published Saturday, June 7th, 2014

Test Drive: Genesis leaps ahead in design, safety

The redesigned 2015 Hyundai Genesis combines elegant sheet metal with state of the art electronics.
The redesigned 2015 Hyundai Genesis combines elegant sheet metal with state of the art electronics.
Photo by Mark Kennedy.

FAST FACTS

* Model: 2015 Hyundai Genesis

* Exterior color: Empire State Gray

* Interior color: Black

* Engine: 3.8-liter V-6

* Horsepower: 311

* Transmission: eight-speed automatic

* Fuel economy: 29 mpg highway, 18 mpg city

* Dealer: Long Hyundai

* Price (as tested): $43,529

The Super Bowl television ad for the 2015 Hyundai Genesis shows a dad with quick reflexes saving his accident-prone son from the perils of childhood: nearly colliding with another child on a swing set, almost running into a flaming-hot charcoal grill, and practically falling into a lake.

In the final scene, the boy, now a teenager, gets distracted by a young blonde while driving his Dad's new Hyundai Genesis, and, in the process, almost rear-ends a sports car in the lane ahead. Dad, watching this unfold from the front passenger's seat, is helpless to react.

But the new Genesis midsize sedan, with its nifty auto-emergency braking system, senses the impending collision and -- chirp! -- stops the car automatically. Big sigh. Happy ending. Technology to the rescue.

Now, we send you back to the Super Bowl to see Peyton Manning getting killed some more.

OK, but time out. Why is 16-year-old Junior driving his dad's $43,529 car, anyway? Why can't he practice in Mom's old, beat-up Elantra?

Well, I guess that is beside the point. The all-new Genesis is being marketed as a sleeker, more powerful, more highly-evolved motor car, with all the bells and whistles and safety features modern luxury car buyers demand. And after driving a Genesis this week, courtesy of Long Hyundai General Sales Manager Marcos Ruiz, I'd have to say the Korean car company has checked all the boxes.

STYLING AND COMFORT

The first-generation Genesis, introduced in 2009, was a fine car but always seemed like a work in progress. Hyundai has obviously bench-marked some of the other luxury brands, and tried to deliver a comparable level of refinement for thousands of dollars less.

Our test car, a rear-wheel-drive 6-cylinder model, starts at $38,000. A $4,000 Signature Package, including a panoramic sun-roof, a power telescoping steering wheel and the crash-alert system, boosts the sticker to $43,529, including the destination charge. Pricing for the RWD eight-cylinder Genesis -- which is also available locally at Long Hyundai -- starts at $52,450. An all-wheel-drive option adds $2000 to the price on either model.

The Genesis can go toe-to-toe with other luxury sedans such as the Lexus ES, the BMW 5-series and the Cadillac CTS. Of the three, the Genesis seems most like the Lexus, with a similar emphasis on cabin isolation and an absorbent suspension.

Step back from the Genesis and squint your eyes and you can see a hint of Mercedes Benz in the grille, bit of Jaguar in the hood line, an echo of BMW in the deck lid and a reflection of Infiniti in the wheel design. I say these things as a compliment, because those are all design strengths of the competition.

Inside, the dash of the Genesis is so horizontal that you could almost call it retro. Gone are the days when every dial, gauge and switch had to angle toward the driver. The result is a much cleaner design that makes the cabin feel open and spacious.

Our test car, featuring an Empire State Gray paint job, has a black interior. The beefy steering wheel feels good in your hands, and paddle shifters at 9-and-3 are available if you're in a playful mood and want to change gears manually without a clutch.

Long Hyundai Product Specialist Robert Green demonstrated the seven-inch instrument cluster display at mid-dash that handles all the navigation, phone and media functions. The navigation system includes a class-leading 720p high-definition display, a classy touch. Hands-free phone and streaming audio is also baked into the system. Our test car also has a 14-speaker Lexicon sound system for audiophiles. Ventilated and heated front seats are common in the class, but a nice touch nonetheless.

The blind-spot monitor came into play as I took a test drive in the Genesis on Highway 153 earlier this week. It emits a helpful tone if it senses you're about to swap paint with a vehicle to your left or right.

Other luxury touches include a power rear sunshade and fancy 14-spoke wheels.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

Our V-6 test car makes 311 horsepower, about 100 hp less than the 8-cylinder Genesis, but plenty of power for most driving situations.

Some reviewers have noted that the V-6, aluminum engine actually makes for better handling because it's lighter and results in less weight balanced over the front wheels. In a curvy stretch of road around Chickamauga Lake, the Genesis handled like a dream.

The government says the V-6 Genesis will get 29 miles per gallon highway, and 18 mpg city -- not bad for a car with over 300 horses under the hood.

BOTTOM LINE

The Genesis competes with several other fine automobiles. If you're willing to sacrifice a little cache for a lot of cash, this might be your car. To complete the value equation, we'd suggest sticking with the six-cylinder version, which gets better gas mileage and may handle a bit better than the V-8.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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