Hyundai carries over the powertrains from the prior Genesis for the 2015 model year, with tweaks to improve fuel economy and performance, but has enlisted some high-wattage experts to help tune the sedan's handling. And the resulting redesigned model offers strong performance, with a more nuanced driving demeanor than before.
As for whether the 2015 Genesis has what you need in a large luxury sedan, it's a matter of wants and needs. If most of your driving is on straight boulevards and freeways, the Genesis has all the performance you'll need—with an ideal mix of comfort mixed in, without ever feeling wallowy. Only if you regularly need to head over a mountain pass or along a canyon road will you understand (and care) that this definitely isn't a sport sedan.
The base engine remains a 3.8-liter V-6, now rated at 311 horsepower and 293 pound-feet of torque. It's direct-injected for better fuel economy, sings up its rev range responsively with the eight-speed automatic, and runs on regular unleaded. Power is rated lower than in the 2014 model, while torque is up slightly (333 hp, 291 lb-ft). Even the base model includes shift paddles and a manual-shift mode with a measure of direct gear control.
Somewhat stronger acceleration and more luxury credibility—although not necessarily more driving satisfaction, as we explain farther down this section—comes in the form of the 5.0-liter V-8 in pricier versions. Also direct-injected, and with impressively smooth power generation in its past life, the eight-cylinder puts out 420 hp (down a relatively insignificant 9 hp from 2014) and 383 lb-ft of torque (down a more significant 38 lb-ft). It's teamed to the same eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters, too--a touch we always appreciate.
Both engines integrate with a four-mode system (Eco, Normal, Sport, Snow) that tailors shift quality, throttle response, and stability control to the driver's taste. Whether in Normal or Sport, we found none of the hesitant downshift behavior that we've noted in some other Hyundai models; the Genesis responds quickly and decisively to a quick prod of the accelerator, and smartly downshifts a gear or two when you ease into it.
The bigger news is in traction. After rolling through the first five years as a rear-drive sedan, the Genesis adds all-wheel drive for 2015. The new system can vary the split of torque from the rear to the front wheels as traction needs arise, and Hyundai says it adds only about 165 lb to the car's weight.
Fitting all-wheel drive required a redesign of the Genesis' body structure, which in turn brought more high-strength steel into the body, for much higher levels of rigidity. That in turn helps the Genesis handle better than ever, Hyundai promises. It still sports a five-link independent suspension front and rear, but with more wheel travel and stiffer construction—and some tuning help from Lotus Engineering.
The 2015 Hyundai Genesis has a nicely tuned rear-wheel-drive architecture, but it's clearly no sport sedan, and that's underscored when the road turns tighter and twistier. The Genesis V-6 feels considerably lighter and more responsive than the V-8 models, however—because it's lighter by more than 400 pounds.
On the top Genesis 5.0 Ultimate—a model that we spent some time in on an early drive—there's an available Continuous Damping Control (CDC) air suspension that can be toggled from Normal to Sport mode. But we thought that model neither rode nor handled quite as well as the less-nose-heavy V-6—although it did manage to filter out some roughest bits of pavement.
The Genesis' steering is far better than expected; the new electric variable-ratio power steering has rack-mounted motor assist and feels like it could translate with no changes to a true sport sedan. It's neither overly heavy on center nor artificially light, and it loads up nicely with heft off center; it's also a perfect model for the kind of steering calibration Hyundai needs in its other vehicles.
The only significant disappointment was that significant nosedive, together with a rather mushy brake-pedal feel, conspired to give us an imprecise, hybrid-like feel to quick stops from city or boulevard speeds.