First Look: Hyundai Concept Genesis
New Beginnings: Hyundai gives birth to its first sport-luxury sedan; Japan gets the labor pains
This car is going to shock you. It’s going to shock GM and Toyota, too. Even BMW and Mercedes-Benz are going to pay attention. Hyundai calls it Concept Genesis, but you can forget the concept bit; apart from the odd piece of showcar eye-candy, you’re looking at Korea’s first production sport-luxury sedan. It has rear drive and a V-8 engine. And it’ll be in a Hyundai showroom near you sometime in 2008.
Concept Genesis gives us the first glimpse of Hyundai’s much-anticipated BH rear-drive architecture. For a company with a reputation for fast-tracking new models at a pace that makes even the Japanese dizzy, the BH has been a long time coming-more than five years, in fact. But that doesn’t mean Hyundai has been slacking; Concept Genesis is on its second exterior (the previous design was scrapped, after the hugely expensive tooling process had been started) and third chassis setup (the rear axle was upgraded from a four-link configuration to five-link only last year). And when the production version launches next year, Hyundai will be a player in a sector that Toyota took 15 years longer to enter.
Chutzpah? Or confidence? Both swirl through a company driven by a fierce determination to succeed and, in particular, to beat the Japanese. Hyundai wants to be the world’s fifth largest automaker by 2010, and the BH architecture revealed by Concept Genesis is a key part of the strategy.
As a sport-luxury sedan, Concept Genesis breaks no new ground. Indeed, one look at the exterior suggests Hyundai’s strategy is simply to follow the same BMW playbook already well thumbed by Nissan’s Infiniti division.
The glasshouse looks pure G35, while the rear end is a tasteful mlange of 3 Series and 7 Series cues. What you don’t immediately read, thanks in part to the 20-inch alloy wheels, is the car’s size: It’s longer, wider, and taller
than a BMW 5 Series and Lexus GS, with a wheelbase almost as long a Chrysler 300C’s. Hyundai sources say the rear seat package is nearly as good as that of an S-Class Mercedes.
The BMW/Infiniti styling cues signal a similar approach to the engineering, though here Hyundai isn’t content to merely play follow the leader: Insiders claim the car’s body-in-white, rich in ultra-high-tensile steel, isn’t only lighter than that of a 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Lexus LS, but also has 12- to 14-percent-higher dynamic torsional rigidity. Weight distribution is 53/47 percent, front to rear; however, not quite the 50/50 ideal BMW religiously adheres to.
The Concept Genesis’s five-link independent rear suspension is mounted to the body via a sturdy subframe. The lower control arm is pressed steel, but all the other links are forgings. The compact coil springs are mounted separate from the shocks, which are located to the body by way of aluminum castings. The front suspension
features a short/long-arm setup executed entirely in forged aluminum, with large cast-aluminum top mounts for
improved precision and rigidity. Steering is via speed-sensitive rack and pinion, mounted ahead of the front axle centerline.
Under the hood is an all-new, all-aluminum 4.6-liter V-8. Codenamed Tau, it’s Hyundai’s first in-house V-8 and features state-of-the-moment double-overhead camshafts with variable valve timing and a variable induction system. Hyundai isn’t quoting power and torque figures yet, claiming only that the engine produces more than 300 horses and 300 pound-feet of torque (which is only to be expected) and is capable of propelling the car, at a target weight of about 3740 pounds, to 60 mph in under 6.0 seconds. The Tau V-8 drives the rear wheels via ZF’s smooth 6HP26 six-seed automatic transmission. Paddle-shift manumatic control will be standard on the production version.
Production versions of Concept Genesis also will be available with a V-6, the 3.8-liter Lambda unit currently used in the Azera, turned through 180 degrees and driving through an Aisin six-speed automatic. Hyundai sources say power will be upped from the 265 horses the engine currently produces in the Azera to improve performance.
How will the production car differ from Concept Genesis? Very little. The grille design has yet to be finalized, and of course there’ll be real headlights filling those blacked-out shapes on either side of it. The front and rear bumper fascias will change, too: The dual exhausts will exit from under the rear bumper rather than through it, for
example. Standard wheels will be 18-inch alloys running 235/50R18 tires, but 19s and possibly even 20s will be available.
The production interior will be upscale, offering the tasteful, well-finished blends of leather, aluminum accents, and wood that we’ve already started to see in recent Hyundais. Standard equipment will be lavish, as well, with
stability control and eight airbags included, along with sat-nav, satellite radio, and heated and cooled front seats.
Here’s the zinger: Hyundai sources expect the V-6 version to start at under $30,000, or roughly in line with a well-equipped Azera. The V-8? No one’s saying, but even if Hyundai charged a $5000 premium for the bigger
engine and beefier transmission, we’re still looking at a large, fast sport-luxury sedan for about the same money as an entry-level 3 Series or Lexus IS 350.
Only our first test will reveal whether the production version of Concept Genesis delivers the performance, handling, quality, and refinement to match Hyundai’s soaring ambition. But it’s worth remembering that barely 12 years ago Hyundai was still a cheap car joke, finishing dead last in a J.D. Power quality survey. Now it’s aiming at BMW and Lexus. And the shock is, no one’s laughing.
|Aiming high, looming large
|Concept Genesis versus the rivals, as defined by Hyundai
|3.8L/265+ hp/260+ lb-ft V-6;
4.8L/300+ hp/300+ lb-ft V-8
Why GM and Toyota should be worried
Concept Genesis isn’t just a car, it’s Hyundai’s ticket to membership of an exclusive club that includes Toyota and GM, Ford, and Volkswagen. The BH rear-drive vehicle architecture that underpins Concept Genesis means Hyundai is about to become a full-line, global automaker. (Full-size trucks? They’re on the agenda, but that’s another story.)Hyundai insiders say the BH architecture is highly flexible. Shorten the wheelbase, and it can underpin a range of sporty, high-style rear-drive coupes and convertibles. Lengthen it, and it forms the basis for a full-size rear-drive luxury sedan. The rear-drive bit is important: It gives designers the ability to deliver the stance and proportions consumers associate with premium sport-lux vehicles. And it gives engineers the ability to deliver crisp, sporty handling and powertrains with more than 300 horses.
Hyundai’s claim of “over 300 horsepower” for the new 4.6-liter, quad-cam Tau V-8 is modest for an engine of that size and specification, but insiders hint it’ll produce considerably more than that. It’ll need to: Hyundai powertrains have never been class-leading in terms of their specific output. Significantly, Hyundai engineers are careful to point out the Tau can be built in larger displacements and with forced induction and other technologies to boost power.
So put Tau and BH together, and you figure Hyundai now has the ability to build sport-lux sedans, coupes, convertibles, and even limousines with up to 400 or 500 horsepower. Hyundai’s target might be nouveau-lux Japanese brands like Lexus and Infiniti, plus near-lux Europeans like VW and Alfa Romeo, but GM and Toyota could suffer collateral damage along the way.
The issue for Toyota is that Hyundai’s BH-based cars could potentially offer consumers a range of Lexus-style vehicles at Toyota prices. The problem for GM is the BH cars could hit a similar value/performance/style-driven market segment that’s the sweet spot for the forthcoming Zeta-based Chevy, Pontiac, and Buick rear-drive models. You can bet Toyota and GM product planners will be among the very first customers for Hyundai’s new sport-lux sedan next year.
By Angus MacKenzie Motor Trend