Have you ever heard your wristwatch ticking while you fight mid-day traffic?
I have. It was in a Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec, the $46,535 performance version of Hyundai's mid-size luxury sedan.
I drove it last weekend through Manhattan and New Jersey, navigating SoHo traffic on a Friday afternoon and later cruising up the Palisades Parkway toward Tenafly. The car was built with high aspirations--to compete with sedans from the likes of Lexus and Audi--and the fact that it's sealed tight enough to silence New York City cabs bodes well.
The first thing to notice inside is the pleasant chime that sounds whenever you enter the car or turn off the engine. I'm not sure it has any practical function, but it at least sets the tone for what Hyundai hopes will feel like a real luxury experience, despite the fact that the Genesis costs less than competitors like the $46,900 Lexus GS and $47,200 Acura RL.
The model I drove came loaded with heated and cooled front and rear leather seats, Bluetooth, Xenon headlamps, illuminated door plates, XM radio, stability control, lane departure warning, 19-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, and park assistance with rearview camera. Did I mention all of that comes standard along with a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty and five-year unlimited roadside assistance?
In fact, the only thing that didn't come standard was a $35 iPod cable. The car is a fantastic value.
This is Hyundai making up for the fact that it doesn't carry the same caché as Audi, Mercedes, and BMW. It appeals best to people apathetic about labels; it won't appeal to those who want the glamor of driving a Bimmer. Maybe someday it'll gain that ground--it hasn't quite yet. But good luck finding something as plush for the same price.
The engine packs a punch: It's a direct-injection 5-liter 429-horsepower V8 (that's more power than the Lexus GS 460 and Mercedes-Benz E550) that comes with the same eight-speed automatic transmission as the 4.6 Genesis sedan.
The main differences between the two are a sport-tuned suspension, those 19-inch machined alloy wheels and tires, distinctive headlights with dark chrome inserts, and R-Spec badges outside the vehicle and on the floor mats.
Driving the Genesis R-Spec feels lighter than, say, driving the Lexus GS (Genesis is actually 300 pounds heavier); it responds well to urgent input and navigates easily around the peloton of cyclists that often lines the Palisades. That said, the R-Spec is noticeably sportier in feel and drive than the base version of the Genesis, but it's still obviously a sedan (try the R-Spec coupe for a lot more fun). I was surprised it didn't have sport or performance modes to switch into for added kick.
Fuel efficiency is 16 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway, which about equal to others in its class. (Audi's sedans get notably better numbers.)
And let's not forget its surprising good looks.
"That your car?" one garage lad asked when I went to retrieve it.
"Wow, it's such a beautiful car...you married?"
Even last week's Cayman didn't evoke that kind of attention.
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