Sometimes it’s the small things that impress when you step into a new car for the first time.
In the case of the considerably mechanically revised and somewhat stylistically refreshed for 2012 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 luxury sedan, it was the driver’s side power window.
After sliding into the seat in Hyundai’s parking lot and starting the quiet and now more potent six under the hood, I lowered the window prior to going through my driving setup routine of seat, wheel, mirrors, climate control, trip computer and audio system.
What caught my attention was that it really didn’t catch my attention at all. I just became aware, as it lowered and later raised itself, that it had done so in virtual silence with silky smoothness indicating that, throughout the design and build process, there were people involved who cared about delivering a very Lexus-like level of refinement in this car, which has a starting price of just $39,999.
Okay, as noted, this is a small thing and other car makers have windows that go up and down smoothly too (although not all do it as well), but this attention to detail was also evident elsewhere.
The interior designers didn’t get carried away, but instead kept things visually simple – dressed up with woodgrain (so no trees were harmed) and aluminum-coloured trim. And functional, with easy-to-read and bright electroluminescent instruments and a simple centre stack with large info screen and a scattering of buttons backed up by a console-mounted controller.
The Genesis welcomes you into a cabin virtually unchanged for 2012 by playing a pleasant if a little hokey electronic welcoming trill (not unlike that produced by our latest washing machine) and the turn signal chimes are soft not strident. The leather-covered seats have wide-apart bolsters that make getting in and out easy (they are a little shy on lateral support, but comfortable), the steering wheel looks luxurious and feels substantial, and the interior has an open and airy feel, whether you’re sitting up front or in the roomy back seat.
And, of course, it’s a Hyundai so there’s a high level of equipment. The base car’s roster includes heated outside mirrors, automatic headlights, dual zone climate control, heated front seats, memory for driver’s seat, mirrors and wheel, sunroof and hands-free phone.
Step up to the Premium at $44,999 and you get 18-inch wheels, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, navigation, HID headlights, heated rear seat, a Lexicon 14 sound system and a power rear window shade.
The tester with Tech package lists at $49,499, and adds upgraded Lexicon 17 audio and a smarter navi system, smart cruise control, lane departure warning and driver info centre, adaptive cornering headlights, a cooled driver’s seat, a leather clad dash, woodgrain and leather wheel and auto-dimming side mirrors. Just about everything you get with the top-of-the-heap, 429-hp, 5.0-litre, V-8-engined and $53,499 R-Spec version.
A bit of a lengthy laundry list to wade through, but features and how they function are a big part of this car’s appeal.
Hyundai is all over the styling game and the Genesis marked the turning point when it was introduced for 2009. Changes for 2012 were limited to the usual mid-cycle freshening with new grille, front fascia, head and taillights, rocker panels, power folding mirrors, brushed aluminum window surrounds and wheel designs.
The mechanical side has also been significantly upgraded with the R-Spec getting an enlarged V-8, but the 3.8-litre V-6 has also been improved with the addition of gasoline direct injection, the latest technology to ensure fuel is burned as efficiently (and cleanly) as possible.
This has increased horsepower by 43 to a total of 333 hp and torque climbs to 291 lb-ft from 264 lb-ft. Translating this increased power into performance is a new eight-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic manual control that Hyundai says is six per cent more efficient than the previous six-speed.
Handling has been upgraded with one-millimetre-thicker anti-roll bars that reduce body lean in cornering and four-pot calipers now grip larger front discs.
Driven in around-town mode, the Genesis with this up-rated engine and suspension is a great dancing partner with the power and smooth response required to navigate through busy traffic. But 333 hp is a lot and if you employ all of it you’ll be hitting extra-legal speeds in just a few blinks and thankful for that extra braking power.
This extra urge is also basically guilt- and penalty-free as the new engine/transmission combo result in significantly improved fuel economy numbers: 11.1 litres/100 km city and 6.9 highway. I averaged 9.8 litres/100 km in a week of semi-rural driving and 8.2 litres/100 km at four-lane highway cruising speed.
Despite its extravagant power, don’t mistake the Genesis 3.8 for a sports sedan in the Euro-mould (or the R-Spec for that matter). That big horsepower number is more about prestige than performance. Its targeting system is firmly locked onto the luxury bullseye, which it hits just about dead centre.
2012 Hyundai Genesis 3.8
Type: Luxury sedan
Base Price: $39,999; as tested, $51,759
Engine: 3.8-litre, DOHC, V-6
Horsepower/torque: 333 hp/291 lb-ft
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.1 city/6.9 highway; regular gas
Alternatives: Acura TL, BMW 5-Series, Cadillac CTS, Infiniti M, Lexus GS, Lincoln MKS