Review: 2009 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 V6
In 2002, my friend Patrick threw a glass ashtray at me in a bar in Boston. “Berzerkowitz!,” he barked, celebrating the successful hit right in the middle of my forehead. That’s how he said hi. The next morning, once he sobered up, and my face still hurt like a sonofabitch, we went for a ride in the car he rented for the weekend. “It’s the most generic car I have ever driven,” Pat told me from the driver’s seat of a Hyundai XG350L.
That was when entry level-luxury Infinitis, Acuras, and Lexuses were front wheel drive, and packed just north of 200 horsepower. It didn’t matter that the Hyundai’s wood trim was horrible or that the seats were dirty pleather. It was a Hyundai, and nobody was going to take it seriously even if, on paper, it toed-up with the competition for close to ten grand less.
And now that Hyundai’s overall rep has transitioned from punch line to resolute not-that-bad-ness, the Korean bra
nd will again try to sell you a cut-price luxury car in the form of the Genesis, a name that reveals a marketing department with way too much power and/or a blinding amount of engineering arrogance. The problem is that neither the arrogance nor the marketing department has done a very good job.
The Genesis looks like a luxury car. I think. It’s big, it has luxury car lines. As it should, thanks to a rear wheel-drive (RWD) chassis and RWD proportions. But what’s stopping the Genesis from looking like an Infiniti M35? A Lexus GS? An E-Class? An Acura I-forget-the-letters? Nothing at all. Nothing makes it any different, either. There isn’t even a logo on the front—just a Merc-Benzian chrome grill. Usually, people looking for a safe luxury buy don’t just want the look; they want the badge and the brand. Hence the reason Lexus does so well, in spite of selling Lexuses.
There’s very little in the appearance, inside or out, that gives away the Genesis’ ruse as a big luxury car. The fit
and finish of the interior is top shelf. The materials, including a leather-covered dash with de rigeur exposed stitching looks contemporary—even beautiful. Gadgets and toys abound although such niceties have never attracted me to any car. Only some very tacky, shit-class wood trim on the doors reminds that you’re in a Hyundai, which is supposed to be a knock off of “better” cars.
The Genesis doesn’t drive as you’d suppose. With Hyundai’s (probably self-perpetuated) reputation of knocking-off Toyotas (so to speak), I was expecting nothing short of a cushy, neo-Cadillac ride. But it’s not. Isolating, yes, and extremely quiet. But the Genesis’ suspension is more Germanic sportster than Japanese recliner. Steering feedback, brisk handling and tight turning capabilities combine to make this a surprisingly sharp drive.
Pistonheads are all abuzz about the Korean’s V8 (a review for which you’ll have to wait). Meanwhile, the Genesis’ destined-to-be-default 3.8-liter V6 is rated at some 290 horsepower. That makes for some quick acceleration from a standstill. But like so many of these “overboosted” V6 engines shooting for high horsepower bragging rights, the 3700lb four-door runs out of puff once in motion (i.e., 264 lb·ft of torque at 4,500 rpm). It would certainly be an error to call the Genesis V6 a slow car, but it ain’t quick neither.
Hyundai’s Super Bowl ads said it offered the size and power of a 7-Series for the price of a 3-Series. If we all bought cars on paper descriptions, that might be an enticing argument. But when push comes to your bank account, how in good faith can you choose the V6 Genesis over one of its stellar competitors? Because it’s bigger? Or because it might be a few grand less to buy?
Even with a fairly strong residual estimate (around 50 percent), you’re going to take an acid rain shower when resale time comes. And Hyundai’s “aggressive” 24 month lease program—$399/month with about $2200 down—is barely better than a deal on a nicely loaded Benz C300. And unlike the Mercedes, which reeks of permanence in its badge and solid construction, I cannot come up with a way to call the Genesis interesting.
I’m sure the 375 horsepower V8 will liven things up when it goes on sale next month (though I’d rather forego the luxury, get a Pontiac G8 GT, and pocket several thousand bucks). But in the meantime, Hyundai has reprised its role as the firm that can build the most generic car on the road. Just like the XG350 that my ashtray-throwing friend lambasted, this is without doubt Hyundai’s best car yet. But it’s not special. Without the right or indeed any luxury brand logo, it will make for a tough sell. And a questionable buy.
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