Although the Genesis sedan is less of a revelation than it was when it debuted three years ago, it's still a worthwhile option in the near-luxury segment. Its infotainment interface continues to be one of the most attractive and user-friendly systems and its cabin remains cosseting and unique without feeling stuffy or overwrought.
Unfortunately, the Genesis's primary shortcoming hasn't changed either: its exterior design is as dull and derivative as ever -- I had several people ask me why I was driving a last-gen Lexus. But, rather than addressing its primary shortcoming with some crisp, new sheetmetal, Hyundai chose instead to make the Genesis more desirable by cramming a bigger V-8 under the hood. It may not remedy the Genesis's design deficiency, but it is an excellent engine, so it's not an unwelcome move. It's smooth and eager, and although it falls short of the big Hemi in Chrysler's 300 in terms of sheer grunt and aural goodness, it makes this big Hyundai deceptively quick.
What's too bad is that most consumers won't notice. The 5.0-liter engine is great and it differentiates the Genesis a bit from the majority of its competitors, but Hyundai might get a bigger reaction from American consumers by instead giving the Genesis a handsome new suit of sheetmetal, a la the Sonata and the Elantra.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
Hyundai impressed a lot of people when the Genesis sedan debuted. Pundits didn't think buyers would really thrown down $33,000+ for something with a Hyundai badge, but the Hyundai badge didn't scare off too many people and sales were very strong. Unless you were concerned primarily with driving dynamics, the Genesis sedan offered all the luxury touches that mattered and its pricing advantage was certainly appealing as the world economy tanked. There was also something to be said for buying a Hyundai instead of a new BMW or Lexus at a time when so many people were losing their jobs. Even those who were doing well felt a need to tone down the conspicuous consumption for a while.
Now the economy seems a little more stable (for the time being) and traditional luxury brands are picking up sales again. The Genesis saw sales of just under 33,000 cars last year, but Hyundai combines coupe and sedan sales to get to that number. It seems interest in the Genesis brand isn't declining, even as shoppers return to more traditional luxury brands.
Hyundai did a pretty minor refresh for the 2012 Genesis sedan; it included a new V-8 engine, a revised V-6, and some suspension tuning. Overall, the effort really makes a difference for the sort of buyer who enjoys driving -- but I don't think those who love to drive are really considering the Genesis. It would have made a lot more sense for Hyundai to upgrade the infotainment system to at least match what the Veloster offers at about half the price. One of the things that Hyundai does really well right now is combine the navigation system and audio system in an intuitive package that doesn't scare off technophobes but also offers enough features for technophiles. But Hyundai is only doing that in its cheapest models, not in the Genesis or Equus.
The 2012 Hyundai Genesis is definitely an improved product, but the entry-level Hyundai products offer a real leap forward for the brand while the flagship nameplates have quickly shown their age.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
The snow has been rare in southeast Michigan this winter, but on the day I drove the Hyundai Genesis I woke to a couple of inches of the white stuff. I figured it would be a good test for the Genesis - a rear-wheel-drive V-8-powered sedan that happened to be wearing all-season tires rather than the winter tires that we usually recommend for this time of year. To leave my neighborhood, I have to drive up a slight incline that can be surprisingly difficult to manage in the winter, but the Genesis handled it well as the traction control kicked in and apportioned the power so that forward progress was unimpeded.
Although the exterior of the Genesis doesn't really stand out in the crowd, the cabin is actually quite welcoming - literally, as it chimes pleasantly when you get in. The interior design and quality of the materials isn't quite up to the standards of, say, Audi or Jaguar, but it's still a comfortable, inviting space that lacks few of the amenities you'd expect in an upscale sedan. For me, the only disappointment in the interior came when I looked up - the headliner is nicely padded but covered in a material that feels like polyester, and the plastic in the overhead console looks and feels a little downmarket. On the plus side, I like the two-tone interior with light-colored seats and dark carpeting, which hides dirt and winter schmutz when it accumulates on the floor.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
The Genesis feels and sounds like a Lexus when you're inside it: buttons and switches are silky in operation, the ride is creamy, and the engine is muted. The steering is light and nonlinear and feels a bit disconnected. The headlamps are superb, and so is the interior lighting, which is clean and white, not yellow. I like the shallow dash and the relatively upright windshield; there's not a mass of dashboard to peer over when you're looking out the front of the car.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
I walked into the airport parking lot with a colleague from another car magazine. Waiting for him was one of my favorite luxury sedans, the Audi A8. I ordinarily would have been extremely (and unreasonably) jealous, but I saw the LED lights wake up on my own black four-door chariot. For all the nits we pick about the Genesis's dynamics and appearance, it still passes this crucial luxury-car crucible -- it looks expensive.
It feels it, too. The interior welcomes you with a rich leather smell and more bright LED lighting. Pressing the starter button calls up some sort of tune that makes you feel like you're about to play a Sega Genesis game - cheesy - but the deep grumble of the 5.0-liter V-8 sets all to rights again.
As my colleagues have noted, the Genesis is no sport sedan. However, I find it capable, smooth, and solid - again, exactly what one expects of a large premium sedan. The V-8 is particularly impressive, delivering its 429 hp in an uninterrupted, sweet-sounding surge as I merge onto the highway. The steering and suspension are where Hyundai still comes up short. The more established players in this segment - Jaguar, BMW, Mercedes, and even Cadillac - balance athleticism with luxurious smoothness. That balance eludes Hyundai - the steering is too heavy and its suspension too harsh without the corresponding capability.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor