PARADISE VALLEY, AZ – When the Genesis sedan debuted in 2008, Hyundai had yet to prove itself a consistent, quality manufacturer of mass-market models, let alone luxury ones.

So it’s understandable the motoring media, and the public at-large were skeptical the automaker could make a vehicle on par with Bimmers, Lexi and Benzes.

But after driving the first-generation Genesis, most critics came away believers in the automaker’s creed of “surprise and delight.” WardsAuto was especially impressed by the car’s homegrown V-8, giving the “Tau” two 10 Best Engines awards, in 2009 and 2010.

The original Genesis sold respectably, doing about 20,000-25,000 units a year, and brought new buyers into Hyundai showrooms.

Six years later, the automaker is back with an all-new Genesis 4-door, and the car once again proves this isn’t your father’s Korean automobile.

Unlike the last generation, which purposefully had a face that echoed (copied?) Mercedes-Benz, the new version has a mug all its own.

The new ultra-tall-and-wide full-metal grille is commanding, as well as polarizing.

While some hate its largesse and others don’t like its shape, there’s no denying it has a “wow” factor unlike anything else on the road right now, at least for under $70,000.

Other aspects of the second-generation Genesis are less showy, reflecting a new simplicity in Hyundai’s design language after the overwrought “Fluidic Sculpture” look of the last few years.

The car has a relatively straight-and-steady character line from the front fender that wraps around the back and crosses the trunk, meeting an identical line on the other side.

Headlights and taillights are simply shaped, but the flash is in the lights themselves: about 30 individual LEDs make up front indicator lights; taillights go full LED.

In profile, the car leans more toward a coupe-like appearance, rather than a traditional 3-box sedan, appearing longer ahead of the C-pillars.

While the Genesis looks bigger, it is the same length, width and height as the outgoing model. However, wheels are pushed further to the corners, lengthening the car’s wheelbase 3.1 ins. (79 mm). Front and rear tracks grow slightly, as well.

The first-gen’s two direct-injected gasoline engines, a 3.8L V-6 or 5.0L V-8, stay but engineers tinkered with them to improve low-end torque and NVH levels. The V-6 gets a tube-within-a-tube air-gap exhaust manifold aimed at achieving the latter goal.

The 8-speed automatic transmission also remains, although it now can skip shifts and has improved timing, Hyundai says.

Most of what’s new about the Genesis is in its chassis and body.

The car’s platform was redesigned to fit Magna’s HTRAC all-wheel-drive system into V-6 models and now has 51% advanced high-strength steel content, up from 14% in the outgoing Genesis sedan.

More advanced steel ups torsional rigidity 16% and bending rigidity a whopping 40%.

On the road, the Genesis’ ride is flat and mostly forgiving, with a few rough patches of pavement revealing a chassis that’s more sport-oriented than before.

The V-8 model’s extra 246 lbs. (112 kg) is noticeable at takeoff, but both V-6 AWD and V-8 rear-wheel-drive grades are equally as spry under moderate acceleration.

Genesis' Cabin Simple, Sedate

The convenience and safety technologies in the car are impressive.

The smart cruise control, now with four following-distance settings, works as intended. Only once does it not latch onto the vehicle ahead, a semi on an uphill slope as we entered a dip.

The new lane-keep assist feature steers us back on our intended path, albeit unintentionally. Hyundai warns against taking hands off the wheel, as we did.

Hyundai one-ups Ford with an even easier automatic trunk – no more hopping on one foot. If built-in trunk sensors detect the car’s key fob for three seconds, in close proximity, the lid lifts. We have difficulty getting it to work, but several other journalists demo it precisely.

Average fuel economy in our V-6 AWD model is 25.3 mpg (9.3 L/100 km), well above the 19-mpg (12.4 L/100 km) EPA-estimated average and reflective of a largely highway route.

Our V-8 test car averages 19 mpg, a notch above its 18-mpg (13.1 L/100 km) estimate.

One slight disappointment with the ’15 Genesis is the interior design, which lacks the same impact as the car’s outside. However, superior ergonomics is one benefit of the lack of lots of swooping lines or offbeat angles.

Almost every button or knob is within easy reach of the driver, and Hyundai continues to make them nice and big for a better chance of contact on the first try.

The materials are all top-notch. Hyundai, along with sister brand Kia, quickly is becoming the leading mass-market producer of interiors, further evidenced by the ’14 Hyundai Equus and ’14 Kia Soul’s Ward’s 10 Best Interiors wins for 2014.

Our $52,450 3.8L AWD Genesis tester had the optional matte wood trim, part of the $3,500 Ultimate package. Its rich brown color contrasts nicely with beige leather seats.

The circular-knit material of the headliner covers the pillars, and grab bars are trimmed in aluminum.

Not surprisingly for a big sedan, comfort is high, with good shoulder and legroom in both the front and back seats. Headroom is cramped, however, in the outboard rear seats, due to the curvature of the roof. And the AWD-created hump makes middle-seat headroom tight, as well.

Storage spots are plentiful, with door pockets long and the center-console box deep.

Interior noise levels are low, not surprising as Hyundai says it spent a “tremendous” amount of time quelling cabin commotion via sealing, injecting foam and adding underbody panels.

The ’15 Genesis begins at $38,000, an awfully good deal when stacking it up against the least expensive German mid-large sedans. You can’t get into a 5-Series or E-Class for less than $49,500. The ’14 Cadillac CTS and ’14 Lexus GS, other intended competitors, start at $45,100 and $47,700, respectively.

The V-8 grade’s $51,500 price also is a steal, which is exactly what Hyundai will do with market share if it keeps this up.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com

'15 Hyundai Genesis AWD Specifications

Vehicle type 4-door, 5-passenger all-wheel-drive sedan
Engine 3.8L direct-injected DOHC all-aluminum V-6
Power (SAEnet) 311 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 293 lb.-ft. (397 Nm) @ 5,000 rpm
Bore x stroke (mm) 96.0 x 87.0
Compression ratio 11.5:1
Transmission 8-speed automatic with Shiftronic
Wheelbase 118.5 ins. (3010 mm)
Overall length 196.5 ins. (4990 mm)
Overall width 74.4 ins. (1890 mm)
Overall height 58.3 ins. (1480 mm)
Curb weight 4,295 lbs. (1,948 kg)
Price as tested $52,450 (incl. $950 destination and handling charge)
Fuel economy 19/25 mpg (12.4-9.4 L/100 km) city/hwy
Competition Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Cadillac CTS, Infiniti Q70, Lexus GS, Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Pros Cons
“Look at me” grille Not everyone likes what they see
First-rate interior materials Sedate interior styling
Chock full of tech Why won’t this damn trunk open?