Why the change? With our new review format, TheCarConnection.com is examining sources from around the Web and letting you know which opinions matter--with our editorial team's opinion guiding the way. In our first exposure to the Genesis, most of the test drives took place in prototypes and on non-U.S. roads. With the change in venue--real cars riding on real American roads--it's appropriate to revisit scoring, and it's something TheCarConnection.com will keep doing in all its reviews. We'll re-evaluate cars as we drive them more and as more reviews come in through a car's lifespan.
I found out plenty about the Genesis's performance on the hilly drive to Ojai and the flat, dusty stretch out toward Buttonwillow, along with my Autoblog co-pilot. Driving both the V-6 version and the powerful V-8 model, 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. It's enough to boost the Genesis to an 8, in our opinion.
In terms of comfort and quality, the Genesis's sometimes lavish interior trim and large backseat deserve an upgrade from a 7 to an 8. The initial set of reviews and our initial impressions were that some fit and finish issues still had to be sorted out. Spending a day in a saddle-interior Genesis and a version with the perforated leather package, we could only find a minor flaw or two in the Genesis's upscale cabin. It's heavily reminiscent of the Infiniti M, especially in the center stack, where a wave of silver buttons controls the major functions (there's also an iDrive-like controller that manipulates media and climate controls). The buttons can be hard to pick out from behind the wheel, when you just want to speed up the fan--but the look is sophisticated and rich. Hyundai's entertainment controller made connecting to music in an iPhone a breeze, and its navigation menus seemed far easier to use than some setups. The backseat has truly adult-sized room; you can cross a leg over knee and still have enough room between it and the front seat back. A minor ripple in a pre-production V-8 sedan with the leather-trimmed dash was the only noticeable flaw.
The Genesis isn't done here. A Coupe version is coming, and product planners say all-wheel drive is possible mid-cycle--so I expect Hyundai's plans for a big crossover vehicle to share a lot of Genesis pieces. As the time comes for more information on that vehicle, TheCarConnection.com will be there to keep you posted. In the meantime, get all the information on the 2009 Genesis including pricing, specifications, and of course, our full review here.