Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Evolution of Hyundai

With the Genesis sedan, automaker makes good first impression in entry-luxury segment

The hotel valet looked at today's test car and said, "It looks like a Lexus -- but it's a Hyundai!"

That was an astute 10-second assessment, but I wondered how he saw that my Genesis sedan was a Hyundai.

From the front, there is no Hyundai badge on the grille or any company identifier. And the styling, while contemporary, it is also familiar -- and so subtle that even I didn't recognize the car when he pulled it around later in the day after a news conference.

Hyundai is making a big move into the entry-luxury segment with this large-class Genesis. And it can be compared in features and technology with the best luxury marques on sale today. But the company is not just breaking into a new segment, it has to break through a glass ceiling of perception that Hyundai makes economy cars.

Hyundai makes quality vehicles with long warranty coverage through accommodating dealerships. And the company has been gradually moving uplevel with every new generation of its cars and crossovers.

Genesis, like its name, represents the evolution of the company.

If this were the company's first human son, he'd be facing years of therapy to shoulder the stress of family expectations. But as a car, this one makes a good first impression. Hyundai gave Genesis the budget to be a contender.

This large, rear-wheel-drive sedan is sold in V-6 and V-8 models, with six-speed Shiftronic automatic transmissions. Pricing ranges from $33,000 to $38,000.

The standard equipment is considerable, but the $3,000 Premium Plus package adds desirable extras, including a 14-speaker Lexicon surround sound audio system, leather-wrapped dashboard top (not just a steering wheel), power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, auto-defogging windshield and 18-inch Hyper Silver wheels.

Buyers will surely scrutinize this car, as I did. And they will find attention to refinement in the cabin that some top-tier luxury brands overlook.

It is how quietly the windows glide open and closed. It is in the padded cups of the door grabs and the softly padded armrests. The standard leather upholstery looks like leather, not like extra-thick vinyl. The dark-brown leather in the test car was beginning to show a patina like that of a gently worn bomber jacket. It will age well, while most seat leather doesn't.

The interior is an environment of fine stitching, tasteful chrome accents, appealing textures and materials. All controls are in place and easy to figure out.

I might have wished for more swagger to the exterior styling, but the architecture has extraordinary interior space: 40.4 inches of headroom and 38.6 inches of rear legroom, with a big, easy-to-access trunk. Visibility is good all around. The doors open wide and seat hip height is comfortable for easy entry and exit.

The driving experience is, like Hyundai, efficient and youthful. The suspension is taut and, perhaps, too firm for those shopping for the Korean Buick. Braking is strong and flat from 12.6-inch discs, which was once the specification size for fast sports cars.

The engines are sophisticated, smooth and all aluminum. The 290-horsepower, 3.8 liter V-6 is plenty powerful while returning 27-plus mpg on the highway using regular unleaded gasoline. The 4.6-liter V-8 has 375-hp on premium fuel or 368-hp on regular. With 0-60 mph in 6.2 seconds, this engine is just five-tenths of a second faster than the V-6, and still delivers fuel economy of 17/25 mpg.

The car did everything so well in a week of driving more than 300 miles that I had to look deep for complaints, but, of course, found a few. The center back seat is the size of a kindergartner's chair. The map lights are brilliant white and overwhelming. And now that Suzuki can include a navigation system as standard equipment on its least-expensive car, I expect that type of (standard) differentiator from Hyundai on its most expensive car. Navi with a rearview camera is available in an option package.

The exterior styling is the only vague element to the car. There is some imprint of Lexus -- or is it Mercedes-Benz? And the rear quarter has some BMW in it. Hyundai styling is fairly distinct for its mainstream vehicles. You know those Hyundais when you see them. But there needs to be a more distinct DNA for its large and more expensive vehicles, which includes the Veracruz crossover. It is not good enough in today's market to look a little like this one and a little like that one.

As an entry-level luxury sedan, Genesis may not distract a BMW or Lexus buyer, but it will be an ideal step up for the current Hyundai customer, or those from Honda, Toyota or other imports.

The rear-wheel-drive, large-class Hyundai Genesis sedan is sold in V-6 and V-8 models, with pricing that ranges from $33,000 to $38,000.

2009 Hyundai Genesis 3.8

Body style: large, five-passenger, rear-wheel-drive sedan

Engine: aluminum, 290-horsepower, DOHC 3.8-liter V-6 with continuously variable valve timing

Transmission: six-speed automatic with Shiftronic manual shift mode

Acceleration: 0-60 mph: 6.2 seconds

EPA fuel economy estimates: 18 mpg city, 27 highway; 87 octane recommended

Fuel capacity: 20.3 gallons


Trunk space: 15.9 cubic feet

Front head/leg/shoulder room: 40.4/44.3/58.3 inches

Rear head/leg/shoulder room: 37.3/38.6/57.9 inches

Length/wheelbase: 195.9/115.6 inches

Curb weight: 3,748 pounds


Standard equipment includes: automatic lock/unlock with electric push-button ignition, fog lights, automatic headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, acoustic laminated windshield and front side glass, dual power heated body-colored side mirrors with turn signal indicators, leather seating surfaces with heated front seats, power front seats, cruise control, floor mats, electroluminescent instrument cluster, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel with audio controls, dual zone automatic climate control, electrochromic rear view mirror with HomeLink integrated transceiver and compass, CD audio system with XM satellite radio and iPod-USB input jacks, Bluetooth hands-free phone system

Safety features include: advanced front air bags, front and rear seat-mounted side bags, roof-mounted side curtain bags, electronic active front head restraints, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic stability control with traction control


Base: $33,000, including $750 freight charge; price as tested, $36,000

Options on test car: Premium Plus package, $3,000, includes 18-inch Hyper Silver alloy wheels and 235/50 tires; Lexicon 14-speaker surround sound audio system; leather-wrapped dashboard and door trim; power tilt-slide sunroof; power tilt-telescopic steering column; memory presets for seats and mirrors; rain-sensing wipers; auto-defogging windshield

Final assembly: Ulsam, Korea

By Mark Maynard, Wheels editor

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hyundai offers upscale luxury vehicle

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- There's a new luxury car on the market, but if you saw it, you'd be hard-pressed to figure out who makes it. That's because the new Genesis is nothing like Hyundai's more basic models.

This new large sedan definitely gives off a luxury vibe. The front end and grille might remind you of a Mercedes-Benz, while the taillights mimic those of some current BMW models. Inside, the overall look, and even the details, suggest a Lexus.

But it's none of those upscale cars. This is a Hyundai. The new Genesis sedan breaks new ground for the Korean brand.

"Here you've got a vehicle that can give you a lot of those creature comforts and a smooth ride and plenty of power," said James Bell, "But then also be fiscally much more responsible."

The Genesis is a true luxury car, with all the ingredients for an upscale driving experience, including an optional V-8 engine.

The one thing you won't find on or in this car: the word "Hyundai." Only a simple badge that proclaims it the Genesis model, plus Hyundai's stylized "H" logo here and there.

It would seem that Hyundai doesn't necessarily want anyone to think of this premium-class car as a Hyundai.

"Hyundai's got a big reputation, impression job to build," said James Bell. "And so by leaving the name off, that might help them out."

One thing Hyundai is proud to display on the Genesis is the sticker price: from $33,000, to $42,000 with all the options -- a downright bargain in the luxury arena.

Will the Genesis attract luxury buyers who may be looking at a Lexus or Mercedes? Well ... maybe. But what this new Hyundai is more likely to do is raise the overall image of the entire Hyundai brand.

For example, the mid-size Hyundai Sonata has often been thought of as a bargain-bin alternative to the Accord and Camry, but now it might get some upscale cred.

"To know that you now have a line of vehicles that you can kind of aspire to, that's something Hyundai has never really had before," said Bell. "Especially when the Genesis coupe comes out later."

That coupe debuts next spring, and promises impressive performance, another attribute of upscale luxury brands. It will also be branded as a Genesis to complement the sedan.

If the Genesis line impresses enough people, the words "Hyundai" and "luxury" may end up no longer being mutually exclusive terms.

By Dave Kunz

Monday, December 29, 2008

2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring: Hyundai's brightest star isn't necessarily its biggest

When you think about it, the excitement is understandable. Of all the cars in Hyundai's fleet, the Elantra Touring is the first wagon. And since wagon popularity has been on the rise, it's no wonder Hyundai dealers are more than a little giddy.

But it might have been easy to miss the Touring since Hyundai also unleashed what many consider to be its most exciting vehicle ever: the Genesis luxury sedan. Yes, it's a headline stealer, but as good as that car might be, the Elantra is more practical, better on gas, less money and will sell, by comparison, like hotcakes.

Over the years, the mainstream Elantra sedan/hatchback has served to enhance the company's reputation of building well-designed automobiles for the sensible-shoes crowd. They're solidly constructed and relatively conservative.

The Elantra Touring manages to break free of the humdrum with clean-slate good looks and a sporty driving profile that contrasts its more practical nature.

Other than wearing an Elantra badge, there's virtually no sheetmetal that's shared between the sedan and the Touring, which was originally designed for the European market where compact wagons are even more popular. From its open-mouth front air intake to its oversized vertical taillamps, the Touring appears more sleek than utilitarian.

Interestingly, the tale of the tape reveals that the Touring is about an inch shorter and a half-inch narrower that the sedan, but enjoys a two-inch advantage in distance between the front and rear wheels. The result is more rear-seat leg room and less body overhang, especially in the rear.

Still, Hyundai says you can cram more stuff in back with the rear seat folded than in either the Toyota Matrix, Mazda3 or Dodge Caliber as well as some major heavyweight haulers such as the BMW 3-series or Audi A4 Avant wagon.

In its own economical way, the Touring tries to emulate its pricier German rivals by tweaking the steering and suspension to provide a sport-wagon driving experience and not a station-wagon driving experience. Significantly stiffer springs, larger front and rear stabilizer bars and short-sidewall tires are the order of the day plus the steering rack has been adjusted to deliver more direct "feel."

The sense of sportiness extends to the interior where a set of sport bucket seats with extra bolstering helps keep everyone in their place. The five-speed manual transmission (a four-speed automatic transmission is available) comes with a short-throw shifter from California-based aftermarket-parts company B&M Racing. Sporty doesn't mean brash, though, as Hyundai has installed additional sound deadening material to keep the experience a pleasant one.

So far, so good, but don't expect to find a fire-breathing dragon under the Touring's hood, just the sedan's 141-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder that twists out 137 pound-feet of torque. However, this powerplant has served the Elantra sedan well and should be capable of propelling the 3,000-pound Touring with adequate gusto.

Hyundai has graced the Touring with a veritable full load of gear including air conditioning, tilt and telescopic steering wheel with built-in audio controls, automatic speed control, keyless remote entry, eight-way adjustable driver's seat (including lumbar support), heated outside mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels and a complete range of safety gear. The Touring also comes with a six-speaker 172-watt sound system that also includes XM satellite radio.

In fact, the Elantra arrives so complete that the only options consist of a power sunroof, heated front seats and 17-inch wheels.

Hyundai has yet to announce the base sticker for its upcoming wagon, which is expected to arrive early in 2009. But you can be sure that, with its history of competitive pricing, not to mention its standard five-year basic warranty coverage, the Elantra Touring will become a highly sought-after model and another feather in the company's cap, along with the Genesis, of course. Whether you're a buyer or you work at a Hyundai dealership, there's plenty of excitement. And that's understandable.

What you should know: 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring

Type: Four-door, front-wheel-drive compact wagon

Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC four-cylinder (141 hp)

Transmissions: Five-speed manual; four-speed automatic (opt.)

Market position: Compact wagons occupy a small, but growing niche that's being filled by a variety of European, Japanese and North American manufacturers.

Points: Unique body styling improves on Elantra sedan; More powerful engine, turbo option would match extra cargo capacity; Exceptionally spacious interior; No leather interior, backup warning, navigation system options a surprise; Most of the automotive world adopting five- and six-speed automatic transmissions for this class, except Hyundai; Price, fuel economy, will be strong selling points.

Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.

The numbers: MPG (city/hwy) 23/31 (MT); Base price $17,000 (est., including destination)

By comparison

Mazda 3 5-Door

Base price: $19,300

Popular hatch is fun to drive. New 2010 version arrives soon.

Dodge Caliber

Base price: $16,300

Bargain-priced base model shy on content. SRT4 offers big power.

VW Jetta Sportwagen

Base price: $19,700

Generously sized with loads of power. Diesel option available.

By Malcolm Gunn
Wheelbase Communications

Friday, December 26, 2008

Hyundai looks to exceptional Genesis to create new image

CHICAGO -- When I first saw the 2009 Hyundai Genesis, I thought it looked nice in a nondescript sort of way. There's no badge embossed on the grille, but its shoulders are wide and there's a sense of power to it.

But when I parked on the street in Chicago, it seemed everyone walked by it, smiling, nodding in approval, stopping by to tell me how nice the car was. Honestly, I wasn't expecting that kind of reaction.

Standing in the middle of Koreatown on the north side of the Windy City may have had something to do with the reactions, but they were right.

The new top dog for the South Korea-based company takes on the likes of Mercedes and Lexus with considerable aplomb.

It's a flagship with something even Lincoln lacks: a V-8. However, even Hyundai executives point out that only 20 percent of models sold will carry the beefier engine.

While Hyundai used to carry the reputation as the "less expensive" carmaker, it's been polishing its reputation with consumers, creating a new image of itself: Genesis could be just the beginning. It's as if Hyundai has performed well in prep school, won a scholarship to Harvard and graduated at the top of its class.

Here's why: At $40,000, the Genesis is an exceptional vehicle, but this one starts at $33,000.

For me, entry level luxury cars must do two things extremely well: offer a superior ride and remind me how special I really am. There's a whole genre of entry level sport luxury that pairs performance and craftsmanship, and many cars such as the Cadillac CTS and BMW 3 Series fit well in that area. Hyundai aimed at a different target. It hit a sweet spot somewhere between a boring Buick and an overcomplicated Acura.

On the highway, it's quiet and comfortable. Hyundai covers the basics extremely well: cutting wind and engine noise to extremely low levels. The interior is plush, understated and simplified. The brown leather trim across the front of the dash could come from an antique book, and the heated steering wheel could warm up leftovers. Every control is at my fingertips through the center console's single control knob -- similar to the systems offered by German luxury carmakers. Sit, spin, command.

By the time I finished the five-hour trip to Chicago, I still felt fresh and relaxed. The smooth ride stems from the five-link front and rear suspension, 115.6-inch wheelbase and the 18-inch wheels. (The V-6 model comes with 17-inchers.) I crossed all types of pavements along the way -- seamed concrete, quiet asphalt and the post-apocalyptic ruins along patches of the Dan Ryan Expressway.

The 4.6-liter V-8 performed phenomenally, especially on the highway near the Loop. Detroiters may complain about traffic, but it's nothing compared to Chicago's. There, you need a big car to wedge your way into the express lane and enough power to blast past the driver in the Mercedes on a cell phone.

The 368-horsepower V-8 manhandles the car on the open road and in Chicago's high-speed tight traffic. (It can hit 375 horsepower with premium fuel, but I'm just too cheap.) It also produces 324-pound-feet torque and moves smoothly through the ZF six-speed automatic transmission.

While it can go from 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds, the 4,000 pound body seemed a little heavy for tight cornering on city streets, as the body would roll, and electro-hydraulic steering felt a little loose at slower speeds. After all, it's a big car -- stretching 195.9 inches -- so I wasn't expecting a sprinter. But really, it's a minor complaint. It has the muscle and the underpinnings to perform at exceedingly high levels.

Another area where I thought the Genesis performed poorly was in the snow. The electronic stability control and traction control kicked on at the millisecond of wheel spin. While this is good in most conditions, when stopped on snow, it leaves the rear wheels sputtering for traction. An all-wheel-drive model might help it in weather conditions tougher than Southern California's extreme sunshine, but there are no plans for such a model.

I'm even more curious to test the 3.8-liter V-6 model, which touts 290-horsepower and 264-pound-feet torque, with a body weight 250 pounds lighter than its V-8 brother. The heavy body may cut into the car's fuel performance: 17 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway for the V-8, and 18/27 for the V-6.

The Genesis really shines inside. There is more than 44 inches of legroom in the front and 38 inches of legroom in the back. Fill it up with five adults and every one has enough leg and elbow room to sit comfortably. The 15.9 cubic feet of truck space also offers ample room to hold everything from four sets of golf clubs to luggage.

The dash carries a graceful curve across the middle and then narrows out on the edges. A metallic U envelopes the 8-inch digital display screen that is neatly pushed into the canted dash to cut down on glare from the sun.

The Lexicon 14-speaker stereo can play your iPod, connect any other music device, satellite radio and anything you can cram onto an USB thumb drive.

Hyundai also uses a cool blue lighting scheme at night that works well with the black-faced instruments. It's easy on the eyes and lets you adjust to the Xenon high-intensity discharge headlamps, which feature an auto leveling feature that keeps the lights on the road, no matter how the sedan is loaded.

As for the car's profile, the back looks slightly higher than the front, giving it that sporty wedge look, though its sheer size and gracious roofline provide luxury sedan appeal.

The front wheel is pushed forward while the back allows for some overhang. The front end is powerful with its horizontal grille and black intake below the bumper.

My feeling is that as Hyundai was taking a big risk entering the rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan market already, it wasn't going to take too much of a risk with the exterior. It's conservative. Then again, so are the people who will buy it.

Detriot News

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hyundai Announces Pricing for Fuel-Efficient Elantra Touring

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., December 23, 2008 -- Hyundai Motor America has announced prices for its Elantra Touring five-door compact, starting at $18,495 for a very well-equipped entry-level model and $19,995 for one featuring a Premium-Sport package. The all-new 2009 Elantra Touring is a sportier, more functional variant of Hyundai's popular Elantra sedan, and will be available at dealerships in the first quarter of 2009.

2009 Elantra Touring Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Pricing
Touring M/T
Standard Equipment
Five-Speed M/T with B&M Sport shifter

Touring A/T
Standard Equipment
Four-Speed A/T

Touring M/T
Five-Speed M/T with B&M Sport shifter

Touring A/T
Four-Speed A/T

Note: All prices in this release contain a freight charge of $695

"The all-new Elantra Touring is a fun-to-drive, functional five-door," said Mark Dipko, manager, small car product development, Hyundai Motor America. "Elantra Touring provides buyers a unique offering in the compact segment, raising the bar as Hyundai likes to do in value, safety and quality. It is remarkable how many features a customer can get for under $20,000 in such a versatile five-door."
The Elantra Touring is the first five-door compact to offer standard Electronic Stability Control (ESC) in addition to a host of other class-leading safety technologies. As with all Hyundai vehicles, the Elantra Touring was designed and manufactured to meet the most stringent quality standards in the industry, exemplifying Hyundai's quality leadership position worldwide.

The Elantra Touring, with its modern, sleek styling and fun-to-drive qualities, was developed by Hyundai in response to the growing demand for stylish and functional five-door vehicles, sales of which doubled from 2001 to 2006. Five-door vehicle sales are projected to be strong into the next decade as well.

Elantra Touring builds on Hyundai's reputation for offering loads of standard equipment, including air conditioning, power windows, heated mirrors, door locks, remote keyless entry with alarm, steering wheel-mounted cruise control and audio controls, eight-way adjustable driver's seat with lumbar support, a cooled glove box and plenty of storage compartments. For audiophiles, an integrated 172-Watt AM/FM/XM Satellite Radio/CD/MP3 audio system with six speakers, USB input and auxiliary input jack are standard. The Premium-Sport package adds a power sunroof with tilt and slide functions, heated front seats and 17-inch alloy wheels with P215/45VR17 tires.

Like every Hyundai, top-tier safety was a key development goal for the Elantra Touring, which is fully equipped to protect driver and passengers. Passive safety features include dual front, side and curtain airbags -- a total of six protective airbags in the vehicle. Other safety features include active front headrests, seatbelt pretensioners and seatbelt reminders. The combination of side and curtain airbags, which help protect the head and body during side impacts, can reduce fatalities by more than 50 percent, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS also notes that active front head restraints improve rear crash protection.

The Elantra Touring comes standard with Electronic Stability Control (ESC), one of the industry's most effective life-saving technologies. NHTSA studies show that passenger cars equipped with ESC experience 30 percent fewer fatalities in single-vehicle crashes than cars without ESC. Santa Fe, Veracruz, Tucson, Sonata, Azera, Elantra SE, Entourage and Genesis are all equipped with standard ESC. Elantra Touring has earned five-star frontal and four-star side crash ratings in the compact passenger car segment from NHTSA.

The long wheelbase and generous width of the Elantra Touring, combined with Hyundai's expertise in interior packaging, have produced an interior that delivers class-leading comfort, functionality and practicality. Elantra Touring has the most interior volume (passenger volume plus cargo space) of any five-door in its class at 125.5 cubic feet. In fact, Elantra Touring's cargo capacity is 65.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down, which is more cargo space than many larger wagons and crossovers.

The Elantra Touring is the first compact five-door to offer XM Satellite Radio® and USB/iPod® auxiliary inputs as standard equipment. When an iPod or flash drive is connected through the USB port, located in the center storage compartment, not only does it play music through the vehicle's six-speaker audio system, but it also charges the iPod and allows the driver to access tracks with the steering wheel audio controls. This system also allows both driver and passengers to easily view song/artist/title information and control the music from the audio head unit rather than only the iPod itself. The center storage compartment location of the USB assures that iPods can be safely stowed out of sight.

The roomy and functional interior is also a quiet place to be. Based on internal tests, Elantra Touring has four decibels lower road noise levels than the Mazda3 five-door.

The Elantra Touring's exterior dimensions (176.2 inches long, 69.5 inches wide and 59.8 inches high) make it a great fit in the compact five-door segment, while its long wheelbase (106.3 inches) offers class-leading interior volume. Elantra Touring features outstanding front legroom and both front and rear shoulder room. In addition, every Elantra Touring has 60/40 split folding rear seats that fold when needed for added storage, functionality and practicality.

The Elantra Touring matches best-in-class passenger volume with best-in-class cargo capacity. There is a useful 24.3 cubic feet of luggage space with rear seats upright and a cavernous 65.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat. As in any Hyundai, the utility and convenience in the Elantra Touring has not been overlooked, with a stow-and-go removable luggage cover that stores conveniently out-of-site under the trunk area compartment. An optional restraining net is also offered.

The Elantra Touring includes a number of convenient, standard stowage and storage features, including a sunglass holder, two front and two rear cupholders, door bottle holders, dash storage, central console storage, front storage tray, front seatback pockets and a cargo area under-floor storage. For tailgaters, the cargo area also has a power-retained, 12-volt outlet that does not require the vehicle to be turned on in order to work.

Elantra Touring is powered by the same fuel-efficient, 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder found in the Elantra sedan. This sophisticated, 16-valve powerplant employs Dual Overhead Camshafts (DOHC) and Continuously Variable Valve Timing (CVVT) for a power band, coupled with high fuel efficiency and low emissions. Elantra Touring is certified as an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV). With a manual transmission, the Elantra Touring's mileage is 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway according to the EPA. With the optional four-speed, automatic transmission, the Elantra Touring's EPA rating is 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.

The 2009 Elantra Touring is protected by the Hyundai Advantage, America's Best Warranty. Coverage includes five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper protection, 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty and seven-year/unlimited mileage anti-perforation coverage. In addition, Elantra Touring buyers receive 24-hour roadside assistance coverage at no extra charge for five years (no mileage limit), including emergency service.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A new chapter in Hyundai's history

South Korean automaker rolls out upscale Genesis

Rolled out in the 1980s as the South Korean automaker's first foray into the U.S. market, the Excel offered decent transportation at rock-bottom prices.

But two decades after entering the U.S. market, Hyundai is working hard to reposition itself as more than just a low-cost brand.

Enter the 2009 Hyundai Genesis: The South Korean automaker's fanciest (and most expensive) car to date.

With a $32,250 base price and lots of posh accoutrements, the Genesis aims to compete with upscale sedans like the Acura TL and Lexus ES 350 - but costs some $2,000 less.

Motor Mouth recently tested the Genesis 3.8, which comes with a 3.8-liter V-6 engine. (Hyundai also offers a $37,250 Genesis 4.6, which upgrades the engine to a 4.6-liter V-8.)

On the outside, the Korean-built Genesis features a classic "Japanese-sedan" look.

Diamond-shaped headlights and an aerodynamic hood and grille sweep back toward 14-spoke alloy wheels and large doors outfitted with folding side mirrors.

All the way back, a keyless-entry trunk sits above dual chrome exhaust pipes.

Inside, the Genesis has standard perforated stitched-leather upholstery along the seats, door interiors and steering wheel. This material looks pretty nice, but a tad on the cheap side.

Still, the model's driver's and front passenger's heated seats both offered excellent hiproom, along with good headroom and legroom - all thanks to standard electric seat adjusters.

The Genesis also comes standard with a seven-speaker AM/FM/MP3/XM/6CD audio system that's fairly easy to use, with 16 well-marked knobs and buttons. The model's standard dual-zone climate system likewise relies on 12 clearly marked buttons.

Other nice standard Genesis features include a built-in iPod port, as well as special plastic coverings under the hood to keep all of the car's engine components clean.

In back, the model's rear seats provide excellent headroom, legroom and hiproom for two. However, a third person in the center seat might find things a little bit tight after 15 minutes or so.

All the way back, the Genesis' 15.9-cubic-foot trunk can accommodate two big suitcases and perhaps three knapsacks.

On the road, the Genesis 3.8's 290-horsepower engine teams up with a standard rear-wheel-drive system - a first for a U.S. Hyundai model - to provide a generally good ride.

The sedan comes standard with keyless start-up, meaning you just push a button to turn on the car on. (There's no need to insert a car key.)

The Genesis' braking capabilities are good, while parking and backing up are easy given the model's modest size.

Acceleration is fairly solid, although a tad jerky and uneven at times. My test model revved up noisily to 5,000 rpm to go from 0 mph to just 50 mph.

As for fuel economy, the EPA rates the Genesis 3.8 at 18 city and 27/mpg highway. During a week of test drives, Motor Mouth logged a combined 22.2 mpg city/highway.

But pricing is where the Genesis really excels.

As noted above, the model's $32,250 base price easily beats that of the $34,995 Acura TL, $34,320 Lexus ES and other Japanese rivals. The Genesis likewise costs less than the $35,905 Cadillac CTS and other domestic competitors.

The bottom line: Watch your step, Acura, Lexus and Cadillac. With the 2009 Genesis, Hyundai is pulling out all stops to make an exodus out of the auto world's bargain basement.

By Jerry Kronenberg / Motor Mouth

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hyundai Elantra Named "Best Compact Car for the Money" by U.S. News and World Report

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 12/19/2008 The affordable 2009 Hyundai Elantra, with unsurpassed standard safety in the compact segment, was named "Best Compact Car for the Money" by U.S. News and World Report. The "Best Car for the Money" awards are designed to help customers find the best car values at affordable prices without sacrificing quality and design.

"The case of the Hyundai Elantra, the 'Best Compact Car for the Money,' proves what many have been saying for years: Honda and Toyota should watch their backs because Hyundai is making not just economical cars, but very good ones," said Jamie Page Deaton, editor, U.S. News and World Report.

The "Best Car for the Money" awards are based on data from U.S. News and World Report's online automotive rankings evaluated with the opinions of the automotive press and IntelliChoice that measures the value of a vehicle after five-year ownership and maintenance costs. Overall appeal, quality, safety, initial pricing and the five-year total cost of ownership are the major categories for choosing winners.

"We're honored to be recognized by U.S. News and World Report as the 'Best Compact Car for the Money'" said Scott Margason, National Manager, Product Development, Hyundai Motor America. "2009 Elantra is equipped with six standard airbags and extras like standard audio auxiliary input jack -- all at an affordable price point any customer will appreciate. We are pleased to see Elantra being recognized for its continued quality and value."


Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co. of Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced through more than 790 dealerships nationwide.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hyundai Genesis a Finalist for North American Car of the Year

Korean Manufacturer Earns a Place in Finals for First Time in 16-Year History of Award

Detroit, 12/18/2008 When Hyundai introduced the all-new Genesis at the 2008 North American International Auto Show, it promised to shatter automobile paradigms by offering a sedan with capabilities and features comparable to the world's leading premium sports sedans. That claim was underscored today when the North American Car of the Year jury announced Genesis as one of the three finalists in its annual quest to name the most outstanding and significant new car, besting competitors such as Nissan GT-R, Audi A4, Dodge Challenger and BMW 1-Series.

"We are extremely proud of the Hyundai Genesis," said John Krafcik, Hyundai Motor America acting president and chief executive officer. "It's our flagship vehicle. It is the ultimate expression of the engineering excellence found in all of our products. We are honored to be named a finalist for this prestigious award."

This year the jurors considered more than 50 new vehicles before selecting the top three cars and top three trucks. Genesis' spot in the North American Car of the Year finals marks the first time a Korean manufacturer's product has made it to the final three.

U.S. domestic automakers have won North American Car of the Year eight times. Japanese automakers have won three times. European automakers have won four times. The Volkswagen Jetta TDI and Ford Flex are the other finalists this year.

The North American Car of the Year award is decided by a jury of 50 independent, full-time automotive journalists from the United States and Canada. This is the 16th year of the awards, which were inspired by the prestigious European "Car of the Year" awards. The U.S. program is administered by an organizing committee and is funded exclusively with dues paid by the jurors. Jurors judge the cars on a number of factors including innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar.

The winner will be named at next month's North American International Auto Show in Detroit on January 11, 2009.

Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co. of Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced through more than 790 dealerships nationwide.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hyundai's New Tau V8 Engine Named to Ward's "10 Best Engines" List

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 12/08/2008 Hyundai's all-new 4.6-liter Tau V8 engine, which debuted in the premium Genesis sedan this year, has been named one of the "Ward's 10 Best Engines" for 2009 by Ward's Auto World. This marks the first time a Hyundai engine has appeared on the prestigious "Ward's 10 Best Engines" list.

Ward's Auto World editors tested the Tau V8 engine in Hyundai's all-new Genesis sedan this fall and concluded, "The engine's velvety power delivery, competitive performance and attainable price epitomize the Korean auto maker's drive for world-class engineering."

The 2009 Hyundai Genesis is available with the Tau V8 combined with a ZF 6-speed automatic transmission, delivering the rewarding driving performance that premium sports sedan buyers demand.

The critically acclaimed Hyundai Genesis and the Tau V8 engine were designed to rival the best premium sport sedans and V8 engines the world has to offer," said Scott Margason, national manager, Product Development, Hyundai Motor America. "Hyundai is particularly proud of Genesis and the Tau V8 engine as they embody the brand's commitment to performance and efficiency and are delivered to the customer with exceptional value."

The 375-horsepower 4.6-liter Tau V8 engine leads Genesis competitors with the highest specific output - 82-horsepower per liter. The 2009 Hyundai Genesis equipped with a Tau V8 engine achieves up to 25 miles per gallon on the highway, surpassing many prestigious key competitors' V6 models in fuel economy as well as power.

Additionally, Genesis and the Tau V8 engine, like all Hyundai products are backed by the Hyundai Advantage, America's Best Warranty. Coverage includes five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper protection, 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, and seven-year/unlimited mileage anti-perforation coverage.

The Tau V8 engine and the Hyundai Genesis are built at Hyundai's Ulsan Plant in Ulsan City, Korea.


Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co. of Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced through more than 790 dealerships nationwide.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chris Paukert drove the 2009 Hyundai Genesis 3.8

Even (or perhaps especially) in V-6 form, the Hyundai Genesis is one of those cars whose value proposition is so strong that it simply cannot be ignored. Like Lexus' first LS400, the Genesis convincingly elevates its parent company into the luxury sedan market. Similarly, like the original LS, the Genesis surprises with its generously cut, high-quality interior and silent operation, but aesthetically it's rather underwhelming.

Around our Ann Arbor offices, we still see cladded-up old Genesis test mules circulating, and some of them feature the prototype grille that was passed on in favor of the anonymous sternum-like assembly that reminds of those badgeless surrogates used in commercials when companies don't want automobiles' identities highlighted. Neither are particularly attractive, but at least the stillborn grille featured a company emblem--as it is, there are exactly zero badges to inform passers-by that the Genesis is a Hyundai. As good as it is, you'd think that the Koreans would want to take credit.

Banal styling aside, there's plenty to like here, especially at our modestly-specc'd example's MSRP of $36k. It offers the room and performance of mid-level luxury cars like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class at a fraction of the price. Furthermore, by being priced so reasonably, Hyundai ought to avoid the Icarus trap that Volkswagen's Phaeton fell into (if nothing else, the Genesis doesn't have a sister brand like Audi to compete with), as its value proposition remains clear.

I drove our tester home to (and around) the Cleveland area for the Thanksgiving holiday, and everyone was shocked and by the fact that this was a Hyundai (even current brand owners were bowled over--they apparently didn't get the memo). Further, for the company's first stab at a modern rear-drive sedan, the balance and power distribution is impressive stuff--even in slushy, icy conditions--and the 3.8-liter V-6 provided adequate thrust while returning a respectable 24 miles per gallon during what was primarily highway driving.

Any performance issues we experienced with the Genesis can largely be classified as "niggles," as this is a fine automobile at an exceptional price. If we have a primary complaint, it's that Hyundai has yet to grasp the concept of premium interior lighting. The gauge cluster's white backlighting is pleasing to the eye, but it clashes with the buttons and audio system's blue illumination. Similarly, our optional Lexicon fourteen-speaker stereo (part of the $3000 Premium Plus package) sounded good, but the display's text and blue backlighting looks downmarket and out-of-place (we turned it off most of the time, especially at night when it was too bright). Worse still are the reading lights, which are incredibly bright LED units--not a bad thing in and of themselves, but they are aimed poorly and blind the driver at night. A bit of attention would go a long way here.

For those who care more about value and less about badge snobbery, the Genesis is a whale of a car for the money. By massaging just a few minor areas (styling, lighting, etc.), who knows... we might even be able to remove the financial qualifier.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hyundai Earns Top Honors in J.D. Power and Associates' Consumer Financing Satisfaction Study

Hyundai Motor Finance Company Ranks Highest in Non-Luxury Loan Category

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 12/09/2008 Hyundai Motor Finance Company (HMFC) earned the highest ranking in the non-luxury loan category among auto lending institutions in the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Consumer Financing Satisfaction Study(SM). HMFC improved upon its 2007 fifth-place ranking, demonstrating considerable improvement in customer satisfaction. As a full-service auto finance company, HMFC serves Hyundai dealers nationwide with consumer vehicle financing, as well as dealer inventory and facility financing.

"At HMFC we are committed to satisfying car buyer's financial needs and providing the highest levels of customer service," said Mike Buckingham, president and CEO, HMFC. "Additionally, in today's credit market environment we are proud to continually deliver excellent financing options for Hyundai's customers."

In its 13th year, J.D. Power and Associates Consumer Satisfaction Study(SM) investigates the vehicle financing decision process of new vehicle purchasers, as well as analyzing customer satisfaction with more than 40 individual providers. Satisfaction is evaluated from the initial in-dealership experience through servicing of the contract. Four factors are examined to determine customers' satisfaction with their automotive finance providers: provider offering, application/approval process, payment/billing process and customer contact experience.

The data for the 2008 Consumer Financing Satisfaction Study(SM) is collected through a mail survey of new vehicle customers in two waves between May and September. The survey is targeted at customers during the initial six months of their vehicle financing experience. The 2008 survey tallied responses from 27,964 consumers who financed their new vehicle in the previous five to seven months.


Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is a global marketing information services firm operating in key business sectors including market research, forecasting, performance improvement, training and customer satisfaction. The firm's quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually. For more information on boat ratings, car reviews and ratings, car insurance, health insurance, cell phone ratings, and more, please visit J.D. Power and Associates is a business unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies.


Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co. of South Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced through more than 790 dealerships nationwide.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hyundai Genesis Named to 2009 Top Luxury Car List

Hyundai's all-new Genesis flagship answers the $64k question - the only vehicle under $64k named in "Top 5 Luxury Cars for 2009"

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., 12/08/2008 Hyundai's new rear-wheel drive premium sports sedan, the Genesis, was named a "Top 5 Luxury Car for 2009" by, the world's largest publisher of vehicle pricing and information and a recognized authority for vehicle valuations. The list includes models from Jaguar, Bentley, Mercedes and Audi, all with base prices more than $32,000 above the Genesis' starting MSRP of $33,000.

The Genesis placed fourth, behind the Audi A8 L (starting at $74,050), the Jaguar XF Supercharged ($64,475) and the Mercedes-Benz S Class 550 ($90,225). And Hyundai beat the Bentley Arnage, which had the highest sticker of all vehicles on the list, starting at $224,900 -- nearly seven times the starting price of the Genesis.

"The recent economic crisis has actually created opportunities for carmakers such as Hyundai to create inroads with car buyers in market segments where Hyundai isn't typically known," said Jeff Glucker, road test editor, "They really hit a homerun with the 2009 Genesis, offering solid performance, luxury and technology features at a much better value than other vehicles in its class."

The market analysts at selected the "Top 5 Luxury Cars for 2009" based on a variety of factors, including styling, luxury amenities and overall handling.

"It's an honor to be recognized by market analysts as a true rival to luxury competitors in 2009," said Michael Deitz, manager, Product Development, Hyundai Motor America. "The Genesis was benchmarked against Mercedes, BMW, Lexus and other iconic luxury brands throughout the development process, so to be listed alongside them validates Hyundai's overall success, especially because we didn't have to sacrifice our long-standing tradition of offering extraordinary value."

Genesis is built on Hyundai's all-new, performance-driven rear-wheel-drive architecture. It offers two powertrains, including a 3.8-liter V6 engine and Hyundai's all-new 4.6-liter Tau V8. Tau produces 375 horsepower, leading all its competitors in specific output with 80 horsepower per liter while providing better fuel economy than competitive luxury make V6 models. With technology rivaling more expensive luxury sedans, Genesis showcases features such as XM NavTraffic, Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFLS), and Lexicon® audio systems. Additionally, all Hyundai Genesis have standard iPod connectivity, electronic active head restraints, and Bluetooth hands-free phone system.


NADA Appraisal Guides ( is the world's largest publisher of vehicle pricing and information for new and used cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs, as well as van conversions, limousines, classic and collectible cars, boats, RVs, motorcycles, snowmobiles, personal watercraft and manufactured housing. The company's consumer website,, offers a variety of new and used vehicle services in addition to valuation information. Throughout its 75-year history, NADA Appraisal Guides has earned the reputation as the recognized authority for vehicle valuations. Its website,, is the most comprehensive vehicle information resource on the Internet today.


Hyundai Motor America, headquartered in Fountain Valley, Calif., is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co. of Korea. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the United States by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced through more than 790 dealerships nationwide.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Lexus lookalike: 2009 Hyundai Genesis

How long does it take to rebuild a reputation? In the case of Hyundai, about 23 years. The arrival of the 2009 Hyundai Genesis signifies the complete rehabilitation of the Korean automaker from the ashes of its arrival in the United States in 1986. Not just an excellent car in its own right, the Genesis provides an exceptional value that allows Hyundai to stack up against any manufacturer in the world.

Those with long memories may recall the arrival of Hyundai in the United States with a car called the Excel. Several hundred thousand were sold at bargain-basement prices the first year the company did business here, and many wound up sidelined, either for repairs or for repossession from less than credit-worthy customers.

That first-year debacle haunted Hyundai for years, even after it expanded its product line, sharply improved its quality, and rebuilt its sales. This year Hyundai is the seventh most popular brand in the United States, outselling Chrysler, Jeep, Subaru and VW. On the JD Power Initial Quality list, Hyundai ranks 13th, ahead of such worthies as Acura, Volvo (F), and BMW.

How good is Hyundai? For my money, the Genesis is the finest car that you can buy for $42,000. That included a rear backup camera, front and rear parking assist, and a navigation system. In size and execution, you can argue that it challenges the Lexus LS 460 -- and with a base sticker price that's nearly $30,000 less. The Genesis is bit taller, three inches shorter, and weighs 700 pounds less than the Lexus. The lighter weight contributes to its excellent fuel economy (17 mpg city/25 mpg highway) vs. 16/23 for the Lexus. During several hundred miles of mostly highway driving, I averaged 23.8 mpg.

In shape, and character, the Genesis is also Lexus-like. This is a formal four-door sedan, with an emphasis on refinement over pizzazz, and comfort over performance. Those looking for driver feedback from the steering wheel or sporting composure through the twisties won't find it here. Like the Lexus, the Genesis is powered by a 4.6 liter V-8 that is quiet, smooth, and powerful, and, in a pinch, it can get the Genesis to 60 miles per hour in under six seconds.

Where the Genesis cannot compete with the Lexus, of course, is on brand reputation. That may take another 23 years. But the Hyundai circle H logo, which appears on the trunk lid, looks better on the Genesis than on any other Hyundai I've seen. And since it doesn't carry the kind of price premium that Lexus and other luxury makes do, it should be especially appealing in these coming months of diminished economic expectations.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

In the Autoblog Garage: 2009 Hyundai Genesis

The all-new 2009 Hyundai Genesis sedan has been capturing more than its share of the spotlight this year. The luxury-oriented four-door sedan was launched with much ballyhoo over the summer. With a long list of standard features, a choice of six- or eight-cylinder power, and its sights pointed directly at some heavy-hitting established competition, the sedan rolled into showrooms with high expectations. After a few short introductory drives, Hyundai put both models in the Autoblog Garage so we could spend some time getting a bit more intimate with its new players. How solid is the chassis, engine and powertrain? How does the sedan hold up to the daily grind? How does the late-arrival fare against its status-laden competition? Find out after the jump.

Autoblog has driven the Hyundai Genesis sedan on more than one occasion. We sampled it in May, and then flogged it on the track in June during its introduction. While both of our "first drives" were but a quick taste, this time we were generously able to spend ten full days split between the V6 (silver) and V8 (red) models. We commuted to work, drove carpools, took friends out to dinner and embarked on a one-day 250-plus mile road trip. Our goal was to subject the Genesis to a bit of everything and see how we felt about it at the end of the week.

The rear-wheel-drive Hyundai Genesis sedan is available in two models: Genesis 3.8 and Genesis 4.6. As is common in this segment, the chassis is shared with both models but the engine/powertrain is different. The Genesis 3.8 features a 290-hp 3.8-liter V6 mated to an Aisin 6-speed automatic transmission (MSRP starting at $32,250). The Genesis 4.6 rides with a 375-hp 4.6-liter V8 and a ZF 6-speed automatic (MSRP starting at $37,250). The exactly $5,000 price jump between the two models delivers the big engine, electro-hydraulic power steering, premium leather, a wood/leather steering wheel, painted bodyside molding (the easy way to tell the models apart), plus all of the equipment found in the V6's optional $3,000 "Premium Package Plus." Option to option, the 375-hp engine is a $2,000 cash upgrade and you still end up with more than a few exclusive bits and pieces. It's not nearly the model price jump found on some near competitors (BMW charges $50,800 for the 300-hp 535i and $60,000 for the 360-hp 550i -- before option packages). Hyundai appears to be paving its own road when it comes to an aggressive pricing model. (It is also interesting to note that the base MSRP hasn't raised a penny since May of this year.)

At first glance, the exterior styling of the Genesis sedan isn't polarizing. In fact, it's rather benign. Hyundai studied its competitors, stole their favorite non-offensive styling cues, and then sculpted the Genesis. What emerged from their design team looks more like a sporty Lexus LS460 than anything else, but it hints at BMW, Mercedes-Benz and even Nissan. Without a double-take, most passers-by think it's just another Lexus before they continue on their way. If they happen to glance a second look, the bright "Klingon" grille and lack of any front-mounted identifying badge draws confusion for another few seconds... then they move on. We received exactly two "thumbs-up" while driving the Genesis for ten days -- both were from Infiniti owners. Mercedes owners refused to be caught staring, while Lexus drivers seemed perplexed at the look-alike when we drove alongside. The sleek styling of the Genesis reeks of luxury and quality... and that seems to concern the competition as they hide behind their badges.

The interior of the Genesis is very inviting and roomy. We fit four adults in with ease. As a testament to the generous second-row leg room, small child-seat riding children couldn't kick the seatbacks even with a 6-plus footer in the driver's seat. Although it isn't quite up to the opulent Lexus standard (sorry, no yards of rippled leather), anyone would be hard-pressed to complain about comfort. The dash sweeps across the cabin with a thick band of chocolate leather, while the wood-grained accents are tastefully applied. The dash instrumentation is white on black, and the cockpit buttons glow with a modern blue hue at night. When the doors are opened in the dark, the cabin itself is bathed in LED illumination -- it's a bright white light that is immediately noticed (Hyundai calls it a "room" light, not a "dome" light, by the way). The pseudo-iDrive joystick control that comes with the optional Navigation System (it was on our V8 model) works very well. After a short acclimation period, we found it simple to use. The 8-inch display is one of the clearest we've seen, and the graphics are exceedingly clear with excellent contrast. Unlike other automakers in this segment that seem to think complexity equals sophistication, it didn't take us long to familiarize ourselves with the cabin or its logical controls.

The Genesis sedan really doesn't have any quirks to preclude it from family duty. It's easy to climb in and out. Outward visibility is good, and it offers decent cargo capacity. The chassis is solid and the cabin squeak-free. In fact, the sedan effortlessly fell into our daily routine of commuting, errands, carpools and entertaining. We put strollers in the trunk and cleated soccer players in the back seats. After 240 hours of scrutiny, the new Korean flagship emerged mostly unscathed. We were, however, left with several strong impressions.

First, we stand by our original statement -- the Genesis isn't going to fool anyone into thinking it is a BMW. The suspension on the big Asian four-door is soft and comfortable, while the Europeans tend to be firm and controlled. The Genesis doesn't challenge the driver to exit the off-ramp at double the posted speed limit like a BMW, or even Infiniti. It can handle it, trust us on that, but the tactile impressions the driver receives through the steering wheel and brakes beg civility, not anarchy. You won't see a Genesis being driven in anger (just like you don't see a Lexus LS diving hot into a corner during your daily commute).

Second, the Genesis is an effortless cruiser. We put 268 miles on the V6 model in one long day. Most of the driving was across the Los Angeles basin -- a mix of mind-numbing traffic jumbled with periods of cars doing 75 mph merely feet apart. Then, we repeated the trip in reverse an hour later. Although our "seat time" must have exceeded seven hours, our derrières were pain free and our minds fresh. The cabin was hushed (a Cd of .27 and laminated acoustic glass help), the climate control non-intrusive and the seats accommodating. The optional adaptive HID headlamps keep the roadway well lit, and the self-dimming mirrors keep eye strain to a minimum.

Third, the Genesis 3.8 is the model of choice. Although the enthusiast in us subconsciously gravitated towards the V8, we actually found the smaller V6 more suited to our needs. The lighter six made the Genesis feel less resistant to directional changes resulting in a more enjoyable driving experience. Behind the wheel of a luxury sedan, we never found ourselves in a situation that warranted additional power, and the V6 was much more frugal at the gasoline pump when compared to its bigger and thirstier brother. If you must have a V8, go for it. However, Hyundai is betting most will opt for the 3.8 model -- it's the right selection in our eyes.

Finally, this luxury sedan is one extraordinary value. Taken strictly as a luxury sedan, the chassis, powerplant, and driving dynamics are on par with the best from Europe and Japan. Throw in the variables such as luxury amenities and innovative technical features, and the Korean again closely matches them at their game. Then, look at price. A fully-optioned 290-hp Genesis 3.8 won't break $40,000 -- that is nearly $5,000 less than the base price of the Lexus GS350. Optioned like the Genesis, the GS350 tops $52,000. The flagship Lexus LS460 starts at $63,675... nearly double the base price of the Genesis 3.8 sedan. Yes, the Hyundai Genesis is more than 90 percent the car of that award-winning Lexus flagship, yet at 60 percent of the price. Of course, the Hyundai isn't going to carry the cachet of the Lexus... but most of your friends won't know the difference until they are sitting inside the cabin, if then. We sample a lot of cars around here, and there is a "feeling" you get when you are behind the wheel of certain luxury marquees. The Hyundai Genesis has that same aura.

We are rightfully shoveling tons of praise on the Genesis, but there are still a few areas that could use some improvement -- no, it is not perfect yet. If one is going to nit-pick the luxury sedan, the HVAC system could move a bit more air volume. On a blistering day when the car has been baking in the relentless Southern California sun for hours, the A/C seems to blow a summer storm when you really want an all-out hurricane. The LED interior lighting, some of the best we've seen, immediately goes full blast when the doors are open. At night, some unsuspecting passengers compared the abrupt cabin lighting to a flash bulb hitting their eyes (keep the LEDs, but give us progressive illumination). Then there is the sea of silver buttons under the navigation display. While the smooth and curvaceous dashboard may be aesthetically pleasing, it falls short ergonomically -- it will never be intuitive. Drivers will have to pull their eyes from the road to adjust just about everything not found on the steering wheel.

It is only fair to also mention our complete exoneration of the 528-watt Lexicon sound system. In June, when forced to listen to satellite radio in the boondocks of Central California, we reported that "...we couldn't get the 17 speakers to vibrate in pleasant harmony." Back in Los Angeles and armed with an iPod, the upgraded sound package sounded great. We don't masquerade as audiophiles, but the music flowing from the digitally-amplified system is sure to please any Genesis customer. Oh, the satellite radio still sounded horrible when compared to the radio, CD or iPod input.

We've secured the enviable task of evaluating dozens of new cars each year. While some are as unforgettable as last Wednesday's fast food lunch, others (like the Lamborghini Murcielago LP640 and Nissan GT-R) will have us reminiscing the experience for decades. The all-new Hyundai Genesis sets a unique tone among our garaged vehicles. It's not the fastest, smoothest, most comfortable or most luxurious. It's not the most aerodynamic, innovative or technically advanced. What makes the flagship Hyundai memorable is its accuracy. While automakers are constantly shooting arrows into new segments hoping they will stick, few are able to hit their intended mark with their first shot. Hyundai has done it. Now, the automaker just has to figure out how to get the consumers behind the wheel in today's shattered marketplace.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hyundai Genesis offers luxury for less, may help image, sales

Ron Olsen could have bought a Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus or another Cadillac.

Instead, the Boeing retiree decided to part with $40,000 for the new kid in the luxury sedan market -- a Hyundai Genesis.

A what?

A luxury car from the brand known a couple decades ago as cheap, not-always-reliable wheels for college students and pizza deliverers?

Hyundai believes Genesis will show just how far it's come from those days -- and will be the ideal luxury car for post-financial-meltdown America. Maximum features. Minimum snobbery. A value proposition vs. more expensive brand-name luxury.

The Genesis is the culmination for Hyundai of a painstaking effort to become a big-league U.S. brand. It's also fraught with risk. Genesis is betting that notoriously snooty luxury buyers can live without a Mercedes three-pointed star or other status emblem on their hood.

Hyundai also is taking a calculated risk by not creating a costly separate division for its luxury product, such as Toyota did with Lexus. It is banking that shoppers will buy a luxury car from dealers not devoted solely to pampering luxury customers. Genesis may sit door-to-door in the showroom with (horrors!) an $11,745 entry-level Accent sedan.

"It's like buying an Armani suit from Wal-Mart," observes David Champion, auto editor for Consumer Reports magazine.

Early results are lukewarm, with 3,976 sold since the six-cylinder Genesis went on sale over the summer. Buyers may have been waiting, however, for the top-of-the-line, 375-horsepower V-8 version, which didn't arrive until October.

Hyundai isn't the first to hawk luxury in a non-luxury store.

Volkswagen gloriously flopped with an upscale sedan brought to the U.S. in 2003. Phaeton, priced from about $70,000 to about $100,000 for a 12-cylinder version, lasted a couple of years before VW yanked it from this market.

Hyundai leaders say Genesis will do better than Phaeton because its price isn't floating so far above the rest of the lineup. Genesis, they add, is a lot of car for the money -- fitting the Hyundai brand's value image.

"Price-wise, Genesis is $10,000 or $20,000 less than all the (luxury brand) competitors," says Kim Dong-Jin, until recently CEO of Hyundai Motor in South Korea and now head of its parts operation. "Therefore, we see the Genesis as a good product for the U.S. customers, particularly in the recessionary period."

In fact, they hope Genesis defines a new car segment: a premium machine for the rich and frugal who appreciate the finer things but don't like to show off.

Genesis starts at $33,000, including shipping, for the six-cylinder. That's about the same as a Mercedes C-Class or Lexus ES, but the size and features are aimed closer to the MB E-Class ($54,075 with shipping to start) or Lexus GS 350 ($45,675).

Gas mileage is in keeping with the value image, too. The six gets 27 miles per gallon on the highway; the V-8, 25 mpg.

Genesis is discreet, though, about its Hyundai heritage. The automaker's "flying H" logo -- but not the name -- is seen on the center of the trunk lid and of the steering wheel. But it says simply "Genesis" below the taillight and on the door sills.

That modesty is a concession to owners who may not want to trumpet that they paid up to $42,000 for a Hyundai, even if that model is loaded with features that include a 17-speaker stereo and heated and cooled seats.

Olsen, 72, of Everett, Wash., says he takes some ribbing from golfing buddies for giving up his Cadillac DeVille for a black Genesis. "I tell them, 'It's a Genesis, not a Hyundai,' " noting that they'd never refer to their Lexuses as Toyotas.

Showing how far it's come

Executives hope Genesis lifts the entire Hyundai brand. They want it to show how quality has improved, even with Hyundai's signature 100,000-mile warranty, introduced nearly a decade ago in a bid to regain trust. Since then, it has patiently worked to inch up market share and catch up with rivals' technology.

"Genesis says we're a global player. We can compete with anybody on style and value," says Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai America's vice president of sales.

Hyundai still is a distant seventh in U.S. sales behind the Detroit 3 and Japan's Big 3 through October of this year, Autodata reports. But sales are down only about 8% from 2007 to about 360,000 -- respectable in today's sales implosion -- while its share moved above 3%.

There are other signs the brand is gaining traction. As recently as 2005, focus groups called Hyundai "unapproachable." This year, more are picking terms such as "young, playful and a little quirky" and "for smart people," says Joel Ewanick, Hyundai's marketing chief.

"You're seeing the tipping point," he says. "This is when the consumer is discovering it."

In 2000, only about 6% of car shoppers put Hyundai models on their consideration list. This year, it's 25% -- good, but still not as good as Toyota and Honda.

"Still a perception gap," Dong-Jin says. "It takes time. There is no quick fix."

Hyundai strongest in basics

Hyundai has been most successful with its everyday vehicles, such as its Elantra and Sonata sedans and the Santa Fe crossover SUV. It has had a harder time pitching more upscale products, such as the Azera sedan and Veracruz crossover, which can carry stickers north of $30,000 with popular options.

Regarding Veracruz, Consumer Reports' Champion says, "I'm not sure whether it (the field) is getting too crowded or people are unwilling to spend more than $30,000 on a Hyundai."

As a result, and mindful of the current economy, Hyundai officials are lowering sales expectations for Genesis. It may end up generating maybe 5% of Hyundai's U.S. sales, says Zuchowski, "but it's really important from a 'halo' standpoint."

A "halo" is a premium or performance model that bestows image luster on its lesser cousins in the lineup. Most shoppers will buy the cheaper or more practical models -- but feel better about doing so.

Richard Baker knows. The Florida dentist and his wife brought her Santa Fe to a dealer to get the oil changed. They left with a Genesis for him and an Elantra for her.

Baker, 38, of Crystal River, Fla., wasn't done. A month later, he traded his first Genesis for another one with the $4,000 technology package. Buying premium sedans from a Hyundai store wasn't an issue. "I'm not a fancy person," says Baker, who traded his Toyota Avalon.

Luxury by any other name

Hyundai studied the idea of a separate unit with its own brand name for the Genesis sedan and sexy coupe due next year -- the way Toyota, Honda and Nissan created Lexus, Infiniti and Acura for premium models -- says Bob Cosmai, a former Hyundai Motor America CEO. It found creating a separate dealer network requires lots of money and patience. Luxury divisions sometimes aren't profitable for a decade.

A risk, however, is that many luxury customers have come to expect the pampering they can get at dealers that sell only premium vehicles, says Tom Libby of the Power Information Network. Lexus owners "come home speechless about how well they were treated," he says.

Many luxury dealers offer service customers loaner cars and roadside assistance, for instance. And three of the four top-rated brands for customer service in J.D. Power and Associates' 2008 survey were luxury brands: Jaguar, Cadillac and Lexus. Hyundai ranked 22, the industry average.

Hyundai salespeople are getting "a different kind of training" to handle potential Genesis buyers, says Scott Fink, who owns dealerships in New Port Richey and Wesley Chapel, Fla. The training is "making it clear these consumers have much higher expectations."

Even without a luxury unit, some experts think Hyundai has a shot. While noting the difficulty in taking on the likes of BMW and Lexus, Michael Silverstein, a senior partner with the Boston Consulting Group, says "if Hyundai has the staying power," and underprices its chief rivals, "the market will move their way."

Hyundai also must be willing to make a huge outlay for ads, even though the high-end market is less than 10% of sales, says Silverstein, whose books include Trading Up: Why Consumers Want Luxury Goods.

Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, credits Hyundai with having turned around the core brand to a point where it can reach out to luxury buyers under that name. Genesis "can only enhance their reputation."

It worked for Brian Singletary.

The supermarket manager in New Port Richey says he happily left behind his Lincoln for a Genesis. He says he loves the smooth ride and gets luxury-car status at a local casino: Valets park the Genesis right on the curb with other luxury cars.

"Once I got into this (Genesis), there was no need to go shopping further," Singletary says.

Olsen says he'll stack his South Korea-made Hyundai against the best from Germany or Japan. He raves about the leather upholstery, fancy stereo and power that gives him "a helluva time" keeping his speed from creeping past 80 mph on the highway.

He says his friends tell him it looks like a BMW or a Mercedes, but says that status is not important to him. "I looked at more than just a name."

By Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY
Contributing: David J. Lynch

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

2008 Hyundai Santa Fe: Mid-size crossover delivers on features and value

Last year, Hyundai bowed with its second generation Santa Fe, which continued its role as an urban crossover but with an all-new look, increased interior space, high-tech safety features and value packaging.

Prior to the actual design execution, Hyundai engineers benchmarked several high-end unibody construction crossovers, which ultimately resulted in producing a considerably more upscale vehicle than the previous generation. The new Santa Fe combined class-leading safety technologies, advanced and improved power trains, as well as a host of functional and versatile features, both inside and out.

The design was all-new and on the contemporary side, something Hyundai referred to as "assertive grace." The Santa Fe was one of the first to break the traditional elemental boxiness inherent in many early SUVs. The nose is rounded and aerodynamic with a hood that slopes gracefully up to the sharply angled windscreen. The fender line rises progressively toward the elevated beltline, which finally swoops dramatically upward to meet the rear tilt of the "D" pillar. The rear backlight dips low for improved visibility, and headlight and taillamp profiles match.

There are still two engines available to power the Santa Fe: a 2.7-liter, Mu DOHC, 24-valve, 185 horsepower V6; or a 3.3-liter Lambda V6 that generates 242 horses and 226 pound-feet of torque. There are three transmission choices - a five-speed manual, standard with the smaller V6; an optional four-speed automatic with Shiftronic (also for the 2.7-liter motor); and finally, a five-speed Shiftronic automatic, which comes standard with the 3.3 V6. Front-wheel drive is the standard drive configuration, with an optional Borg Warner all-wheel drive system available.

The Santa Fe continues to be offered in both five- (standard) and seven- (optional) passenger versions with a choice of three trim levels: the well equipped base GLS, a full-featured SE model and the top-of-the-line Limited.

Santa Fe SE and Limited models come with 18-inch alloy wheels for a more aggressive appearance. Roof rack side rails are standard and aid in defining the simple side profile, while adding to the SUV functionality.

My test 2008 Santa Fe came in Limited trim with the 3.3-liter motor and five-speed Shiftronic. It was in the AWD configuration with a Slate Blue metallic exterior and beige interior with faux dark wood trim accents. The base sticker read $29,600, while the navigation system and carpeted floor mats upped the final amount to $31,470.


The 2008 Santa Fe is an exceptional CUV. It is attractive inside and out and drives and handles well with satisfying responses in acceleration, positive steering input and a compliant, comfortable ride quality.

For 2008, the Santa Fe Limited has gotten even better by adding a 605-watt Infinity Logic 7 audio system and power sunroof to the long list of standard equipment and an all-new navigation system to the list of optional equipment.

Santa Fe is an ideal consideration for consumers in search of a mid-size CUV, since it provides more than enough choices to tailor and personalize it to suit individual tastes and requirements. Its affordability is perhaps misleading in that the value approach to content in no way affects its attention to detailed fit and finish quality levels. Combine that with what Hyundai calls "America's best warranty" and it appears that the Santa Fe is on track for continued success despite the increasingly stiff competition in the market segment.

2008 Hyundai Santa Fe

Base price: $29,600
Price as tested: $31,470
Engine/transmission: 3.3-liter, 242-horsepower V6; five-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length: 184.1 inches
Width: 74.4 inches
Height: 67.9 inches
Curb weight: 4,121 pounds
Fuel capacity: 19.8 gallons
Fuel consumption: 17mpg city/24mpg highway

Arv Voss
The San Francisco Chronicle

Monday, December 01, 2008

Hyundai Genesis moving upscale

The new 2009 Genesis moves Hyundai into the premium sports sedan market with its all-new performance driven rear-wheel drive architecture, a first for a U.S. Hyundai model.

This car company introduces their flagship offering that rivals some of the leading premium sports sedans in the industry. In fact, Hyundai engineers benchmarked the Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5-Series, Infiniti M and Lexus GS models in developing this new entry.

The new Hyundai Genesis claims more cabin space than the BMW 5-Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The Genesis has more interior volume than the E-Class and the BMW 7-Series. "The new Genesis will actually compete for customers with cars like the Chrysler 300 and Pontiac G8, the Lexus ES and the Cadillac CTS", according to John Krafcik, vice president, product development and strategic planning, Hyundai Motor America.

Hyundai has become known for offering value and conveniences well above their vehicle price points. The 2009 Genesis is no exception with capabilities and features comparable to the world's leading sports sedans.

The handsome Hyundai Genesis V-8, can be judged by its cover. Inside and out, the value and luxury is evident.

Pricing for the 3.8-liter V6 model starts at $33,000. including freight charges. The 4.6-liter V8 has a starting price of $38,000. inclusive. The Genesis offers two powertrains, the 3.8-liter V6 engine and Hyundai's all-new 4.6-liter V-8 engine. The V-8 will produce 375 horsepower using premium fuel and 368 horsepower using regular unleaded gasoline. The engine is designed to operate on either grade of fuel.

The V-6 engine delivers 290 horsepower and 264 pound feet of torque. Even with their impressive output, both Genesis engines are also environmentally friendly, achieving Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) certification levels.

Each engine version has its own specifically designed six speed automatic transmission to further enhance performance while maintaining optimum fuel economy. Both transmissions include the SHIFTRONIC manual control feature with an overdrive lock-up torque converter responsible for the impressive fuel economy for this 3,748-pound car with the V-6 and 4012-pound vehicle weight for the V-8 equipped model. Fuel economy is 18 city and 27 miles per gallon highway for the 3.8-liter V-6. The 4.6-liter V-8 attains 17 miles per gallon city and 25 miles per gallon highway.

The new Genesis has built-in impressive technology features as well. Electronic active front head restraints are proven by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to help prevent whiplash. The Genesis is the first popular brand to offer these restraints, previously only found on select Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus models.

Standard Electronic Stability Control (ESC), the industry's most important new safety technology, further enhances the vehicle's driving confidence. Hyundai leads all popular car brands in the standard application of ESC, with more than 70 percent of 2008 Hyundai sales featuring ESC as standard equipment.

Genesis' total of eight airbags include advanced dual front airbags, front and rear seat-mounted side-impact airbags and roof-mounted side curtain airbags for both front and rear outboard seat occupants. Heated front seats as well as a cooled driver's seat add to the comfort factor in this well appointed luxurious sport sedan.

Xenon high intensity discharge (HID) headlamps with an adaptive auto-leveling function keeps the headlights level regardless of how the vehicle is loaded with passengers or cargo. Genesis also offers an Automatic Front Lighting System that allows the headlamps to automatically swivel for better visibility when cornering.

The most impressive side of the new Genesis is getting behind the wheel and experiencing the drive.

The standard luxurious feel of the soft touch instrument panel with wood grain accents enhances the seating position in the wrap around cock pit configuration. The Lexicon advanced audio system delivers everything as advertised. Bluetooth hands-free mobile phone interface, and USB/iPod auxiliary inputs are useful additions.

Available is a navigation system with an eight-inch display as well as a large display to show the driver a clear view immediately behind the car with backing up. A power rear sunshade, a standard proximity key with push-button starter reminds you that this economically priced sports sedan is actually in the class with the big boys.

The drive is smooth and quite while having the ability to handle all sorts of twisting roads and uneven pavement with ease, always giving the driver a confident feeling of being in complete control.

The attractive styling on the outside is only part of the story. The 2009 Hyundai Genesis is a car to be experienced from the inside were the large array of surprise and delight features reside.

Art Gould