John Krafcik, vice president, Product Development and Strategic Planning, Hyundai Motor America, says he noticed that when talking about the development and execution of the company's new flagship, the Genesis sport sedan, he found himself using the word efficiency a lot. Efficiency in creating the product. Efficiency in the construction of the product. Efficiency in the performance of the product. Efficiency in terms of how the customer of the product is going to make their dollars go a lot farther.
Consider this: Krafcik says that the engineering benchmarks for the Genesis were the Mercedes E-Class, the BMW 5-Series, the Infiniti M, and the Lexus GS. (He comments he is really taken with the Infiniti G37, and wants the forthcoming Genesis coupe to be a heads-up competitor with it.) Having an engineering benchmark that is higher than the competitive class is an increasingly common approach. Rather than taking the existing class of products-say, in the case of the Genesis sport sedan, the Chrysler 300-and then besting in various attributes while anticipating where the next-generation of that product will go (being as good as the one that's out there does little good when you consider that the development time for a product is on the order of less than 36 months, so by the time your product gets to market, chances are good the competitor has not only improved its product, but has likely provided improvements of a type not anticipated), it is better to reach higher. Which is what Hyundai has been consistently doing.
But there's something rather unique about the reach toward Mercedes, BMW, Lexus, and Infiniti-all marques that have earned their levels of prestige and performance-inasmuch as all of them, even the comparative arrivistes Lexus and Infiniti (both launched in the U.S. in 1989), have had a sufficient number of years to establish themselves in the minds of the market participants as regards their bona fides. On the other hand, Hyundai, even though it started to sell cars in the U.S. in 1986, had somewhat of a checkered quality reputation, which the company has assiduously worked to overcome, not only by providing a comparatively astonishing warranty (e.g., 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain), but by working, particularly in the past decade, to provide products that are measurably as good as or better than the competition (in the 2008 J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study, Hyundai tied with Cadillac in terms of its problems per 100 vehicles; its Accent was #3 in the sub-compact car category; the Elantra sedan was #3 in the compact car category; the Santa Fe was #2 in the multi-activity vehicle category).
Or, put more simply: they're trying to establish themselves not merely as a manufacturer of quality, economical cars (e.g., the MSRP for the Accent GS is $10,775) but as a builder of cars that people who spend considerably more money will drive.
Which brings us to the Genesis.
Here are three things to know about this car that take it out of the realm of what you might think "Hyundai" means:
Yes, this is a different kind of car. Which means "Hyundai" takes on a new meaning.
While on the subject of cost, Krafcik makes an interesting point: the average MSRP of 2008 vehicles is $32,800. So at $32,250, the Genesis is still economical vis-à-vis the market.
The rear-drive platform engineered for the Genesis is new. By having this layout, the engineers were able to position the wheels far forward to improve the handling. Handling also benefits from the five-link front and five-link independent rear suspensions, as well as from a nearly ideal weight distribution: 52/48 front/rear for the V6 model and 54/46 for the V8. And then there is the body-in-white, which is stiff thanks to the use of high-strength steel and 85 m of structural adhesives. The dynamic body stiffness is 40.9 Hz in torsion and 52.1 Hz bending; the static body stiffness numbers are 31.4 and 69.5 Hz, respectively.
While this is a big car-at least for Hyundai-with a length of 195.9 in. (which makes it longer than the Lexus GS [190 in.], the Infiniti M45 [194.1 in.], BMW 5-Series [191.1 in.], Lexus ES [191.1 in.], and Cadillac CTS [191.6 in.]), it is considerably shorter than the Mercedes S-Class, which is 205 in. long. Which brings Krafcik back to the discussion of efficiency. The interior volume of the Genesis, he points out, is 109.4-ft3. That's the same volume as the S-Class.
The Genesis V8 engine-designated "Tau" within the organization-is the result of a $260-million development program. It is a 4.6-liter engine that produces 375 hp @ 6,500 rpm and 333 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpm when premium fuel is used. It can also operate on regular, which brings the numbers down to 368 hp and 324 lb-ft of torque. The specific output, or horsepower per liter, is 81 for the 4.6. This, Krafcik points out, is better than the 5.7-liter in the Chrysler 300C, which is 60.1, or the 6-liter in the Pontiac G8 GT, which is 60.5. It is even better than the Mercedes E550 (70), Infiniti M45 (72.3), Lexus GS 460 (74.2) and BMW 550i (75). However, beyond horsepower, there is another number that is becoming increasingly important, which is that of the fuel economy ratings. The Genesis 4.6 provides 17/25 mpg city/highway. Krafcik says that they're looking at the ways to provide even better fuel efficiency, such as direct-injection, which may come as a midcycle improvement.
Whether it is the V8 or the V6, the trans-mission is a six-speed automatic: the ZF 6HP26 with the 4.6-liter or the Aisin B600.
The Genesis has a coefficient of drag of 0.27. Krafcik points out that the Cadillac CTS-V has a 0.36 Cd (which probably has something to do with the large front grille for the Cadillac's supercharged engine). The underbody of the Genesis certainly goes a long way to explaining how the vehicle is so aero-slippery. Benefits of addressing drag are not only improved fuel efficiency, but reduced NVH. Speaking of which, they've addressed various types of noise through the utilization of six anti-vibration damping pads in the roof, acoustic absorption material in the door panels, foam in the body side, sound interceptive material in the package tray area, vibration-damping materials in the underbody, and sandwich material in the rear quarter.
The Genesis is built at the Hyundai manufacturing complex in Ulsan, Korea, on Line 5. And the approach to the number of variants is rather clever. As mentioned, there are two versions of the vehicle: the Genesis 4.6 and the Genesis 3.8. There is a single option package for the 4.6, the "Technology Package." This adds such things as a navigation system, adaptive HID headlamps (these not only swivel from side to side, but are self-leveling), an upgraded Lexicon audio system (Krafcik points out that the only other car in the U.S. with Lexicon audio is a Rolls-Royce Phantom), and a cooled driver's seat. For the 3.8, there are three packages, "Premium," "Premium Plus," and "Technology." In this case, the tech package is not available unless the plus is in place, and plus encompasses the premium (but adds 18-in. wheels and tires).
Which is to say that from a build complexity point of view, things are rather straightforward and simple.
Krafcik estimates that the 3.8 will account for about 80% of the vehicles purchased. And he emphasizes that given the flexible manufacturing operation in Ulsan, the mix can be what the market demands. While it remains to be seen how many people are going to opt for the Genesis, they're expecting annual sales in the 50,000 to 60,000 range.