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In August, reviewing the Genesis Coupe, I mentioned that Hyundai’s new deluxe Genesis sedan had been named the North American Car of the Year for 2009; and fortunately the Coupe wasn’t available then or it might have deadlocked the jury. Which one to pick? A better question might be, how can these two cars even be related? The two-door is a hooligan’s delight; the four-door not only looks completely different, inside and out, it has a different powertrain and mission specialty. (But it too can satisfy the inner bad boy. Person.)

At less than $40,000, this Genesis could almost pass as the body double for a certain German sedan that costs twice as much. Within limits—see paragraph #4, below—that’s how it behaves, too. This is a super-cruiser that ate up a two-day, 800-mile blast across northern New England (coastal Maine through the White Mountains, the Green Mountains and into upstate New York and back) and begged for more. This 4.6 model, named for its V-8 engine, packs a 375hp wallop, but it delivered 24 mpg at an average speed of 53 mph. With a creamy-smooth six-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive, merely the pressure of one’s big toe is enough to catapult the 4,000-pound Genesis around the motor homes and packs of Harleys that clog the foliage routes at this season. Winding secondary roads, even pitted with potholes, don’t upset the car. And on divided-lane highways, Genesis doesn’t just run with the big dogs, it’s one of them—quiet and stable at speed and in crosswinds, and with tremendous brakes for those oops moments.

The cabin is a lovely place in which to spend a few hours—full of fine materials, shown off in tasteful hues and elegantly highlighted here and there with touches of chrome or glossy wood. As befits a sedan, there is ample room for four adults, five if necessary, and a trunk deep enough to create an echo. The “stripper” 4.6—$37,250—has about every mod con one could expect, from rain-sensing wipers and dual-zone automatic heating/cooling to a power rear sunshade and tire-pressure monitors. It lacks only features such as swiveling headlamps, backup sensors and a rear-view camera, GPS and so on, which are of course available for not much more. The entry-level 3.8 model, with a 290hp V-6, is kitted out the same way but is a couple of ticks slower to 60 mph and starts at just $32,250.

There must be a flaw in this brilliant car, and it finally surfaced: At high speed in high cornering angles, the steering begins to fight back and the wheel wants to move in the hands. Not enough to throw the car off-line, but there it is. At normal velocities, the Genesis steering is predictable and precise, if numb. OK, I feel better now.

Hyundai says its Genesis received the highest score among midsize premium cars in the J.D. Power 2009 Automotive Performance Execution and Layout Study. As the maker avers on the car’s Monroney, its window sticker: “Genesis offers an unprecedented combination of performance, luxury, and fuel efficiency.” To which we would add only, “at an unbeatable price.”

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