What's New for 2009
The 2009 Hyundai Genesis is an all-new model. It's Hyundai's first rear-wheel-drive luxury car for the U.S. market.
If ever an automaker deserved a "Most Improved" award, it would be Hyundai. Within the last decade or so, the Korean company has gone from building cars that were the butt of cruel jokes to competent vehicles that just might be the cause of some sleepless nights for Honda and Toyota executives.
Now that Hyundai has proven it can keep up with Japanese carmakers when it comes to producing high-quality and reliable small and midsize cars at value prices, the company has set its sights on the large luxury sedan market with the 2009 Hyundai Genesis.
The Genesis matches up pretty closely with the Chrysler 300 in terms of wheelbase and overall length, but the Hyundai's exterior styling is less dramatic. If anything, the Genesis resembles a cleaner interpretation of a Benz S-Class. A 290-horsepower V6 is the entry-level engine, but the bigger news is a 4.6-liter V8 pumping out an impressive 375 hp. Both engines send their power to the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. A well-tuned suspension, a full complement of the latest luxury and safety features and a striking, high-quality cabin complete the package.
With badges removed, the Genesis could easily pass as a Lexus or Mercedes-Benz, although we doubt many brand-conscious folks would give a Hyundai a second glance. Still, anyone shopping in the $30K-$40K entry-level luxury sport sedan segment would be remiss if they didn't give the 2009 Hyundai Genesis serious consideration.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Hyundai Genesis is a full-size rear-wheel-drive luxury sport sedan that comes in two trims dictated by engine type. The Genesis 3.8 V6 comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, power front seats (eight-way driver and four-way passenger), dual-zone automatic climate control, a seven-speaker audio system (includes a CD player, satellite radio and iPod and auxiliary input jacks), leather seating, heated front seats, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel and cruise control.
The Genesis 4.6 V8 includes 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome exterior accents, rain-sensing wipers, premium leather trim (including dash and doors), a wood-and-leather-trimmed steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an upgraded audio system (with a six-disc CD changer and 15 Lexicon speakers), a power rear sunshade, an eight-way power passenger seat and driver memory settings.
Most of the 4.6's features are available on the 3.8 via a Premium Package. Optional for both models is a Technology Package that includes xenon headlights, a trip computer, front and rear park assist, a cooled driver seat (4.6 only), a Logic 7 surround-sound audio system, a hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic, a rearview camera and Bluetooth.
Powertrains and Performance
The base engine is powered by a 3.8-liter V6 that produces 290 hp and 264 pound-feet of torque. The upgraded powertrain features a 4.6-liter V8 with 375 hp and 333 lb-ft. Those figures are with premium fuel; on regular, the numbers are 368 and 324, respectively. A six-speed automatic with manual shift capability sends the power to the rear wheels in both models.
For a big luxury sedan, the Genesis is quick -- we timed the butter-smooth V8 at just 5.9 seconds for the 0-60-mph sprint and 14 seconds flat for the quarter-mile. EPA fuel economy estimates for the V6 are 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined; V8 estimates were unavailable as of this writing.
Antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, active front head restraints, front- and rear-seat side airbags and full-length head curtain airbags are all standard.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside the cabin, the 2009 Hyundai Genesis 4.6 V8 is outfitted like a true luxury sedan. Spacious, richly appointed and fully decked out with a comprehensive list of convenience features, this Hyundai looks and feels very much like a top-line Lexus. The seats are as comfortable as they appear, although they lack the kind of firm, highly bolstered Germanic treatment a sport sedan enthusiast might enjoy. The instrument panel's white-on-black electroluminescent gauges look like they came straight out of a Lexus.
The soft curves of the sweeping dashboard are complemented by an elegantly adorned center stack with numerous climate and audio controls, many of which have more driver-friendly counterparts either on the steering wheel or by the multimedia controller on the center console. Standard on the V8 model (and optional on the V6) is real leather trim that adorns the dash and door panels.
The trunk offers a capacity of 15.9 cubic feet, and although the rear seat does not fold down, there is a pass-through feature.
Tuned more toward the luxury end of the spectrum, the Genesis' suspension offers a soft ride with respectable handling. The latter is surprisingly neutral -- a run through the slalom showed the Genesis to be a little soft and slow, but impressively obedient. The electrohydraulic steering assist leaves the rack-and-pinion steering feeling more isolated from the tires than we'd prefer, but the steering itself is still precise and appropriate, given the scale and mission of the car. Nobody would ever mistake the Genesis for a BMW when it comes to steering, but Infiniti or Lexus owners will find it familiar.
While a stopping distance of 124 feet from 60 mph isn't what we'd call world-class, it's still pretty good for a 4,000-pound sedan wearing all-season tires.