A Victory & Reseda review of the 2015 Hyundai Genesis 5.0
When you think a story is over, there is another chapter to write.
For example, the 2015 Hyundai Genesis sedan was a huge surprise a year ago. Hyundai wanted to create a premium sedan that would be on par with its intended competition. The first generation was good, but not really up there with the rest. As I found out last year, this current Genesis pretty much landed on target.
Go ahead and check the list and find that with distinctive styling and character, Hyundai finally created a car for the luxury set that concentrated on its mission rather than its badge. Last year's tester – one equipped with the 3.8 liter V6 with Hyundai's first all-wheel drive system for a non-crossover/SUV – was a good driver that spelled confidence while pouring on the luxury. That was good enough to become one of the finalists for last year’s Victory & Reseda Vehicle of The Year award.
I will admit being surprised by how the Genesis sedan fared last year among the panelists of journalists and influencers. The praise was high…better than my own words alone. It is indeed a good car from a company that has been putting out some really compelling products of late.
Yet, my curiosity was piqued. When I first drove the original Hyundai Genesis sedan way back when, I basically said that the engine to get was the V8. Silly me to promote performance over efficiency! I still believe that for the new model. However, to confirm my hypothesis on the V8 being the better choice for Hyundai's luxury sedan – I had to drive one.
The 2015 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 is nothing to scoff at. It has the same distinctive look and detailing. It has a rather large and comfortable cabin with massive trunk space. The seats are pure luxury – huge chairs to command the road from and rear seating that is just as comfortable as a sofa back home.
Why would we care about a V8-powered luxury mid-sized sedan? Think about where this segment has gone. Instead of more power, the BMW 5-Series, Audi A6 and Cadillac CTS have gone to turbocharged four-cylinder power for this market. Some cars in this class still offer a V8, like the Jaguar XF and Infiniti Q70.
While the world still wants efficiency, they also want power…and are willing to pay for it. Sticker prices are meaningless at this point and fuel prices are a bit more manageable than a year ago. Yet, if one wanted a very large car with a lot of horsepower and every luxury amenity known to man and robot, why spend the money on a flagship when you really can get something truly enjoyable, rewarding and somewhat less pretentious?
Heck, why not roll in a luxury hot rod?
What I mean by "luxury hot rod" is not an M5, AMG E63 or a CTS-V. This is something akin to a "wolf in sheep's clothing." The added ground effects, big wheels, and airflow management give these high horsepower super sedans away. However, if you want to drive a normal-looking car that looks luxurious, feels luxurious and has all of the goodies you expect from a luxury car…start with the Genesis.
Looking back at last year's review of the V6-powered all-wheel drive model, I certainly had a few concerns about the design. Once I thought was "anonymous" has really grown on me as a distinctive sedan with a bit of muted swagger. The V8 model adds a different lower grille snout, plus nineteen-inch wheels and tires to the package, giving it a bit more aggression to this sedate-looking luxury car. Yet, there are those that are enthralled by the Genesis and how it exudes a level of attraction that puts everyone at ease. It is just a nice looking car that garners attention when it has to.
Getting into the V8 is getting into the previous generation's R-Spec. The seats are very supportive with excellent bolstering in the cushion and seatback. The medium gray leather is soft to the touch…that is perfect in my book. Rear seat room is excellent for a car in this highly-contended class. To me, that means I have more leg and headroom than in the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Jaguar XF, Lexus GS and Cadillac CTS. It does match the space in the BMW 5-Series and Audi A6, but, frankly, I'd rather ride in the back of the Genesis. It is extremely comfortable – no questions asked.
There are many things the driver will appreciate in the Genesis. The head's up display is clear and full of active safety and cruise control readouts. The big touch screen has plenty of easily discernable controls for infotainment options. The navigation screen is the best of any automaker around. The instrumentation binnacle is excellent with a great TFT screen in the middle for excellent readouts. Switchgear is good, the steering wheel is the right size and feel…what more do I want from a luxury sedan?
The answer to that question lies underneath the hood. Underneath the big engine cover is the Tau 5.0 liter V8. I could bore you with how many valves per cylinder, the number of camshafts and the plethora of technological bits that make the Tau what it is. There is one number that needs to be discussed here: 420 horsepower.
In today’s world, that's pretty darn powerful. But, it is only a number. So is 383 pound-feet of torque. Together they make a normal drive thrilling. Tap the accelerator a bit, and it goes. It is fluid performance, something that is not seen a lot these days – simply effortless in throttle response.
That, to me, is a "luxury hot rod." It is a luxury car that looks unassuming, but has no qualms taking any prisoners when prompted to.
To harness this power, Hyundai added its new eight-speed automatic to the back of the Tau V8. It is smooth and quick on the shifts – in Eco and Normal modes. In Sport mode, this transmission demands you play with the paddles when you have to. Power is sent to the rear wheels – just like a traditional sport sedan. Since I mentioned drive modes, they can be selected from a button on the console next to the gear lever.
Sport mode is where the "luxury hot rod" gets to uncloak itself. With most drive mode settings, the Genesis includes steering feel and suspension dampening. This is where I truly felt the difference in the Genesis 5.0. Sure, it might not feel hardcore as an M5 or E63 AMG, but does it have to be? It is exceptional and comfortable – at the same time.
Put it back into Normal mode, and it feels relaxed. It has the right settings for a nice cruise down an Interstate. You can thank the available Continuously Dampening Control Suspension that truly ensures the best ride/handling mix available based on velocity and conditions. Still, there is that 420 horsepower Tau V8 underneath that hood. Even in Normal mode, it still can smoothly rocket down the highway.
Perhaps one thing I would have to cover is safety. After all, a car in this class should exhibit high competency to keep itself and its occupants safe and secure when necessary. The active safety systems on the Genesis are truly on point, with great pre-collision warning systems, a tight lane keep assist system, superb active cruise control and a huge back-up camera with cross-traffic alert. These systems work extraordinarily well providing a peace of mind that I expect when I pay the kind of money Hyundai wants for the Genesis 5.0.
If there was something that actually puzzles me about this second go-round with the Genesis is what I discovered when I calculated fuel economy. Last September in the V6 Genesis with all-wheel drive, I stated that I averaged 21.8 MPG. In the V8 version with rear-wheel drive, I averaged 21.7 MPG. This was achieved doing the same kind of driving between these two versions…a mix of highway, back roads and in-town driving.
Also in my review of the Genesis 3.8 HTrac, I noted that the 5.0 model is actually a "bargain among its class." I know…that was a bad choice of words, especially when you are writing to an audience that might want to buy one of these beauties. The truth is on the Maroney sticker, and Hyundai said that I could get this 5.0 model with the Ultimate package – i.e "everything" – for $55,700. In comparison, the BMW 550i starts at $64,900, an Infiniti Q70 5.6 has a base price of $62,850, and a Jaguar XF 5.0 Supercharged will start off at $70,875.
It would be safe to say that the Hyundai Genesis sedan is a fantastic car. It is elegant, stylish, spacious, comfortable, laden with the right amount of tech and active safety to keep every happy for a long time. Having a second go with the Genesis sedan firmed up a lot of my prior observations of this car, while discovering the difference when driving the V8 model instead of the V6 one. That, I can conclude, is a huge difference. Yet, it was the same conclusion that I arrived at years ago with the first-generation Genesis: The V8 is the one to get, if you love this car.
This is why last year's Vehicle of The Year award panel loved the Genesis. This is also why I thoroughly enjoyed the 5.0 version of it. It is my idea of a "luxury hot rod."
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Hyundai Motor America
All photos by Randy Stern