The Korean firm has made progress in its quest to match executive saloons from Audi, Mercedes and BMW, but on this evidence there's still work to do

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This is the Hyundai Genesis; a statement that on its own begs yet more questions, like a 'what now?’ and ‘why would I?’

So, let’s take a step back to frame the Genesis. Assume for a moment you’ve got the best part of 50 grand in your pocket (or, more likely, £600 a month), and that you’re looking for an executive car.

The Hyundai Genesis is coming to the UK in rear-drive format

You have the choice of the traditional executive players: Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Jaguar BMW, Lexus or Volvo, or perhaps Land Rover or Porsche if you fancy an SUV.

You might be odd enough to think about an Infiniti, or heck, for less than £50,000 these days you could even buy a Maserati.

But just for a moment, let’s pretend too that you don’t care about carbon dioxide emissions, so a powerful diesel or a small turbo petrol engine are not necessarily for you. Nope, owning a saloon with a CO2 figure that’s north of a Ferrari California's is just dandy.

You could have a Hyundai Genesis. ‘Tough sell’ doesn’t even begin to cover it, does it?

Hyunda's executive car is now in its second generation, although a third generation - the G90 is earmarked. It’ll reach the UK with a steering wheel on the correct side and is priced from £50,000.

Hyundai won’t say how many it expects to sell. This always means the same thing: not very many. If you want one of these 4990mm long, 3.8-litre petrol engined cars in the UK, you will have to visit one of seven specially selected dealers. (If you end up routinely driving a Genesis, we suspect there’s a very good chance you’ll work at one of them.} As it stands there are only six currently offering test drives of the Genesis - Bristol Street Motors Nottingham, East London Hyundai in Romford, Johnsons in Coventry, Edinburgh East's Macklin Motors, Richmond Hyundai in Guildford and Vantage Hyundai based in Stockport. 

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Geneses are being specifically tweaked for the UK market, which must rank as a fairly extraordinary outlay given the potential return.

Hyundai might not be serious about selling vast quantities of the Genesis in Europe, then, but it is utterly serious about what this car stands for. It’s meant to get you used to the idea that a Hyundai can have high levels of interior craftsmanship, so that you don’t have to stifle a giggle when you first spot there’s wood, aluminium and leather on display.

You’re meant to be similarly unsurprised, too, if your forthcoming Hyundai small family car borrows features from the Genesis, like lane-departure warning, a cabin CO2 monitor that detects when you’re tired (high carbon dioxide levels can make drivers feel sleepy), a system that warns of oncoming traffic when you’re reversing from a parking space, city braking, a head-up display, and so on. 

That the showcase for these things is a five-metre saloon with a near four-litre V6 attached is by the by.

There’s more, too, though, and this bit is important: the Genesis is meant to tell you – and everyone within Hyundai – that chassis dynamics matter. The Genesis, like the Santa Fe and Veloster, is designed (the company freely admits) for the Far East and the US markets first, and then ‘adapted’ for Europe.

Sometimes, dynamically, Hyundai doesn’t adapt its cars well enough for Europe, it admits. Not this time, it says. The Genesis has one suspension set-up for its traditional markets; then there is another for mainland Europe; and a third for the UK. Lotus has completed much of the legwork for the Euro and UK spec cars, which is encouraging.

It tells us that this is an interior better than Hyundai has ever before produced. Fit and finish is very good. The rooflining, particularly, is pleasingly soft. Materials are of a higher grade than you’ll find elsewhere in the European Hyundai range, but is it worthy of the sticker price? Different question, and I’d say not quite. The action of switches is fine: but the look and feel of the plastics isn’t quite up there. The starter button’s nice, though, and if you thumb it this is a quiet motor at idle, becoming pleasingly audible with the gas pedal applied.

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As for the standard equipment on the Hyundai, being an executive saloon it can't be found wanting in this area, especially considering the tech fests that festoon in the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Jaguar XF. Thankfully Hyundai has ensured the Genesis has safety systems including autonomous emergency braking, automatic lights and wipers, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and a 360-degree camera as standard. While there is also an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system with sat nav, dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, and a 14-speaker Lexicon audio system.

The Genesis gets 3.0, 3.3 and 5.0-litre donkeys elsewhere in the world, all petrols, but this 3.8 was deemed best for introducing to Europe; simply because, I suspect, it’s the nicest of the four. There’s certainly no business case for a diesel. 

It drives through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, which engages smoothly, but on part throttle it hesitates between upshifts a touch. I liked that – you can hear, but don’t really feel, the engine changing up. It adds a bit of zest.

Otherwise, zest is hard to come by. The ride’s smooth – there’s multi-link suspension front and rear, coil springs, and adaptive dampers with two modes of stiffness. Neither is firm. 

The steering’s light at low speed, and weights up artificially at higher speeds, and although at 2.5 turns lock-to-lock it’s brisk enough, it’s not particularly rewarding. Not enough, anyway, for a company that benchmarked the BMW 5 Series for dynamics (the Audi A6 for its interior and elements of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, too).

That said, it’s relaxing. I came away feeling that the Genesis is a bit like a Citroën C6, only more composed, less interesting, and more expensive.

Should you buy one, though? Lord no. What a world: where a Hyundai costs as much as a Maserati. The wood and size and shape and addition of technologies on smaller Hyundais I could get used to pretty quickly. The numbers might take me a while yet.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Hyundai Genesis 2015-2017 First drives