To understand why I bought my 2015 Hyundai Genesis Ultimate, you need to know three things about me.
One, I love large rear-wheel drive sedans. Two, I love an underdog and I’ve always been drawn to brands or cars slightly out of the mainstream. And three, I’m a bit of a General Motors tragic, even though they keep shuttering brands I like.
You might be wondering what that last point has to do with my Genesis. Well, that’s because when I was in the market early last year, I had narrowed my choices down to two vehicles: the rear-wheel drive Hyundai Genesis Ultimate and the all-wheel drive Holden ZB Calais V.
The Infiniti Q70 had been in the running, but they’re rare as hen’s teeth and I hadn’t heard the best things about the ride/handling balance in either the GT or sportier S. The Chrysler 300 C Luxury’s interior didn’t wow me, nor did a test drive of the Lexus IS200t, while the Ford Mustang GT, Holden Calais V Tourer and Commodore VXR, Kia Stinger GT and Lexus IS350 were all out of my price range.
The Lexus GS450h F Sport didn’t advance to the final round, either. I’m not quite sure how it ended up on my shortlist as I was rather disappointed with a GS350 F Sport I rented in the US. That said, I did drive it back-to-back with a 2014 Cadillac CTS which is 100 per cent what I would have bought had it been sold here, on account of its terrific ride/handling balance and beautiful exterior and cabin.
A European inevitably makes my shortlist every time I go car shopping, only to get eliminated at one of the first hurdles – that’s why I’ve never counted a Volvo S80 V8 or Alfa Romeo 159 Q4 among my past vehicles. This time around, I briefly considered the F10 BMW 535i but couldn’t find one at the right price or with the right option packages.
I almost pulled the trigger on a ZB Calais V hatchback and was organising my financing and bank cheque when my friend reminded me to do a $2 Personal Properties Security Register check on it. Suddenly, it all made sense why the seller was so quick to accept my lowball offer: the car was a repairable write-off.
With travel becoming impossible in the early days of COVID-19 in Australia and an absence of suitably priced Calais V hatches or wagons in Brisbane, I had to strike it from my shortlist.
I sometimes wonder what it would’ve been like to own a Calais. I had test-driven both front-wheel drive turbo four and all-wheel drive V6 ZB Commodores and found them both to be surprisingly good steers, though each powertrain had quite a different feel. I loved the raspy sound of the V6 and the fantastic grip of the AWD system, though the turbo four was a better engine. If they’d offered an all-wheel drive, turbocharged four-cylinder Calais V in Australia, this might have been a very different owner’s review. Maybe.
While the Genesis Ultimate lacked one feature on my long list of desired luxury items (Android Auto), it had everything else. And besides, this car was in a different league.
With my sixth car (and fifth car purchase), I was after something newer and nicer than I would usually buy.
I realised that I’d basically been spending the same amount of money every time I bought a car: roughly $10,000. That netted me a 2004 Ford BA Falcon XR6 in 2011, a 2007 Holden VE Calais V in 2014, a 2007 Subaru Liberty 2.5 wagon in 2016, and a 2009 Ford FG Falcon G6E in 2017. This time, I thought I’d spend a little more and hold onto the car for a little longer.
With the Genesis, I could have something left-field but without the high running costs of a European. I could also get my first luxury car, not just a luxuriously-appointed version of a mainstream sedan.
I almost didn’t find this Genesis. The same friend that reminded me to PPSR-check the Calais found my Genesis on Carsales. I’d been searching for Hyundai > Genesis > Ultimate and the dealership had mistakenly listed it as a base model Genesis.
I paid $33,000 all up in April of last year, having haggled $2000 off the price. In hindsight, I perhaps could have negotiated more.
The depreciation on these was significant. In 2015, the Genesis Ultimate retailed for $82,500 before on-roads.
It was a one-owner car at a Hyundai dealership up the coast, with the previous owner apparently having traded it in on an Audi A8. The five-year warranty had just ended.
Every car I’d ever bought was from a private seller so buying from a dealer was a new experience for me. The actual purchase process was pleasant, though when an issue occurred shortly after purchase I was disappointed that the salesman didn’t even reply to my emails.
The service manager did at least, but advised the issue wouldn’t be covered under the useless used car warranty or the statutory warranty. That wouldn’t be the last time I would speak to the service manager, though my opinion of him improved.
Nothing much, as I like to keep my cars stock. I did pay to have the rear Hyundai badge swapped for an original factory Genesis badge – during this car’s run, it was available with both rear badges even though the front end and steering wheel featured the Genesis logo. Therefore, the car is still almost 100 per cent stock.
When I bought the car, it was riding on Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres. Once these wore, I replaced them with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres.
I’d really love to add Android Auto. It infuriates me that both the 8.0-inch and 9.2-inch touchscreen systems were available with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in markets like the US but not here and, apparently, I’m unable to update the system. The feature was only added overseas in 2017 so my car didn’t miss out, per se, though I feel sorry for people who bought the relaunched Genesis G80 and couldn’t mirror their smartphones. And I remain annoyed I can’t upgrade my system.
Android Auto is just another item on a list of features Australia missed out on with this generation. That also includes a rotary controller for the infotainment system, real open-pore wood trim (our wood is fake), all-wheel drive, and both V8 and twin-turbocharged V6 engines. Fortunately, the new Genesis G80 now offers an up-level engine plus an identical interior to overseas models.
Suffice it to say, people are much more impressed with this than they would have been with the ZB Calais, though that car had a trick up its sleeve with its matrix LED headlights. I haven’t had any negative feedback about my car, and I’ve actually had a couple of people mistake it for a Bentley, bless their hearts.
It’s a stately looking vehicle with handsome rear-wheel drive proportions though it doesn’t grab too much attention from passers-by. If I’d had the choice, I wouldn’t have bought a black one – in some years, it was available in a stunning ocean blue which I’d prefer, while I also think the car would look exceptional in a dark green or dark brown.
One of my best friends in the US, where I used to live, has similar taste to me and ended up putting a G80 on his shortlist of large sedans to replace his ailing Chevrolet Malibu. Earlier this year, he bought a 2017 G80 which is almost identical to mine except it features all-wheel drive, plus the real wood trim and rotary controller (though, strangely, no surround-view camera). Funnily enough, even though it’s a more common car there, he’s also had people mistake it for a Bentley.
The Genesis feels stately and luxurious but it can also be hustled, making for a wonderfully balanced vehicle.
The electronic stability control calibration is a bit intrusive, and I can see the light come on sometimes when I’m a little too spirited turning a corner. Sport mode helps remedy that somewhat. There’s also a slight delay off the line at times, while the 19-inch alloy wheels mean it can ride a bit firmly. Naturally, the new tyres I just put on recently have helped grip and improved the ride.
I love the way this drives. The naturally-aspirated 3.8-litre V6 produces 232kW of power and 397Nm of torque, and it just begs to be revved out. Despite this, it’s never thrashy. The eight-speed automatic transmission is well-matched to the engine and shifts smoothly; there are paddle shifters for manual operation, though these plastic pieces are one of the few material missteps in the cabin.
The steering is light at low speeds but well-weighted when you pick up the pace and boasts a good amount of road feel, particularly in Sport mode, while the handling is the most surprising part of the equation. Body roll is well controlled and if you push it into a corner in Sport mode you can provoke some lovely controlled oversteer. And to think: I almost bought a car that wasn’t rear-wheel drive!
This is actually a car you can take to a winding mountain road and really enjoy, which is why I was a bit disappointed with the new, softer G80. I’m eagerly awaiting a drive of the upcoming G80 Sport to see how its mechanical enhancements elevate it.
Fuel economy isn’t great, as I average around 12-13L/100km. However, that’s mostly city driving with a heavy right foot, and it’s in the ballpark of what I used to get with my old Falcon. Like a Falcon and unlike most of its rivals, the Genesis requires only 91RON regular unleaded.
When I set out to buy my sixth car, I wanted whatever I bought to have all or at least most of the following features:
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Keyless entry and start
- Automatic high-beam and automatic headlights
- Panoramic sunroof
- Heated and ventilated front seats
- Adaptive cruise control
- Panoramic sunroof
- Head-up display
- Autonomous emergency braking
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alertJust
- Surround-view camera
- Android Auto
Apart from the last one, the Genesis Ultimate ticks all the boxes. The panoramic sunroof isn’t perfect (more on that later) but it’s massive, doesn’t impinge much on rear headroom, and lets in a wonderful amount of natural light while cutting out glare. I never close the shade unless I’m parking out in the sun for a while. It’s unfortunate the new G80’s panoramic sunroof has been tinted to the point of uselessness.
When the Hyundai Genesis was relaunched as a Genesis G80, it gained reclining rear seats and adaptive suspension. Both of those features would be nice, but they’re not must-haves.
The wood may be fake but the interior quality is top-notch. Soft-touch plastic abounds, including the bottom of the doors. There are nice stitching details, while the doors close with an impressively solid thunk. The metal trim on the centre stack and console also feels premium, though some of the brightwork elsewhere in the cabin is clearly plastic.
I’m grateful my Genesis has the tan interior, which also features a dark grey contrast in the dash top and the tops of the doors. I’ll never understand Australians’ fascination with black interiors – this interior is classy and inviting and it has yet to attract any stains.
The infotainment system’s user interface is essentially identical to lesser Hyundai models of the time, something Genesis has rectified with its latest products. It’s nothing fancy, though the navigation graphics are attractive and legible. My irrational pet peeve is that when you stream music, it has this scrolling bar across the bottom of the screen to indicate you’re streaming. It’s just a distracting moving item on the screen and I end up changing to another screen so I don’t have to see it.
A couple of the features that I thought were pointless luxury fripperies have actually proved handy, like the soft-close front doors and the power boot lid. And the surround-view camera, adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam and head-up display are just as useful as I thought they’d be and I don’t want my next car to be without them.
I’m not too fussed about having only lane-departure warning and no lane-keep assist. However, I do enjoy the Lane Following Assist feature in more recent Hyundai Motor Group products, which makes highway driving almost mindless.
The HID headlights are inferior to LEDs, though the static cornering lights are useful. This generation was later available with LED headlights, with the US-market 3.3T Sport even boasting clever active bending lights.
Yes, one minor and one non-existent.
After just a few days of ownership, I noticed a slight rattle coming from the panoramic sunroof. As the dealership advised such an issue wouldn’t be covered under the warranty, I didn’t take it back there to get looked at.
And then with Brisbane’s lockdown I couldn’t take it anywhere, and then after that I was so busy that it remained stuck on my list of things to do. A friend tried lubricating the seals but it didn’t entirely rid the car of the issue, and it pops up sporadically.
The non-existent issue absolutely astonished me. I took the car to a local Hyundai dealer for a routine service, only to get a phone call later asking, “Have you experienced any mechanical issues with the car?” Raising an eyebrow, I truthfully told them I hadn’t.
The dealer claimed the car wouldn’t shift into gear and was stuck in their car wash bay, and they asked if they could keep it for another night. When I returned to pick up a courtesy car, they said some of the wires in the front passenger footwell looked “patched together” and one was disconnected, and blamed the dealership I bought it from.
The service manager at the original dealership wasn’t happy with their accusation. And I was gobsmacked when the second dealership told me that, despite the fact I’d never experienced any issues and they’d been able to drive the car again, I would need to have both front wiring harnesses replaced.
They wanted $12,000 for the job.
The original dealer recommended another dealer down in Brisbane as I didn’t want to make the trip up the coast, and that dealer found no issues with the car. Funny, neither did I. I eventually looped in Hyundai Customer Care, and both that team and the new dealership essentially said not to bother with any repairs if I’m not experiencing any issues. I still haven’t experienced a single issue in the 12 months since that service, and no issues cropped up at the car’s second service.
The only item I’ve had to replace is the front passenger-side wheel guard, which somehow snapped in two.
There’s an issue I need to investigate, and that’s the head-up display. It’s an excellent feature and works well, but it doesn’t display turn-by-turn navigation directions. There’s a menu in the instrument cluster information screen that looks like it might activate this but when I go into the menu screen, all that displays is a giant power icon and I can’t do anything. The owner’s manual also makes no mention of this menu screen, which is bizarre.
Poor experience with that dealer aside, I’m happy I purchased a Genesis as I can take it to a regular Hyundai dealership. The service prices are entirely reasonable.
The Genesis is a lovely car that I never really get to drive that much on account of my regular press cars. When I do drive it, it’s like a lovely palette cleanser – it’s nice to step out of a van or ute or Kia Picanto and into “my kind of car”
The next person who’ll buy this car will be getting a good deal, as I’m seemingly the young male equivalent of the stereotypical “old lady owner, only drives it to church”. Though I don’t drive like an old lady…
I still miss having Android Auto, and the lane-keep assist and matrix LED headlights of the Calais V would be lovely. But then I hear the solid thunk of the doors and feel the soft-touch plastic and leather on every surface and I feel satisfied I made the right choice.
A comparably-specified BMW 535i would have cost thousands more, as it would have when new, and I can only imagine service and parts pricing wouldn’t have been as affordable as the Genesis. Plus, the obnoxious contrarian in me likes having something a little less common.
Any car you own should give you that warm, fuzzy feeling. You know the kind, where every time you walk away from it you turn back to take another look. I get that feeling with my Genesis.
MORE: Everything Genesis G80