Genesis. The first book of the “Old Testament,” a popular English rock band, a comic book character, a bicycle brand, a NASA probe, a high-definition camera and now a new luxury car brand.
Korean automaker Hyundai is taking the first steps into the premium end of the car pool with the creation of a separate lineup that will be called Genesis. Just like Honda (Acura), Toyota (Lexus) and Nissan (Infiniti) before it, Genesis will expand Hyundai’s reach in the market and provide not only cachet but added profitability.
Right now, there are two sedans. The former Hyundai Genesis becomes the midsize Genesis G80 — our sample car with AWD — while the former Equus full-size sedan is renamed the Genesis G90. Using a strong collection of renowned car designers, including former Audi head Peter Schreyer, Hyundai has four more models in the pipeline for the next two years: a G80 Sport sedan, a compact class, BMW fighter G70 (coupe and sedan) plus a compact crossover using this platform as well as a G80-based crossover. Hyundai marketers hope to sell a modest 90,000 Genesis-badged vehicles by 2020, which would be almost triple the current sales levels of the Equus and Genesis sedans.
Key to the success of this fledgling enterprise will be the marketing. Hyundai will not force current dealers to undergo expensive image reincarnations to fly the Genesis sign; however, there will be display parameters and renewed service commitments. Hyundai envisions developing door-to-door valet service for any repairs or service work, creating a Lexus-like environment for customers.
After 900 miles at the helm of the G80 AWD sedan, powered by the 311-hp 3.8-liter V-6, the Lexus brand repeatedly came to mind. Controls, dynamics, comfort and general performance in the Genesis demonstrated a quality feel that is a mark of Toyota’s luxury brand. No surprises, no disappointments, just fluid operation. Hyundai has rapidly pushed its development goals, with each successive new product showing marked signs of content improvement as well as greater chassis and driving refinement. The G80, based on a pretty nice package, continues this evolving trend.
Measuring 197 inches long on a large 119-inch wheelbase, the G80 is larger than every one of its midsize luxury rivals — Acura RLX, Mercedes E-class, BMW 5-series, Audi A7 and Lexus ES — yet smaller than the full-size sedans that the G90 will compete against. In rough dimensions, the G80 is almost exactly the same size as a Chrysler 300 or Buick LaCrosse.
Tipping the scales at 4,500 pounds, the Genesis also is heavier than its rivals, yet the finely tuned suspension never belies the car’s girth while delivering fluid reactions and a deliberate, controlled ride that should please everyone. Steering feel is slightly above average for this segment, with decent responses and a solid, direct feel that is too often lacking in this class.
In traditional Hyundai fashion, the Genesis comes loaded. Packed with safety electronics and driving aids — Smart Cruise with stop/start, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot detection and cross-traffic alerts, HTRAC all-wheel drive, Intelligent Drive Modes, Lane Keeping Assist and Lane Departure Warning — plus, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, power trunk lid and an 8-inch touchscreen, the Genesis does not lack for comfort, luxury and entertainment. Add Premium package ($4,750) onto the base sedan ($41,400 with rear drive, $43,900 with AWD) to get front and rear park sensors, 14-speaker Surround Sound, a giant panoramic sunroof, updated rear camera and power rear sunshade, or, Ultimate Package ($4,200), for a more lavish leather/wood/aluminum trimmed interior, Heads-Up display, a 17-speaker Lexicon audio system, a larger 9.2-inch touchscreen, plus dual mode front vent control which allows not only separate temperatures between driver and passenger, but also different vent outlets for your heated or cooled air. Total as shown, $53,800.
Pros and cons: the dual-mode climate system is awesome, the three-level heated seats work all the way up your back and are therapeutic, the rear seat is roomy, and visibility is very good. The V-6 delivers plenty of verve when summoned (a 420-hp 5.0-liter V-8 is available) and the AWD system was flawless during the last throes of winter. The dash-top still needs an upgrade — it looks too plasticky — while the hard surfaces that your legs rest against while cruising up the highway with the clever dynamic cruise activated, the side of the console and the door panels, are all too hard and need softer coverings.
Subtle pieces: the ornament attached to the hood caught everyone’s eye with its decidedly Aston Martin flair, while the side-mirror puddle lamps display this winged-logo on the ground when entering the car at night.
The Genesis neatly fills the gap between Asian-oriented luxury sedans (nicer than the Acura offerings for sure) and top-notch German-based driving machines. The G80 Sport, with a twin-turbo 365-hp version of this engine, will jump start even more attention.
Genesis — a great beginning and certainly not the last chapter for this maturing brand.