We were impressed by the metal switchgear on console and stack, with a controller new for Hyundai. Buttons surround the multidirectional knob, giving you quick access to navigation, telephone, and different audio sources. From that list of functions, you can tell the Genesis is loaded with tech. The onscreen menus for controlling the cars applications look good and are intuitive to use, with a vertical cascading architecture for drilling down to particular functions. The controller is complemented by a voice command system, which works reasonably well. Saying "help" shows you available commands, making it possible to learn the system as you use it. Entering an address, it only took a couple of tries for it to understand the street name "Tehama."
As we mentioned, the maps in the navigation system look very good, with high resolution and readable street names. The navigation system refreshed quickly as we pushed the cursor around the map. You can enter destinations by the usual means, such as address or point of interest, but there aren't many options beyond that. Route guidance works well, too, although it lacks text-to-speech, so it won't read out street names. Integrated traffic is one advanced feature we're happy to see here. It shows traffic flow on major roads, and incidents such as accidents and road construction. However, we found that the system won't automatically route you around bad traffic. During one drive, the system verbally warned us of bad traffic ahead, but didn't offer a detour to the programmed route. We zoomed out the map and could see a section of red traffic flow on the freeway, so we quickly exited, letting the navigation system recalculate the route.
The Genesis also has Bluetooth phone support to meet its tech car credentials, but we weren't impressed by the system. It paired easily with our Samsung SGH-D807 phone, but it didn't copy over the address book to the car. Instead, we would have to manually fill the phone book. Dialing actual numbers, those few we had memorized, was made easy by the onscreen interface, which uses a kind of oval track for alpha-numeric entry, or with the voice command system.
The stereo is really the high point of the tech in the Genesis. It features a six-disc changer that can play CDs, CD-RWs, and DVDs. There is also an iPod connector with an excellent interface that also works as a USB port, satellite radio (a necessity for the navigation's traffic reporting), and an HD radio tuner. This latter proved particularly good, as it receives multicasts, letting you choose from the various audio broadcasts from a single station.
This Lexicon stereo is so good, we just wanted to drive around and listen to music. Only a few other cars we've driven have had stereos this good, including the Lincoln MKS, Lexus LS 600h, and Jaguar XF.
Under the hood
One of the big surprises when Hyundai first announced the Genesis was its available V-8 engine. Asian automakers don't often come out with large engines, and Hyundai in particular was thought of as an economy car brand. However, the company has delivered, putting an exceptionally smooth 4.6-liter V-8 in the 2009 Hyundai Genesis, pairing it up with a six-speed automatic transmission. Variable timing on its 32 valves along with a double-overhead cam contribute to its efficiency, but it uses standard, port injection, rather than the direct injection system being adopted by many automakers.
That engine produces 375 horsepower at 6,500rpm and 333 pound-feet of torque at 3,500rpm. According to Hyundai, the Genesis attains these numbers with premium fuel--you can use regular unleaded and only get 368 horsepower. Also, according to Hyundai, the car gets a 0 to 60 mph time of 5.7 seconds. As a point of comparison, the Lexus GS 460, which uses the same size engine, only makes 342 horsepower.
The Genesis gives a suitable push when you mash the gas pedal, after waiting a moment for the automatic to kick down. The cabin generally insulates from engine sound, although there is a palpable growl when the RPMs are up. The ZF automatic transmission generally kept its presence unobtrusive, quietly shifting from one gear to the next without a lot of drama. It's programmed to seek higher gears for better fuel efficiency, and won't actively kick down to lower gears for cornering, so we found ourselves lacking power when we tried to push the Genesis hard through a turn.
However, pushing the stick to the right puts the car in manual mode, letting us use the wide power bands in second and third gears. We could do a lot of work in the bends just using third gear, if the suspension was up to it. Unfortunately, it isn't. Although the car doesn't roll wildly when the lateral g-forces hit it, the front end feels very heavy in the corners, leading to serious understeer. The Genesis may have a big engine, but it's not a sport driver.
The EPA fuel economy for the V-8 Genesis is 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway, which is about what we would expect. Our average fuel economy during our time with the car came in at 18.3 mpg, on the low side of the EPA range. Although it's not the most economical car around, it does earn a ULEV II rating for emissions, a good achievement for a high displacement engine. The Genesis can also be had with a 3.8-liter V-6, getting a couple of miles per gallon better than the V-8, but only putting out 290 horsepower.
Our 2009 Hyundai Genesis 4.6 came in with a base price of $37,250. Our only option was the $4,000 tech package, which includes the Lexicon stereo and navigation system, a must-have add-on. The $750 destination charge brought our total up to $42,000, an apparently low price that contributed to the Genesis' Car of the Year award. By comparison, the Lexus GS 460 is close to $60,000, but it handles a lot better, and when that model gets the update it is due for, it will get an impressive bundle of new cabin technology. The Lincoln MKS compares better with the Genesis, as both come in about the same price. The cabin of the MKS doesn't have the same luxury feel as the Genesis, but the tech is a lot better.
In our ratings for the car, we found both the cabin tech excellent, largely buoyed by the audio quality from the stereo. The navigation system could use a few more features, and the phone system is only basic. We considered the car's design excellent, with the cabin tech interface largely winning us over--the exterior isn't offensive, but isn't striking, either. Finally, the performance is good, but not spectacular in any way. The engine puts out the power we would expect from a big V-8, however, the suspension doesn't handle jolts as well as it could. The handling is fine for normal driving, but isn't designed for stress.