8

10

Model

Genesis

Price

$50,000

The Numbers

3.8-litre V6, 232kW, 397Nm, 0 to 100km/h in 6.5 seconds, 11.2 litres per 100km, 1850kg

The Topgear Verdict

The Genesis is Hyundai edging into BMW/Lexus territory, and it's a revelation from the Koreans.

2014 Hyundai Genesis

Are the people who buy BMWs, Benzes and Audis badge snobs, or are they the only brands that deliver the kind of class, quality and driving enjoyment that a prestige customer demands?

The Germans seem to have the market for well-heeled motorists cornered, while Lexus has been trying to squeeze into that corner for more than 20 years, with marginal success. But if another car company offered those buyers - generally older men with no mortgages, cash in the bank and smug smiles on their lined faces - all the things they want from a vehicle at a much cheaper price, would they buy it? Especially if it was a Hyundai?

It's a question the Koreans think they know the answer to, because they're set to launch the new rear-wheel-drive, luxury sized Genesis in Australia in November.

We've just driven it, on the super smooth roads of Korea and it is, undeniably, something of a revelation for a company that was famous for low prices, low quality and high sales numbers not so long ago.

The Genesis is a whopping great sign of how much things have changed, with a much better quality interior than any Korean car has ever provided and one which has somehow lost the cheap plastics smell that Hyundais invariably give off.

Perhaps it's because most of the nasty plastics have gone, to be replaced by genuine wood and aluminium bits, as well as properly luxurious Nappa leather on seats - front and back - that feel properly business-class spec.

It's a big beast of a thing at almost five metres in length, and it's actually longer and wider than a 5 Series, E Class or Audi A6. It's powered by a 232kW V6 engine attached to a smooth, but not overly sporty eight-speed transmission, which gets its 1800kg-plus bulk up and moving with reasonable aplomb.

Ride, on the Korean-spec suspension (Australian cars will be specifically tuned for our roads, with different steering and ride characteristics) is genuinely luxurious and the nicely appointed cabin is quiet and relaxing, particularly in the rear, which offers almost 7 Series levels of legroom.

Throw it at some corners and the Genesis is a surprisingly capable companion, although it is let down by dead, marhsmallowy steering, which surely won't make it to our shores.

Perhaps most importantly, this new Hyundai looks fantastic, largely thanks to the fact that it has stolen the best design cues from Aston Martin - including its special winged Genesis badging - the 5 Series and Audi's A6. The first time you see one coming up behind you in your mirrors you'll have absolutely no idea what it is, and that's a fine achievement in itself. It's a tough, sporty and yet refined design, if not an entirely original one.

Hyundai Australia won't talk about price or spec yet (you can expect things like the self-steering and the adaptive cruise system, which automatically slows down for speed cameras, to make it here) but rumour has it they'll be offering a base Genesis for as close to $50,000 as possible. Even if it ends up being more than that, it will definitely come in under the luxury-car tax threshold.

So will it put the frighteners on the Germans? Probably not, because as good as it is to drive, for a Hyundai, it still falls well behind the sportiness and quality benchmarks set by the Euros.

You could argue it's as good as a Lexus, though, and it will also compete with things like Holden's Calais in the $50K price point.

In the end, the question will come down to one of badge value. Hyundai is trying to lift its image with this car, and no doubt it will, but it's interesting to note that the Genesis range sold in Korea doesn't feature a single Hyundai badge. It's as if the company is trying to sell its new range-topper as a separate, classier brand altogether.

Hyundai Australia has said it will put a big H on the bootlid, however, because it thinks the market here is one that's proud to say it bought Korean.

In a market where large-car sales are falling faster than Tony Abott's popularity, it will be interesting to see if they're right.

Driven: June 27, 2014