai executives have hinted that the combination could come down the road, possibly sporting an R-Spec badge.
The biggest changes for the Genesis centers on its handling dynamics. Hyundai partnered with the gurus at Lotus for this new generation's development, but, technically, this model is not Lotus-tuned. Rather, the Brits acted more as consultants who helped to translate consumer desires into engineering terms.
Hyundai partnered with the gurus at Lotus for this new Genesis' development.
Semantics aside, the result of all these changes is a much more responsive and engaging vehicle. Probably the biggest and most noticeable addition is the inclusion of optional all-wheel drive, which helps give the Genesis newfound all-weather versatility, an important factor in making it more attractive in Polar Vortex markets. This new system, dubbed HTRAC, provides an electronic variable-torque-split clutch with active torque control between both the front and rear axles. Under normal operation, the system defaults to a 40/60 front-to-rear torque split, but it's possible to direct up to 90 percent of available power to either the front or rear axle as traction and performance needs dictate.
With three selectable drive modes – Sport, Eco and Normal – the system can demonstrate three completely different personalities. In Eco, it maximizes efficiency by directing more available torque to the rear wheels during highway cruising for reduced drivetrain frictional losses. In Sport, as you surely assumed, it sends more torque to the back axle to deliver something approaching a traditional rear-wheel-drive experience, imbuing the chassis with a more agile feel. Normal mode slots in between the two, providing an engaging yet comfortable driving experience while maintaining fuel economy and all-weather traction. The different drive modes also alter the suspension's firmness and the transmission's gear ratios.
The HTRAC, especially in Sport mode, makes the Genesis handle smoothly and confidently through the corners, without incurring so much as a minor skid of the wheels at speed. With the system, the car sticks to the road like wax on paper, correcting a flaw in the previous generation's driving dynamics that resulted in oversteer and, often, slippage from the rear end.
The HTRAC, especially in Sport mode, makes the Genesis handle smoothly and confidently through the corners.
Hyundai has developed all-new steering for the Genesis, as well. This new variable-ratio, electric power-assist system is a more responsive unit than the EPAS system in the last V8 Genesis, reducing camber angle and tire tilt and increasing lateral grip, bringing along with it better feel. The system offers just the right amount of weight in all circumstances, allowing high-speed corners and parking lots alike to be navigated with relative ease. Much less input is needed to cause the car to react, giving the steering a feeling of precision and the driver the confidence of being in complete control.
It's not just the steering that's upped its game – Hyundai has designed an all-new five-link rear suspension in an effort to further improve the car's handling and comfort. Those attributes may seem mutually exclusive, but this chassis provides both of them with its increased suspension travel and rigidity. An almost-perfect 52/48 weight distribution, available continuous damping control (V8 only) and the employment of more high-strength steel round out the new developments that have enhanced the car's solidity and responsiveness.
Taken as a whole, this new Genesis is quite good on the road, inspiring confidence and even the occasional "hell yeah!" when really working the chassis and drivetrain. On the dry roads deep down the Southwest, we opted to keep the car in Sport for most of the trip in an effort to extract the most out of the chassis.
But even though the Genesis has come a long way in its driving dynamics, it still lags a bit behind the segment benchmark BMW 5 Series. The Genesis is heavier and thus not quite as nimble, and it still experiences noticeable body roll in corners taken with enthusiasm. Even so, Hyundai engineers should be extremely proud of what they've accomplished. Nearly everything is tight – the transmission, the steering, the throttle response – it all works together. That's the mark of a truly well-executed, performance-oriented vehicle. All in all, it's fun to drive and is likely to find new ways to delight both the enthusiast and the commuter.
Hyundai is aiming high with this new sedan, and in doing so, the model continues to improve and evolve rapidly.
While the Genesis has changed in a lot of respects, it's good to see that it has kept one of the key aspects that helped make its predecessor a success: value. The 2015 Genesis starts at $38,000 for a V6 RWD, undercutting the 5 Series by more than $10,000 while including acres more standard equipment – features like paddle shifters, rain-sensing wipers, power folding outside mirrors, power height and lumbar-adjustable passenger seat and the aforementioned smart access trunk feature. The addition of all-wheel drive or the V8 engine add to the bottom line, obviously, but even a maxed-out Genesis ($51,500 plus options) comes in at thousands of dollars below its competition.
The 2015 Genesis is an impressive second effort. Hyundai is aiming high with this new sedan, and in doing so, the model continues to improve and evolve rapidly. We remain rapt and at attention, and we're willing to bet that the competition is, too.