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Family Wheels Hyundai Genesis

Luxury Hyundai makes a great family hauler Add to ...

When I tell people Hyundai is making some really great cars these days, the response is usually: “Really? I thought Hyundai’s cars were [ insert four-letter word here].”

News flash: Those days are long over.

If you still have your doubts – and you’re in the market for a luxury sedan – I suggest you stop by your Hyundai dealer to test drive a 2012 Genesis. You’ll never say a bad word about Hyundai again.

My family took a Genesis 3.8 sedan on a 1,700-kilometre journey through Ontario, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois, and the verdict was unanimous: The Genesis rocks.

It’s a superb highway cruiser, with plenty of power, a comfortable ride, ultra-quiet cabin and loads of luxury features. Oh, and it costs thousands less than competing European sedans.

The big change for the 2012 Genesis is an increase in power.

Our test car was equipped with an all-new V-6 direct-injected engine that generates 333 horsepower, up from 290 in the 2011 model. Hyundai also makes a 5.0-litre V-8 version cranking out 429 horses, but I found that the V-6 had more than enough giddy-up. The standard eight-speed automatic transmission shifted smoothly, and the car accelerated with authority, allowing for effortless highway passing as we cruised down I-94.

Through Michigan and Indiana, the speed limit is 70 mph (113 km/h), but I found myself going slightly faster when the situation warranted: Passing a mobile home with a “wide load” sign on the back, for example, or blowing by a long line of 18-wheelers. But at no point did the engine sound like it was being taxed.

And thanks to the car’s quiet, comfortable ride and supportive seats, driver fatigue never became an issue. The passengers – my wife and two kids – never complained, either, even though we were on the road for more than eight hours on two separate days.

“I like it because the ride is very smooth and comfortable,” my wife said.

My kids liked it because they had lots of room in the back seat and never had to strain to hear the portable DVD player, thanks to minimal road and wind noise intruding into the cabin.

The car’s Smart Cruise Control – which senses when another car is ahead and automatically applies the brakes to keep a safe distance – took some getting used to. In light to moderate traffic, it made for stress-free driving, but when the highway was congested I found it easier to turn the cruise control off so the brakes wouldn’t kick in constantly.

The Smart Cruise feature was part of the Technology Package, which raised the price of our Genesis 3.8 to $49,499 from $39,999 for the base model. The tech package also included a lane departure warning system, auto-cornering headlights, rear back-up camera and navigation system, among other goodies.

The 17-speaker audio system sounded terrific, but the multimedia joystick-style controller was confusing at times. At one point, I inadvertently muted the sound on the stereo and couldn’t figure out how to turn it back on. Frustrated, I pulled over and turned the car off. When I turned it on again, the sound came back. I still have no idea what I did to kill the volume.

One thing I found pleasantly surprising was the Genesis’s tight turning circle. Despite being a full-size sedan, the car handled the cramped parking lots at McDonald’s and Tim Hortons with the aplomb of a compact.

Parallel parking was also a breeze: When I shifted the car into reverse, the side-view mirrors automatically tilted downward to provide a view of the curb. When I parked the car and locked the doors, the side mirrors folded inward.

On a few occasions when I had to get something from the car at night, lights on the side mirrors allowed me to see what I was doing. You don’t actually need any of these features, of course, but they add to the Genesis’s luxury appeal.

Another big plus was the Genesis’s expansive trunk. We took along four travel bags, a couple of small coolers and a bunch of toys we were passing along to our friends’ daughter in Chicago. We could have crammed twice as much stuff in there.

After we got home, I drove to the garden centre to buy some soil to fill in a hole that had mysteriously appeared in our backyard. The trunk easily accommodated 10 bags of soil.

Many years ago, I learned to drive a stick shift on my friend’s rusted-out Hyundai Pony. Since then I’ve driven Hyundai Accents, Elantras and Sonatas, and been largely impressed with the strides the company has made. The Genesis vaults Hyundai to a new level.

Tech specs

2012 Hyundai Genesis 3.8

Type: Full-size sedan

Base Price: $39,999; as tested, $49,499

Engine: 3.8-litre V-6

Horsepower/Torque: 333 hp/291 lb-ft

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Drive: Rear-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.1 city/6.9 highway; regular gas

jheinzl@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @johnheinzl

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