Wednesday, November 19, 2008
2009 Hyundai Genesis Fuel Economy Test Drive: Can V8 Muscle Hit V6 Gas Mileage?
DETROIT -- The all-new 2009 Hyundai Genesis luxury car is something of a revelation. It's the first rear-drive sedan Hyundai has ever produced; it's the first Hyundai powered by an optional V-8 engine and it's the first Hyundai to package real luxury in a Korean-built sedan. That's certainly a lot of firsts. The Genesis sedan, which will be followed by a high-performance coupe in the spring of 2009, fits into the same class, size-wise, as the much more expensive BMW 550i and the Mercedes-Benz E550 sedans, yet the Genesis V8 is priced more like a loaded Chrysler 300C Hemi at around $37,250.
To see if this new Hyundai really hits the marks when it comes to bargain luxury and to find out if that V8 returns the fuel economy many consumers expect these days, we hit the highway for a road trip.
Hyundai's Genesis is a relative lightweight (4000 pounds) thanks to the fact that 75 percent of the body is made of high-strength steel. It uses no struts underneath, but rather an expensive five-link front and rear suspension systems that look and act much like the ones you'll find on a Mercedes-Benz. The all-new 4.6-liter engine is a double-overhead-cam, 32-valve V8 with variable valve timing on both intake and exhaust valves, a design that yields 375 hp at 6500 rpm, or 82 horsepower per liter. That's higher than most of the competitive V8 engines. Plus, there's a solid 333 lb-ft of torque that peaks at 3500 rpm. The V8 is matched to a butter-smooth ZF six-speed manumatic transmission. Plant the skinny pedal and the Genesis V8 is good enough for 0 to 60 mph in about 5.5 seconds.
We couldn't find much missing from the Genesis package. The base price includes plenty of hardware, including stability control, leather, sunroof and a 14-speaker Lexicon sound system with Bluetooth. The safety package is replete with front, side and roof airbags, and the Genesis carries a quintuple five-star rating for front, side and rollover crash ratings from the NHTSA.
For a nice, round $4000, the Technology package adds a 528-watt, 17-speaker, 7.1 surround-sound system, with an HD radio tuner and XM satellite radio, a six-CD changer, navigation, a rearview camera, driver information system, HID headlamps with auto leveling, adaptive headlamps, parking assists front and rear, and a heated and cooled driver's seat. All this stuff bumps the price up to $41,250-still well below that of a German luxury sedan.
Our Genesis V8 arrived with little more than 1200 break-in miles on the odometer. The plan was to challenge the window sticker's 17/25 rating with a long weekend trip from Detroit to Columbus-the one in Indiana, not Ohio. Why Columbus, Indiana? Because there are some significant motoring milestones along the way, and because tiny Columbus (population about 40,000) is one of the most architecturally significant small towns in America, with half a dozen national historic landmarks and more than 70 homes, buildings, businesses and parks worth exploring. Not to mention it's the hometown of two-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart.
We set the nav system for our hotel in Columbus, zeroed the trip odometers, reset the mileage meter and hit the road, using only interstates. We immediately noticed the comfy leather seats, tilt and telescope steering wheel, and the quiet cabin. We were quite impressed by the fit and finish of the Genesis cabin too. All these factors meant we arrived in Columbus refreshed instead of worn down by the journey. The human-machine interface, the master controller on the console for the sound and navigation system, worked simply and easily-without the usual guessing games, repeats or delays that plague many luxury cars.
The instruments showed 355 miles on the trip odo, an indicated average mileage for the trip of 26.7 mpg at an average speed just over 61 mph. Not too shabby for a 2-ton V8 luxury car.
We spent the entire day driving the Genesis around Columbus, trying to deteriorate our average mileage figure. But that did not happen. After an effortless, trafficless Sunday morning drive back to our headquarters near Detroit, we had posted a 27 mpg average on the driver information center's meter at an average speed of 67 mph over a distance of 736 miles. But that's the Genesis calculating its own fuel economy. We posted a more accurate 23 mpg overall when we calculated odometer mileage divided by fuel used for the entire trip.
The Bottom Line
Throughout our experience with the Genesis, we were impressed by the way it goes about its business with quiet competence. It's Lexus-like in this regard. The Genesis is no sport sedan, but on our drive it handled fast sweepers with little body roll. The suspension again felt very plush over the undulating freeway transitions. And our fuel economy of 23 mpg matches up well to the figures we recorded for our Infiniti M35 PM long-term test vehicle-a V6-powered luxury car of about the same size. If this is what a Korean car company can do on its first attempt at a luxury car, we can't wait to drive the next one.