If there were no name badge on the steering wheel of Hyundai's Genesis, it would be hard to tell it wasn't a German or Japanese luxury brand.
The Genesis is smooth, quiet and has a level of fit and finish that rivals many of its more expensive competitors. Panel gaps are tight. Subtle items, such as the feel of the door handle or the thunk with which the door shuts, mimic more expensive cars.
With the Genesis, Hyundai takes on established luxury brands by offering a comparable vehicle for thousands less. Add to that a five-year, 60,000-mile warranty and a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty and you have a lot of car for the money.
The Genesis sedan has been so successful in its mission that it was named the 2009 North American Car of the Year.
The sedan comes with a 290-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 or a 375-horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8. The V-6 has a base price of $32,250 and the V-8 begins at $37,250. I drove a V-6 equipped with the premium package and technology package.
The technology package includes the navigation system, HD satellite radio, backup camera, cooled driver's seat, adaptive high-intensity headlights and the Lexicon upgraded audio system.
The premium package adds 18-inch wheels, leather-wrapped dash and door trim, power sunroof and rain-sensing wipers.
Given today's economy and increased emphasis on price, I think the V-6 will be the engine most buyers will choose. Its performance is more than adequate, and Hyundai has done an excellent job of isolating any engine noise and vibration from the cabin.
The Genesis sedan rides on a 115.6-inch wheelbase that uses Hyundai's front-engine, rear-wheel-drive architecture. A rear-wheel-drive Genesis coupe is also available.
Silky smoothness has come to be a key component of luxury cars, and the Genesis matches others in its field. Wind and road noise are very well muted.
The cabin is cozy and warm, with a nice combination of expensive-looking textures, wood-grain trim and brushed aluminum. The French stitching on the leather-wrapped dash and door panels was most attractive.
The controls glide smoothly, especially the mouselike knob on the center console that controls the navigation and audio systems.
Unlike some other brands that are unnecessarily complex, Hyundai's system is intuitive and easy to learn. Plugging addresses into the navigation system was a snap.
Convenience features are part and parcel of the luxury class these days, and voice control of the audio system, hands-free Bluetooth telephone and navigation system is possible.
Styling is one area where the Genesis is ordinary. The look is a combination of elements from competing brands, and the grille reminds me of an older Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
One benefit to styling with a certain anonymity is that it doesn't shout affluence, and that can be a plus for folks who want to enjoy the comfort of a luxury car without appearing ostentatious.
The base price of the test car was $32,250. Options included the $4,000 technology package and the $3,000 premium package. The sticker price was $39,250.
Five years or 60,000 miles with a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
2009 Hyundai Genesis 3.8
Engine: 3.8-liter, 290-hp V-6
Wheelbase: 115.6 inches
Curb weight: 3,748 lbs.
Base price: $32,250
As driven: $39,250
MPG ratings: 18 city, 27 hwy.
Tom Strongman's e-mail address is tom@ tomstrongman.com.