Hyundai Genesis V8

The bent-eight Korean that got away

GLENN BUTLER

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

WHY didnít Hyundai bring the Genesis V8 to Australia? Itís a 5.0-litre V8, in a rear-drive prestige sedan. We Aussies have an affinity with such beasts, so surely it was a no-brainer. And yet Hyundai Australia plumped for just the 3.8-litre V6.

Having spent the last five months in an Oz-spec Genesis V6, I can tell you itís not short on herbs. So that clearly wasnít a strong motivating factor. And Hyundai says the V8, which sells mostly in North America, had not been engineered for right-hand drive. To do so, it says, would have added too many millions to the programís cost.

But still, what if the Genesis V8 had been engineered for RHD from the outset? Would it have contributed significantly to the carís appeal? I had to know. So on my way to the Detroit show, I detoured to California to find out.

The V8ís extra 84kW and 113Nm is immediately noticeable, even though the car weighs 170kg more than the top-spec V6 sold in Australia. It accelerates more vigorously from standstill and is more generous in its response to throttle inputs.

If, like me, you reckon 170kg seems like a lot of weight for two extra cylinders in an alloy block, youíre right. The V8 model also has bigger wheels and brakes, and considerably more equipment.

Most obvious from the driverís seat is the iDrive-style controller.

Thereís nothing inherently wrong with my long-term V6ís dashmounted buttons, but interacting with the touchscreen involves reaching, whereas the V8ís controller doesnít.

Other equipment is not so obvious, but obviously welcome, like lane-keeping assist (Aussie V6 thrums the wheel when you stray; the US V8 steers as well).

And thereís a traction-control button, too, in which ĎOffí really means off.

Thereís little difference with in-cabin refinement Ė the visual and tactile kind, and the on-the-move kind. Materials and finish are top-notch, the driving position spot-on.

The V8 engine is barely audible during normal driving. Press harder and a pleasing V8 burble is evident but still restrained, as befits a prestige sedan. Give it full wellie and thereís noticeably more kick, but not as much as youíd expect with 30 percent more capacity, and it doesnít feel like the 1.8sec 0-60mph difference one US mag claims between the V6 and V8 (7.2 v 5.4).

The eight-speed auto lacks the smarts to really leverage the V8ís stronger bottom end. The gearchange mapping feels out of step with the engineís charms.

Itís also not as smooth as my V6.

Dynamically, the Genesis V8 possesses the same innate stability and confidence as the V6.

Its larger 19-inch tyres provide plenty of grip, and the extra weight doesnít handicap it much in corners; just a touch more bodyroll. The front-end has decent bite, though is devoid of feel.

The ride, however, is less than stellar. Overly busy and sharp, particularly at low speeds, itís a weakness for a prestige sedan.

Itís also a pointed reminder that Hyundai Australiaís local tuning efforts, which deliver a more absorbent and more controlled ride, are to be applauded.

Thatís not a deal-breaker, though. If it were to come Down Under, Hyundai Oz would surely fettle the V8ís manners. Itíd make a pretty decent flagship, too, with that extra performance and equipment. But business cases are about numbers and itís hard to see the V8 adding much to the V6ís 50 sales per month. Not enough to recoup the cost of a RHD program.

PLUS & MINUS

Busy ride; touchy throttle; lifeless steering ; heavy; thirsty Strong engine; quiet cabin; premium feel; value for money

The V8 is barely audible during normal driving but press harder and a pleasing burble is evident

Heart and Seoul

The V8 engine is Hyundaiís own, codenamed Tau, and is not that old. Its first outing was in the 2009 Equus, Hyundaiís rival for the 7 Series, S-Class and Lexus LS, sold mostly in Korea and North America Ė but it lacks some features of its more modern rivals such as turbocharging and cylinder deactivation.

Itís also a relative of the Genesisís 232kW 3.8-litre V6, which is due to be replaced by a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 in the next-generation Genesis G90 launching in the US late this year.

Rumour has it thereís a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 in development, too, which could call time on the 5.0-litre Tau. For more on that, see Redline, page 18.

OR TRY THESE...

BMW 550i

$US66,300 The car Hyundai is gunning for with the Genesis V8 by offering a larger car with more kit for less cash. But the BMWís tauter chassis, leaner kerb weight and punchier twin-turbo V8 make it the driverís choice.

Mercedes-Benz E400

$US63,100 With the twin-turbo V8 E500 no longer offered in the States, itís up to the twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 E400 to stick it to the top Genesis. But with an all-new E-Class just around the corner, any criticism of the W212 E400 is about to be null and void.