What is it?
It's never easy changing a brand’s image – especially when you’ve developed a reputation for cheap and cheerful products. Yet Hyundai’s aura has been upgraded substantially in recent years and, along with marked improvements in reliability, the original Genesis saloon (not sold in Europe) was a critical asset in that makeover.
The big executive saloon was the Korean maker’s first plunge into the mid-sized luxury segment. It had its flaws but, nonetheless, landed the North American Car of the Year trophy and generated significant sales. Meanwhile, Hyundai began addressing niggling concerns almost immediately and has upgraded the Genesis for 2012 with a variety of updates that include the launch of its biggest and most powerful engine yet, which makes its debut alongside an all-new eight-speed automatic that has been developed in-house.
Our first drive in this facelifted US-market 5.0-litre Genesis gives us the opportunity to try a version of the car more representative of the next-generation saloon, which is under consideration for right-hand drive production, and UK-market introduction, from launch.
What's it like?
The 5.0-litre V8 itself is a serious bruiser – a direct-injection engine churning out 423bhp, or more muscle than any direct rival. With its 376lb ft of torque coming on quickly, it’s satisfyingly responsive – especially once the self-programming gearbox begins to match shifts to your driving style.
The V8 serves as the heart of an all-new variant of the Genesis, the 5.0 R-Spec, which complements the existing V6 and V8 versions of the saloon. For those who expect a Korean challenge to the likes of BMW’s M division or Mercedes’ AMG, the R-Spec falls short. The car’s handling isn’t sufficiently precise or controlled for full-on sports saloon billing, but it adds welcome composure to the ordinary Genesis’s dynamic act without sacrificing comfort.
Officially, Hyundai proclaims the 2012 model the second update of the Genesis saloon line (which is not to be confused with the smaller Genesis coupé). Visual changes are modest and include a revised front bumper, altered chrome trim, LED headlight accents, tweaked rocker panels, new dual asymmetric exhaust tips and a few other details that only sharp-eyed Genesis fans will notice.
Inside, Hyundai has upgraded the look of the saloon’s trim, the overall feel coming a bit closer to what you’ll get from the best of the Europeans in this segment. There’s also a fair bit of new technology – including Lane Departure Warning, heated rear seats and a TFT LCD display mounted between the speedo and revcounter – although the Koreans aren’t challenging Mercedes or BMW for techno-supremacy.
With this new and impressive engine, the Genesis has become an even more competent executive car. Assuming that the next one can only get better – and that it could be on offer in the UK within just a few years, for a price that’s likely to undercut the competition by more than £10,000 – the Genesis could turn out to be a very smart and appealing buy indeed.