Too bad: Australians won’t get the Hyundai Genesis V8, and that’s a shame.
It’s not just a shame because the Hyundai ‘Tau’ 5.0-litre V8 engine feels like a better fit for this type and size of car than the 3.8-litre V6 that is currently the only engine available in Australia.
Nor is it that the US model - known as the Hyundai Genesis 5.0 Ultimate - gets a better media system with a much more usable rotary dial controller that makes using the infotainment and navigation systems much easier when you’re on the move.
And it’s not even because the Genesis V8 comes with additional safety equipment that isn’t available in Australia at this point in time, including rear-cross traffic alert that stops you from reversing into the path of oncoming traffic and an active lane-keeping system that monitors the road ahead and helps the driver by steering the car to a degree.
The real reason it’s a shame is because Australia could do the V8 Genesis better than it has been done in the US.
How? The local engineering team, based in Sydney, has seemingly worked wonders on the car’s suspension and steering calibration. And if the US tune was nearly as good as the Aussie setup, the Genesis V8 would be extremely convincing as a luxury car option for those who aren’t into the Teutonic trio of models from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Sure, an olde-worlde naturally-aspirated 5.0-litre V8 engine with 313kW of power and 519Nm of torque isn’t necessarily the cutting edge of drivetrain technology right now, as the German trio – the A6, 5 Series and E-Class – all have turbocharged six-cylinder and V8 engines in their ranks.
Hyundai will, later in 2016, add a 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged six-cylinder petrol engine to the Genesis ranks in the G80 (which is the name this model will be emblazoned with once Genesis separates as its own brand, a la Lexus from Toyota) and the larger G90.
That new 3.3 could well be the pick of the pack, because with 272kW of power and 510Nm of torque it is just shy of the V8 when it comes to pulling power. The new turbo six is also up well and truly on the current normally-aspirated V6, which has 232kW and 397Nm. Hyundai Australia’s hand is up for the new engine, and it could come in 2017 - but it’s not confirmed yet.
But back to the powerplant at hand, which is also up on grunt by about 35 per cent and torque by 30 per cent compared with the 3.8-litre V6 we get. As with the car sold in Australia, the 5.0 Ultimate model in America remains available with rear-wheel drive only, and changing the gears is an eight-speed automatic with paddleshifters.
It is an impressive engine, one that is best considered refined rather than raucous, as it builds momentums smoothly throughout the rev range, and responds willingly – but not manically – when the right pedal has a little extra pressure applied.
You can barely hear the engine at cruising speed on light throttle, though there’s a healthy amount of roar that transmits to the cockpit when you’re up it. At city pace you can hear a slight burble on mid-throttle, too, but you’ve got to be careful with the go pedal, as it is a bit lurchy from a standstill.
The gearbox does a great job for the most part when it’s shuffling between ratios, with smooth shifts and a general knowhow for which gear is best for the situation. In manual mode, though, it will still overrule the driver, changing up before redline, and it is slow to downshift during hard driving, too.
But if you’re cruising – and that’s what you’d probably want to be doing in a Genesis – it’s a totally liveable combination. And the suspension and steering calibration is clearly much more focused on that type of driving, too.
The suspension of the Genesis 5.0 Ultimate can at times be quite poor at controlling the body of the car when changing direction or pushing hard into a corner, with the rear end bouncing unsophisticatedly over bumps and throwing out the balance of the car. It pitter-patters over small inconsistencies like road joins and drainage channels, too.
Neither of those ride complaints are an issue on the Australian car, with the local team having managed to make the car feel more tied down and considerably more compliant.
Part of that could also come down to the fact the V8 model weighs about 200 kilograms more than the V6. It seems an excessive amount of extra mass, but the numbers don’t lie. And nor does physics.
The brakes on our test car – while offering an honest amount of stopping power – felt hampered by a poor pedal calibration that had an initial dead spot before grabbing a little too hard mid-pedal travel.
The steering lacks accuracy, too. Where the Australian electric steering tune offers more intrinsic response when you’re turning the wheel, the US version is slow initially and can then be over-assisted when you apply more lock.
The differences aren’t just in the way it drives, though – those equipment disparities are certainly to the advantage of the US car.
The safety kit may be something that you’ll hardly use, but the automated lane-keeping system worked very well during our test drive outside Santa Barbara, California. The autonomous emergency braking system also did its job of forewarning potential collisions – not that we were trying – and the blind-spot assistant, which shows up in the heads-up display and audibly warns the driver if they’re about to merge in on someone, also worked very well.
The rotary dial – reminiscent of a BMW iDrive or Mazda MZD Connect controller – truly makes for easier interaction with the media screen. The US version has a different satellite navigation system, too, and SiriusXM online information updates and satellite radio with its seemingly infinite array of audio options.
The fit and finish of the Genesis, no matter in which country you drive it, is excellent. The materials are sumptuous, the finishes nicely tailored, and the comfort levels are very high, with front heated and cooled electric-adjustable seats, and good adjustment and bolstering for those ahead.
Rear seat space is good for two outboard-sat adults, with the middle spot best left for occasional use only as it isn’t quite as comfortable, with the driveshaft tunnel eating into space in the foot well. Toe room for all three occupants in the back could be better, but head and leg room levels are more than adequate.
There are a few shortcomings, though. The rear seat doesn't have any USB ports for charging those all-important devices on the move, though a single USB jack and auxiliary port is available up front and there are twin 12-volt outlets, too.
Kids and adults alike will be comfortable in the back thanks to side and rear sun-blinds, and there are rear seat air vents with a heating/cooling scroller, though not a proper climate control temperature selector.
The boot is large, with easily enough space for four medium suitcases and additional small bags, or a couple of sets of golf clubs if you’re so inclined. Skis can be accommodated, too, as there’s a fold-down port in the back seat.
So yes, it is disappointing that the V8-powered Hyundai Genesis won’t be offered Down Under, because buyers of the luxury sedan would presumably be enamoured by this engine.
But the most upsetting part is that Hyundai’s local engineering team won’t get the chance to do their thing with this drivetrain in a Genesis. We’re sure the V8 Genesis would be an even better proposition if they were to have that opportunity.