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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
“The Genesis is no sport sedan.”
“those looking for pure tactility will be disappointed”
“equal to or better than some of its toughest competition”
Hyundai positions the rear-wheel-drive 2009 Hyundai Genesis as a competitor to some of the top sport sedans from Germany. Most reviewers lauded the depth and sophistication of the engineering in the Genesis but reported that performance, while rivaling them in numbers, wasn’t quite up to European standards of tactility and poise.
Nearly all of the publications who have reviewed the Genesis at the time of this writing were invited to a preview event in South Korea, and some reported that the driving experience was too short to provide a full evaluation of the Genesis’s performance. TheCarConnection.com’s editors drove the Genesis extensively on U.S. roads.
The base 2009 Hyundai Genesis comes with a 290-hp, 3.8-liter V-6 engine, but the real star of the lineup is the new V-8 model, featuring an all-new 4.6-liter Tau V-8. Car and Driver noted that the engine’s output of 375 hp on premium fuel “puts the engine in a fairly exclusive crowd,” but several other reviewers noted the lack of direct-injection technology in the V-8 engine, surprised by such an omission on a new engine. But Popular Mechanics commended the V-8’s 17-mpg city and 25-mpg highway fuel economy numbers, declaring them “right in line with the best of the segment.”
Both engines get a six-speed manual transmission, but several reviewers noticed the omission of steering-wheel paddle-shifters—now almost a requisite feature in sport sedans. Automobile clarified that the Genesis actually gets two different automatic transmissions: an Aisin with the V-6 and a ZF with the V-8.
There were no complaints about the Genesis’s straight-line quickness or braking. Car and Driver cited the Genesis’s 5.6-second 0-60-mph time, among other impressive performance figures, saying, “That puts the Genesis in with the lofty company it aspires to compare with.” Autoblog couldn’t find a good practical reason to buy the V-8 over the V-6, though, as the latter is nearly as fast, costs less money, and is otherwise almost identical. The V-6 version can reach 130 mph, while the V-8 tops out at 155 mph.
The way in which the 2009 Hyundai Genesis handles was much more a subject of controversy. The suspension, according to Car and Driver, “is as sophisticated as they come,” with aluminum components and a four-link front arrangement that helps reduce bump steer. “Our brief driving impression revealed well-controlled drive motions, predictable handling, and an excellent powertrain,” said Car and Driver.
Automobile appealed for more road and steering feel, commenting that “for a sedan that so unabashedly aims for the best from Germany, it still needs a more Teutonic tilt to the chassis tuning.” Road & Track explained that Hyundai has made an effort to firm up the Genesis’s multilink front and rear suspension for the U.S. market, yet it’s tuned to favor comfort. Car and Driver agreed that “the Genesis is tuned more for Lexus-like isolation than BMW-like involvement.” “Push it hard, though, and the front tires scrub into the pavement,” said Motor Trend, reiterating the lack of handling sportiness.
While the electrohydraulic steering system in V-8 models brings reasonably communicative steering, the V-6 models have an inferior system with “a disappointing lack of steering feel,” according to Automobile. The steering was also criticized by Motor Trend as somewhat light and numb, and said that it required more small corrections at high speed than the Infiniti M35. Popular Mechanics was more creative, saying that when pushed hard, the Genesis “felt like it was floating through a bucket of marshmallow fluff.”
With comparison BMW 530i, Infiniti M35, and Lexus ES 350 models on hand in South Korea, Winding Road said otherwise, curiously. Hyundai got the chassis tuning just about right, they said. “The solid chassis is nimble and strikes the right balance between agile and comfy.”
To TheCarConnection.com's editors, it's difficult to find a reason not to choose either engine. The 290-horsepower V-6 is strong and smooth enough, but the V-8 is truly remarkable. With 375 horsepower, it never seems to run out of energy. The six-speed automatic transmission coupled to both engines has a manual mode, but shift paddles would greatly accentuate the "sport" tag that Hyundai wants to be applied to the Genesis. In terms of ride and handling, the Genesis is clearly biased toward the former. It's fairly unflappable cruising over large bumps at freeway speed, and even in some back-to-back handling tests arranged by Hyundai, the Genesis acquits itself well against the Mercedes E-Class and the BMW 7-Series, even. The Genesis, though, is less confident at truly high speeds than the Germans; the cushy ride gets a little nervous at triple-digit speeds, though it never loses composure. Rapid switchbacks bring out the roll and lean designed into the ride quality, but it's controllable stuff--and another sign of Hyundai's growing confidence in tuning its cars to handle well, if on the softer side of the spectrum.
The 2009 Hyundai Genesis has impressive power and poise but ultimately lacks sport-sedan edginess.