Hyundai goes for glamour
The 2009 Hyundai Genesis is the South Korean car manufacturer's first foray into the luxury sedan market and at first glance it is a welcome addition. Unlike other Hyundai models, the car is an elegant-looking machine with sleek curves, a powerful looking grille and sporty wheels that would not look out of place on a Mercedes or even a Porsche.
Admittedly, I had seen the television advert, where the slogan: "You say genius, we say Genesis" announces the car's apparently intelligent arrival, so I knew it looked good. But having driven it, I can safely say this car does seem to be equipped with its own bit of motoring genius.
And I'm not the only one who thinks so. At this month's Detroit Auto Show the Genesis was named North American Car of the Year and has been turning heads across the globe. Yet this is no fluke as the Genesis has been four years in the making during which the Hyundai Motor Company has invested $600m (Dh2.2 billion) in what is now its flagship car.
Modelled on three other cars, the BMW 550i Mercedes E550 and the Lexus GS, it certainly packs a punch, both in performance and the interior design. Yet despite these grand aspirations, the Genesis is more likely to compete with such motors as the Chrysler 300C and Inifiniti M35 and M45.
The Genesis has a defined look and powerful yet almost silent drive, due to the aluminium suspension components. It also has impressive statistics such as 0-100kph in 6.2 seconds for the 3.8 V6 version, making the Genesis an exceptional drive.
Driving around town is a pleasure – the car is responsive when you want to get out of a jam yet also breaks quickly when one of your fellow drivers wants to tuck in straight in front of you.
In fact, in road tests the high carbon content brakes beat the BMW 550i and 2008 Mercedes E550 on a 113kph to 0kph stop making you feel safe and secure.
For the highway there is cruise control and features such as next generation dampers to give more control when hitting inconsistencies in the road.
But what really makes the Genesis a treat to drive is its myriad of specifications and attention to luxury and comfort. The car has full power accessories – power front leather seats (eight-way driver and four-way passenger) and dual-zone automatic climate control. There is also integrated memory for two driver's seat positions.
Automatic rain sensing window wipers and a proximity key, which allows drivers to open the car door with a button on the handle and start the engine with another button without taking the key from their pocket, all add to the sophistication.
Further aiding the car's comfort is a button near the gearbox to heat the seat and another – which should feature on all cars in the UAE – that cools it.
In terms of the all-important audio package, Hyundai has plumped for a Lexicon 14-speaker surround sound system (Rolls Royce uses the same brand), which comes with a CD player, satellite radio and iPod and auxiliary input jacks.
The Genesis 3.8 V6, which I was driving (there is also a 4.3 V8 and a coupé) comes with 17-inch alloy wheels and a defogging windscreen. It also boasts 290bhp and 264lb ft of torque from its 3.8-litres of displacement.
Safety features consist of antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, active front head restraints, front- and rear-seat side airbags and full-length head curtain airbags as standard.
It has a fitted screen in the centre of the dashboard that offers information about the car and radio stations and reverts to a camera when reversing. GPS is available in some models.
One feature that I thought was helpful was a gauge in the dashboard telling you how many kilometres until the tank is empty. I started with enough petrol to last 560 kilometres, but as ever this changes depending on speed and distance. The fuel consumption, according to Hyundai, is 16 litres per 100km in the city and 10.5 litres per 100km on the highway while the tank holds 19.3 gallons of unleaded petrol.
As for the rear, the boot of the Genesis is deep and wide – 15.9 cubic feet – with enough space to fit large suit cases and sports equipment. The rear seats do not fold down but there is a pass-through feature.
It's not hard to see why luxury sedans are so popular with executives in the UAE as the combination of comfort and power they provide is persuasive to say the least.
The Hyundai may be on a par with its rivals in many aspects of performance and finish and its price means it is extremely competitive but it remains to be seen whether people will take it seriously alongside the competition.
Hyundai has decided not to create a luxury arm in the same vein Nissan did with Infiniti and many may be reluctant to go with it due to it being new to this class.
But I'm sure that potential buyers, once they have driven the car, will be suitably impressed and no doubt the manufacturer's reputation being strengthened at car shows such as Detroit will only help its sales.
The Genesis is a great example of the best in automotive technology and sophisticated design. And just like the Supra transformed Toyota sports cars, enthusiasts will be forced to rethink their perceptions of Hyundai.
The competition should watch and learn.
Although it has sporting aspirations, the M45 is more of a luxury motor with a powerful engine but it is noisy on the road.
Its hefty size immediately gives the 300C road presence but cheap-looking interiors and excess noise at speed let it down.
Lincoln's sedan has a luxurious feel inside and is a solid drive but its classic styling will no doubt put some people off.
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