KDM Korner: The Genesis

Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Photograph by Justin Capolongo

What makes a luxury car so luxurious? Is it breathtaking design? A lavish interior filled with cow hide, carbon and creature comforts? Could it be for the strong performance? I’ll give you a hint. It’s all the above. Luxury car buyers crave power, comfort and presence. That’s the whole reason why brands like Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Jaguar, Bentley, and many more are so relevant in today’s market. However, brands like these have been established for decades and even over a century. Starting a luxury brand is extremely difficult. Just ask Mazda, but it’s not completely impossible. You can look at the success of Lexus that started out in 1989 with the introduction of the LS400. That story is what brought Genesis to life.

Chapter 1: Hyundai Beginnings

The Genesis brand arguably started way back in 2009 with the introduction of the Hyundai Genesis Coupe and sedan. The Genesis Coupe was powered by either a 2.0 liter inline-4 cylinder turbocharged engine that made 210 horsepower and 235 lb-ft of torque or a 3.8 liter naturally aspirated V6 that made 306 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque transferred by either a 5-speed automatic (6-speed for the V6) or a good ole 6-speed manual transmission and sending power to the rear wheels. The Genesis sedan (only known as the Hyundai Genesis) sported either a 3.8 liter naturally aspirated V6 with 286 horsepower or a 4.6 liter V8 with a monstrous 380 horsepower. The coupe was mainly aimed to buyers cross shopping cars like the Mustang and Challenger while the sedan was the real highlight and was poised to be a budget friendly luxury car to take on German and Japanese luxury brands like BMW, Lexus, Infiniti and Audi.

While the Genesis Coupe found moderate success with young buyers wanting an inexpensive sports car, the sedan struggled a little to find its footing. Consumers criticized it for looking too much like a knock off BMW 5 series or Lexus LS and its performance wasn’t exactly on par with the Germans and Japanese either. Sure, the Genesis sedan boasted impressive power figures, but the Germans had better engineering prowess and could literally make their cars defy the laws of physics. Hyundai could make a car look good on paper but translating that on the street is a completely different story. However, most gave Hyundai credit for being bold to take on established luxury automakers and offer a cheaper alternative but there was one problem. The badge.

Luxury isn’t just about power, performance and comfort. It’s about class, sophistication and status. Luxury car buyers weren’t looking to spend $50,000 on a Hyundai. They didn’t want to be seen driving a Hyundai because of the perception that they would get from the outside world. Why be seen driving a $50,000 Hyundai when you could be seen driving a BMW or Audi for just a little bit more? Sure, the Genesis boasted some impressive luxury and technology that would make buyers who want to get into a luxury car buy the Genesis, but Hyundai wasn’t aiming for that. They wanted to upset the established order and you only do that one way.

Chapter 2: A New Generation

2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Photo by Jack Amick

The Genesis Coupe and sedan did help squash Hyundai’s reputation for building cheap and inexpensive cars that wouldn’t last. The two would go through a mid-cycle refresh for 2013 boasting more updates and better performance. The V6 Genesis Coupe now made 348 horsepower and competed better against cars like the Nissan 370Z, Dodge Challenger, Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro (all the V6 versions of course) also while getting some interior updates. The sedan would also see a styling revision and got a huge upgrade in performance. The base 3.8 V6 now made 333 horsepower while the V8 would bored and stroked to 5.0 liters (up from 4.6) and now made 429 horsepower. This increase gave it more power than the BMW 550 and Lexus GS430. While the updates certainly helped, it wasn’t enough. Sliding sales of the Genesis Coupe ultimately sealed its fate and the sporty coupe was killed off after the 2016 model year. The sedan on the other hand, Hyundai has other plans for it.

Hyundai went back to the drawing board for the second generation Genesis sedan and wanted to bring its A-game. The second generation was previewed at the NAIAS (North American International Auto Show) by the HCD-14 Genesis concept car in 2013. Hyundai designers went all out to bring the ailing Genesis sedan some much needed life. The production version (dubbed DH) was unveiled in Hyundai’s home region of South Korea and later debuted at the at NAIAS the following year. Introduced for the 2015 model year in the United States, Hyundai make enormous improvements from the previous generation in terms of styling and sporting a new winged style badge to further drive the wedge between the luxury car and its parent automaker. The DH Genesis received much better praise upon its release. The new car sported a familiar 3.8 liter V6 and 5.0 liter V8 making 311 and 420 horsepower respectively. However, there was still a problem. It was sold alongside cars like the Hyundai Sonata, Elantra, Accent, and other vehicles in Hyundai’s lineup.

Marketing for the DH Genesis sedan (along with the new even more expensive Eqqus) was a bit of a cluster. They were luxury cars sold in Hyundai dealerships. That’s literally like if Audi was sold in the same dealership was Volkswagen, badged an Audi but marketed as a Volkswagen luxury car. People were still confused on what to and luxury car buyers still weren’t biting hard enough. Hyundai knew it needed to make a change and they needed to make a change quickly.

Thankfully for Hyundai, a plan was already in the works to break off the Hyundai Genesis and Eqqus and form them into a separate luxury brand (which is probably what Hyundai should have done back in 2009 but that’s just my opinion). Thus, the Genesis Motor Company was born officially in 2015. The Genesis sedan and Eqqus were given new monikers (the Genesis sedan took the G80 moniker and Eqqus was replaced as the G90) and Hyundai went full beans on the brand to make it a serious luxury player. Albert Biermann, Hyundai’s N Performance Division head, helped with chassis and performance engineering while Hyundai opened a new design studio in Hanam, South Korea to give identity to the brand.

Chapter 3: The Needle Mover

While things were starting out slightly rough for the brand regarding its dealership network and still selling new G80’s and G90’s next to regular Hyundai’s, the team got to work on deciding what it’s next product was going to be. For Genesis to succeed, it would have to make major risks and really take on major players and in the luxury market and who better to take on than BMW and its ultimate driving machines. It’s kind of poetic for Biermann as well since he previously was the head engineer of BMW’s M Division. Only this time, Hyundai gave him free reign to go all out on the new cars performance and dynamics. Genesis set its sights on the king of luxury sports sedans…the BMW 3 series.

2019 Genesis G70, Photo by Automotive Rhythms

It was going to be no easy task to complete and Genesis was swinging for the fence. Thankfully, Genesis paid attention to history and looked at Lexus for inspiration. The 2019 Genesis G70 was unveiled to the public on September 15th 2017 at a global launch event in Seoul, South Korea. It’s styling was met with instant praise by auto journalists all around thanks to head designer, Peter Schreyer (who also penned the Kia Stinger and 1st Gen Audi TT). Sporty and aggressive, yet subtle and luxurious. However, the best was yet to come. Biermann had a trick up its sleeve. The moment the G70 got into the hands of auto journalists to drive, it was met with unbelievable reactions. People were blown away and couldn’t believe that Hyundai could build such a vehicle.

The G70 sported a 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that made 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque or a 3.3 liter twin turbo V6 that made 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque. If those figures look familiar, that’s because it’s the same as the Kia Stinger which the G70 shares its underpinnings with, however the G70 was 200 pounds lighter and unlike the Stinger, the G70 could be had with a 6-speed manual! That’s right, a luxury, rear-wheel drive sports sedan that came with a manual transmission. Eat your heart out BMW. While the manual was limited to the base 2.0 liter model, it was still impressive to see one being offered. An 8-speed automatic was option for the base car and standard on the V6 model and you had all-wheel drive as an option as well. Hyundai claimed a 0-60 run of 4.7 seconds for the V6 RWD G70.

More …