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2015 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 review: New Genesis sedan blurs the boundary between luxury and value

Hyundai's new luxury sedan gives us more of everything we liked about the original with a few clever surprises here and there.

Antuan Goodwin Reviews Editor / Cars
Antuan Goodwin gained his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and electrification to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable.
Expertise Reviewing cars and car technology since 2008 focusing on electrification, driver assistance and infotainment Credentials
  • North American Car, Truck and SUV of the Year (NACTOY) Awards Juror
Antuan Goodwin
9 min read

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.


2015 Hyundai Genesis 5.0

The Good

The 2015 Hyundai Genesis sedan offers a comfortable ride, a luxurious cabin, and V-8 power for thousands less than the competition. The 5.0 model features a full loadout of active driver aid features. Blue Link infotainment and navigation eschew glitzy features for solid functionality and ease of use.

The Bad

The Smart Cruise control's Stop & Start function was too herky-jerky in slow moving traffic. Fuel economy is disappointing, even for this class.

The Bottom Line

The 2015 Hyundai Genesis sedan is an excellent sequel to the original, maintaining a great value for a luxury sedan while adding a host of comfort and safety amenities.

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.

The Tau V-8 engine has been massaged for increased torque output. Josh Miller/CNET

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.

The 8-speed automatic seems well suited for a smooth ride. Three drive modes allow the ride to be customized. Josh Miller/CNET

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.

2015 Hyundai Genesis sedan (pictures)

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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.

A combination of cameras and forward-facing radar sensors are standard on the 5.0 model. Josh Miller/CNET

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.

The lane-keeping assist feature uses the electric power steering to maintain a position between the lane lines. Josh Miller/CNET

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.

That nitpick aside, I was more than pleased with the Hyundai's driver-aid tech loadout.

The Hyundai dashboard gets the basics of navigation and audio right without a lot of unneccessary glitz. Josh Miller/CNET

"Ultimate" tech and Lexicon audio

The standard Bluelink infotainment feature makes every 2015 Genesis sedan a connected car with the aid of a subscription (a 90-day trial is included) and a free smartphone app. Via the app, drivers can search for and send destinations to the car via Google Maps, track their vehicle online and get alerts about upcoming maintenance and eco driving habits, receive automatic collision response and emergency services, and remotely access their car. With the tap of the app, the owner could remotely start the car to begin heating or cooling the interior before a trip, unlock the doors or honk the horn, and more.

Also included in the stock loadout is SiriusXM satellite radio with Travel Link services, Bluetooth for hands-free calling and audio streaming, USB and iPod connectivity, HD Radio tuning, and CD playback. Drivers interact with all of this tech via an 8-inch dashboard screen that is touch-sensitive or a physical control knob and bank of shortcut buttons on the center console. I prefer the physical controller because it keeps the screen fingerprint-free, but I also liked being able to quickly tap the screen to input an address. Having the choice between the two is nice.

The driver has the choice of using either this physical control bank or the touchscreen. Josh Miller/CNET

Our example was equipped with the $3,250 5.0 Ultimate Package which is the only options pack for the 5.0-liter model and takes it from the top-of-the-line to the tippy-top.

For the bucks, the Ultimate Package adds a full-color head-up display (HUD) to augment the 5.0's standard 7-inch TFT instrument cluster screen. The HUD projects a mix of useful information onto the windshield and into the driver's line of sight. In addition to the vehicle's speed and the current speed limit, if available to the navigation system, the HUD also shows lane-keeping system status, Smart Cruise status, turn-by-turn directions, and audio source information.

Additionally, the 8-inch infotainment system is replaced by a 9.2-inch HD Premium Navigation system when you check the box for the Ultimate. The map display is crisply rendered, but fairly simple in its functionality. You'll find no 3D terrain data or satellite building imagery, but do you really need that to get from point A to B? Probably not. Instead, the Hyundai focuses on getting the basics right, which means an interface that's meaningfully organized and a good voice command system that's not a pain in the neck to use.

Perhaps one of the best additions made by the Ultimate package is the Lexicon 17-speaker surround audio system. Sound quality falls somewhere between premium and audiophile, with excellent staging and separation and good power and clarity. It's almost worth the cost of Ultimate package by itself, just be sure to feed it high quality audio sources for maximum effect.

In addition to upgrading the climate control system, the Ultimate package rounds out by adding a power, motorized trunk lid that opens and closes at the touch of a button. If your hands are full and you can't reach that button, just stand behind the vehicle while the keyless entry transponder is in your pocket or purse and the boot will automatically pop open. This Hands-free Smart Trunk feature is standard on all 2015 Genesis sedans -- although to motorization isn't -- and can be enabled or disabled in a dashboard menu.

Bumping the 5.0 Sedan's luxury to the next level are a standard panoramic tilt-and-slide sunroof that opens nearly the entire cabin to the sky with the touch of a button. The dashboard is finished in real wood with a matte wood and the seats are finished in "ultra premium leather." The front buckets are both heated and ventilated. (The rear seats, however, are not...this is no Equus.)

Perhaps the feature that most wowed my passengers during my testing were the LED puddle lights that illuminate your approach to the sedan at night and cast large, winged "Genesis" logo shadows on the ground.

In sum

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the first generation Genesis sedan is that it's a bit of an oxymoron: a big luxury sedan that's a better value than other big luxury sedan. Luxury goods are supposed to be expensive, that's kind of the point. So the Genesis walked the thin line between being an incredible value for a lot of luxury and being too expensive for a Hyundai. It still does, but I think that's part of this car's charm.

The 2015 Hyundai Genesis walks the line between being an excellent value for a luxury sedan and being too expensive for a Hyundai. Josh Miller/CNET

The 2015 Hyundai Genesis sedan is a worthy sequel to the first generation. No longer the underdog, it's a handsome sedan that delighted me and my passengers at every turn with a mix of clever amenities and unexpected luxuries for a car at this price point and a worthy (if not odd) contender in the luxury car market.

At our as-tested price of $55,700, the loaded 2015 Genesis Sedan 5.0 RWD with the Ultimate Package comes in at least $15,000 less than a comparably equipped Audi A8 3.0, BMW 550i, or Lexus LS 460. Is it as luxurious or prestigious than any of those vehicles? That's all debatable, but it's hard to argue with extra cold, hard cash in your pocket.

The 2015 Genesis sedan is currently available in the US and will be arriving in Australia in late 2104. Pricing for the Australian model is yet unavailable.

Tech specs
Model 2015 Hyundai Genesis sedan
Trim 5.0 with Ultimate Package
Powertrain 5.0-liter V-8, direct injection, 8-speed automatic trans., RWD
EPA fuel economy 15 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, 18 mpg combined
Observed fuel economy 16.5 mpg
Navigation Optional 9-inch solid-state navigation with SiriusXM NavTraffic
Bluetooth phone support Standard
Digital audio sources USB, iPod, Bluetooth audio, HD Radio, CD
Audio system 17-speaker Lexicon Logic 7 surround audio
Driver aids forward collision alert, full-range adaptive cruise, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, park distance sensors, rear camera (standard), lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, head-up display, Blue Link emergency services
Base price $51,500
Price as tested

2015 Hyundai Genesis 5.0

Score Breakdown

Performance 7Features 8Design 8Media 9