After nearly a decade of experimenting with the premium-grade, premium-priced Genesis large sedan, Hyundai is preparing to split off Genesis into its own brand later this year. The change will further distinguish the Korean automaker’s luxury lineup from its best-selling Elantra compact economy car and its even cheaper Accent subcompact.
Headlining the new brand will be the 2017 Genesis G90, the full-size replacement for the S-Class-fighting Equus, which will likely be priced above $60,000.
But anchoring the lineup will be the 2017 Genesis G70 – the vehicle sold today as the 2016 Hyundai Genesis sedan. This is the model that demonstrated that Hyundai is capable of creating a premium product, and a recent weeklong test in a 2016 Genesis confirmed that this model won’t embarrass the new Genesis brand.
Hyundai made a name for itself by building cars that were roughly comparable to the competition, but for less money. The Genesis – in particular the second-generation model, which debuted for 2015 – took the bolder approach of providing superiority for similar money.
Competing big premium sedans at this price point are front-wheel-drive models such as the Lexus ES and the Lincoln MKS, which are derived from the mainstream Toyota Avalon and Ford Taurus, respectively. The Genesis, meanwhile, is a more sophisticated rear-wheel-drive model (now with available all-wheel-drive) – more the equivalent of a Lexus GS or Mercedes-Benz E-Class, only bigger, roomier, and much less expensive.
Overall, the Genesis has carved out a niche for itself as a sophisticated, feature-laden premium sedan for luxury buyers who favor room and comfort over the high-performance handling and evocative styling you’d find in similarly priced compact sports sedans like the BMW 3 Series or Lexus IS 350. If those traits are to your interest, the Genesis is the best option out there.
The 2016 Hyundai Genesis starts at a sticker price of $39,700, including its destination charge, and reaches about $55,000 with every option, including a V8 engine. The tested car, with the standard V6 and the optional all-wheel-drive system, comes close to that price tag fully loaded: a sticker price of $53,100, which you can expect to haggle down to about $48,000. As tested, the Genesis has EPA fuel economy ratings of 16 miles per gallon in the city, 25 mpg on the highway, and 19 mpg overall, on regular fuel. This reviewer observed 23.8 mpg in mixed driving that skewed toward highway.
Why to buy it
Driving and sitting in the 2016 Genesis offers a more thoroughly premium experience than you’d find in similarly priced competitors. The Genesis is essentially a smaller version of the upcoming 2017 G90 flagship, rather than an upgraded version of a cheaper car.
The advantage is the most apparent in the driving dynamics, as the Genesis has a rear-wheel-drive platform that gives it superior weight distribution and power delivery over a front-drive model. (The optional all-wheel-drive, added with the second-generation Genesis last year, also allays any winter-weather traction concerns.) Hyundai wisely tuned this car to prioritize a smooth ride, but there’s a confidence to the steering and handling that you don’t typically find among cars this size. It feels like a big car, but in a good way – a tank-like solidity, not in the sense of a wallowing barge.
The standard V6 engine – a 3.8-liter V6 with 311 horsepower, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission – contributes nicely to the driving dynamics. A well-calibrated throttle makes it easy to drive the car either gently or aggressively without any stumbles, and the engine has a pleasantly rich tone. And unlike many premium models, including those with less power, Hyundai recommends regular fuel in the V6 Genesis. An even more powerful 5.0-liter V8 is also available.
The Genesis also stands out for its interior space. While the first-generation model was a little roomier, this sedan is right-sized to sit four adults comfortably and a fifth without too much fuss. You’d think this would go without saying in a big luxury car, but too many other models have compromised interior space due to their styling or other design issues.
Cabin ergonomics are also impressive. Hyundai has resisted many automakers’ temptation to over-complicate their dashboards to seem more high-tech, or to strip out essential functionality to make them seem more stylish. A large touchscreen sits atop audio and climate controls with simple buttons and knobs, and more complex functions can also be managed through another knob that sits between the front seats. The touchscreen is 9.2 inches on the tested fully loaded car; even base models include a generous 8 inches.
The interior is also well-finished, with tasteful décor and respectable materials. Not every last piece of trim is an award-winner, but the overall look and feel of the cabin is appropriate for the price. It’s even more impressive on base models, given their lower price tags, but it’s in no way lacking even above $50,000 – and that’s a high standard to meet.
In keeping with the Hyundai norm, value is another strong suit with the Genesis – despite the clear investment into the car’s engineering. Even under $40,000, you get heated leather seats with 12-way power adjustments, a navigation system, rearview camera, HID headlights, keyless entry and starting, seven-speaker sound system, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. That’s approximately what you’d pay for a similarly optioned Chevrolet Impala or Toyota Avalon, to cite two pleasant and capable large sedans that don’t have this Hyundai’s all-out luxury focus, though of course you can get those models for much less if you forgo these niceties. And against a comparably equipped Lexus GS or Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the Hyundai’s price advantage grows to about $10,000 and $20,000, respectively, according to pricing comparison site truedelta.com.
Most Genesis buyers will likely add the $3,900 Signature package, which includes a panoramic sunroof (a sunroof, of any type, is one notable absence from the $40,000 base Genesis), a memory system for the power driver’s seat and mirrors, cooled front seats, auto-dimming side mirrors, a blind-spot monitoring system, a power-adjustable steering column, sunshades for the rear windshield and passenger door windows, and guides that display your path on the rearview camera.
The tested car also includes the $3,500 Tech package (upgraded leather, upgraded displays, a lane-departure warning system that can also nudge the car back into its lane, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with automatic braking, an electronic parking brake, parking sensors, and automatic high beams), the $3,500 Ultimate package (further upgrades to the interior trim; a heads-up display with information on speed, speed limit, cruise control settings, and navigation directions; the larger 9.2-inch touchscreen; a power-operated trunk lid and a 17-speaker sound system), and the $2,500 all-wheel-drive system.
As with other Hyundais, the Genesis also includes extra-long warranty coverage – especially handy on a premium model where there are so many sensors and motors that can conceivably fail.
Why to skip it
First of all, the obvious difference between the Genesis and its luxury-brand competitors is that it’s a Hyundai instead of a Lexus or Mercedes. Even when this sedan loses its Hyundai badge to become the Genesis G70 in the 2017 model year, it’s going to lack the years of prestige and established network of red-carpet dealers that competitors have established. No matter how premium a car itself may be, the full luxury experience does include other aspects of vehicle ownership.
Another issue that’s no fault of the Genesis’s is that many entry-luxury buyers will likely prefer a smaller vehicle than this full-size sedan. The upcoming Genesis brand is expected to add a new model with tidier dimensions, but for now this is one big car, and it’s styled to look it. Hyundai placed the Genesis in a unique niche, but there’s also a reason many successful premium cars at this price point are much smaller.
In terms of faults with the car, its fuel economy is somewhat mediocre even for a big and powerful sedan. It makes up some ground compared to most luxury-brand competitors by allowing regular fuel rather than recommending premium, but there’s also no option for a more fuel-efficient four-cylinder, hybrid, or diesel powertrain like you find on a number of luxury models.
Additionally, if you’d be comfortable with the winter-weather traction of front-wheel-drive but not rear-wheel-drive, you’d have to pick the all-wheel-drive option on the Genesis – adding to cost and decreasing gas mileage.
Buyers accustomed to a Mercedes-Benz might also find the Genesis experience to feel a little ordinary. Though there’s no specific fault in the car’s cabin, some of the car’s plastics are more typical to the style found in the $20,000s than in the $50,000s. So are the clear but plain gauges. Many drivers – perhaps even many Mercedes drivers – won’t notice, especially given this Hyundai’s many successful luxury touches. But it’s fair to pick nits at this price point.
If you want spirited driving dynamics in your luxury sedan, you’d likely gravitate toward the smaller but still spacious Audi A6 and Cadillac CTS, or even the BMW 5 Series and Lexus GS, sooner than the Genesis. The Hyundai is respectable, especially for its size, but it’s more composed than athletic.
And, as noted earlier, you can’t get a Genesis that isn’t already sumptuously optioned. If you’re interested in a big sedan but don’t want to pay for all those options, expect to shop compelling front-wheel-drive models such as the Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Impala and Toyota Avalon, along with Hyundai’s own Azera and the related Kia Cadenza. (see full comparison of large sedans)
Lastly, Hyundai reserves some increasingly common and desirable features for quite pricey models – a sunroof and blind-spot monitoring, not available under $40,000; and automatic emergency braking, not available under $45,000.
If you just love it
If something about the Genesis really resonates with you personally – the way it looks, the design of its cupholder, a particular rare feature, or anything else – it should suit you well. Its weakest points are obvious at first glance, so if they don’t trouble you, buy comfortably and enjoy its many strengths.
If you just hate it
If something about the Genesis simply rubs you the wrong way but you do want a car much like this one, you’ll need to prepare to give up something – this car is in a unique niche.
Probably the closest alternatives are a pair of big GM sedans, the Chevrolet Impala and Buick LaCrosse. Both are well-finished and pleasant to drive, and feel fairly premium – just less so than the Genesis. Note that the competing Chrysler 300 is rear-wheel-drive like the Genesis, but this aging model feels even less polished and sophisticated; it is available, though, with a powerful V8 engine if that’s to your tastes.
If a premium brand matters, the Lexus ES and Lincoln MKZ are other leading options. They have less room than the Hyundai, and the Lexus in particular doesn’t have great ride or handling, but they look the part of luxury and have dedicated premium brands. Between the two, Lincoln has a less gracious interior but superior driving dynamics. If interior room matters even less, consider the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which has the sophistication and solid feel of a big luxury car just without the actual interior or exterior dimensions.
For a reasonably roomy, gracious luxury sedan – albeit one with less space and a much higher price tag than the Genesis – shop first the refined, polished Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Lexus GS. And if you want something big and premium, the leading option is the Cadillac XTS, though it lacks the sophistication of these models and isn’t that much roomier except in the trunk.
Note that two more big premium sedans are about to come to the market for the 2017 model year: the Lincoln Continental and the Volvo S90. They’re front-wheel-drive based, but prepare to shop the Genesis carefully against them.
Posh and polished, smooth and spacious, the 2016 Genesis is more than suitable for Hyundai’s upcoming premium brand and leads the market of large sedans at its price point.
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More about the 2016 Hyundai Genesis:
Gallery of exterior and interior photos
Vehicle base price (MSRP): $39,700
Version tested: AWD 3.8
Version base price (MSRP): $42,200
Vehicle price as tested (MSRP): $53,100
Estimated transaction price as tested*: $48,127
Test vehicle provided by: Hyundai Motor America
Length: 196.5 inches
Width: 74.4 inches
Height: 58.3 inches
Wheelbase: 118.5 inches
Weight: 4,295 pounds
Trunk volume: 15.3 cubic feet
Turning circle: 36.2 feet
Engine (as tested): 3.8-liter V6
– Horsepower: 311
– Torque: 293 pound-feet
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
EPA city mileage: 16 miles per gallon
EPA highway mileage: 25 miles per gallon
EPA combined mileage: 19 miles per gallon
Observed mileage during test: 23.8 miles per gallon
Fuel capacity: 20.3 gallons
Assembly location: South Korea
For more information: Hyundai website
* Estimated transaction prices are based on information from Truecar.com and dealer quotes.