Review: 2009 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 V6

Justin Berkowitz
by Justin Berkowitz
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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  • Jstnspin82 Jstnspin82 on Nov 24, 2008

    Three letters for this car - BMW - when it comes to dynamic engineering, fuel efficiency, performance, and style, BMW are the experts. With the next generation BMW's bio diesel engines and hydrogen engines I don't see anyone keeping them down from the top. They have the backing and years and history. I prefer a proven success track and history and with Hyundai I don't know much, they are a fairly new company. They are in the segment with Lexus and Lexus has them beat hands down. Performance and engineering wise they can't hold a candle to BMW! After all they copied them, the back of that thing mimics a 5 series and the front mimics Mercedes S Class. Be original if you are gonna run with the big boys. Sorry the Genesis is not the best performance luxury sedan under 100k. The best would be a BMW 550i or an even more ferocious M5. After BMW, Audi, and Lexus I think Hyundai has its place. It certainly is better than any American Sedan but to compare it to BMW or Audi is irrelevant!

    • Rcdrury Rcdrury on Jan 12, 2011

      You make a good point about the quality of BMW. Besides the obviously advanced engineering, how do BMW and Mercedes achieve such consistently high quality? It is primarily the result of automation in their production processes. So, who designed and built the machines that build Mercedes and BMW automobiles? Hyundai; that's who!

  • Jeff Beeton Jeff Beeton on Oct 28, 2010

    I just looked at a 2011 Genesis with the 290 HP V-6 and it is definitley nicer overall than my base model four year old Avalon. However the Avalon has 123,000 trouble free miles on it; taken me reliably all over the Eastern US with highway mileage nearly 30 mpg and a comfortable, if not luxurious interior to carry my large butt. I fit the Japanese Buick demographic at 63, but have always loved cars. I checked out the nicely styled new Sonata but it is pointed marketing wise at the Camry, I want a larger, quieter car for lots of highway mileage until I retire in 2 to 3 years.

  • Tassos If you only changed your series to the CORRECT "Possibly Collectible, NOT Daily Driver, NOT Used car of the day", it would sound much more accurate AND TRUTHFUL.Now who would collect THIS heap of trash for whatever misguided reason, nostalgia for a much worse automotive era or whatever, is another question.
  • ToolGuy Price dropped $500 overnight. (Wait 10 more days and you might get it for free?)
  • Slavuta Must be all planned. Increase price of cars, urbanize, 15 minutes cities. Be poor, eat bugs
  • Sid SB Not seen a Core without the performance pack yet. Prefer the more understated look of the Core vs the Circuit, but both are great fun to drive.
  • El scotto Tesla has one team making EV's because that is all Tesla does. Farley -rolls eyes- decided to split Ford into two huge warring factions: ICE vs EV. Hey Jimbo, it says "FORD" on the buildings.Lord only knows what GM did internally because it's GM. I'm betting it's like Ford pitting ICE vs EVs. With GM being GM every existing division will be divided.Stellantis will keep building Challengers and Rams. Someday they may figure out that Jeep is the fugu fish of the automotive sushi world and unload to some Chinese. EV's? no, not really.If this site was The Truth About HVAC (TTAH) some on here would tell us that central heating and air causes unknown illnesses, will be bad, and cause a degradation of our nation's moral fiber. By golly they shoveled coal and carry ash buckets and that shouldn't change.