It was highly acclaimed after its 2009 launch, winning the Canadian Car of the Year and North American Car of the Year titles. And the 2012 versions will offer more powerful engines, including a 429-hp V8. But even with this added vigour and new 5.0 R-Spec name, the Hyundai Genesis will not be able to keep its "flavour of the month" status.
Why? Because this hefty Korean luxury sedan hasn’t been able to choose between saucy performance and grand-daddy comfort.
The Genesis sedan has always boasted an exceptional equipment level for its price, a bold silhouette enhanced with a super-cool and mysterious grille (i.e. without the Hyundai logo), as well as a spacious and comfortable interior. Critics, however, have decried its mushy suspension, soul-less steering and excitement-free driving.
And yet, there are still a lot of people willing to buy cars like this. Since hitting the market three years ago, the Genesis has found 2,500 takers in Canada. These buyers were drawn to the several (several!!) thousand dollars in savings compared to German or Japanese cars in the same category. And the Genesis offered them so much more – except prestige, of course.
Three cheers for the direct fuel injection added to the 3.8-litre V6. The same Lambda engine is still on the menu, but now with 15% more power for a total of 333 horsepower. Torque is up too, from 264 to 291 lbs-ft, while fuel consumption dips by 5% on the highway to 6.9 L/100 km.
Paired with a new 8-speed automatic transmission that was developed in-house, this engine is simultaneously powerful, supple and gentle. Its soothing sound discretely tickles the exhaust as it delivers linear accelerations. And like before, you have to keep your eye on the rev counter to notice when the gears shift, that’s how transparent it is.
In all honesty, this V6 does such a good job moving the Genesis’ two metric tons that it renders the new 5.0-litre V8 practically pointless. Also featuring direct fuel injection, the Tau V8 replaces the previous 4.6-litre V8, offering 11% more power or 44 more horses. (Note that, for the time being, the U.S. market will continue to have the 4.6-litre V8 as one of three engine options.) That said, the new engine goes against current trends by not offering better fuel economy than its predecessor. In fact, it is the same on the highway and 2% higher in the city. In fact, the 5.0 R-Spec delivers 429 horsepower, but its chassis and suspension aren’t necessarily equipped to support it all.
And now, the downside
The engineers must have tweaked (let’s say by 30%) the multi-link suspensions, but the result is a suspension that responds rather strangely to ups and downs of Californian highways (which, needless to say, are nothing compared to the giant potholes of our country). Sure, it bumps about a little less than before, but it certainly is no match for any imperfections in the asphalt.
The solution might have been a normal mode. You know, the mode between “soft” and “sport” that you find on other models? Well, let’s just say that Hyundai isn’t there yet. Ok, so the other solution is the Genesis V6, which does a much better job neutralizing bad road surfaces while letting some good feedback through.
No matter how you slice it, the Genesis is a bulky vehicle that can’t be thrown into corners willy nilly. On the contrary, you quickly get a feel for its limitations (like an overly eager stability system, perhaps?) and you’d have to be crazy to push it past its abilities. On this car, the rear-wheel drive is unfortunately no guarantee for solid handling, and all-wheel drive is not offered.
The lack of AWD is really a major drawback. According to Hyundai, it’s in the works. So we suggest holding off until it is available.
Another fault: The rack-and-pinion steering hasn’t gained an ounce of substance. The 5.0 R-Spec may have been revamped with an electro hydraulic system, but we’d still like it to connect better with the road – at very least to improve the vehicle’s precision. What’s more, the steering wheel itself is still too slim and lacks paddle shifters, even on the V8. These would be a great addition as you have to downshift two or three gears to get any semblance of an engine brake.
We’re still waiting…
In terms of technology, the Genesis has made an effort to get with the times. When it launched, it was criticised for a lack of heated seats in the rear. That’s been addressed and heated rear seats are available on all the variants except the base model. And last year they added adaptive cruise control. But the driver’s seat is still the only one with ventilation (too bad for the front passenger).
Ok, all this aside, the Genesis remains comfortable and spacious in both front and back, offering luxury and excellent soundproofing. It features quality of materials and assembly, while its 450-litre trunk falls in with the average (too bad the back bench doesn’t fold down though). Unfortunately, the instrumentation and navigation system can be hard to read in the sun. Other than that, it’s user friendly, which is not always the case on cars that cost upwards of $40,000.
In terms of its looks, the Genesis has been enhanced with new lower body panels, front LED lights, a more modern air intake, better designed tail lights and exhausts integrated into the bumper. Also, with a 0.27 Cx drag coefficient, the Genesis is one of the most aerodynamic cars on the market (that’s practically the coefficient of drag of an hybrid)!
It goes without saying that the price has increased. Starting at $39,999, the base version is $2,000 more expensive than when it was first launched three years ago. Meanwhile, the 5.0 R-Spec will set you back $4,000 more than last year’s top version. Then again, the Genesis is still unrivalled in terms of price. So, it just has to choose where it wants to go from here. Will it become a bold sport sedan (which is certainly is not at the present time) or will it find its groove as a Sunday driver’s car. One thing’s for sure, it can’t be both.
|Test model||2012 Hyundai Genesis|
|Trim level||5.0 R-Spec|
|Price range||$38,999 - $49,999|
|Price as tested||$49,999|
|Warranty (basic)||5 years / 100,000 km|
|Warranty (powertrain)||5 years / 100,000 km|
|Competitive models||Acura TL, Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus, Lexus ES, Lincoln MKZ, Nissan Maxima, Toyota Avalon|