Shhh. Do not disturb the 2009 Hyundai Genesis V6. It may be the quietest car we've ever driven. It would be rude to interrupt it.
As Hyundai's newest creation slips slyly into the luxury sedan market, we can hear the silent screams of some other fancy automakers.
This car is nice. Really nice. Like why-would-we-spend-our-money-anywhere-else nice. It's the Cadillac of Hyundais.
What It Is All new, the 2009 Hyundai Genesis is a large, rear-wheel-drive sedan, wrapped in leather and full of luxury and comfort features.
We slipped in and found ourselves surrounded by soft surfaces and quality materials. The seat leather was black while the dash was wrapped in a rich tone of brown leather set off by contrasting stitching. We pushed our finger into the dash and discovered it wasn't just covered, it was cushioned. It even smelled expensive. How much does this car cost?
Well, the 2009 Hyundai Genesis V6 starts at $32,250 and the Premium Plus option brings the price of this test car to an even $36,000.
Other features included in the option package were all the little things that make the difference between a car like an every-day Hyundai Sonata and this Lexus-style Hyundai Genesis V6: 18-inch wheels and tires, power sunroof, tilt and telescoping steering column with a leather-trimmed steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, auto-defogging windshield, power rear sunshade and a 14-speaker Lexicon audio system that you can control with thumb power on the steering wheel.
Hyundai's Genesis doesn't really match up to any other car at this price. At a length of 195.9 inches overall on a 115.6-inch wheelbase, it's about the size of a Nissan Maxima or Pontiac G8 and a little larger than a Mercedes E-Class and Lexus ES 350. But there's more to all this than dimensions, because the Genesis is its own animal.
Gentle Giant One of the first things we noticed about the 2009 Hyundai Genesis is its quietness. This is in part due to the acoustic laminated glass, yet even with the windows down and miles behind us on the highway, this car is soft-spoken. We're talking hybrid hush, meditation-room tranquility. Our readings from the sound-level meter show the Hyundai Genesis recorded fewer decibels than a Toyota Prius. It seems everything about the Genesis is quiet: the cabin, the engine and even the style.
It's calming to pilot a car so peaceful, but don't mistake this for a suggestion that this car is asleep. The 3.8-liter, 290-horsepower V6 might be quiet but it's not shy on performance. It offers 264 pound-feet of torque at 3,500 rpm, so acceleration is authoritative as well as smooth, and quick shifts from the six-speed automatic transmission are sufficient for merging into freeway traffic. You can also shift for yourself if you are so inclined (although you probably won't be).
In our track tests, the Hyundai Genesis moves from zero to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds (6.1 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip) and manages the quarter-mile in 14.6 seconds at 95.6 mph. The car shifts before redline in manual mode, which can be annoying when you're wringing it out at the track. Altogether, these are pretty good numbers for a luxury sedan that weighs 3,862 pounds.
It Is Enough There is a 368-hp V8 available for the Genesis but we don't see why you would need it. The V8 offers more power, but it doesn't really deliver more performance. The Genesis V8 manages 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, and the 0.4-second improvement doesn't exactly spin your head around. Save yourself some headache at the gas pump and stick with the more fuel-efficient V6 that delivers 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway. We never found a situation where we felt we needed more oomph.
In our deceleration tests, the Hyundai Genesis's disc brakes and Dunlop SP Sport 5000M tires bring the car down from 60 mph in 117 feet. Pedal feel is excellent and the response is quick. In repeated high-performance testing, however, the brakes faded quickly. We first chalked this up to brake pads that were relatively new and not yet thoroughly bedded in, but then we encountered the same glitch when we tested the Genesis V8. At the same time, we had no problems under normal conditions and the brakes performed as expected with clean, straight stops.
Skid pad and slalom testing numbers were also impressive for a 3,862-pound car that carries 52.2 percent of its weight up front. It pulls 0.83g on the skid pad, a good number limited by the intervention of the stability control. It navigated our 600-foot slalom course at 62.8 mph. The steering could offer a little more feedback, yet the Genesis V6 is well-behaved and actually performs slightly better in our handling tests than the V8 and feels better doing it.
With a well-tuned suspension both front and rear, the Genesis V6 offers a good balance between comfort and agility, offering good damping over the bumps and not much wobble or body roll in the corners.
Not Just for Drivers Shotgun passengers in the Genesis V6 get their own climate controls and a heated power seat. The A/C has a good variety of levels, and we appreciate that the lowest setting is really low and the system has the potential to crank up icily when you need it. Front legroom is more than other cars of this size at 44.3 inches, while headroom is also better at 40.4 inches.
Rear passengers are not forgotten. The Genesis has a backseat that actually accommodates humans who stand over 6 feet tall, and you can easily fall asleep in the soft, enveloping cushions. Even better, the backseat is roomy even with the front seats all the way back, as rear legroom is generous at 38.6 inches and there are 37.7 inches of headroom. The rear-seat A/C vents are mounted on the B-pillars, so rear passengers get cool air on their bodies instead of just their knees.
You could easily fit a couple of child seats in the rear seat of this luxury sedan and the rear power window shade can keep the sun off their sweet little heads. Or just fill the back with suitcases and get outta town. The rear seats do not fold down, although you can access the trunk via the pass-through behind the center armrest.
Speaking of the trunk, the Genesis offers 16 cubic feet of cargo capacity with a mesh tie-down to keep your goodies from rolling around. A major expedition to the outlet mall might be in order.
Bright Lights, Big City As an everyday car, the Hyundai Genesis is a pretty sweet ride. But it also makes you look smart. Its design is quietly elegant. The car has clean lines with no harsh angles and seams. The front and rear lamps look interesting but are not showy. The Genesis doesn't scream "look at me." Its beauty is refreshingly subtle.
When you open the door, the interior lighting is bright — you know, in case someone wants to peek inside to get a look at that handsome dash. The instrument panel's design is restrained, featuring simple, clear readouts and intuitive controls. It has all the bells and whistles you expect in a modern luxury car, without the gazillion buttons.
Name Brand, Outlet Mall Price The 2009 Hyundai Genesis V6 is a thoroughly thought-out example of the modern luxury car, a careful assembly of all the features and all the performance that make a car special rather than just ordinary. It's everything we expect.
We're not suggesting Hyundai is ready to steal customers away from BMW or Mercedes-Benz, but Cadillac and Lexus are within reach, we think. With Cadillac and Lexus, the issue of value is as important as refinement, and in this the $36,000 Hyundai Genesis V6 makes a major statement.
To paraphrase fashion designer Coco Chanel, "True luxury is the silk lining of a coat. Only you know it's there." This is the kind of luxury that feels wonderful against your skin, yet no one can see it. And that's why the Hyundai Genesis doesn't have "luxury" stamped across its grille. This is a different statement from the Korean automaker, one that promises a quiet appreciation that content matters more than simple branding. The Hyundai Genesis is the kind of sedan that will quietly transport you around town in secret sumptuousness.
Tell your friends, but remember to whisper.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Engineering Editor Jason Kavanagh says: If the progress made by the Korean brands still hasn't caught your attention, the Hyundai Genesis will. Not in a literal sense — the anonymously handsome sheet metal of the Genesis can be mistaken for a half-dozen other cars and I couldn't spot a single exterior badge bearing the word "Hyundai." Rather, there is a lot to like in the car's execution.
Start with the cabin, where the materials appear rich and noise levels have been kept to a respectably low level. Yet there is still a splash of personality in the sweep of contrasting leather across the dash. I'll take this over the played-out trend of garish chrome accents any day. Rear seat occupants can really stretch their legs, too.
Those expecting a BMW-like experience will be disappointed, as Hyundai took no chances in the Genesis' driving dynamics. Although the double-wishbone front suspension helps deliver reasonably high grip and good ride quality, the chassis could use a shot of life, particularly the isolated and over-boosted steering. Fortunately, the powertrain leaves a consistently strong impression. The V6 provides enough scoot so that the V8 is probably redundant, and the smooth-shifting transmission lives up to the car's near-luxury billing.
The Genesis might not turn the luxury sedan paradigm on its head in the way the Lexus LS 400 did all those years ago, but the content and execution of the Hyundai Genesis at this price is eye-opening.
How does it sound: B+ Overall sound quality is excellent even though the Lexicon system offers only two-channel capability, and proved to be far beyond anything we've heard in previous Hyundai vehicles. While the Infiniti system of the Hyundai Azera is good, this Lexicon audio system takes it to the next level with a truly premium sound that includes deep, well-defined bass and precise, clear highs that don't squeak or hiss. From overproduced Sarah Brightman tracks to the quirkiness of The National and even the delicate precision of Yo La Tengo, it all sounds good.
This 14-speaker system is optional but isn't the top-of-the-line system. Opt for the Technology Package and you'll get a 17-speaker Lexicon stereo with the ability to play DVD-audio discs through 7.1 sound architecture. The middle upgrade gets you seven extra speakers compared to the base setup and adds a DSP feature. The faux surround sound is OK, but it really messes up tracks where the original production included a lot of reverb, especially on vocals. The Cars are a good example of the kind of music that just doesn't work with DSP. The equalizer settings for musical genres like rock, pop and classical are more gimmick than useful, but a few do occasionally enhance the listening experience.
How does it work: B- The Genesis head unit is attractively incorporated into the rest of the dash and most buttons are well placed and work as expected. There is one exception. When listening to an iPod, the Cat/Folder button navigates the various lists that live on your iPod. Unfortunately, navigating today's portable-use devices in which 8 gigs of memory is now considered small isn't so easy without a way to jump forward or back in the list. As it is, you must scroll through a lot of tracks just to get to a song that happens to start with a T — an absolutely maddening experience in a world where an 8-gig iPod is considered small. Also the Cat/Folder button only accesses your device lists if you rock it upward. Tap it down and it becomes a pause button, even when you're already in the list feature and even though it's not marked as such. The audio control buttons on the steering wheel have large text and work well. The round volume/track advance button is especially nice, as it doesn't even require you to look down in order to use it.
Special features Many cars that have an optional navigation system shortchange those who do not opt for it by leaving an ugly hole or a half-hearted display screen for stuff like mpg or tire pressure. The Genesis screen without nav creates no such eyesore. It glows blue so it matches the other dash lights and has logically placed, easy-to-read text that doesn't look like an afterthought.
Conclusion: Hyundai wants to raise its game for the luxury market and the Genesis will do it. Thankfully, it did not skimp on the audio system, which is as first-rate as the rest of the car. — Brian Moody, Road Test Editor
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