Hyundai has made it clear that it wants to compete with the likes of Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. The automaker has proved itself a worthy competitor in several automotive segments, successfully going upmarket without losing its sense of value, each new model improving on the one that came before it. The 2015 Genesis continues in the same way: The first generation of the sedan was very good, and the new car is even better.

Crisp design inside and out

The 2015 sedan's styling is clean and conveys a strong sense of luxury. The exterior has attractive lines, and is much more understated than the crease-happy little-brother Sonata without looking boring. The Genesis' feel of modern elegance continues in the cabin, where the designers created a space that is attractive and uses quality materials including real wood and metal. The colors and textures match nicely. The comfortable 16-way power heated/cooled driver's seat is wrapped in soft leather. (Seat heaters are optional for rear passengers.) There are nice little touches, too, like power sunshades for the rear side windows and the rear window-and the rearmost one automatically lowers when you put the transmission in Reverse and raises back up when in Drive. The pleasantly quiet cabin is refined, yet doesn't look like it's designed with retirees in mind. This is an interior that would appeal to a young, affluent crowd.

A bevy of tech features should also appeal to young, affluent buyers. The standard navigation system uses an 8-inch screen, yet step up to the premium system, and you're looking at a crisp 9.2-inch HD display. There are available Pandora, Aha Radio and (upcoming) Google Glass apps, HD Radio comes standard and the car is capable of serving as a wi-fi hotspot. As an added bonus, SiriusXM Travel Link is free for 3 years. The car's excellent Lexicon surround-sound systems use either 14 or 17 speakers. All of the infotainment can be accessed through an intuitive system similar to Audi's Multi-Media Interface with a knob and surrounding buttons.

Two powertrain choices

Whether you opt for the 3.8-liter V6 or the 5.0-liter V8, there is no shortage of power. We drove both, starting our evaluation in the V8-powered Genesis. Acceleration response was very quick, yet the 8-speed automatic transmission's shifts were smooth and happened right when you would want them to. Of course, it should feel fast, considering the V8 puts out 420 horsepower. The other side of that coin is that fuel economy is 15 mpg in the city and 23 on the highway. We also drove the Genesis with the V6, and even though it didn't provide as much power as the V8, it still felt refined and gutsy. At 311 horsepower, the V6 doesn't penalize much in its output, yet the price is $13,500 less than the base V8. The V6 also provides much better fuel economy: as good as 18 mpg city, 29 highway for the rear-drive sedan, and 16/25 with all-wheel drive, which is offered for the first time in the Genesis, only with the V6.

The 2015 Genesis uses a new Hyundai-designed platform that is stronger and more rigid than before. That, plus the improvements that were done to the suspension, make the car feel more agile. The driver has some say in how it rides-if you want a comfortable, compliant ride, you'll enjoy Eco or Normal modes. Want to tighten up the suspension? Switch to Sport mode.

Invisible Touch

One of the new features of the 2015 Genesis is Lane Keep Assist. This system senses if the sedan is starting to drift out of the lane it's in, uses haptic feedback in the steering wheel to warn you if it senses drifting, and steers back into the lane if you don't correct your direction of travel. We found the system to intrude a bit on sections of moderately curvy road, and fought the steering. However, overall the system works well.

Hyundai is known for packing their vehicles with value. In the case of the Genesis, that means a lot of equipment comes standard, such as navigation, hill hold, paddle shifters, rear-view camera, heated/cooled front seats, driver knee airbag, power-folding side mirrors and more, whether you get the V6 or V8. Its base price is $38,950; add $2500 for all-wheel drive ($41,450). The V8-powered Genesis starts at $52,450, but even fully loaded at around $57,000, that's still a bargain compared with Hyundai's target competitors. The Lexus GS starts at $48,610, then there's the Mercedes-Benz E350 ($52,805), Cadillac CTS ($46,025), BMW 5 Series ($50,425) and Audi A6 ($43,985), and all of them top out far north of $57,000. The Genesis may not have the same cachet as these cars, but it is certainly a viable alternative.

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