Hyundai EQUUS, Genesis & Genesis Coupe Review

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Our final day in Korea was devoted to a series of brief test drives up in the hills behind Seoul and the line-up was impressive, EQUUS VS 380, Genesis BH 380 and Genesis 380 GT Coupe

Sadly it will most likely be several years before we see the Genesis model line-up on Australian roads. Hyundai senior management told us that we wouldn’t get the current generation car, which means another two or three years before the car is available down under.

The wait will be longer still for Hyundai’s luxury flagship, the supremely well-appointed EQUUS, if we get it at all. That really would be a pity, as this is a real contender for the luxury market, and at considerably less money than most rivals, I suspect.

It’s mostly about the right hand drive issue (they are currently only built in left hand drive) and the fact that Genesis is approaching the half-way-point in the model’s lifecycle, so no point in tooling up to produce a car for the RHD market at this stage.

As disappointing as this news will be to anyone fortunate enough to have driven a Genesis or Gensis Coupe, the improvements that will surely be made to next generation car should be worth the wait.

That said there is no doubt Hyundai could find plenty of willing buyers in Australia and other markets with the Genesis cars.

To my amazement, all of the other auto scribes walked straight past the Coupe to the luxury line-up, which left the fun car all to me and my Korean navigator.

Being a left hand-drive market as Korea is, it’s always best to stop for a second and think about what side of the car you’re going to open, before you completely shatter your reputation as a motoring journalist by hopping in the passenger side for a steer.

Buyers have the option of two very different flavours of the Coupe; a 2.0-litre Turbo version producing 156 kW (210 hp) and good for 220km/h (137 mph) or the more powerful 3.8-litre V6, good for a 0-100km/h sprint in around 6 seconds and a top speed of 240km/h.

Being a rear wheel-drive chassis, the naturally aspirated V6 powered 380 GT should provide more entertainment and thankfully this is the test car we have ended up with.

It’s actually a 2008 model with a six-speed automatic transmission and sequential shifting, but regrettably, no paddle shifters, which is standard kit on the 2010 car and would certainly be my preferred choice.

The Genesis Coupe is not to be confused with Hyundai’s Tiburon Coupe; this is clearly a much sharper instrument with an aggressive stance and all the right ‘go fast’ bits on board; the most obvious being the bright red Brembo brake calipers.

Step inside and there’s more of the same with heavily bolstered front sports seats that are mounted deep into the car. This already feels like a proper performance car.

The three-spoke steering wheel is nice and thick too and has that hand stitched finish about it.

Time to fire up the 3.8-litre V6 with a push of the star button, and there’s a definite snarl about this engine, even at idle.

The problem is that in my eagerness to commandeer the Coupe first up, I should have realised that we would need to crawl through Seoul traffic, which seems to be in a 24/7 gridlock. Not quite the smartest move on my part, given half my drive time in this car would be spent travelling at 60km/h or less.

It’s also a little confusing using a Korean SatNav system, especially when the navigator is either on the phone or the two-way, assisting the rest of the convoy with but it wasn’t long before I could open the Coupe up on the freeway. It’s certainly got a decent dollop of torque from the moment you jump on the throttle.

I’m only on the freeway through some sweeping bends and the Genesis feels very planted and very balanced. The steering is also accurate and quick to respond to inputs with plenty of feedback. That’s the difference between hydraulic power assistance and an all-electric powered steering assistance.

It’s quite stiff though, some might find it too stiff for Australian roads, but enthusiasts will enjoy the flat cornering – a lot.

There’s a driver change point up ahead and they’d like me to give up the driver’s seat, but that’s not going to happen until we can at least attack the series of mountain bends up ahead. At least that’s what the SatNav is indicating.

Time to give it some flat throttle to the Coupe through these rather narrow s-bends and thank god for rear wheel-drive. This is a proper sports car with superior handling, no question. I can see why this would be the perfect drift car.

The six-speed ZF transmission produces reasonably quick shifts and would work a treat with the paddles.

Pity though, that we’ve only got a two-year-old car with more than a few press miles on the clock for this drive, as the latest version would be sharper still and has a far nicer interior that this earlier model.

That said, the sooner Hyundai ship the Genesis to Australia, the better. This is a different kind of Hyundai and a great ambassador for the brand.

I think perhaps I’m being punished for my extra time in the coupe, as I’ve ended up in the back seat of a Genesis BH 380 sedan and frankly, there are a lot worse places to be. After all, this also happens to be the winner of the prestigious North America Car of The Year 2009.

The comfort factor and legroom for a medium size sedan is ten-out-ten, as is the ride quality. This feels as good as a Lexus GS series car and not far behind a 5 Series.

Poorly maintained back roads cannot induce a single rattle or trim shake, no matter how many times the driver tries to unsettle this chassis.

Under the bonnet is a 3.8-litre Dual DOHC 24-Valve with CVVT with an all-aluminium block and aluminium cylinder heads. Power output is slightly down on its sibling Coupe, but there’s adequate performance to satisfy most drivers.

That said if you want more, then by all means choose the award winning Tau 4.6-litre V8 engine that powers the top end variant Equus has already been named in the prestigious ‘Ward’s 10 Best Engines” in the world for the last two consecutive years.

Replacing the previous Omega series engine, the TAU V8 develops 287 kW (385 hp) and 451 Nm (333 ft.1bf) of torque using premium fuel and slightly less if running on standard unleaded grade fuel.

There’s also a more powerful 5.0-litre version of the TAU which is used in the limo versions of Equus at the moment, which develops a more entertaining 320 kW (429 hp) and 510 Nm (376 ft.1bf) of torque, but it’s not available for Genesis.

I’m also aware that Hyundai North America showed a 4.6-litre TAU engine at SEMA show, but this version was supercharged and fitted with cylinder deactivation technology while delivering a commendable 340 kW (460 hp) and returned better fuel consumption than the standard 4.6 motor.

We only got to drive the Lambda 3.8-litre V6 version Genesis and first impressions are very good indeed. The velvety power delivery and seamless shifts along with superb suspension and general driveability, puts this car well and truly alongside the competition from Germany and Japan.

When it comes to luxury kit though on board though, I doubt that any other manufacturer will be able to come close to what EQUUS offers its customers as part of the standard kit inventory.

To provide a complete inventory of standard equipment would require several pages, but take it from me, there will be few if any options when, or if, the car finally arrives in Australia.

Unlike Lexus and Infinity whose parent companies chose to create new brands for their luxury stable, Hyundai management are more comfortable under the same nameplate, as in Hyundai. It’s cheaper that way, if it all goes belly up, but the company is confident that Genesis has already carved out an early acceptance of Hyundai luxury and the EQUUS is simply the next step.

Again we drove the smaller VS 380 variant, but the pick powertrain would have to be the 4.6-litre V8 with a four-passenger architecture. This allows first class style comfort and luxury.

That’s not surprising given that the EQUUS was designed and built to compete head-to-head with the likes of BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Audi A8.

If you take the badge out of the equation, few would be able to pic clear distinctions between all four cars in both driveability and comfort terms. More time behind the wheel of each car, on the same roads during the same conditions would produce a definitive ranking system.

Next up – a visit to the Hyundai R&D facility and a short test-drive of 4 very interesting cars.