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July 25, 2011

First Drive: Genesis of a Luxury Car

I confess: The first time I saw Hyundai's Genesis on the road, I mistook it for a Mercedes.

Can you blame me?


Hyundai's Genesis is targeted to "mid-luxury" buyers who are attracted to the model's conservative good looks and premium standard features (at a relative bargain price). The 2012 model has been refreshed with some changes the company describes as "significant." These include cosmetic features, such as new headlamps with LED accents, a revised grille design, and a new look for the model's front and rear bumpers.

New Engine Delivers Both Fuel Efficiency and Power

But the most significant change to Genesis can be found under the hood: your choice of a 3.8 liter V6 or 5.0 liter V8 GDI engines.

GDI stands for Gasoline Direct Injection. Hyundai describes the technology as injecting "high pressure fuel into the chamber directly to increase combustion efficiency." It's a breakthrough in engine technology that delivers a win-win-win combination of better mileage, lower emissions and greater power.

Up until now, Hyundai has featured this technology in models with 4- and 6-cylinders. The company says its introduction in the Genesis 5.0 5-Spec V8 engine results in the performance of 429 horsepower (more than the Infiniti M56) with highway fuel economy of 25 miles per gallon (better than the Mercedes Benz E550).

Driving Genesis: All the Comforts of Home

Genesis_39 Genesis_45 Genesis_42

The Genesis may be powerful, but its ride is gentle. It's the kind of vehicle where you have to remember to keep an eye on the speedometer, because it doesn't take much to go fast -- and you don't really feel like you're speeding, thanks to its exceptionally quiet cabin. The Genesis features noise-killing acoustic laminated glass windows and windshield; these are items you'd expect to find in a luxury car.

Parking the Genesis was a breeze. Its 36-foot turning circle is comparable to smaller cars like the Audi A4 and makes it super easy to maneuver. 

The adjustable power seats offer all the comfort of a leather-bound sofa, with the added pleasure of climate control. Heated seats are standard; the model we drove also offered cooling in the front, which was truly appreciated on a warm summer day.

The roomy cabin offers passengers plenty of space to stretch out, and the trunk offers nearly 16 cubic feet (enough to hold one large, plus two small suitcases). 

Genesis' eight airbags, passive restraints and advanced crumple zones contribute to an NHTSA safety-rating of 5-stars. Other standard safety features include advanced braking systems, electronic stability control, and electronic traction control.  Our model had some nice optional safety features: a rear-view camera, and a cool "Lane Departure Warning System" that alerts you if you drift out of your lane.

The Real Excitement is In the Numbers

I found the Genesis a truly nice car, but not all that exciting -- until I discovered its suggested retail price. The MSRP for the baseline model is $34,000. This is what I paid five years ago for my Volvo S60, which doesn't have nearly as many standard luxury features.

It's also $14,000 less than you would pay for the Mercedes Benz E350, and it comes with a better warranty: 10-year, 100K powertrain warranty (5 year/60K basic warranty) and unlimited roadside assistance for five years (the latter is where Mercedes has Hyundai beat, with no expiration on roadside assistance).

2010by Donna Schwartz Mills
Contributing Editor

Donna Schwartz Mills is a Los Angeles-based writer who also contributes to CBS Digital Local Los Angeles, the Yahoo! Motherboard and her personal site,SoCal Mom.

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