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Test Drive: 2012 Hyundai Genesis Adds Speed to Luxury Features

When you mention luxury cars, Hyundai does not automatically come to mind. But the Hyundai Genesis, with a smooth, quiet ride and high-tech features, is drawing an increasing number of trade-ins from Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and other traditional luxury brands.

Now, for 2012, Genesis is adding a powerful V-8 engine aimed at competing with high-performance models of those brands.

As with all its models, Hyundai is pitching shoppers that they get great features at a value price. For instance, it compares its new R-Spec model with the 5.0-liter, 429-horsepower V-8 to the Infiniti M56 and the BMW 550i. At a list price of $47,350 with fully comparable features, the Genesis has a $16,445 price advantage on the Infiniti and $17,525 on the BMW.

I am doubtful that famously loyal BMW owners will be lured even by that price difference, but Infiniti shoppers might. At the lower end, the Genesis 3.8 with a V-6 engine starts at $34,200 -- the same entry-level luxury neighborhood as popular models like the Lexus ES but about $3,000 less.

I got a chance to drive the 2012 Genesis last week on winding, hilly roads north of New York City. Here are m2y impressions plus some basic facts:

Styling: New headlights and taillights add to the solid, luxury appearance of the Genesis. Apparently with an eye to the taste of luxury buyers, the Genesis has traditional-looking styling instead of the swooping, curvy look that is so eye-catching on models like the Sonata and Elantra.

Performance and mileage: Since I had just driven the much smaller Hyundai Accent, the comfort, quiet and smooth power of the Genesis stood out. Even with the 333-horsepower V-6, acceleration surged at highway speeds with just a touch of the foot. And Hyundai says the new top-end V-8 model will go from 0 to 60 mpg in a smoking 5.1 seconds. But even fast cars need to have good gas mileage these days, if only because of tightening federal regulations. Use of direct gasoline injection -- which improves the fuel mix going into the cylinders -- yields EPA ratings of 16 mpg in city driving, 25 on the highway for the big V-8, 17/26 for the smaller V-8 and 19/29 for the V-6 model.

Ride and Comfort: In addition to its smooth, quiet ride, Genesis handling ate up the hills and curves on the winding roads of my test drive route. Well-bolstered leather seats -- including roomy, comfortable back seats (shown at left) -- make the Genesis a worthy road trip candidate. (If you are traveling in cold weather, the seats can be heated). A handsome stitched leather dash adds to the luxury look.

Cargo and storage: At 15.9 cubic feet, the trunk is larger than most of the competition. But Genesis lacks the folding rear seats that add to capacity in cars like the Lexus ES -- although it does have a narrow passthrough from the trunk for items like skis. The center console in front and a similar bin in the rear provide plenty of space for small personal items.

Safety: The Genesis has electronic stability control, eight airbags and features usually found only in luxury brands, like a lane departure warning that alerts you if your car is drifting. The structure is unchanged from the 2011 model, so the Genesis is likely to keep its Top Safety Pick rating after crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

If you own -- or have always wanted to own -- a prestige, name-brand luxury car, Hyundai won't appeal to you. But if you want ride, comfort and luxury features for a good price, the Genesis is worth a look.

Photos courtesy of Hyundai
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