We’ve all heard the expression “follow the money.” Hyundai has heard it also, and has been trying to do that for a while now. Once upon a time, the upstart Korean brand was content with feeding the masses low-priced transportation that did a competent job of people moving. Yet, as much as companies love to cater to that audience, we all know the big money is found at the higher end of the curve. Honda, Nissan, and Toyota learned this years ago, and created luxury divisions to pursue that path. And they have become quite successful at demanding top dollar for those rides. Hyundai — and related brand Kia — are following the same path, except are doing it without breaking into another channel. This path is relatively new for Kia, but Hyundai has been at it a while. First with the original Genesis sedan, then followed by the top-end Equus.
But the Genesis has done more for Hyundai than increase the bottom line: it’s given buyers a place to move up to when they want more than the Sonata offers, plus has won numerous awards, lifted the brand’s overall image, and introduced the concept that luxury sedans can be a great value.
For 2015, Hyundai continues the Genesis theme of providing even more features customers want while delivering value in a tough competitive segment.Although the new Hyundai is available with both a 3.8-liter V6 and a 5.0-liter V8, this review will cover the V8 trim, while Ron Moorhead’s review of the V6 with Hyundai’s all-new all-wheel-drive system can be found here in the CarBuzzard library.
When it comes to exterior design, Hyundai’s successful fluidic sculpture has helped it achieve impressive sales success. For the new Genesis, the basic principles apply, but taken to the next step: Fluidic Sculpture 2.0. This means creating a look that is both sportier and more elegant. The large hexagonal grille will be the most polarizing part of the design for buyers. While it’s a bit in your face at first, after a while you forget about it and begin to see the prominent grille as part of the overall image. The long hood, well-defined profile, and sculpted rear may not scream unique in the segment, but it’s attractive and will hold up well until the next total redo. The exterior differences between the V8 and V6 are that the V8 adds LED foglamps standard and quad exhaust outlets, both of which are not available on the V6 trim. The V8 also offers a 19-inch wheel/tire option to step up from the standard 18s, again, not available on the V6.
Inside is exactly what you expect from Hyundai: well-crafted dash and seats, sensible technologies, and a long list of standard features on the V8 trim that tend to cost extra in competitive vehicles. Speaking of the competition, the Genesis plays in a crowded sandbox with the Lexus GS, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Cadillac CTS as the primary rivals, with the Lexus ES, BMW 5-Series, and Audi A6 as secondary challengers. Each of those vehicles offers the same high level of interior fit and finish, but Hyundai, in a head-to-head fight in high-end trim, will usually come out the winner by virtue of its longer list of standards like leather seats, real wood and aluminum trim, HID headlamps, and myriad power features. The Genesis does evoke memories of the Kia K900 inside, especially with the center console controls for the connectivity/communications system. Differences in the V8 over the V6 trim include ultra-premium leather seats, 16- versus 12-way power driver’s seat, real wood interior trim, illuminated versus regular door sill plates, and power tilt/telescoping steering wheel with memory.
The seating proportions are generous, and the passenger volume is best in class. This is partly because the Genesis is classified as a large car while the aforementioned competition is in the midsize class. Doing the breakout, the Genesis sedan has more cargo volume than all but the Benz E-Class, and more total interior volume by a considerable margin. In addition, the blue ribbon goes to the Genesis as well in overall dimensions, with a longer wheelbase, more overall width, and more overall length than the rest. Compared to the previous Genesis, wheelbase is up almost three inches, but overall length grew by less than a half inch.
To move this mass around, you better have some good powertrains, and Hyundai does. The Genesis comes in two flavors, V6 and V8. But here our discussion focuses on the Tau 5.0 V8 that has been a staple for Hyundai for a few years. The Tau engine delivers 420 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque, and leaves you wanting for nothing when you touch the throttle. What might give you pause before you plant that foot into the floor is the fuel economy. We understand that this is a V8, and naturally is thirstier than smaller engines, so the 15/23/18 fuel economy numbers might convince some to opt for the V6 instead. While 23 mpg is commendable on the highway, our observed numbers were under that. But keep in mind we were testing on Hyundai’s paid-for fuel, not our own, which would make us more conscious of our driving habits, especially as gas is bumping up against the $5/gallon cost here in Los Angeles. In Hyundai’s favor, the engine also will run just fine on regular fuel with no negative effects outside of a small reduction in peak power. Good to know, as some of the competitor’s engines require premium fuel all the time.