In every interesting new car, there’s a surprise. The biggest surprise (not the only one) in this second-generation, 2015-model-year Hyundai Genesis is that it handles so well—not just better than the old Genny, but also better than many other full-size sedans. The reason for this is surprise No. 2: Final chassis tuning was accomplished, quietly, with the help of Lotus, the British constructor of legendary sports and racing cars.
If asked, Hyundai will say that the work was done to fit its own premium-sedan DNA, and not necessarily Lotus’s performance DNA. Nevertheless, some luxury-car owners may think the ride is a bit brittle. Hyundai could soften the springs and dampers just a tad and the new Genesis would fly the interstates in more cloud-like fashion. Then, when exiting into a mountain pass, hit the Intelligent Drive selector for Sport mode.
“Sport” could just as well be labeled “Lotus”; it renders this big, rear-wheel-drive car an outstanding straightener of winding roads. The Genesis arcs through esses like a giant-slalom ski. Its two-plus tons moving from side to side are hardly noticeable, and there’s no flex under load. The brakes and the variable-ratio steering are about ideal. At night, the headlights are literally brilliant. The long nose drops away in front, and only the thick A-pillars (plus wing mirrors) interfere with the driver’s view. Altogether, it’s dead easy to put and keep the Gen-two exactly where you want it.
Kudos to Hyundai for not sticking “Handling by Lotus” badges all over the Genesis. Then again, the target buyer might not be impressed, and might even be confused.
Our car was the 5.0-liter, 420-horsepower V-8 Genesis Ultimate, sticker $55,700. At an overall average speed of 41 MPH, it returned an indicated 20.2 MPG. A V-6 version with 311 horsepower and a starting price of $38,950 is also available, with all-wheel drive a $2,500 option. Neither motor responds explosively, but with smooth swells of power. Both Geneses have eight-speed electronic automatic transmissions, which can be shifted manually with paddles on the steering wheel. In Hyundai fashion, both cars are also exceedingly well equipped. (Similar German sedans cost many thousands more.)
The cabin—with its premium seats, power window shades, 17 speakers and tinted dual-pane sunroof—approaches Lexus levels of lip-smacking design as well as ergonomics and function. Hyundai has packed a great deal of leading-wave tech into this car, and the parts the driver can touch are easy to use. To pick just one example:
Along with vehicle speed, the driver’s Head-Up Display shows turn-by-turn directions, the posted speed limit, traffic bulletins and the adaptive stop-start cruise-control settings; it also flashes warnings from the lane-departure and blind-spot detectors. This isn’t information overload—everything is easy to read and to grasp. As well, the position and brightness of the display are adjustable, and the whole thing can be turned off.
HUD is part of the $3,250 Ultimate package, the only extras available on the Genesis. (Simplified ordering, another Hyundai luxury-car “surprise.”) Even without it, though, the Genesis is packed with thoughtful, well-integrated design. There are pairs of nearly identical thumbwheel adjusters on each side of the steering wheel—but they’re easy to distinguish by feel. The center binnacle is nicely padded for knees. Lock the car and walk away, and the wing mirrors fold inward. Return in the dark, and puddle lights under the mirrors switch on. And so on and so forth.
Here’s a final surprise: One of my colleagues curled his lip at the new Genesis and said “Who’s going to spend 50 grand on a Hyundai? Wouldn’t you buy a [well-known German car] instead?” Oh, come on. You might expect such a bias from somebody my age, with hardening of the automotive arteries, but this guy started driving years after Hyundai was already a player in the US. He’s got no excuses for such a blinkered attitude.
Hyundai long ago made its mark in the lower two-thirds of the car market by offering more for less; now, with this Genesis (and the latest Equus), Hyundai moves uptown for real. These cars stand on their own merit, not just on value for dollar.