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The Hyundai Genesis was new in 2009, and it's the car that signaled a transformation for the brand. Once best known for its economy cars, Hyundai set out to change its image with design--and with luxury. The Genesis would be followed by a Genesis Coupe, an Equus sedan, and a range of redesigned mass-market cars that turned the Hyundai nameplate into a sales powerhouse.
Five years later, the Genesis is edging to the end of its life cycle, still a handsome four-door with an amply luxurious interior, swift acceleration, and softer handling. The only major change for the 2013 model year? The departure of its mid-line 4.6-liter V-8 model, a move that clarifies the two-model lineup between a value-rich V-6 version and a performance-minded R-Spec that doesn't quite meet the high handling standards of the class.
From its first model year to today, the Genesis has never veered into the styling drama that's defined the latest Sonata or even the spunky Veloster hatchback. It's a conservative interpretation of luxury, with enough familiar touches to lure in cross-shoppers miffed at ever-rising sticker prices. The look's still fresh, though it's easy to pick out some cues from the luxury handbook--a bit of Mercedes here, a touch of Infiniti there. There's balance and polish here, and there are also hints of the Hyundai styling language that would emerge full-fledged in the cars to come, just enough to ensure the Genesis still looks good when it's on certified used-car programs in years to come. Inside, the cabin is even more convincing, with leather trim on the dash on some versions reaching far beyond Hyundai's usual station--and a knob controller connecting its infotainment systems to those in the premium German brands.
Two powertrains are offered in the Genesis. The base engine's a 3.8-liter V-6, uprated a couple of years ago to 333 horsepower, and coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The high output and direct injection--and all those gears--give it good fuel economy ratings and stout acceleration, with a hint of a snarl and an estimated 0-60 mph time of 6.0 seconds. With so much power, we'd prefer shift paddles to the lever-actuated sport mode. The same is true for the R-Spec, with 429 hp coming from its 5.0-liter V-8; it's capable of 5.0-second runs from 0 to 60 mph. It's much quicker off the line, but given the choice we prefer the base car's plush dynamics; the R-Spec's too-firm ride and steering seem out of character, and not as composed as they intend to be.Hyundai hasn't skimped on interior room inside the Genesis. It's a real five-seater, with great head, leg and knee room for front and back-seat passengers. Leather is standard on all models, with a premium grade specified on V-8 cars, and all five passengers get heated seats on V-8 versions, too--with the driver seat adding ventilation. Trunk space is generous, if not cavernous. Build quality is quite good, and truly competitive with Japanese brands, though we'd like more firmness in the Genesis' front seats, especially on the sporty R-Spec version.
Safety features have been updated to include a lane-departure warning system (standard on V-8s, optional on V-6s), and all Genesis sedans have eight airbags, including rear-seat side airbags. However, a rearview camera is an option on six-cylinder cars; we think it should be standard on any luxury sedan, for safety's sake. The IIHS gives the Genesis its Top Safety Pick award, and though the NHTSA hasn't completed all its tests, the Genesis does earn a five-star rollover resistance score.
Every Genesis comes with Bluetooth, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, and satellite radio and a USB port. The V-6 version can be optioned up with premium and technology packages to approach the comprehensive features found on V-8 cars, including the fantastic Lexicon audio system. On the R-Spec, everything is standard--but there's no option for all-wheel drive on any Genesis. It's a small price to pay for the Genesis' bargain sticker, which begins in the mid-$30,000 range, or for its excellent warranty coverage.
- Gutsy acceleration in either model
- Rich, handsome interior
- Smooth, quiet ride
- Big, roomy back seat
- Good gas mileage for size
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- Harsh R-Spec ride
- No all-wheel-drive option
- Rearview camera an option on base car
- No paddle shift controls