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The Genesis was named the 2009 Canadian Car of The Year by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. (David Dewhurst)
The Genesis was named the 2009 Canadian Car of The Year by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. (David Dewhurst)

2009 Hyundai Genesis

With Genesis, Hyundai grows up Add to ...

The dictionary says "genesis" can mean either a starting point or an evolution, but in the context of an automotive nameplate attached to South Korean car-maker Hyundai's first true luxury sedan, it actually refers to both.

Some might find it hard - particularly those who drove a Pony - to make the three-decade mental leap between the unpretentious subcompact that provided Canadians' first exposure to the Hyundai brand in the 1980s and the sophisticated Genesis sedan the company launched for 2009.

But an evolution from that humble start, it most definitely is. Not perhaps in direct design and mechanical terms, as Hyundai borrowed from various foreign sources before learning enough to take things in-house, but certainly in a corporate ideology sense.

Hyundai has never been shy about its ambitions and the Genesis is where it has always been heading. It also marks a beginning, in that we now have to think in a new light of the car maker, which has become the world's fifth-largest.

In fact, the Genesis might be considered a celebratory offering to Hyundai's coming of age, along with its first step into the realm of real luxury.

Hyundai has produced a "luxury" top-of-the-liner since the early '90s, the early ones basically a rebadged Mitsubishi design. We first saw them, starting in the late '90s, as the GX300, the GX350 and more recently as the Sonata-based Azera, although none really merited much attention.

The Genesis did, though, winning the 2009 Canadian Car of The Year Award from the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.

That the Genesis, available in V-8 and V-6-powered versions with a starting price just a couple of thousand short of $40,000, is heeding a higher calling is obvious, from the spec sheet to the driving experience.

When Genesis was launched, much of the attention was focused on the $43,995, 375-hp V-8-powered model, but the $37,995 V-6-engined car offers all the power anybody could realistically require. And when equipped with the optional Technology Package (as the test car was), it has virtually all the same luxury goodies, at a saving of about $4,000.

While the V-8 is a new design, the V-6 is Hyundai's tried-and-true, but also thoroughly modern, 3.8-litre unit. For duty in the Genesis, this twin-cam, variable valve timing six's power has been pumped up from the 260-hp range to 290 hp at 6,200 rpm and it produces 264 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. This gets to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic you can shift yourself.

From the driver's seat, you won't be disappointed by the V-6's relaxed drivability or its potency. Its power delivery is effortless, but the car can also leap off the line - arriving at 100 km/h in about six seconds - and thanks to fairly prompt downshifts, whether automatically or driver-initiated, accelerates hard from any speed to help you pass or merge safely.

It also generates decent fuel economy figures, 11.4 litres/100 km city and 7.2 highway. After my time in the car, the average economy readout was showing 10.1 L/100 km, which reflected more highway than city driving. You can also save a little fuel over the V-8, which is rated at 12.6 city/8.1 highway.

The Genesis is built on an all-new platform that serves as a solid anchorage for five-link front and rear independent suspension systems. Seventeen-inch alloy wheels are shod with P225/55R17 tires, there are ABS-equipped disc brakes all round and electronic stability control. The engine-speed-sensitive power steering has realistic feel and its response to inputs is pleasingly linear if not exactly sports-sedan crisp. Ride is a nice balance between comfort and stability.

That's about as up-to-the-minute a specification as you're going to find in the price range - and it all works rather nicely together.

Looks good, too. Some feel it could have been given a more distinctive shape, but you can't blame a newcomer to the luxury ranks for erring - not quite the right word - on the side of caution. Too "out there" and that's where buyers might well have left it.

The interior is very well-designed ergonomically and aesthetically and nicely executed. Leather is standard on seats that have three heat settings - broil to get those grille marks going on your backside on a cold morning, medium and simmer - and are firmly supportive.

The electroluminescent instruments look neat and the centre stack layout, with navi and info screen, is particularly distinctive. Fit and finish is fine and materials have a high-quality look and feel.

You'll find good headroom front and rear, and the rear-seat area is roomy. The trunk offers 450 litres of easily accessed space.

Lots of attention was paid to sound deadening and this pays off at highway speeds.

And then there's the equipment - something Hyundai has built a reputation for never stinting on. Standard stuff and the tech package provide no less than eight airbags, wiper de-icer, automatic light control, fog lights, information centre, adaptive front lighting, power rear window shade, dual zone climate control, heated and cooled driver's seat, steering and mirror memory system, reversing camera, park warning sensors, proximity entry and push button start, sun roof, navigation and a Lexicon audio system.

All you really pass up with the V-6 compared with the V-8 are a leather-wrapped dash, leather and wood wheel, 18-inch wheels, some exterior chrome, a different steering system and a few other odds and ends. Which makes the V-6 the more sensible one to buy.

That's if you are sensible enough to consider one in the first place and are not hung up on traditional luxury brand names.

globeauto@globeandmail.com

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2009 HYUNDAI GENESIS V-6

Type: Entry luxury sedan

Base Price: $37,995; as tested, $46,695

Engine: 3.8-litre, DOHC, V-6

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: Rear-wheel-drive

Horsepower/torque: 290 hp/ 264 lb-ft

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.4 city/7.2 highway; regular gas

Alternatives: BMW 3-Series, Infiniti G37, Lexus IS250/350, Lincoln MKS, Volvo S60, Buick Lucerne, Saab 9-3, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Nissan Maxima, Volkswagen Passat, Cadillac CTS, Audi A4, Acura TL

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Like

  • Conservatively attractive styling
  • Plentiful power allied with good drivability and reasonable economy
  • Attractive and rich-looking interior

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Dislike

  • Cup holders are a little awkwardly located
  • Cruise control could be improved


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