(MCT) -- When Hyundai unleashed the 2009 Genesis, its first upscale sedan in the United States, it possessed a typical Hyundai trait: a bargain price when compared to the competition.
That this rear-wheel-drive midsize sedan didn't quite measure up to its competitors in terms of performance or fit and finish didn't matter. The first-gen Genesis was close enough. And its bland styling made it a safe, if unexciting, choice. It was like buying a fake Louis Vuitton wallet on the streets of New York for $10. Who would know the difference?
Since then, Hyundai's lineup has clawed its way out of the bargain bin and into the breach of style leader, thanks to its 'Fluidic Sculpture' design language that banished the brand's bland self and put the marque squarely in the mainstream with such products as the Sonata and Santa Fe.
So it's little surprise that for 2015, it's the dawn of a new Genesis, and the resulting sedan is quite possibly the best vehicle that Hyundai currently offers.
Perhaps the biggest reason for this is its styling. In era when even subcompacts can be fitted with heated leather seats, a luxury sedan must possess more than a laundry list of upscale features. This the Genesis does. Its look is particularly impressive, with sober, flowing lines that possess a grace lacking in previous large Hyundais.
That said, Hyundai has never been shy about borrowing designs from other high-end automakers, and so it goes with this new Genesis, which borrows its most distinctive styling element, its massive hexagonal grille, from Audi. It seems that old habits die hard. You can understand why when you consider that when left to their own devices, Hyundai designers tend to go for a more generic look. This explains the car's unremarkable rear view. Still, whatever raspberries you can toss at it, the Genesis has a substantial presence that the previous model lacked.
This newfound seriousness continues in the cabin, with handsome design and upgraded materials, key among them, matte-finish open-pore wood, the latest rage in car interior accents. But you'll appreciate other things that aren't as apparent, such as comfortable, supportive 12-way power heated front seats with optional ventilation. Heated rear seats are also available. Taller drivers will appreciate the driver's seat cushion extension.
A 9.2-inch high-definition display, a 64GB Solid State Drive for multimedia, and a premium 17-speaker, 900-watt Lexicon audio system anchors the instrument panel.
More importantly, Hyundai has incorporated some high-tech features that you'll appreciate. Its second-generation Blue Link system allows Google Glass users to access Blue Link's various features. Elsewhere, the Genesis's infotainment system incorporates Apple's Siri-powered Eyes-Free to power various features. There's even a CO2 sensor.
The test vehicle supplied by Hyundai was opulently equipped thanks to three packages. The first was a $4,000 Signature Package which included a panoramic sunroof, memory seats, front seat ventilation, auto dimming mirrors, rear sunshades, and, most importantly, blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert. The second package was a $3,500 Tech Package, which added lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, emergency brake assist, electronic parking brake, parking assist and an electronic instrument cluster. The final package was the $3,500 Ultimate Package, which includes matte wood and aluminum trim, head-up display, power trunk lid, and the afore-mentioned 9.2-inch high-def display and Lexicon audio system. In other words, the amount of luxury you get on your Genesis depends on how many options you choose.
So, while most of the luxury on this Hyundai is optional, one thing is not: a high-end driving experience.
For 2015, Hyundai redesigned its rear-wheel-drive platform to accommodate a new all-wheel-drive system. The new platform was developed with the help of Lotus Engineering, and it shows in the Genesis's performance.
Buyers can choose between a 420-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 or a 311-horsepower 3.8-liter V6. Both engines feature double overhead cams, variable valve timing and are mated to a Hyundai-developed eight-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is available with the V6.
The test vehicle was the V6, all-wheel-drive model and while not the fastest luxury sedan ever driven, it was remarkably better than any other Hyundai I have sampled. It is remarkably refined, with little of the crash and bang dynamics that are a hallmark of Korean suspensions, the ride was absorbent and comfortable without undue body motions over our deteriorating arteries. This Genesis has the poise and self-assurance one would expect. The eight-speed automatic makes the most of the available power; so most drivers will forego the V8 and pocket the saving at the pump. Best of all, the cabin is blessedly quiet.
This is the clincher.
Styling, features and build quality aside, it's what makes this car a standout for Hyundai, and what will ultimately seal the deal for those buyers who can look past this brand's low-price past. The Genesis is an amazingly assured premium sedan that will comfortably deliver what buyers in this class expect.
Powertrain: 311-horsepower 3.8-liter V6, eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive
Wheelbase: 118.5 inches
Length: 196.5 inches
Cargo space: 15.3 cubic feet
Weight: 4,295 pounds
EPA rating (city/highway): 16/25 mpg
NHTSA safety rating: 5 stars
Base price, base model: $38,000
Base price, test model: $40,500
As tested: $52,450
ABOUT THE WRITER
Larry Printz is automotive editor at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. He can be reached at email@example.com.
(c)2014 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)
Visit The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.) at pilotonline.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services