2009 Hyundai Genesis 4.6

John Konkal

Don't look too closely at the Jaguar's awkward headlights, or you'll forget to notice how gorgeous the rest of the car is. In contrast to the derivative Hyundai, the all-business Mercedes, and the introverted Lexus, the Jaguar is an epiphany of design. Every cutline, every detail, and every bulge is a triumphant piece of jewelry - and the longer you stare at it, the more you notice. Your eyes can fully digest the Mercedes in eight seconds, but it takes hours to truly appreciate the Jaguar's complex shape.

The Jaguar also has the most modern-looking interior, although it borders on kitschy, with rotating vents and a circular gear selector that rises slowly from the center console as the engine is started. At night, the dash illuminates in blue, with thin lines that remind us of the science-fiction movie Tron. Looking at - not touching - the Jaguar's interior is the best way to enjoy it, as the materials don't feel quite as nice as they appear. And the entire interior tends to creak and rattle while driving.

This isn't true for the Hyundai's rock-solid interior, which is the richest of the group both in appearance and feel. Its swooping, two-tone, leather-covered dashboard mimics that of an S-class and is refreshingly clean and uncluttered. Its perforated leather seats are the warmest (visually - the seat cooler on the driver's seat will render your unmentionables frostbitten) and most inviting of the group, and the wood steering-wheel rim looks as though it were lifted straight out of a posh LS460. With the key comfortably in your pocket, press the START button, and the Hyundai's white-on-black gauges perform the same startup ritual we've become accustomed to in every Lexus, with luminescent needles glowing brightly as the numeric markings gradually become visible. Actually, the entire experience from behind the wheel of the Genesis leads you to believe you're in a Lexus.

The particular Lexus in this test, however, offers a more athletic-looking interior than the others. The GS460 has brushed-metal gauge faces and a three-spoke steering wheel that work in concert with a louder, if occasionally boomy, exhaust note to give a sporty impression. Our test car's monochromatic interior left us a little cold, though, and the LED cabin lighting must have been designed by a photophobic migraine sufferer - open the doors at night, and the interior is illuminated with all the lumens of a sickly glowworm.

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