Test Drive: Hyundai Genesis

Most people looking for an upscale premium sedan will look for cars with a name on the hood like Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW, Lexus, Jaguar, Cadillac or Infiniti.? Status is important to many people, and those brands have earned their appeal after years of building some of the best luxury cars in the world.

However, shoppers who are simply looking for a great luxury car and the best value are missing the best-kept secret in the segment, the Hyundai Genesis.?

You won?t find any fancy logo or prestigious name on the hood of the Genesis.? On the trunk lid, the only indication is the subtle Hyundai stylized ?H? logo on the rear center and a small Genesis name badge on the lower right. ?In fact, while we were driving two different Genesis models lately, we had several people ask us what we were driving.

The Genesis looks are striking and for 2012, designers have done some minor tweaks to give it a bit more aggressive or mature look.

But the big news for 2012 is the addition of a third model, the 5.0 R-Spec.? Yes, this is a performance model, but no, it?s not like the AMG, M, V, S, and other hard-core performance models, which often have 500 horsepower or more.? The R-Spec has a larger version of the 4.6-liter V-8 engine.? With 5.0-liters, the horsepower is increased by 44 to 429 hp. The result is a 0 to 60 mph improvement from 5.5-seconds to 5.1 seconds for the 5.0 with a fuel economy loss of 1 mpg to 16 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.

The other big news is the new Hyundai developed eight-speed automatic transmission, which is being used in all the 2012 Genesis sedans.? The transmission is silky smooth making quick shifts up and down and the console-mounted shifter can also shift it manually.? Hyundai engineers say the transmission improves efficiency by six percent.

The Genesis is now available in three engine defined rear-wheel drive models.? The 3.8 has a fantastic 333-hp (up from 290-hp in 2011) 3.8-liter V-6, the 4.6 has a 395-hp 4.6-liter V-8, and of course the new 5.0-liter V-8 at 429 hp.? All three engines are direct injection with Hyundai?s Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (D-CVVT), variable induction, all aluminum block and cylinder heads.

The new Genesis 5.0 R-Spec doesn?t just get a bigger engine; it also gets upgraded chassis components, matching powertrain enhancements, larger brakes and high performance wheels and tires.? The extra performance gear comes into play at speed and on those winding, fun to drive roads we enjoy ? that?s where the R-Spec feels a little firmer and stable.

While the R-Spec is very impressive, but so is the 3.8 — It handles beautifully and the acceleration is very impressive for a six-cylinder.

The entry-level Genesis 3.8 has an amazing assortment of standard features for a $35,050 price tag, for example 17-inch alloy wheels, leather seating, heated and power front seats and audio with XM Satellite Radio.? The Premium Package and Technology packages add $8,800 to the price but add dozens of features including a premium Lexicon? audio, navigation with eight-inch screen, HID lights, heated seats front and rear (cooled, too, in the front), premium leather, lane departure warning, sunroof, and rain-sensing wipers.

Like the other Genesis sedans, the 3.8 looks premium and pampers the passengers with an elegant and comfortable interior.

The 4.6 and 5.0 R-Spec models are priced at $45,350 and $47,350 respectively and include all the features from in the two option packages of the 3.8. ?Therefore, the only options are colors and tires.

Hyundai engineers know their safety technology, too, by outfitting all the models with all the key life-saving technologies like Electronic Stability Control (ESC), eight airbags andelectronic active headrestraints. ?Eight ultrasonic sensors on the front and rear bumpers and the rear backup camera, helpdetect how close objects are when parking.

The V-8 models and the V-6 version with the Technology Package have the new Lane Departure Warning System and the smart cruise control system that automatically paces the vehicle in front.? One missing features, however, is a blind sport warning system, which we think should be required on all vehicles.

The trio of Genesis models offer an impressive lineup for the luxury shopper.? Even for shoppers wanting to make a step up into luxury from the hum-drum of midsize sedans, it?s just a baby step to the Genesis 3.8, and the car is impressive on all counts.? Add the options and the 3.8 competes favorably with all the entry luxury models with status names, but with a major savings.

The same goes for shoppers comparing the V-8 powered luxury models where the savings is easily $5,000 to $10,000 less than comparably equipped competitors.? The Genesis models are just as good, in fact, Consumer Reports lists the 3.8 at the top of the upscale sedans and the 4.6-second in the luxury sedans, and they ?Recommended? both.

We recently spent a week driving the 3.8 in the Boston area and another week in the 5.0 R-Spec at home in Washington State.? They do everything very well from navigating bumper-to-bumper traffic to running up the mountain roads plus they look great, inside and out.

Only time will tell how these car will hold up, but initial impressions are they top quality.? Plus they also have the industry best warranty, the Hyundai Assurance program, which includes the 5-year/60,000-mile fully transferable new vehicle warranty, Hyundai?s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and 5-years of complimentary Roadside Assistance.

We give the Hyundai Genesis two enthusiastic thumbs up. We’d love to have either one permanently in our garage.

?By Bill & Barbara Schaffer

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