Hyundai Genesis Grows Up For 2015 Model Year

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Before I headed out to Phoenix to drive the 2015 Hyundai Genesis, someone asked me why I was headed out there. I said I was going to drive a new car, the 2015 Genesis. A puzzled look showed up on her face and she replied, “You mean you are going to a concert to listen to Genesis?”  And there we have it. The Hyundai Genesis has an identity crisis and the new for 2015 model looks to fix just that.

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The first generation Genesis was a valiant effort by Hyundai to venture into the premium market. Most critics thought they were crazy. Even auto execs said it couldn’t be done. They claimed that it was impossible to sell a premium vehicle in the same place someone comes into buy a $12,000 stripped Accent. But Hyundai did it. They are doing it again with the 2015 Genesis and putting Germany and Japan on notice.

Sure, the first generation Genesis was a bit bland looking and the design didn’t age particularly well. The 2015 model will grab your attention though. It’s a head turner. Bouncing around the desert roads around Phoenix showed quite a few rubberneckers trying to figure out what just passed them by. It will start conversations. It will make jaws drop. Hyundai has gone all out this time around.

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The 2015 Genesis has jettisoned from a “me too” sporty sedan into a full fledged luxury sedan that can play with the big boys.  I had a chance to drive the range topping V8 model and the V6 with all-wheel drive.  All-wheel drive is a new feature for 2015. It should help Hyundai reach into some of the northern states. Adding all-wheel drive has helped Jaguar grow sales in the snow belt, and Hyundai should expect to see some of the same benefit.

The best part about the V6 with all-wheel drive is that it is the best Genesis model. Yes, better than the 420 horsepower V8. It sounds better, feels faster, and is a total hoot to drive. Just like the Infiniti Q70, the V6 with all-wheel drive is the sweet spot in the lineup. The Genesis V6 with all-wheel drive even weighs less than a Ford Taurus SHO on the scale, leading to a really fun-to-drive yet comfortable demeanor that will gladly please your mother-in-law or the buddy at work with a 535i. 535i buddy? Yup. Lotus Engineering helped to validate the suspension and steering to make sure Hyundai delivered on making this a car that could deliver comfort with a sporty demeanor. Suspension and steering are the final frontier for Hyundai to conquer. Well, the 2015 Genesis shows this might be the beginning of the end of Hyundai’s learning curve.

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The two Genesis models I drove were both loaded with content.  Some of my favorite features were the 9.2-inch high definition screen that housed the navigation and infotainment. Hyundai decided to keep buttons and knobs instead of this new fad of building everything into the touch screen or some capacitive switches. The screen is larger than the one you’d see on the Chrysler 300 and it is a looker. Yes, it’s an option, but one that I would highly recommend.

Another feature I liked was the heads-up display. Usually I am not a fan of these but this one was very clear and displayed some very useful information. It was able to display numerous colors with terrific detail and focus. Some of the heads-up displays you find from the competition use a single color and look like they are using graphics from Atari. Not so with the Genesis.

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The interior is well laid out, simple, intuitive, and not too busy. The optional Harman Logic7 audio system proved to be a bit of a bummer as I ran my usual barrage of tunes through the speakers. It lacked some dimension and seemed a bit flat. The Logic7 system in the Mercedes-Benz CLA sounds better, if we want to compare cars with the same brand name audio. The center console has a knob and buttons that looks like an attempt to recreate Audi’s MMI system. I never found the need to use it as the touch screen was intuitive enough for me.

The rear seat is very comfortable, even for me with a long torso and at 6’3”, I had plenty of room. The interior is so quiet that it reminds me of something that costs double what the Genesis does. Seriously. Hyundai has used acoustic glass, which is a thicker type of glass, to block out noise. There is also extensive effort paid under the car to seal it off and keep the air from making noise. It works. This is the quietest car I can remember driving in recent memory. Think Audi A8 or S-Class for an indication of how serious Hyundai was in refining this car to compete with the best.

OK, there is a lot to like here. It looks really good from the outside. The interior is quiet and well appointed. Is there anything wrong? There are a few minor quibbles but they shouldn’t deter anyone from looking at the Genesis. The first would be some of the active driver assist functions can feed some weird movement into the steering wheel, making it feel like you’re not driving for a second. You can turn this feature off though. Another minor gripe is the top of the instrument panel looks like it uses the same graining in the plastic as an Elantra or Sonata. Not many people will notice but it doesn’t look particularly upscale. The gear shifter is also from the Hyundai parts bin, but few will actually notice or care about that, too. The “loaded” V8 model didn’t have a heated steering wheel (but the V6 AWD has it and is the sweet spot anyways) which is a must have for me.

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If you have a problem with your perception that Hyundai can execute a car that would appeal to Mercedes-Benz or Lexus buyers, you will be proven quite wrong here. When you look at the detail here, you’ll see that the Genesis is a legitimate contender. Open the trunk up in the Genesis and do the same with an E350. The trunk oozes with nice carpet and covered trunk hinges. Look under the hat shelf in the trunk and it is covered in nice carpet, too. Now look at the trunk of an E-Class. It shows some sheet metal and some definite cost cutting efforts in places where Mercedes thinks people won’t notice. Open up the hood on the Genesis and you’re greeted by quite a few rubber seals that seal off air and water from entering the engine. It’s sealed as tight as the driver’s door. This really helps with delivering that quiet cabin. Hyundai offers all of this at a base price of $38,000.

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Yes, priced in the same arena as an Infiniti Q50, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, or Lexus IS you get Q70, E-Class, or Lexus GS size, technology, power, and comfort. Looking at an Acura TLX or RLX? Lincoln MKZ or MKS? This is a must on the test drive schedule.

If you were in the market for a premium sedan a year ago, I would have passed up on the Genesis. It lacked some of the upscale touches needed to compete at this level. Hyundai has done their homework and invested heavily in something they can hang their hat on now. The 2015 Genesis is now worthy enough to land a spot on your shopping list, as it can hang with the big boys from Germany and Japan.

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