2015 Hyundai Genesis Sedan
The first-generation Hyundai Genesis sedan was an interesting value proposition among luxury four-doors, but it was way out of its league when it came to ride quality and dynamics. A partnership with Lotus—constructor of some of the best-handling cars ever made—was exactly what Hyundai needed if it was going to move on from worst handling and riding car in middle luxury. Sure enough, the collaboration appears to have paid off big time.
You won’t find Isuzu Impulse–style “Handling by Lotus” badges on the Genesis’s flanks. That would have cost Hyundai more money and required Lotus’s involvement earlier than May 2013, which is when the partnership began. True to its reputation, Hyundai bought itself an incredible value.Lotus didn’t just provide guidance, though. Becker and a second Lotus engineer were added manpower for the four and a half engineers (one is a manager that only tunes cars part-time) who are responsible for the chassis calibration of every Kia and Hyundai sold in America. Becker also brought some clout to negotiations with Korea, where the voice of the consultant carries greater weight than does that of Hyundai’s own American engineers.
The pursuit of a more compliant and more composed suspension was buoyed by a significantly stiffer structure. More than half of the new Genesis’s body is advanced high-strength steel and there’s an additional 126 feet of structural adhesive used in assembly. Under the hood, there’s corner bracing all the way around the engine compartment, as well as rigid, die-cast aluminum strut mounts that allow Hyundai to use two parts where the last car used 22 steel stampings welded together.
Whether it’s the product of Korea, Hyundai America, or Lotus, the end result is unlike any Hyundai we’ve ever driven. The Genesis’s firm steering is attentive on-center and weights up progressively in corners. The wheel is neither heavy nor light, but perfectly matched to the character of the car and the speed of the variable-ratio rack. Over cracked asphalt and sweeping bends outside of Scottsdale, Arizona, the Genesis flaunted graceful damping and convincing body control.
The top-trim V-8 Ultimate model comes with electronic dampers, but we prefer the conventional shocks on the V-6 car. In their standard setting, the adjustable dampers are tuned to be softer than the fixed-rate units and some side-to-side wobble is felt when the road dips and pitches. Sport mode firms them up for body control on par with that of the six-cylinder car, but also forces the transmission to shift earlier and hold lower gears.
It’s telling that neither Hyundai’s executives nor its engineers mentioned the words “sports sedan” in talking about the new Genesis. The car isn’t particularly spry. Rather, it delivers the refined ride and the competent handling that’s the price of entry to selling a luxury car. This new Genesis should give the Lexus GS, the BMW 5-series, and the Mercedes-Benz E-class a scare, while knocking off the well-rounded Audi A6 and the knife-edged Cadillac CTS in a sports-sedan shootout is probably asking too much.
The Genesis’ two engines are carry-over pieces—a 3.8-liter V-6 and a 5.0-liter V-8—both making less power than last year. Hyundai’s goal was to improve drivability rather than outright performance. That’s an indication that Hyundai has possibly graduated from engineering to a spec sheet and is now concentrating on honing the idiosyncratic characteristics that separate merely good cars from great cars.
The 311-hp V-6 emits a bawdy intake honk that’s far louder than the V-8’s and does a commendable job of motivating the Genesis’s two-plus tons. The 420-hp V-8 should improve on the six’s 0-to-60 time by almost a second, doing the deed in just over five seconds. The 5.0-liter is more about luxury than performance, though. It’s more notable for a polished idle and easy off-the-line acceleration than instantaneous responses. As the German competition moves toward all-turbo engine lineups, however, Hyundai’s naturally aspirated powertrains can’t match the low- and mid-range thrust.