Hyundai mounts a serious challenge to German luxury makes, including a high-performance BMW M4 rival
Hyundai’s brand ambitions just stepped up two gears with news that the Genesis luxury spinoff brand announced in December will launch six new models in the next four years, including two crossovers and a sports coupe. It will also have an ‘N’ division similar to BMW’s M Division tasked with turning out high performance versions of many Genesis models, including a twin-turbocharged Coupe to rival the BMW M4.
Hyundai is empire building, and it’s sparing no expense as it goes after the posh end of town. The Korean company that made its name in the 1990s with cut-price new cars is now focusing on the lucrative prestige market. Not only did it grab Luc Donckerwolke, a Belgian designer with experience at Audi, Lamborghini and Bentley, but Hyundai has also poached the previous boss of BMW M, Albert Biermann, to lead its engineering team. If that wasn’t enough, in late 2015 it lured Lamborghini’s director of brand and design, Manfred Fitzgerald (pictured below), to head up its new luxury brand globally.
Hyundai has said the new Genesis luxury brand will stand alone in a similar way that Lexus does from owner Toyota. And it will have six dedicated new models – not shared with Hyundai models – by 2020 to not only help differentiate it from Hyundai, but carve a slice of the premium new car market from BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
The first car to fly the flag for Genesis globally will be the Equus replacement revealed at the 2016 Detroit show as the Genesis G90 (pictured below). It’s a large rear-drive luxury sedan rival to the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class. It will be powered by a choice of the company's 272kW 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6, the existing 3.8-litre V6 offered in the Australian Genesis sedan, and a 5.0-litre V8. It has huge potential in North American and China, but Hyundai said there are no right-hand drive plans, so it's not coming to Australia.
Mid-2016, the Hyundai Genesis sedan (pictured below) that is currently sold Down Under will be rechristened as the Genesis G80 and be treated to a light spec and mechanical update. It’s unlikely to get the 3.3-litre until a more comprehensive upgrade later in life, though the existing 3.8-litre V6 may come in for some performance and efficiency improvements.
In 2017, Genesis will launch its first all-new model on an all-new platform, a Mercedes C-Class rival badged G70. This car, likely to be revealed in concept form at the New York Show this March, will not only be offered as a sedan; a coupe will follow in late-2017 or 2018, both powered by the 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6.
A Genesis convertible is also a possibility, and while Korea doesn't want one, America does, says Hyundai USA president, Dave Zuchowski.
“We’re still fighting on that. It’s an ongoing battle. It’s funny – just because the weather isn’t conducive to a convertible in Korea we have a hard time getting their attention on convertibles … to compete, we really have to have one. But we haven’t gotten any commitments on that yet.
“As a starting point we will definitely have a great coupe which is a legitimate luxury vehicle, and then we’ll have a performance version of that and hopefully we can convince them … and we will have a convertible version as well.”
Zuchowski says the G70 will be the first car to show what Genesis is really capable of. “This BMW 3 Series fighter is the first real lightning flash that comes down in terms of ‘wow these guys are really working’.”
Both the sedan and coupe will also be prime candidates for Hyundai's nascent 'N' performance division, first shown on the livery of Hyundai's 2014 World Rally Championship cars, with fettling for both Hyundai and Genesis cars under the direction of ex-BMW M boss Albert Biermann. It’s not known whether Genesis will turn the wick up on the 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6, or add two more cylinders to produce a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 to go up against BMW's 317kW twin-turbo six-cylinder M3 Sedan and M4 Coupe.
An alternative to Hyundai’s existing 5.0-litre V8 is needed as the 5.0-litre is on borrowed time. Biermann all-but ruled it out for the G70, saying “for the future … if you go to performance it might be you need to go to turbo”.
Zuchowski also confirmed that Genesis will launch two crossovers by 2020. “Think of [them] as [BMW] X3 and X5, one based off of the 3 Series [fighter] platform, one based off Genesis platform”. No names were given for these cars, but both are surely candidates for ‘N’ performance packs to rival the X3M and X4M.
Zuchowski said Hyundai's commitment to the Genesis brand is considerable, and he is confident that the cars will all deliver what the new Genesis brand needs to succeed.
"This isn’t just something we’re talking about – this is something we’re throwing considerable resources, people and dollars, against. And some people may never accept that ... they can’t come to terms with it. And that’s fine. In reality in a blind taste test, if you will, these cars are going to be outstanding."
Hyundai Australia is excited by the opportunities presented by the Genesis brand’s coming product portfolio. While the G90 is ruled out, a decision is expected closer to the launch of each new model in the line-up.