When Hyundai launched the Genesis sedan in 2008, we all snickered at the absurdity of a luxury sedan with a Hyundai badge on the grill and steering wheel, but I quietly hoped that it would be good. After all, it's fun to root for the underdog. Watching Hyundai go up against established luxury brands was as fun as watching Daniel LaRusso take on Cobra Kai Jonny at the end of "The Karate Kid." And when the first generation Genesis turned out to be pretty good, it was just as satisfying.
After a few model years of revisions and evolution, the Genesis sedan has returned for a second generation. However, unlike "The Next Karate Kid" or "The Karate Kid" (2010), this reboot is even better than the original. The automaker gives us more of everything we liked about the original with a few clever surprises here and there. The sedan is also more attractive than ever with a new, bolder exterior design more befitting of its luxury aim.
When it comes to sequels, Hollywood could stand to learn a few things from this 2015 Hyundai Genesis Sedan 5.0.
5.0-liter V-8 and adaptive suspension
The heart of the Genesis sedan carries over largely unchanged for the 2015 model year. It's still a Tau 5.0-liter V-8 engine with direct injection from the 2014 R-Spec model. It's still mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission in a rear wheel drive configuration. However, the 2015 Genesis Sedan 5.0 is rated at 420 hp and 383 pound-feet of torque. That's down 1 horsepower from the old R-Spec, but up 18 pound-feet on Regular fuel.
The eight-speed Shiftronic automatic transmission is one of the better slushboxes on the market with smooth, but quick shift sand some pretty good intelligence about its gear selection. The computer takes into account when the vehicle is headed uphill or down, whether you're braking hard for a corner or whether you're cruising on the freeway and seems to avoid the guess and check hunting that plagues many autoboxes. There's also a manual shift mode with standard paddle shifters for those moments where you'd rather do ratio selection for yourself.
Like many new vehicles, the 2015 Genesis features selectable "Intelligent Drive Modes" that allow the driver to choose between Normal, Eco, and Sport modes with the touch of a button. Choosing one mode or another adjusts the throttle response, the steering effort of the electric power steering, the shift program of transmission, and a few other vehicle attributes in one go. If the Genesis is equipped with "Continuous Damping Control" adaptive suspension, like our example was, the drive modes will tweak this as well.
On the road, the Genesis feels heavy, but appropriately so. Even with its drive mode and suspension set to their sportiest, the 4,541 pound land yacht will never be a dancer, but it remains comfortable no matter how hard you toss it, which is really more of the point.
Like the chassis, the engine also feels powerful, but heavy. The V-8 torque is available from pretty low in the powerband, which is good because the powertrain time to build steam before its power becomes apparent. Imagine a surge of power rather than a neck-snapping bang. Give it time to build steam and this engine gearbox combo will hum along happily and quietly at extra-legal freeway speeds without much, if any, effort.
Even with direct-injection, Eco mode engaged, and more forward gears than any car you've likely ever driven, the Genesis can't beat the laws of physics. 5.0 liters of displacement and 4,500-plus pounds of mass conspire to saddle the sedan with an EPA estimated 15 city, 23 highway, and 18 mpg combined. On one hand, I'm sure that no one who cares about fuel economy is cross-shopping massive, V-8 sedans. On the other, the Hyundai nearly matches the efficiency of the 2014 Lexus LS 460, but falls behind the turbocharged V-8 powertrains of the BMW 550i and Audi A8.
Like previous generations, the 2015 Genesis is also still available with the 3.8-liter Lambda V-6 as its base engine. The V-6 bumps in efficiency to 18 city, 29 highway, and 22 combined in exchange for its lower peak power and torque output. Interestingly, the V-6 powered Genesis is also available in both rear and, for the first time, Hyundai's HTRAC all-wheel drive.
Safety tech and driver aids
All 2015 Genesis sedans come feature a standard rear camera system, but our top-of-the-line 5.0 model is pretty close to fully-loaded with safety tech.
There's a camera powered lane departure warning system that vibrates the steering wheel when the vehicle unintentionally drifts out of its lane without signaling. This ties into a lane-keeping assist system that can use the electric power steering to maintain the car's positions between the lane markers. There are three settings for the lane-keeping system which can intervene after you've crossed a line, preemptively to keep you within the lines, or not at all. I found the preemptive intervention felt akin to the system that I'd tested on the 2015 Acura MDX, which can be weird when you feel the system assisting your steering as you round a bend in the highway.
Also standard on the 5.0 is blind-spot monitoring and front- and rear-parking distance sensors with rear cross-traffic alerts. There's also an automatic emergency-braking system that can slow or stop the vehicle when the sensors detect a forward collision is imminent.
Those same sensors come into play with the Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Start. In stop-and-go traffic, the Smart Cruise Control can bring the vehicle to a complete stop, maintaining a safe distance between you and the lead car. It can then, well, Stop & Start, creeping along with the traffic. Take your hands off of the wheel and feet off of the pedals while Smart Cruising on the highway with the Lane Keeping active and the Genesis will practically drive itself for a few moments -- steering, braking, and accelerating without your intervention -- until it realizes that you're not touching the wheel and throws you a warning message.
While the high-speed performance of the Smart Cruise was smooth and predictable, I didn't enjoy the low speed Stop & Start, which seemed a bit too herky-jerky for my tastes. The system seemed to either be on the gas or on the brakes, unable to just let itself roll and coast like a human would, which lead to some whiplash-y moments. Ultimately, I found it better to disable to Smart Cruise system in heavy traffic rather than be jerked around by the computer.