SEOUL – Just to stand out from the pack, seemingly every new luxury car has to offer a feature or technology that is a world first of some kind. It may be an important new innovation, or just something that raises an eyebrow, such as the Mercedes S-Class cabin perfuming system, but it has to be unique enough to create buzz and get folks chatting and tweeting.

In that vein, Hyundai says the second-generation Genesis luxury sedan will be the first car to offer a system that monitors carbon-dioxide levels in the vehicle cabin in order to enhance driver safety and comfort. The car goes on sale in South Korea late this year and in the U.S. and other global markets early next year as a ’15 model.

Hyundai engineers say elevated CO2 levels created by occupant respiration inside the vehicle cabin can cause drowsiness and slow reaction times. When a sensor located near the glove box detects CO2 levels above 2500 parts per million, it turns on a warning light on the instrument panel and triggers the climate-control system to bring in more fresh air from outside.

Numerous other vehicles monitor driver alertness, but their systems are more complicated, and presumably more expensive, employing special cameras and sophisticated electronic algorithms to scrutinize driver behavior and steering inputs.

Another new feature worth noting is a simple hands-free trunk opener for owners with their arms full. A driver carrying a package just has to stand in front of the trunk for three seconds with the key fob on their person and the trunk will open automatically.

Hyundai engineers do not mention names, but they argue their execution is safer than one currently offered by another automaker (Ford’s hands-free lift gate) that requires a person to wave their foot under the vehicle’s bumper to activate. Standing on one leg while carrying a big package could cause a person to fall, they point out.

Hyundai will not release full details on the new Genesis until next month, but officials at the automaker’s sprawling Namyang research-and-development center outside Seoul say that in addition to the CO2 sensor and hands-free trunk opener, the car will have lots of advanced technologies. These include automatic emergency braking, an electronically controlled suspension and rack-mounted motor-driven electric power steering. Hyundai engineers say the R-MDPS has a variable gear ratio that provides high-speed stability and direct response at low and medium speeds.

All-wheel drive, a key option not available on the current Genesis, also will be available.

Perhaps most importantly, Hyundai says the new car will spearhead the newest version of Korean automaker’s design language, called Fluidic Design 2.0, which now will migrate to all new models.

Renderings of the new car released last week show a bold design vocabulary with strong lines and highly sculpted surfaces, but less swoopy than the 1.0 version exhibited in cars such as the Sonata and Elantra. The new hexagonal grille is especially distinctive and it will be the signature design feature that will migrate down through the ranks of the Hyundai lineup.

The new design shows a confidence that was not present in Namyang during a May 2008 visit by WardsAuto a few months prior to the initial launch of the first-generation Genesis.

Back then, designers told WardsAuto they were not ready to leap into the luxury market with a brand new design and compete directly with long-established luxury brands.

Instead they created a conservative amalgam of upscale design themes, borrowing ideas from Mercedes, BMW and Lexus.

Even though it does not sell in huge numbers in the U.S., the Genesis sedan still is immensely important to Hyundai as it seeks to attain the prestige of a full-line automaker capable of competing with the world’s best in all segments.

The Genesis has won many notable awards. In 2009, it was the first Korean car ever to win the North American Car of the Year award, and it also has won three Ward’s 10 Best Engines awards for its stellar Tau engine, the first V-8 Hyundai developed in-house.

dwinter@wardsauto.com