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Review: 2014 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 sedan (1st place)

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This review is part of a ten-car comparison of large sedans. The Genesis is ranked first place of ten.

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1st Place: 2014 Hyundai Genesis 3.8
Summary review

It's been a while since the Hyundai Genesis made headlines. It was a big deal when it came out as a 2009 model – the first true Korean luxury car, with rear-wheel-drive and an available V8, and prices from the low $30,000s to the mid/upper $40,000s. It won awards, achieved steady sales, and proved that a high-end Hyundai was no punchline.

These days, the Genesis is eclipsed by the $60,000 Equus as the brand's audacity model, and a 2015-model redesign is due this spring. But even with its diminished novelty value, there's still a lot to recommend in this spacious, powerful and refined sedan.

Unlike the other cars in this comparison, the Genesis was designed to be a luxury model; it's no mere mainstream car with leather seats and an upgraded sound system. From the confidence of its driving dynamics to the rich grade of its interior materials, this Hyundai has the look and feel of a car that approaches $50,000 fully loaded (which it does).

And unlike the other cars in this comparison, the Genesis eschews the notion that a premium car must have a low roof and tiny windows. It proudly bears an upright profile, paying dividends in rear seat room and outward visibility compared to every competitor.

The Genesis isn't perfect. A few interior details show their age. Not everyone will be comfortable with a rear-wheel-drive car that lacks available AWD. And, although it's within the bounds of the competition, the Genesis's $36,512 estimated transaction price isn't exactly a sterling bargain.

But it's one of the best luxury cars in this price range while also offering among the best everyday usability. The Genesis may not be getting too much notice right now, but be sure you don't overlook it.

Poised, powerful, polished

The Genesis isn't a sports sedan, but there's a sense of quiet confidence-inspiring competence in this Hyundai's handling. The steering is weighty and direct, and body motions are well-controlled. The car has not been generally praised for its handling, but that's largely because it's often compared against cars that are either smaller or much more expensive – against full-size peers in the $30,000s, the Genesis does a good job. Some may fault the steering as inconveniently heavy at low speeds; some competitors dial down the effort dramatically for parking lot maneuvering.

Ride quality is quite good – bumps are absorbed well, and the car usually feels solid and steady. There are occasional unwanted ride motions, though. The Genesis is very quiet, though a bit less hushed than Hyundai's cheaper but newer Azera.

With 333 horsepower coming from a 3.8-liter V6, the Genesis is the performance leader of this comparison. The throttle feels a bit lazy at first, but once you dig in the engine roars smoothly as it launches the car forward. An eight-speed automatic transmission helps keep gas mileage competitive at an EPA-estimated 22 miles per gallon in mixed driving. A 5.0-liter V8 is also available.

Spacious, comfortable, versatile

Rear-wheel-drive architecture has an inherent disadvantage to interior space efficiency, but the Genesis more than offsets that with a high roof. This roofline, and the corresponding abundance of head clearance and large windows, helps create an airy cabin that's oddly lacking in every other contemporary large sedan in this price range. Four adults have ample room on comfortable, well-shaped seats. You don't have to duck under a low roof; there's no encroachment from an oversize center console. The center-rear passenger does have to straddle the drivetrain hump, which is tall but narrow.

From the comfortable driver's seat, expect an unimpeded view in all directions -- another quality that's sadly exclusive to the Genesis among the 10 cars in this comparison, and one that makes driving a big car less stressful.

This ease of use is incompatible with the latest styling trends, which require sleeker styling and higher windowlines. The redesigned 2015-model Genesis seems to makes some concessions to this; it will take a test drive to determine how the car's practicality is affected.

One area of the Genesis that will definitely benefit from a redesign, though, is the instrument panel. Even the current Genesis has a high-quality interior by today's standards, with generous applications of leather trim on the dash and door panels, but there's too much silvery plastic on the center stack. The turn signal stalk and interior door handles also don't feel as fancy as most at this price point – a small point, sure, but both are frequent contact points.

The 2015 model brings both a more modern style and, based on photos, more user-friendly ergonomics, while also hopefully furthering the materials quality.

The Genesis has a 15.9-cubic-foot trunk, which slightly trails the class norm but provides adequate space. The trunk has a convenient shape and large opening, but it's a little shallow.

Overall

When the Genesis came out in 2009, it was priced well above such mainstream-brand models as the Chevrolet Impala and Toyota Avalon. Now, in the waning months of the first-generation Genesis's life, they are all priced at around $36,000 to $37,000 with similar options, out the door. (Expect to haggle about $4,000 off the sticker price of $40,520.)

The 2015 model will jump in price, leaving the Azera to handle Hyundai's customers at this price point. But for now, shoppers in this price range have an excellent opportunity to get a luxury feel at a more mainstream price, and with a healthy dose of everyday versatility.

You might wish for a bit more trunk space, spiffier in-cabin technology, available all-wheel-drive (coming in 2015), a few nicer interior bits, sportier handling, or a lower price – and indeed, if these are particularly important points to you, one of the other large sedans in this comparison might be a better choice.

But don't overlook the Genesis during this window in which it graces this price point with something fancier than an elongated family sedan with a nicer interior. There area few details it could have handled better, but overall the Genesis is a cut above anything similar at this price.

Overall grade: A

- More photos of the 2014 Hyundai Genesis 3.8
- Report card: Rating the Genesis -- how does it compare in different ways, such as comfort, performance, and fuel economy?
- Report card: Ranking the Genesis -- how does it stack up for different types of buyers?

More from this comparison:
- Previous review: 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ (2nd place)
- Introduction
- Rating the ten large sedans
- Ranking the ten large sedans
- Quick summaries of the ten large sedans: Pros, cons, conclusions

See also:
Review: 2014 Hyundai Azera Limited
Review: 2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec
Review: 2014 Hyundai Equus Signature
Review: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited
Review: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
Review: 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe R-Spec

Vehicle tested: 2013 Hyundai Genesis
Vehicle base price (MSRP): $34,200
Version tested: 3.8
Version base price: $34,200
Vehicle price as tested (MSRP): $44,385
Vehicle price as comparable (MSRP)*: $40,520
Estimated transaction price as comparable**: $36,512
Test vehicle provided by: Antwerpen Hyundai; Clarksville, Md.

Key specifications:
Length: 196.3 inches
Width: 74.4 inches
Height: 58.1 inches
Wheelbase: 115.6 inches
Weight: 3,824 pounds
Trunk volume: 15.9 cubic feet
Turning circle: 36.0 feet
Engine (as tested): 3.8-liter V6 with 333 horsepower
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
EPA city mileage: 18 miles per gallon
EPA highway mileage: 28 miles per gallon
EPA combined mileage: 22 miles per gallon
Assembly location: South Korea
For more information: Hyundai website

* "Prices as comparable" reflect 2014 models with leather seats, a sunroof, a navigation system, a premium audio system, heated front seats, and certain other premium features.

** Transaction price estimates are based on data from Truecar.com and dealer quotes.

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