The South Korean 2013 Hyundai Genesis sedan shows it’s pretty hard, if not impossible, to come up with a one-to-one rival from such automakers as Mercedes, BMW or Infiniti. Especially when the Genesis costs appreciably less.
But never mind. For a lower price, the rear-wheel-drive Genesis is a world-class luxury car from an automaker that built marginal cars in its bad old days. The Genesis possesses the high-class trappings of autos that cost considerably more.
This rear-wheel-drive sedan comes as the base $34,200 3.8 model or the $46,800 5.0 R-Spec version. It has a 3.8-liter, 333-horsepower V-6 or 5-liter, 429-horsepower V-8. Both can run on regular-grade or premium gasoline.
The 2013 Genesis has simplified model offerings and a new “ultimate navigation system” with Blue Link telematics.
Desirable options include the 3.8 Premium Package, which contains items including a power sunroof, power tilt/telescopic wheel, power folding side mirrors and a rearview camera.
A 3.8 Technology Package has a 17-speaker audio system, smart cruise control, lane-departure warning system and front/rear parking assistance systems, besides a cooled driver’s seat and heated rear seats.
The sportiest Genesis is the fully equipped 5.0 “R-Spec,” which contains a smooth 5-liter, 429-horsepower V-8 and items that, as Hyundai puts it, are “in addition to or in place of the 3.8 Technology Package equipment.”
Among R-Spec features are 19-inch (versus 17- or 18-inch ) wheels and performance chassis tuning, steering and brakes, besides chrome lower bodyside moldings. I found it does 60-80 mph on highways without breathing hard.
The Genesis is impressively roomy, although the center backseat area is stiff and best left to a fold-down armrest that contains cupholders. There are many pushbutton controls, but they’re easy to use. Electroluminescent gauges can be quickly read, even in bright sunlight.
The large front seats provide good support. Front console cupholders are nicely placed, and a deep console bin with a cover is a good place to stash items such as a cell phone. Roomy flip-out front door pockets remind me of items you might find in a private jet, but conventional rear pockets don’t hold much.
The R-Spec steering, although quick enough, felt rather heavy. I initially felt that tires that each were about five pounds below the called-for 33 p.s.i. were to blame. But inflating them to the correct pressures made little difference in steering feel.
Handling of the R-Spec version was stable, with larger wheels and wider tires. It had electronic stability and traction control, as does the base Genesis. The all-independent suspension helped provide a supple ride.
The brake firm pedal had a good feel. But the R-Spec fell short of having the crispness of a genuine sports/luxury sedan. Still, I doubt average buyers of the base Genesis will feel much ride and handling difference, unless they drive hard. The car can safely handle that sort of driving, but doesn’t really like it.
Even the base Genesis has the uptown interior and a good number of comfort, convenience and safety items. For instance, The Genesis V-6 has power, heated and leather-covered large front seats.
While it lacks a V-8, the standard $34,200 Genesis, which I didn’t drive, can’t be a slouch, with its 333-horsepower V-6. Although not as powerful as the V-8, this version is lighter. It weighs 3,824-3,971 pounds, compared to the heftier V-8 model, which weighs 4,046-4,154 pounds.
Estimated fuel economy of the V-6 is 18 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on highways. Figures for the V-8 are 16 and 25.
Both engines shoot power through no less than an eight-speed automatic transmission, which upshifts lazily—emphasizing this car’s luxury—not sporty—nature. If you want quick upshifts, you must use the automatic’s manual-shift feature via the console-mounted transmission gear selector.
But the beautifully built Genesis doesn’t lend itself to using the manual-shift feature, although it looks plenty racy and has a highly aerodynamic drag coefficient of .27. However, such a low drag coefficient is partly the result of a low front end, which can be damaged by high curbs.
The Genesis drag figure is commendable for a 196.3-inch-long sedan. It contributes to better fuel economy and a quieter interior. (The Genesis also comes as a coupe, but it’s another story.)
The large trunk has a wide, rather high opening and its lid has enclosed hinges to prevent damaging luggage. The lid’s interior has an indented area to help close it, but the car really should be offered with a standard or optional power trunk lid.
A hydraulic strut—not a prop rod—holds the heavy hood open.
Hyundai provides a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. But it lacks the “name respect” given cars such as the BMW or Mercedes. However, Toyota’s Lexus once found itself with the same recognition problem and look how far it’s come.
Pros: Stylish. Roomy. Fast. Responsive. Sporty “R-Spec” version. Simple controls. Equipment-loaded.
Cons: Lazy automatic transmission. Low front end. Costly options. Not a sports sedan.
Bottom Line: More affordable alternative to a Lexus, but not to a BMW.
Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 45 years. To read more of his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.