Four months ago, my dad decided he had finally had enough of German cars and their exorbitant repair bills. Coincidentally, right after picking his X3 up from another costly repair, he passed a shop that was selling a 2011 Hyundai Genesis 4.6 V8 with 60,000 miles on the clock for around $13,000, the reason being that the shop had just got done fixing the Hyundai up after a hail storm wrote it off. My dad test drove the car, had it inspected by a trusted 3rd party, and bought it the next day. It’s in great shape and mechanically flawless. At the time, I said I wasn’t sure how I felt about this new arrival in our garage. Well, now I’ve had the chance to drive the car plenty, and I’ve come to a conclusion. I do not like it at all.
Before I explain why, let me explain what I’m not saying. I’m not saying the Genesis is a bad car. I’m not saying it was a bad deal or that it was a bad choice for my dad to buy it. And none of what I’m saying necessarily applies to the newer Genesis, which I have yet to drive. Now on to what I am saying...
My main problem with this car is that it would seem that the engineers at Hyundai wanted to build a German-esque or Lexus-esque midsized luxury sedan, but rather than spending any time in a GS or 5-Series, they simply looked at pictures and spec sheets for those cars and then built a car that looks vaguely reminiscent of all of them, and has all of the performance and features on paper, but lacks any of the touches that have made Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Lexus such standouts in the mainstream luxury car market.
I’m not lacking for examples here. We’ll start outside. The Genesis is certainly not an ugly car. Especially in black, it does posses some of those imposing, sinister qualities that a black luxury sedan should. A prominent grill, wide rear haunches, good proportions, and a low, wide stance are all present. And of course, with the Hyundai badges gone, nobody can tell what it is. But that’s also the problem: the Genesis looks like the generic de-badged CGI luxury car you’d see in some ad. It has no identity. The new one remedies this, but as for ours, it looks like an anonymous blend of third-generation Lexus GS, Mercedes E-Class, and 8th-generation Honda Accord.
The lack of zest continues to the interior. It’s not ugly or anything, but it is so eye-wateringly bland and devoid of style or appeal that you can’t possibly look forward to being inside it the way you might an Audi or Jaguar. I’ll try to unload my laundry list of complaints with the interior. The rim of the steering wheel is far too thick while also being rubbery and slippery. The chrome rings on each spoke of the wheel look awful. The wood on the top really ought to be on the bottom as well, rather than just a large seam. There is no wood on the dash, and that silver plastic that is meant to look like brushed aluminum, while not cheap-feeling, is ugly in such vast quantities. The entire center, from the nav screen down to the nav controls down between the seats, looks bulbous and swollen. The wood, like the metal-plastic, doesn’t feel awfully cheap, but it’s so dark that you can’t tell it from the grey material that covers the dash. Seriously, in all but bright and direct sunlight, you’d struggle to spot any of the wood veneer in this car. The shifter borrows that goofy zig-zag pattern that Mercedes was using back in the 90's, and has a weird feel to it. The knob for the infotainment screen is enormous. Bottom line, this car does not have an attractive interior.
Then we start getting to the really annoying stuff. There are two major aspects to a luxury car: comfort and equipment. On neither front is the Genesis a total failure, but it still falls short. From a comfort standpoint, the Genesis has a bouncy, unsettled, and choppy ride, particularly for back seat passengers at medium speeds (35-60mph). This would be one thing if the Genesis were a particularly sporty sedan, but the chassis and steering are in no way conducive to spirited driving. This car has the numbness of a land yacht, but the bouncy ride of something much racier. The seats are very soft and wide and would be comfortable, but even with full power adjustments in every direction and a power tilt & telescope wheel, I cannot find a driving position I’m comfortable with. I’m 5'6" with broad shoulders. The belt line is far too high for me to put my elbow or arm on, and the armrests are too low. They’re also too widely spaced, so I can’t really rest my arms anywhere. I can’t find a comfortable driving position no matter what I do.
It’s the features, however, that irritate most of all. It would seem everything had been installed just so they can say the car has it in the brochure. The adaptive front lights in the X3 or my grandmother’s Cadillac turn a visible amount. The adaptive lights in the Genesis barely move. The backup camera on the Hyundai is aimed almost straight down, which really isn’t helpful at all. The driver’s seat has full power adjustments and cooling as well as heat. The front passenger seat has no ability to move up and down or tilt, and loses the cooling feature. The car has Bluetooth phone, but you can’t stream audio with it. The adaptive cruise control cannot be set to anything closer than “one semi-truck length away” and jams on the brakes far harder and more aggressively than it needs to*. The Genesis somehow manages to be slower and no more efficient than a Chrysler 300 with a 1.1 liter larger engine and less horsepower. And that digital clock screen below the infotainment system is straight out of an early-00s Accent.
The Genesis is not bad for Hyundai’s first true attempt at a luxury car for the American market. Still, it feels in every aspect like the engineers didn’t actually bother to sit in or drive any of the cars it was supposed to steal customers away from. Sure, it was $15,000 cheaper than its Japanese and German competitors, but you can tell exactly where they skimped. It wasn’t in the materials this time; it was in the designing. It simply does not drive or feel like anything even remotely German, or Japanese for that matter. For the value-conscious luxury car buyer, the Genesis made sense. They got a long spec sheet in a premium-looking car, with ample reliability and a huge warranty to boot. But any European luxury car aficionado who was expecting the no-compromises experience of an A6, E-Class, or 5-Series would not find it in the Hyundai Genesis. Not even remotely close
*This could be how all radar cruise systems are. The only other car I’ve in which I’ve tried the radar guided cruise control system is a Model S, which isn’t a fair comparison.