Screw BMW. Screw Mercedes. Screw Lexus and Audi. To us mere mortals, we perceive drivers with a shiny new Mercedes E class, or BMW 5-series as either flush with cash, or more likely, carrying long leases with heavy down payments just to barely afford that luxury. While you drive around in your flashy car with your cigar ablaze, I’m stuck in my crummy Honda. Not that I’m bitter or jealous or anything.
But not any longer. Now there’s a new luxury player in town. Are you ready for this? Get ready cause you won’t believe it. It’s the 2009 Hyundai Genesis sedan! And it’s even rear-wheel drive!
Stop laughing. I know it’s a Hyundai. But this isn’t like when Volkswagen tried to shove a $60,000-110,000 über-sedan (the Phaeton) into the market, expecting people who buy those kinds of cars to want to mingle with the ones buying $15,000 Jettas. Why is it different? Well first, the Genesis starts at just $32,250. Want a V-8 engine? Tack on another $5k. That’s still half the price of the Phaeton (VW had to bump up the price into the $80ks to make up for currency exchange and other costs).
While I won’t try to compare the Genesis to the Phaeton in the build quality, features, size or engine power, after taking the 2009 Hyundai Genesis on a short drive at a local dealership, I can say the Genesis surely matches the European competitors. But the Genesis can’t be compared directly with either the Mercedes E class or the BMW 5-series.
The BMW is sporty, while the Merc is luxurious. The Genesis falls in between the two. It has a more rigid frame than the 5-series and more interior volume than even the BMW 7-series. And it’s loaded with features.
Hyundai Genesis Standard Features
As is customary with Hyundai, the car comes replete with all the standard safety features like traction control, stability control, anti-lock brakes, and a gazillion airbags. And Hyundai even threw in things like brake assist and “electronic brake-force distribution”.
In addition to safety, and the Hyundai five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper protection, 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, and seven-year/unlimited mileage anti-perforation coverage, the Hyundai comes with the following standard features:
- Bluetooth hands-free phone system
- Electrochromic rear-view mirror with a universal Homelink opener and compass
- Dual zone temperature control
- Six-speed CVT transmission
- iPod/USB/aux inputs (in the center console, not tucked in the glove compartment)
- Leather seats (it wouldn’t be luxury without them)
- Heated front seats
- Steering wheel audio controls
- Auto down AND up window controls for both front windows. Why can’t all cars have this?
But what lets me place it in the same category as BMW and Mercedes? Well, other than the styling, which is a mix of a BMW trunk, Merc front-end, and Lexus LS profile (at least in my opinion), the Genesis is dead silent with the doors closed. If I’m going to rate a car as “luxury”, I expect it to be comfortable and quiet. Standing in the dealer lot next to a major city thoroughfare, it was as noisy as an airport. But when I closed the doors and shut the windows, I seriously could not hear a bit of traffic, except maybe a nearby honking horn. I could even hear the ringing in my ears from years of noise damage.
In the short time in the car, I couldn’t find much hard plastic or a poor fit or finish. But I didn’t take much time to stare at all the seams and gaps. Instead, I was enamored by the extra features on my particular test model.
Bring on the Options!
My test model was the 3.8L V-6 (the V-8 isn’t out at the time of this writing), with the Technology Package. This package also includes the Premium and Premium Plus packages. Here’s what all three packages include:
- Lexicon® 14-speaker surround sound audio system w/ in-dash 6-disc CD changer
- Leather-wrapped dash and door trim inserts
- Power tilt-and-slide sunroof
- Power tilt and telescopic steering wheel
- Integrated memory system
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Auto-defogging windshield
- Power rear sunshade
Premium Plus Package:
- Everything in the Premium package plus
- 18-inch Hyper Silver alloy wheels with 235/50R18 tires
and the Technology Package includes:
- Everything in the Premium and Premium Plus packages, plus
- 528-watt Lexicon® 17-speaker discrete 7.1 premium surround sound audio system with complimentary 1-year subscription to XM Satellite Radio and NavTraffic®
- Navigation system with 40-gig HD and in-dash 6-disc DVD changer
- Driver information system
- HID auto-leveling headlights
- Adaptive Front Lighting System (auto-cornering)
- Front and rear parking assistance sensors
If I were to get the Genesis, without a doubt I would get the Technology Package. While I’m sure the base Genesis is nice, I loved the rear backup camera, stereo (the salesman popped in a hip-hop CD) and of course the navigation system. The Genesis has a wheel to control the Nav system, but unlike BMW and Mercedes, the system is actually user-friendly.
What’s the Top-of-the-Line Price?
While you currently can’t get a final price through Hyundai’s “Build Your Own” website, the dealer was charging an even $40,000 for this top-of-the-line model. That’s still almost $5,000 less than the BMW 528i base price. Want heated seats and 18″ wheels? Bump that BMW price up to over $50,000!
Heck, the Genesis’ base price is the same as the lowest BMW 3-series model, the 328i.
How About the Drive?
I’ll be honest that I just drove around the dealer lot (it was a big lot), but I got to experience a few items of note. First, speed bumps. I did find that although the Genesis has fancy gas shocks, they weren’t tuned to glide over bumps, but the car didn’t shudder or feel out of control.
Next up, big potholes. I really hope the dealer fixes their lot, but I guess it gives people a good chance to really test the ride and handling of their cars. I went through a pothole about 4″ deep at about 10mph. Just like with the speed bump, the car didn’t glide over it, but it wasn’t an unpleasant experience like in “lesser” cars. The suspension wasn’t mushy like in a Buick, but it wasn’t overly firm like in a BMW. I’d say it was like a Lexus. There, I said it. It rides like a Lexus.
I hope to get a shot at a longer drive out on the main roads in the future, but I think I’d be worried I would want the car even more. And I need to stay content with the cars I have (namely a Honda Ridgeline truck and a MINI Cooper). The wife says I’m not allowed to get a new car this year. Dang.
Would you pay $40,000 for a Hyundai? That’s the billion dollar question that the Hyundai executives are also asking, because they’re planning on rolling our more luxury models in the future. But while automakers like Honda and Toyota rename their luxury plates with fancy names like Acura and Lexus, and try to fool us with new sheet metal and interiors on Accords and Camrys, Hyundai is risking their future business on keeping the Hyundai nameplate on all their models.
But you have two types of luxury buyers:
1. Those who want to show off their money (or make it look like they have money) and
2. Those who want to experience luxury, but don’t need to make a statement about it
If you’re in the latter group, the Hyundai Genesis is definitely for you. If you’re in the first group, maybe you should give the Genesis a test drive and see how much you’ve just overspent on your Lexus.