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.
Exterior DesignThe 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.
InteriorFor 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.
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.
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 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.
Passenger And Cargo RoomHyundai 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. It's quite comfortable, especially in the rear seats.
Cargo space is quite cavernous, too. The trunk employs a great new standard feature Hyundai calls the smart trunk. To pop the lid, 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.
Driving DynamicsWhile 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 biggest changes for the Genesis centers on its handling dynamics. Hyundai partnered with the gurus at Lotus for this new generation's development, and it shows. The new HTRAC all-wheel drive system, 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.
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.
Tech And InfotainmentThe 2015 Genesis is available with a wide swath of technology and infotainment features, including the aforementioned smart trunk, as well as 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.
Safety features include 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.
Bottom LineWhile 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.