Photo: Travis Okulski / Business Insider
Four years ago, Hyundai introduced a car that was meant to shake up the upper echelons of the mid-size luxury class. Much like Toyota and Honda had done in the past for Japanese luxury with Lexus and Acura, Hyundai felt it was time for Korean luxury to come to the fore.The Genesis sedan was that car.
Hyundai had gotten a bad rap over the years for flagging quality and cars that felt cheap. The Genesis was just another step they were making in a product renaissance meant to bring luster to the brand.
The cars are proving to be beautifully made and reliable. And if they do break down, the classic Hyundai 10 year/100,000 mile warranty is still intact. Many people made the switch just for that coverage.
Photo: Travis Okulski / Business Insider
But how does the Genesis stack up to one of its biggest German rivals, the BMW 5-Series?We recently spent a week with a 2012 Genesis 3.8, and on paper, it’s a very worthy competitor. The BMW 535i has a starting price of $52,000 and comes with a 300 horsepower (on premium fuel) straight six engine that achieves 31 MPG on the highway.
Our Genesis 3.8 was fully loaded with satellite radio, navigation, heated seats, and a premium stereo. The 333 horsepower V6 uses regular gas and gets 29 MPG on the highway. The price for all this luxury and convenience? A mere $39,000.
Now that is not exactly cheap, but if you were to similarly equip a BMW 535i, the final cost comes to nearly $60,000.
So, is the BMW badge worth the extra price?
The Genesis is a really solid ride. And boy is it quiet.
Wind and road noise barely make it in the cabin, making it very pleasant for some long distance travel.
The steering is a bit too light for our tastes; it was vague and did not provide confidence to attack a corner. In that sense, the Genesis is much like a Lexus. It is not a performance machine, but a cruiser.
On the highway, it is fantastic.
Our biggest complaint comes down to the eight-speed automatic transmission. While fantastic for saving fuel (we saw about 25 MPG on a week of combined city and highway driving), it is slow to react.
If you pull out for a pass and put your foot down while the transmission is in eighth, you will be waiting for it to shift for a good two seconds.
That may not sound like a long time, but it sure feels like it in the moment.
For 2012, the Genesis has undergone a modest refresh.
LED accents have been added to the headlights and the rear has also had a similar refresh. We think it looks pretty great.
But it is also a bit generic. You could describe the Genesis by telling someone it 'looks like a car.'
Hyundai is still finding its footing in the luxury market, so we expect the next generation of the car to take on a more aggressive persona and really find its personality.
The interior is a mix between elation and disappointment.
There are parts that are just fantastic. Our model with the premium package had a leather dash that felt like it would be at home in a car worth twice as much.
But then the steering wheel, which was also leather wrapped, felt cheap and hard. For a major touchpoint of the interior, it was a massive letdown.
The mixture of cheap and expensive continues throughout the inside.
We were also slightly disappointed by the infotainment system. The screen was only capable of one task. It could not display multiple sets of data at once. For example, if you were on nav, you had to guess what song was playing.
For passengers, the car is amazing. The rear seat legroom is simply massive and there are aircon controls embedded within. We had people in the car multiple times over the last week and they all were very complimentary about how comfortable it was.
The driving dynamics, and especially the transmission, were the biggest letdowns of the car.
Based on how it handles and feels when holding the road, it is not a competitor to the BMW.
That leads to a more troublesome aspect. While the Hyundai is a perfectly capable car and does not do anything particularly egregious, it is just plain boring.
To us, the car felt like an appliance. It is lacking that special something, a soul or passion. Driving the Hyundai is not an experience, it is just a task.
While we may have some issues with the dynamics or feeling of the car, there is still plenty to love about this car.
First off, at $39,000, this may be the bargain of the century. The engine is smooth and torquey, the seats are comfortable, and the car is very well built.
There are no rattles, a minimum amount of road and wind noise enters the cabin, and it is supremely comfortable to drive.
If you are on a highway, this is a perfect car for a long trip.
Also, we definitely were digging the new LED strip in the headlights. It just looked very cool.
The BMW is a gorgeous car.
But the Hyundai is value for money.
If performance driving is not your cup of tea and badge provenance is something you do not care about, we are not sure there is a better choice in class than the Hyundai. It may look a little generic and we may have some gripes, but saving almost $21,000 would more than make up for this.
If money is no object in the class, the BMW is the better car, no question.
But the fact that Hyundai made us think twice about the choice really says something.
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