Remove the Hyundai lettering and the winged Genesis badging from the body’s sheetmetal, and you might think the new Genesis 3.8 emerged from Deutschland. The front end is reminiscent of an Audi A7, while the profile is very much BMW 7-Series. The second-generation Genesis finally creates a compelling identity for the Korean manufacturer, with a true-to-form luxury car as opposed to a somewhat handsome vehicle that never quite got it right. The first-generation Genesis made drivers happy, but not elated. The new generation aimed to change all that — and it does.

In a nutshell, Hyundai took everything about the last Genesis and made it echelons better. The first Genesis made a bold statement for the South Korean automaker as proof they could not build a luxury sedan that had the right appointments and the right power, if not the looks or driving experience to match. It was a step in the right direction, but just a step.

The new car, however, qualifies as a leap. Hyundai clearly took the time to reevaluate what it wanted to communicate in terms of upscale image. Though, the new car’s grille could be accused of being derivative, the execution is right. It’s not a new shape — it’s a more tapered, more grin-like version of the current Audi Auto Union style grille. But while the front facia of Audi’s cars highlight sleekness, the Hyundai has more heft, which gives the Genesis a bold introduction. The crease along the body is strong and doesn’t give up until it drops down into the rear bumper along the bottom edge of the wrap-around taillights (which are lean, clean and beautifully segmented internally). Nothing about the exterior of the car seems overdone, including just the right amount of bulge in the fenders.

Under the Hood
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Engine: 3.8-Liter V6
Transmission: Eight-Speed Automatic with AWD
Horsepower: 311
Torque: 293 lb-ft
MPG: 18/29 (city/highway)
MSRP: $38,000 (base) / $52,450 (as tested)

The Genesis’ cabin also gets the full rework, and it pays off with big design dividends. The interior ditches the old car’s strange U-shaped center stack for a more conventional, more vertical version that’s in line with the look luxury-segment customers expect. Open-pore wood is muted and gorgeous, and everything looks posh — including the Bentley-esque vented and heated leather seats with contrast piping. The seating position is excellent, and the seats are well bolstered and supportive.

In V6 guise, one may think the car is less than the big 5.0-liter V8 Genesis, but this V6 will proves that theory wrong. The 3.8-liter engine is 403 pounds lighter than its bigger-displacement sibling, giving it a better front-to-rear weight ratio. Furthermore, it lacks nothing in the way of power, with 311 horses and 293 lb-ft of torque (the V8 packed 420 horsepower and 383 lb-ft, but it came with the added weight).

The 3.8-liter’s engine note is surprisingly throaty, and it begs you to mash the throttle just to hear it.

Over bumps and undulating pavement, the Genesis is near-flawless, with zero shakes to speak of. It doesn’t feel like a Merc S-Class, of course, but the ride is still impressive. The Lotus-tuned suspension also makes a big difference in the new car, giving the 3.8 great turn-in and fantastic balance for a car this size. The electric steering is decently weighted but lacks great road feel. Shifting with the optional paddle shifters or in full-automatic mode is smooth for the eight-speed automatic, and you won’t be lacking for quickness from gear to gear. The fact that Hyundai made a substantial luxury car that feels light behind the wheel is a remarkable achievement for a car company that’s only been selling here since 1985. That’s not a long time to get this good. Throw in the fact that the 3.8 gets the option for all-wheel-drive, and you have a recipe for four-seasons excellence that the 5.0-liter version just doesn’t offer.

The 3.8-liter’s engine note is surprisingly throaty, and it begs you to mash the throttle just to hear it. The sound is a reminder that Hyundai is caring more and more about the driver experience, not just the expected standard amenities (of which there are many: heated mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlights and taillights, navigation and optional heads-up display (HUD), Lexicon® 17-speaker Discrete Logic 7 surround audio and a massive sliding and tilting panoramic sunroof).

Fully tricked out, your sticker price ends up almost kissing the mid-$50Ks; but for what you get, it’s still a bargain. A bare-bones Mercedes E-Class sedan starts at $51,800, and while the Genesis doesn’t have the same cache, you won’t be the least bit disappointed with the looks, the feel and the excellent driving experience. The Genesis 3.8 is a car that’s no longer a “good effort” upstart, but a genuinely satisfying luxury car that’s found its note.