When the Hyundai Genesis sedan debuted for 2009, it drew comparisons with Mercedes-Benz and Lexus, but those were really backhanded compliments. No one knew what a Hyundai luxury car was supposed to look like, and the Genesis lacked a distinct identity. That’s a problem when you want to build a luxury image out of nothing. “We were trying to find our own direction, our own unique way of designing cars, and I think now it’s evident,” says Casey Hyun, Hyundai’s creative design manager. The 2015 Hyundai Genesis sedan has a prominent, distinctive hexagonal grille design that will be used across the Hyundai lineup. A touch of chrome accents the greenhouse, but it’s brushed rather than shiny, conveying elegance over showiness. “We feel that this will be a defining car for our brand for the next five years,” Hyun says. Dramatic profile lines and creases run the length of the car. The classic rearwheel- drive layout features a long hood and a short deck, along with a more rakish fastback-style C-pillar. The cabin has real wood and aluminum trim and napa leather upholstery. The effect is more akin to a purposefully put-together Mercedes than a Hyundai playing dress-up.
The new, optional all-wheel-drive system uses an electronic transfer case with a multiplate clutch to actively control torque distribution, allowing up to 90 percent of the torque to go to the front wheels. Rack-mounted, motor-driven electric power steering with variable gear ratios is another Hyundai first, adding stability at high speeds and improved response at lower speeds.
It’s a lot to consider as we hit 135 mph on Hyundai’s high-speed test oval in a rear-wheel-drive V-6 Genesis. The car is composed as we navigate the top line of the track, blast through corners, and then mash the throttle on the open straights. The Genesis feels like a big, fast, buttoned-down car. On the handling course, an all-wheel-drive V-8 offers precise, direct steering as we try to make smooth lines and generate optimum speed in the short straightaways.
Hyundai suggests the notion of the Genesis as a sport Sedan, but this big car doesn’t fit that category from a dynamics standpoint. Really, the V-6 and V-8 powerplants are the car’s sportiest elements, and they work effectively with their eight-speed automatic transmission. The engines have been revised to provide more low-end punch, enabling quicker sprints to 60 mph than in the previous Genesis. That’s why the V-6 actually loses horsepower but is more drivable. A few years ago, Hyundai grabbed our attention with its first attempt at luxury, and we’re impressed at how far the automaker has come. Based on our short, controlled drive, it seems the second generation Genesis is worthy of Hyundai’s luxury-sedan aspirations.