The Hyundai Genesis just feels right. The steering has enough weight and precision to interest a driving enthusiast, while remaining light enough to appease the casual commuter. The engine and transmission are smooth and restrained, but can usher up performance if you mash the go pedal. All the buttons, gauges, and screens are legible and easy to use. The headlights now have a cool curved LED accent strip, which looks fantastic at night. In short, every part of the Genesis feels taut, precise, and elegant.
For 2012, the car's 3.8-liter V-6 has been upgraded with direct fuel injection, yielding more horsepower and torque, while the five-speed automatic is replaced by a new eight-speed automatic. The ostensible goal of the changes is better fuel economy, but the improvements also make the Genesis significantly quicker. The V-6 car now feels as fleet as the outgoing Genesis V-8, and there is even a subtle, sporty intake snarl above 3000 rpm. While the eight-speed auto is very good, its manual-shift mode is useless: manual shifts are slow and hesitant.
Not only can the Genesis engage driving enthusiasts, it can also serve as an outstanding luxury sedan. The styling is refined and classy, and the interior appointments wouldn't look out of place in a competing German luxury machine. The ride is smooth, the trunk is large, and the rear seat offers enough space for taller business associates. Just like the car company that built it, the Hyundai Genesis excels without calling excessive attention to itself.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
When Hyundai came out with the Genesis sedan in 2008, my take-away from the Koreans' first stab at the luxury elite was that they were about 85 percent on its way to competing with the likes of Mercedes and BMW, but that come the second-generation models, they likely would be the ones to beat. With the Genesis now having received a mid-cycle refresh for 2012, you would think it would take a step closer to expectation of perfection. Instead, it is keeping up with the pack and holding steady at 85 percent of the competition.
That said, the Genesis remains a spectacular value. While it may not carry the prestige and the same level of luxurious trimmings as a BMW or a Mercedes, it is in another league compared to its direct competition of the Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus, and Toyota Avalon. The revised powertrain (direct injection for the 3.8-liter V-6 and a new eight-speed automatic) feels smoother and more powerful than the Avalon's; its interior is better designed and more aesthetically pleasing than the 300; and it has a more cohesive exterior design and is more fuel efficient than the Taurus. In fact, the Genesis' 19/29 mpg rating may be an understatement -- over the course of 947 miles of weekend driving on flat, open, Midwest highways the trip computer was showing an average of 30.7 mpg; highest average seen was 31.2 mpg. Combined with a 19.3-gallon tank, the Genesis went through just over two tanks of gas -- and that's regular gas.
With a plush but not floaty ride and miserly consumption habits, the Genesis makes a near-perfect road trip car. The problem lies in the infotainment system, which did not get any kind of upgrade with the 2012 redo. It's too bad that it didn't because while the iDrive-style knob is reasonably intuitive to learn, too many submenus, a delicate-feeling rotary knob, and a buggy operating system had me wishing for something simpler. Twice the system completely crashed and restarted itself, both times refusing to detect my phone through Bluetooth or the USB cable. The radar-guided cruise control, however, worked perfectly, and was remarkably good at keeping the distance to the vehicle ahead and applying the brakes, even if acceleration back to the set speed was abrupt. Surprising for a near-luxury car in 2012 was the absence of a blind-spot monitoring system, especially given the high-end cruise control system.
Even with those few foibles, it's hard to beat the Genesis for a long road trip against the Ford, Chrysler, and Toyota. It may not have the brand cache Hyundai is hoping to create for it (and for the larger Equus), but no other manufacturer has yet to top the Genesis at the price level. As for BMW and Mercedes, they can breathe easy, for now, as Hyundai isn't playing in the big leagues...yet.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
With the upgraded powertrain for 2012, the Genesis comes much closer to truly being the poor man's BMW 5-series. Previously, the V-6 engine was only OK, but now it's pretty darn good, even if it's not as mellifluous as a German six -- or even the V-6 under the hood of the Toyota Avalon, for that matter. The Genesis feels substantial and solid from behind the wheel. It's sporty enough to satisfy enthusiast drivers yet luxurious enough to please sybarites. The instrument panel and other interior appointments are tasteful and restrained, and the navigation and entertainment system control screen and dial knob are intuitive and perform brilliantly. The one thing that's missing here is available all-wheel drive, which is increasingly a requisite option for a rear-wheel-drive performance luxury sedan.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
The V-6 makes this big car so surprisingly quick that I had to double-check that this wasn't the new 5.0-liter Genesis. This is actually the first time I've driven a V-6 Genesis sedan, and I now see less reason to recommend the V-8. This remains the highly impressive, lots-for-your-money sedan that came out in late 2008; the V-6 saves you a whopping $10,300 versus the V-8 and offers 2 or 3 more mpg as well.
I drove mostly on newly resurfaced roads, but it seems like Hyundai has improved the Genesis's ride quality since we tested our Four Seasons 2009 Genesis 4.6. Another note: I was impressed by how vault like the Genesis sounded when I closed the door upon entering it last night. I felt like I was in a Lexus or an Audi commercial.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Despite that fact that you can buy a $15,000 Accent in the same showroom, the Hyundai Genesis is a genuine threat to the less sporty luxury makers like Lexus, Acura, and Lincoln. Hyundai has done an impressive job researching, understanding, and executing a luxury car and to be frank, the Korean badge is probably the biggest hurdle the Genesis has to clear. It offers a pleasant, comfortable cabin; a composed and isolated ride; and good power.
While the 333-hp V-6 is surprisingly quick at full throttle, it takes some time for the six-speed automatic to downshift before the Genesis is really hustling. I would eagerly recommend a six-cylinder 5-series to a V-8 owner, but I wouldn't advise the same to someone looking at a Genesis. The delay between stomping the throttle and waiting for the engine to wind up actually feels like an old-school, laggy turbo engine. Hyundai's optional 4.6- and 5.0-liter V-8s deliver a substantially different character with smoother, faster response. That's not to say that the V-6 is a bad engine, but it's not quite as collected as what you'd get in a proven German competitor.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor