Hyundai Genesis VS Audi S8
- Spec list
- No V8 option
- No diesel option
- Technical extravaganza
- Elegant looks
- Punchy V8
- Tricky to find a space big enough
- Short warranty
Anybody who doubts that Hyundai is gunning for the number one in the world has rocks in their head. Big heavy ones. Korean companies do not settle for anything less than number one. The second-generation Genesis (our first taste here in the Antipodes as the gen-one had its steering wheel on the wrong side) is proof.
What's different about Hyundai's unstoppable rise is the way they're going about it. They've always done their own thing in Korea, reinventing themselves time and again when they strayed off the beaten path.
The Genesis is a gamble for a Korean company in foreign markets whose default setting for luxury is marked, Britain or Germany. If Hyundai gets the Genesis wrong there will be howls of derision, or at best patronising pats on the back - "Nice try, you'll get there one day". But if they get it right...
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Big sedans are not in vogue at the moment and huge luxury sedans were on the way down before the humble Commodore and Falcon departed the upper end of the sales charts. The Germans, who have always done a spectacular job of these flagship sedans, cheerfully persist with these cars.
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The Genesis is not quite a match for cars twice its price but it makes you think what's possible. It doesn't have the dynamic brilliance of a BMW or the self-assured faultless execution of a Mercedes. Lexus ought to be worried, though - why would you have an LS when you could have this? The only answer is 'badge'.
The Genesis is an epoch-making car for the Korean manufacturer. As the company has got better, there are fewer excuses for overlooking it. While the Genesis is pitched into a shrinking market, it's not really meant for the average i30 buyer to buy, but to see.
It's bristling with tech and is not only a halo car but a shot across the bows of both Lexus and the Germans. Attached to that shot is a note: "We're coming for you." In other words, Hyundai got it right.
The S8's existence is a source of joy for me because it's not a huge SUV. Yes, it's a huge sedan but it's a reminder that the technological flagship is alive and well, at least in Germany. And the important thing about these cars is the way the toys filter down through the rest of the range. That used to take years but we're seeing this cool stuff a lot more quickly, right down to the A1.
The S8 punches, and punches hard in this rarefied part of an already shrunken section of the market - the twin-turbo V8 matches its German rivals, it's lighter and it's as well-stacked as any of the three. What it doesn't do, however, is shout about itself the way the other two do. It's the incognito choice.
The Genesis is like no other Hyundai. For a start, it's gigantic - it looks easily as big as a BMW 7 Series (it isn't) with the road presence to match. There's a lot of BMW from most directions, but with a sharper approach to the creasing and character of the sheet metal.
Towards the rear it's more BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe and is all the better for it. The style is understated and technocratic.
The big wheels from the Ultimate pack help make it look lower and sleeker, too.
Inside is also very Germanic, but with a bit more of a Lexus feel. Our car had the lighter leather which meant that the wood and the metal materials didn't necessarily work well together.
The interior is expertly put together and feels like it will last forever.
On Australian-delivered cars there is just one Hyundai badge, sitting proudly on the boot - you get the feeling this was debated long and hard and when the decision was made to go for it, a big one was chosen.
However, the winged Genesis branding takes pride of place everywhere else. When you approach the car at night and the puddle lamps come on, the Genesis logo is projected on to the ground, crisp and clear.
The sheetmetal is obviously very restrained given it's an Audi first, and secondly, it's just not done to go wild in this part of the market.
It's an A6 that's joined a gym, but didn't join that weird gym with men that can't run after you when you insult them (don't ask how I know this). Rolling on 21-inch wheels as standard, you can go up to massive 22s if you so choose.
The A8 created a subtle redirection of Audi's passenger car look, with the updated A4 and A6 both picking up on the horizontal bar between the rear lights and the huge grille framed by family lights with signature DRL patterns. The S8 builds on that with subtle S cues but nothing even vaguely shouty.
The interior acreage - or 'cabin', if you will - is very comfortable, but you already knew that. The multi-screen layout was first seen in the A8 and has now found its way into A7, Q8 and Q7 and is, as ever, brilliant to look at and use.
The MMI updates that have found their way into other cars are present and correct. Like the exterior, it's very restrained but not to the point of sparse minimalism, despite the lack of switches and buttons.
I really don't like the steering wheel, though, and I can't put my finger on why. It certainly isn't especially sporty-looking but I wonder if the standard flat-bottomed S wheel just looked stupid.
The materials are beautiful and everything fits together perfectly.
The cabin is clearly built with rear seat passengers in mind, with rear leg and headroom configured for those continent-crossing drives.
The S8 has plenty of comfort for two rear seat passengers and a few amusing options to while away the hours in traffic or on the autobahn.
That doesn't mean the front seat passengers are in purgatory, with huge but supportive seats adjustable in all conceivable directions.
Front and rear rows score a pair of cupholders and bottle holders while the boot is a handy, if not awe-inspiring, 505 litres.
Price and features
The only way to describe the Genesis' pricing is aggressive - kicking off at $60,000, it's the most expensive Hyundai money can buy, but with a spec list like this, you won't feel at all short-changed.
Your sixty large buys you a huge cabin with a seventeen speaker stereo, auto headlights and wipers, LED ambient lighting inside and out, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, powered front seats which are heated and cooled, satnav, front and rear parking sensors, and plenty of other bits and pieces.
Our car had the $22,000 Ultimate package, adding 19-inch alloys, blind spot sensor, front and side cameras, around-view display, real leather, more adjustments for the driver's seat, ventilated seats in the front, heated rear seats, panoramic glass sunroof, acoustic glass, heads-up display, powered bootlid and LED foglamps.
You can have a lot of the more useful features in the $11,000 Sensory Pack. It's a good middle ground that, for example, features the excellent heads-up display.
The 9.2-inch screen splits the asymmetric air-conditioning vents. The software is unique to the Genesis and a huge leap forward over the rest of the Hyundai range - classy, smooth graphics, a good responsive screen.
You control the seventeen speaker stereo from here, which kicks out a rich sound and an impressive Bluetooth performance - rear seat passengers can also run the stereo from their armrest. The satnav is detailed and chatty, while the excellent heads-up display shows a configurable information set in strong, clear graphics.
For $260,000 there is a lot to get through, as there is on the less sporty A8. Start with huge 21-inch alloys, 17-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo, panoramic sunroof, matrix LED headlights with laser lights, soft-close doors, acoustic glazing, leather trim, S front seats, extra leather over the A8, Alcantara headlining, carbon inlays, four-zone climate control, heated and cooled front seats, 'Virtual Cockpit' with S mode, and a tyre repair kit.
You also get active suspension, a sport version of the 'quattro' all-wheel drive system (with a sport differential), and a walloping great twin-turbo V8 to get you moving.
A massive touchscreen on the centre stack (familiar in Q8, A7 and Q7) hosts Audi's 'MMI plus' system, which is very good and does away with the console-mounted rotary controller. It also has wireless Apple CarPlay to go with the console-bin wireless charging pad. Android Auto is still USB. 'Audi Connect plus', now in full-featured glory, is also along for the ride.
Another technical highlight is the active noise cancelling which is meant to reduce the noise in the cabin the same way noise cancelling headphones do.
There's a clever rear seat remote control, which is a little detachable tablet to allow those who are being chauffered to faff around with various settings.
Our car had the $13,900 'Sensory Package', which adds a 1820-watt B&O 3D sound system with 23 speakers, electrically adjustable outer rear seats along with heating, cooling and massage function, and full leather.
Engine & trans
The Genesis is powered by Hyundai's own 3.8-litre V6 developing 232kW and 397Nm, mated to Hyundai's eight-speed automatic transmission.
Despite weighing just under two tonnes, the Genesis completes the dash to 100km/h in 6.5 seconds.
It has a claimed 11.2L/100km on the combined cycle. In what must be a first, we got below that, averaging 10.8L/100km over two weeks. And that's without stop-start fuel-saving to blunt the effect of lot of city driving.
We'd still like to try the V8 - only available in left-hand drive markets - though.
That's a lot, even for this big bruiser. Obviously, being an Audi S-car, it has quattro all-wheel drive, which is fed by an eight-speed ZF automatic. Which is in everything now. Well, just about.
That huge torque figure is available between 2000rpm and 4500rpm while peak power arrives at 6000rpm. The 0-100km/h sprint is despatched in - gulp - 3.8 seconds.
As it's riding on the MLB platform, the mild hybrid system is a 48-volt set-up. A lithium-ion battery in the boot takes charge from the belt alternator/starter, which means the S8 can coast at higher speeds with the engine off and also cut out at 22km/h and under in traffic.
The system can also add up to 60Nm of torque in the right conditions for up to six seconds, and if it happened for me, I didn't notice it.
The 10.5L/100km official figure is, shall we say, optimistic. The launch drive was mostly highway so there's no real information to be gleaned from that, so we'll have to wait for real world fuel figures.
I'd say 12-13L/100km is achievable if you don't like having fun, in which case, the lesser A8 is probably for you.
Audi says the MHEV system saves 0.8L/100km with an early cut-out for the stop-start and the ability to coast on the highway for over half a minute at a time.
At five metres long, with a ride firmly pitched in the luxury camp, the Genesis is not going to tempt you into a track day, even with rear wheel drive.
Sitting in the back of the Genesis, it's easily as good as the German and luxury Japanese competition. The seats are hugely comfortable, there's ample head, leg and shoulder room and it feels lot nicer than anything within a bull's roar of its price.
No matter where you sit, it's an incredibly quiet car. The engine is a distant whoosh, the tyre noise muted and there's almost no wind or ambient noise. It's supremely comfortable and the excellent stereo will wash away what little noise does invade.
It certainly feels its weight from the driver's seat, with a competent, soft turn-in, but if you're wanting sudden movements, this isn't the car for you.
On fast flowing roads you can have some fun, but things will get floaty and that will quickly kill that fun. The ride and isolation from the rest of the world is completely worth it.
Driving any of the cars in this segment is a rare treat, whether it's the 'entry level' diesel or this top of the heap sports sedan. My day with the S8 was filled with the usual surprise and delight that only these tech-packed cars can deliver.
Heading out of the Sydney CBD in 'Comfort' mode, the car scans the road ahead and adjusts the active suspension accordingly. You already know it has active suspension because when you pull the door handle, the car lifts by 50mm to make it a bit easier to get in.
The suspension's party trick is flat-topped speed bumps - drive at one, brake a little and sense the way the body feels like it stays exactly where it is in the air but the suspension almost completely flattens the speed hump.
It's uncanny and almost unnatural, with just the tiniest change in altitude and no noise from the suspension.
It also manages the terrible narrow lanes of CBD thoroughfares with ease, the lane keep system letting you know if you're straying.
On to the motorway and you get a feel for its crushing performance. You won't hear much, though - the stereo's noise-cancelling system shuts out almost all tyre noise and consistent wind noise is largely banished, too.
I'm going to admit I gasped when I found some corners. Active suspension bodes well for the tricky stuff, as does the all-wheel steering. Both are exceptionally clever systems for making the car feel a lot smaller in town and in car parks but they're also really good if you want some fun.
But the way the rear-wheel steer adds agility to such a big car is hilarious and clever. While you can't quite chuck it around - and really, you're not buying an A8-sized car for that kind of nonsense - brisk progress is far from intimidating.
Now, obviously, a Ford Fiesta would drive away from the S8 in the really tight stuff but it would take some time to properly shake it. The colossal torque from the V8 hurls even this two-tonne-plus limo out of the corners in a most satisfactory manner.
It's surprisingly agile for a machine more than five metres long and two metres wide. If your passengers are corner enthusiasts, you'll all be having fun in near silence. It's oddly engaging to be moving at pace in such a hushed cabin.
Nine airbags, traction and stability control, lane departure warning, forward collision control, ABS, brake force assist and distribution and traction and stability control bring the ANCAP count to five stars.
The Sensory and Ultimate packs add blind spot sensors and around view cameras.
The S8's considerable safety equipment list includes nine airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward AEB (up to 250km/h), reverse cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, various collision mitigation and protection systems, exit warning, lane keep assist, active cruise control and on, and on, and on.
The rear seat's centre airbag is terribly clever, popping up between passengers to stop you knocking heads. Another clever trick is the way the car detects a side impact is about to happen, boosting the height of the side about to cop it to try and get the sills to take more of the impact, rather than the door.
Given the relatively niche status of the A8, let alone the S8, there is no ANCAP crash test or safety rating. One imagines given the ton of safety gear a five star rating is all but assured. Even the US IIHS gave the A8 a miss.
Audi continues to fail to match Mercedes move to a five year warranty, sticking with three year/unlimited kilometre cover. BMW is still doing it too, so maybe Ingolstadt and Munich are playing chicken.
You can get a five-year service plan for the S8, coming out at $3990 for the duration.