2015 Hyundai Genesis

GREENVILLE, S.C. — At the introduction of the 2015 Hyundai Genesis here we never got a chance to drive the V-8 version, spending 150 miles behind the wheel of the 3.8-liter V-6 in rear-wheel and all-wheel drive formats. And we were impressed with every aspect of the newest Hyundai, a noteworthy update of the first-generation Genesis.

Both engines are carryovers, but they have been reworked for better low-end performance. We discovered what we already knew, the 311-horsepower V-6 works delightfully well on the new platform that uses more advanced high-strength steel and has 16 percent more torsional rigidity and 40 percent better bending rigidity giving the car a more refined road feel and improved handling characteristics.

When we finally did get behind the wheel of the 5.0-liter V-8 pumping out 420 horsepower on another event in Texas, we were amazed at just how well the Genesis responded as a true performance sedan. In fact we drove the Genesis 5.0 back-to-back with the all-new top-line Kia luxury cruiser, the K900, propelled by the same 5.0-liter V-8 and discovered — probably much to the consternation of Kia folks — that the Genesis felt superior to the Kia although they are not direct competitors. When you figure the Genesis costs thousands less, it's no contest.

In fairness to Kia, the sister brand to Hyundai, the new K900 rides on the old Equus-Genesis platform, while the second-generation Genesis, as noted above, is built on an all-new rear-drive platform. It doesn't take an automotive expert to discern the difference.

The Genesis debuted in 2009 and gave Hyundai a solid foothold in the luxury ranks. Hyundai followed up with an even more luxurious Equus in 2011, but it's the Genesis that paved the way and proved that the builder of inexpensive fuel-efficient cars could also manufacturer a true luxury sedan.

So it was incumbent that the 2015 Genesis advance the nameplate in every conceivable way. For starters, the new platform comes with a three-inch longer wheelbase that goes into the rear-seating area making it one of the most spacious and comfortable sedans in the segment that includes the Acura RLX, BMW 5-Series and Cadillac CTS.

Although we would not classify the Genesis as a sports sedan it feels smaller and lighter on its feet than the outgoing car. The variable ratio, electrically boosted rack and pinion steering tracks well. The stiffer structure helps keep rough-road ride motions under control. And the Genesis gets help in the sporty department by an optional drive-adjustable Sport mode that alters transmission, steering and suspension settings for more responsive and aggressive driving. We found a noticeable difference in response and steering feel when we engaged the Sport mode on one of the models we drove.

While the exterior was endowed with considerable styling changes — all for the better — the interior has received subtle, but tasteful upgrades with first-rate materials including considerable wood — which can be ordered in five different types of grain — aluminum and metallic trim. The center stack and center console layout have been revised, but Hyundai has retained the relatively user friendly dial-and-button media controller in the center console.

There is considerable standard equipment and a vast array of optional equipment available including a myriad of safety items such as Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, adaptive cruise control with stop-start capability, Auto Emergency Braking, High Beam Assist electronic parking brake with automatic vehicle hold, and a front and rear parking assistance system.

One neat feature that trumps Ford's instant automatic hatchback activated by kicking your foot under the back of the vehicle, is a trunk-opening system that will pop the lid if the driver simply stands next to the trunk for three seconds.

The Genesis starts at $38,950 for the 3.8 model and $52,450 for the 5.0 edition.

Hyundai had done a creditable job with the new Genesis and it would not surprise us if they gain a considerable number of conquest buyers who now own such brands as BMW, Mercedes and Lexus.

— Jim Meachen