Review: 2009 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 V6

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.

  • THX1136 According to the cost for catalytic converter 'repair' is between $945 and $2475. They claim the converter cost itself can be up to $2250. Figuring $880 a unit doesn't seem too far out of line if the carbrain info is accurate. Wonder if gas theft is still going strong on the west coast also?
  • KOKing I'm not sure what to make of the small commercial van market in the US. There are a fair number of Transit Connects and ProMasterCitys, but Nissan/Chevy dumped the NV200 even though they seemed to sell well (though I guess Nissan decided to get out of the commercial space entirely), and I don't think Stellrysler ever bothered C/V-ing the Pacifica.
  • SCE to AUX "a future in which V8-powered muscle cars duke it out with EVs for track superiority"That's been happening for years on drag strips, and now EVs are listed in the top Nurburgring lap times.I find EV racing very boring to watch, and the lack of sound kills the experience. I can't imagine ever watching a 500-mile EV race such as Daytona or Indy, even if the tech or the rules allow such a race to happen.As for owning an electric muscle car, they already exist... but I've never owned a muscle car, don't want one, and can't afford one anyway. For me, it's a moot question.
  • MaintenanceCosts I don't and realistically won't drive on track, but I think the performance characteristics of EV powertrains are just plain superior on the street. You get quicker response, finer control over the throttle, no possibility of being out of the powerband and needing a time-consuming shift, more capability in the speed range where you actually drive, and less brake heat. The only "problem" (and there are many situations where it's a plus, not a problem) is the lack of noise.
  • JMII After tracking two cars (a 350Z and a C7) I can't imagine tracking an EV because so much of your "feeling" of driving comes from sound. That said you might be able to detect grip levels better as tire sounds could be heard easier without the roar of the engine and exhaust. However I change gears based mostly on sound so even an automatic (like a C8) that would be a disappointment on track. Hearing an engine roar is too important to the overall experience: so tracking an EV? No thanks!I've driven an electric go-kart around a track as my only point of reference and its weird. It sort of works because a kart is so small and doesn't require shifting plus you still hear the "engine" whirring behind you. The sensation is like driving cordless drill, so there is some sense of torque being applied. You adapt pretty quickly but it just seems so wrong. With a standard ICE car, even a fast one, RPMs raise and fall with each shift so there is time to process the wonderful sounds and they give you a great sense of the mechanical engine bits working to propel you.I feel track toys will always be ICE powered, similar to how people still enjoy sailing or horseback riding as "sports" despite both forms of transportation being replaced by superior technology. I assume niche companies will continue to build and maintain ICE vehicles. In the future you'll have to take your grand-kids to the local track to explain that cars were once glorious, smoke spewing, noisy things. The smells and the sounds are unique to racing so they need to stay that way. Often a car goes by while your in the pits and you can identify it by sound alone... I would hate to lose that.