Years ago, when cars under the South Korean brand Hyundai first began arriving on American shores, they were slated to be just about the most entry-level vehicles one could buy. The strategy was simple and well known enough: Arrive with an affordable, low-price car, and this will take care of sales volumes; once the presence is built up enough, then make the move upscale. Call it the anti-Tesla, if you will.
That was years ago. Now, we’re starting to get to the really interesting part: Hyundai is making the move upwards after years of playing the economy compact field. Its tool to do so will be the Genesis sedan, which, even though it has been available for some time, the car has never been seen as a legitimate contender against the prestige of the incumbent European luxury brands — or even Lincoln (NYSE:F) or Cadillac (NYSE:GM), for that matter. Long story short, Hyundai has a lot of brand building to make up.
But according to a recent report from Autoblog, the manufacturer appears to be well on its way. This isn’t to say that the previous generations are bad cars — au contraire. Autoblog’s Seyth Miersma, who flew to Korea to drive the new car, was quite taken with the last Genesis R-Spec.
“The very last BH Genesis that I’d driven before winging out to the Korean peninsula was the 5.0 R-Spec, a bruiser of an executive sled whose lovely engine and eight-speed transmission combo was only let down but its overly squishy handling,” he wrote. “As far as I was concerned while slotting myself behind the wheel of a camouflage-clad test version of the new-generation, ‘DH’ Genesis, the engineers could have increased lateral stiffness a bit and otherwise left everything else the hell alone.”
Hyundai has already submitted a player for the high-end luxury slot in the Equus. As with all its models, the Equus came in at magnitudes less than its competition: Although it was meant to fight the S-Class, A8, and 7 Series, the Equus commanded a base price of just $61,000.
Still, if that seems a bit much for a Hyundai, you’d probably be right. Despite its rebranding efforts, the public still seems reluctant to drop that much on the Korean brand, despite all of its elegance and its vast menu of features.
In addition to the completely redesigned exterior — which, although it hasn’t been formally unveiled yet, can be seen in these spy shots — Miersma says that the biggest change for the 2015 model is the addition of all-wheel drive, known as HTRAC. The system “uses an electric transfer case and a multi-plate clutch, and works in concert with the Genesis’ two-mode suspension damping (Sport and Normal) to distribute front/rear torque based on load and slip,” Miersma said.
Other, smaller touches have been added to the new car, as well. Miersma points to a CO2 sensor in the cabin of the car and a “smarter-then-the-rest Smart Trunk.”
He explains: “The thinking behind the CO2 sensor – conceived of by an engineer with an especially taxing commute — is that the exhaled gas can cause a driver to feel drowsy over the course of a few hours. The solution is a sensor that reacts when CO2 concentration goes above 2,500 parts per million, then venting the cabin by way of the HVAC system and bringing in fresh air in the process.”
The trunk, in the meantime, is born out of pure convenience — imagine holding heavy, full bags of groceries. “A driver with the car’s proximity key in her purse or pocket needs simply stand near the perimeter of the truck for three seconds before that sucker pops right up, like it knows you’re there,” Miersma writes.
So will the DH generation Genesis be the car that Hyundai needs to put it on the same plane as the hardcore luxury players? It appears so, and at this point, the badge that adorns the car may be its weakest link.
“I can only imagine that this stuffed-to-the-gills premium sedan will come to market with a price tag that is astonishingly competitive,” Miersma concludes. “This is not the car that began Hyundai’s company, but I think it will be seen as the scion to a new luxury lineage, all the same.”