Driver's Side 3

2016 Hyundai Genesis & Equus

Hyundai has worked hard for years to dispel perceptions that the South Korean company was a cheap knockoff of its Japanese brethren. The first shot to that myth that really landed was the sixth generation of the Hyundai Sonata with its aggressive yet sleek body design and fine performance that put Ford, General Motors and Chrysler on notice.

And notice how each of the Big Three now have mid-size coupes and sedans that look a lot like the Sonata? I’m talking about you, Ford Focus.

But Hyundai then pivoted to the luxury market and introduced the Genesis and now the Equus, both of which are worthy opponents of Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

The 2016 Genesis is a four-door, five-passenger sedan that rides as well as most cars with a suggested retail price of $75,000 or more, but at some $25,000 less. The 2016 Equus is the flagship luxury vehicle and still runs tens of thousands less than its competition from Germany or Japan.

I road tested the 2016 Genesis with a 5.0 liter V8 that put out 407 horsepower that was well-suited for rush hour traffic along Highway 50 or over the top on Highway 80 through to Roseville beyond. A nice driver waving you onto the arterial right lane during that early-morning commute? No problem. The Genesis’ powerplant, which also comes in a 3.8-liter, 311-horsepower version, will get you into the flow without hesitation.

Make sure you wave thanks to that driver letting you smoothly merge.

Power is nice and often appreciated. But drivers want comfort, too, and Hyundai delivers.

The signature package on the 2016 Genesis uses a front and rear independent five-link suspension and the ultimate package uses a continuous damping control suspension to add a little more cushion for the ride.

The Equus signature and ultimate packages use electronically controlled air suspensions with continuous damping to make the ride smooth as butter, yet still responsive enough to keep the vehicle adhered to the road like a slot car.

The 2016 Genesis I drove was empire state gray with ivory leather and matte finish black ash wood dash and door panels. The touch-screen, high-definition informational display in the center console of the ultimate edition is nine inches wide and gives drivers easy-to-see information from maps to music.

New to Hyundai is a heads-up display that projects speed and incident avoidance information directly onto the windshield. It takes a little while to get used to seeing that info displayed onto the glass, but there are ways to limit the size of the display or turn it off all together. But I like to drive like I’m a jet fighter pilot, so the display was welcome. Perhaps the 2017 models will have an aiming reticle and Sidewinder missiles.

The Equus basically takes all of the advances of the Genesis and makes them bigger and better, yet for a base price increase of approximately $10,000.

The wheelbase is larger and the ultimate edition can make a Lincoln TownCar look like it’s been given to the lowly associates while you ride to the partners’ meeting in style and comfort.

Sure, the leather is rich, the heated and air conditioned seats are standard in any car at this level, but what struck me was the center console between the two back seats, which were really two wide benches. The console has controls for volume and climate controls. That’s great if you have a driver, but I tried to find the OFF switch for the back console so my daughter can’t become Overlord and terrorize me by blasting Taylor Swift songs on the 17-speaker Lexicon surround sound system while setting the climate controls to ROAST.

A test drive of a 2016 Hyundai or Equus is a must if you bought into the myth that the best luxury vehicles come from Europe. Reestablish your sense of automotive xenophobia (more than 50 percent of all Hyundais are made in the U.S.) and take one for spin.