Hyundai steps into the luxury car market with an impressive candidate.

News that Hyundai was the second most-popular car make in Australia in October provided a perfect platform for the Korean company’s next big step – its arrival in the luxury car business.

Last week Hyundai introduced the Genesis sedan. At prices up to $82,000 (plus on-roads), it is significantly more expensive than any existing model and asks us to accept that Hyundai can meet expectations for luxury and prestige never required of it before.

While established luxury makes such as BMW. Audi and Mercedes-Benz are making cheaper cars to get more sales, Hyundai is going in the opposite direction to boost not only its bottom line but also its brand image. (Next, it’s going to introduce a performance range called “N”.)

Badge snobs are never likely to say “I own a luxury Hyundai”, but they’re not the targets for the Genesis. Its buyers may include existing loyal Hyundai owners, motorists who appreciate value above conventional prestige and luxury fleet operators.

Where it fits

Not so long ago, Australians’ first choice for a large, luxurious but reasonably-priced car would have been a Ford Fairlane, Ford LTD, Holden Statesman or Holden Caprice. Government and private luxury fleets bought thousands.

All but the Caprice are gone forever from showrooms and Holden will soon stop making it. What’s left? A Holden Calais, Chrysler 300 or Lexus ES300 – and the Genesis appears to have them covered.

The new Hyundai flagship is a rear-drive sedan with a 3.8 litre V6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. It is longer and wider than a BMW 5 Series, one of the prestige cars against which its design was benchmarked.

Three variants are available: Genesis ($60,000), Sensory Pack ($71,000) and Ultimate Pack ($82,000).

Their specification lists are complemented by convincing after-sales benefits: five years’ or 75,000kms’ free scheduled servicing, a five year/unlimited kms warranty, one year’s roadside emergency assistance and three years’ free map upgrades for the satellite navigation.

Topping all these is a guaranteed buy-back program, so even before the specifications are examined, the Genesis has made an attractive financial proposition to cut through buyer resistance.

What it’s got

The shorter list would be “what it hasn’t got”. The Genesis specification is beyond impressive and, tellingly, there are no options.

Most importantly, it has a winning safety package. Not only did it achieve the maximum five stars in the independent Australian NCAP crash protection tests, it also got the highest score in the program’s 21-year history, 36.88 points from a possible 37.

Even the $60K version is extraordinarily well-equipped, offering automatic emergency braking, radar cruise control, a power-operated boot lid, reversing camera, self-parking, electric rear-window blind and cornering lights among a long feature list.

The Sensory Pack includes blind-spot monitoring, 360 degree-view cameras and a CO2 monitor that automatically controls the fresh air supply to avoid drowsiness. Buy the top-shelf Genesis and you’ll get true luxury items such as oft-closing doors and sound-deadening glass.

On the road

The Genesis runs a high-tech direct-injection petrol engine producing 232 kiloWatts of power and 397 Newtonmetres of torque.

On the road, this translates to rest-100kmh acceleration in a commendable 6.5 seconds. Fuel consumption is 11.2 litres per 100 kms, quite a bit thirstier than numerous other luxury cars or even V8s.

The Genesis makes a strong claim on cornering and ride comfort.

Recognising that Australian road quality varies widely and that our drivers generally want a sharper-feeling car than their American or Asian counterparts, Hyundai says it has tuned the suspension of the Genesis for local conditions.

This involved several months of road-testing and computer simulations with a bin full of different springs and shock absorbers until engineers felt they had a combination that met the requirements, including bench-marking against European rivals. Handling and roadholding also benefit from Traction Cornering Control.

The first Genesis owners may be pioneers, but they will know they’re driving a car that could change the game for the lower-price luxury market.

Specifications

Prices: Genesis $60,000, Sensory Pack $71,000, Ultimate Pack; plus on-road costs.
Engine: Petrol V6 3.8 litre, 232 kW, 397 Nm.
Transmission: Eight-speed Hyundai automatic, rear-drive.
Fuel consumption: 11.2 litres per 100 kms average.
Wheels/tyres: Alloy Genesis/Sensory 245/45/18; Ultimate front 245/40/19, rear 275/35/19.
Dimensions: Length 4990 mm, width 1890 mm, wheelbase 3010 mm.

Test drive the all new Hyundai Genesis at your local Hyundai dealership between 18 to 31 November 2014 and you will go into the draw to win one night’s accommodation at the QT Gold Coast for two people. There are 10 prizes to be won.