Monday, October 27, 2008

REVIEWS: 2009 Hyundai Genesis 3.8

Is the six as impressive as the eight?

We've walked away suitably impressed from the Genesis before - but that was when it was suitably kitted up in its top spec with a big ol' Korean V-8 under the hood. While the V-8 car may be enough to run with the big dogs, we were curious what the six-cylinder 2009 Hyundai Genesis 3.8-which Hyundai expects will be the best-seller-had to offer.

The list is long

Given today's gas prices, buyers might be looking to the V-6 for its economy, but its EPA ratings are only 1 or 2 mpg better than the V-8. At nearly $5000 less than the V-8 model, the 3.8 is poised to offer the best bang for the buck. Starting at $33,000, the base Genesis already carries an encyclopedic amount of standard equipment. Features such as dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, traction and stability control, side- and side-curtain airbags, Bluetooth, and keyless ignition are all standard.

Shoppers can opt for one of two Premium Packages. Our test car was equipped with the Premium Package Plus, which adds a surround-sound audio system, leather-trimmed dash- and door panels, 18-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, and a power sunroof.

Ticking this option box costs $3000; a significant figure, certainly, but it renders the Genesis virtually loaded at just under $36,000. In fact, the only way we could have packed any more content would have been to tick the box for the Technology Package, which adds a more powerful surround-sound system, DVD-based navigation, HID headlamps, parking sensors, and an extra $4000 to the sticker price.

Haven't we seen this before?

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Lexus must be blushing. The long, smooth forms of the Genesis might not ape those of any one particular Lexus, but try and discern the Hyundai's front fascia from that of a recent ES or LS-it's no easy task.

Although the design language may be derivative, the Genesis presents a shape that's smooth, well-proportioned, and easy on the eyes. All except perhaps the waterfall grille. Although intended to give the car a ritzy look, it comes off as an awkward afterthought.


What carries a genuinely upscale feel, however, is the interior. The designers did a terrific job of crafting a contemporary and attractive interior that blows away any preconceptions of what a Hyundai can be (the aforementioned leather dash trim really helps in this regard). Open the doors, and you feel like you're stepping into the interior of a $60,000 vehicle. Fit and finish of interior panels is consistently tight, although some switchgear could stand some refinement.

If there was any complaint we had about the Genesis' cabin, it was the front two bucket seats. Although they were certainly comfortable (and as soft as a microwaved marshmallow), they were a little too flat. One tester noted you sit on them - not in them - and consequently they weren't supportive in spirited driving. But a car like this isn't only about those in front. Rear-seat passengers are treated to some of the best accommodations we've seen in car under $40,000.

Smooth but unhurried

Though the V-8 is an all-new engine (the 4.6-liter "Tau" DOHC V-8), the Genesis 3.8's V-6 is a carryover from other Hyundais. The "Lambda" engine, a 3.8-liter DOHC unit, produces 290 hp and 264 lb-ft of torque. That's down from the 375 ponies and 333 lb-ft of the V-8, but it proves more than capable of moving the 3700-lb Genesis without strain.

Helping the V-6 considerably is a standard six-speed automatic transmission. Shifts, for the most part, are smooth, if not deliberate. Hyundai lets drivers row their own gears with a requisite manumatic provision, but there's no sport mode. That's a shame, as we'd welcome quicker-shifting sport mode, given that the transmission doesn't like to be hurried into selecting a gear.

More luxe than sport

Though some cars in this comparison sliced through corners with ease, the Genesis was decidedly less sporty. Although Hyundai often compares the car's handling to a Lexus GS or Infiniti M, the ride is tuned more towards luxury.

Over back-roads flogging, some found the car too soft, but the independent suspension (a five-link setup at each wheel) kept things from turning to Jell-O in the corners. The Genesis exhibits some oversteer at its limits, but the stability control, which is always on guard, helps reign in the back end.

The soft suspension pays dividends with a comfortable low-speed ride. Unfortunately, some of that comfort disappears in highway driving, where the Genesis can be too stiff. Even moderate imperfections in the road surface are telegraphed through the steering column, making the car feel busy.

Will Six Get You Eight?

We'd argue the biggest question surrounding the Genesis V-6 is not how it fares against its immediate competition (quite favorably, thank you), but against itself. The V-8 car is an outstanding bargain for what it offers, but is it worth an extra $5000 over the six?

No, it probably isn't. Although those with a V-8 fixation will spring for the 4.6-liter (and love it), the rest of the world-especially those looking for a lavish lifestyle on a bohemian budget-will be more than content with the V-6.

2009 Hyundai Genesis 3.8

Base Price: $33,000
As Tested: $36,000

Engine: 3.8-liter DOHC 24-valve V-6
Horsepower: 290 hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 264 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: Rear-wheel

L x W x H: 195.9 x 74.4 x 58.3 in
Legroom F/R: 44.3/38.6 in
Headroom F/R: 38.1/37.7 in
Cargo capacity: 15.9 cu ft
Curb Weight: 3748 lb
EPA Rating (city/highway): 18/27 mpg

By Evan McCausland

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