Lead photo by Byron Hurd; interior/underhood shots courtesy of the respective manufacturers.
When we left off at the end of part one, we had just arrived in Daytona Beach after a 14-hour trip down I-95 from Annapolis. Both cars had proven able and willing to handle the long haul, but the Audi A6, despite its disappointing tires and confounding ergonomics, was just edging out the Genesis R-Spec as our preferred ride. Click on in for the conclusion and thoughts about long-distance alternatives to these $50k cruisers.
When we parked the Genesis and the A6 for our first night in Florida, they were instantly out of sight and out of mind. The next three days were a blur of activity. Covering the Daytona 24 thoroughly dominated my attention. Even the drive to and from the race track—time I’d normally take to gather my thoughts about the car I’m driving—was dominated by mental planning and review of the weekend’s activities. To their credit, neither car interrupted this process, both taking instantly to the role of race day shuttle. When the race ended on Sunday afternoon, I plopped down in the hotel room for my best night’s sleep in three days.
Fresh and ready to hit the road at 5:00 a.m., we set off northward, retracing our steps from Thursday’s drive down. Nicole and I traded cars for the return trip so that we can both get the full, 830-mile experience in the Audi and the Hyundai.
I hadn’t really paid any mind to the Audi’s interior over the weekend, and when my butt hit the seat for the drive home, my mind flashed back to the Genesis on-ramp debacle. The Audi will suffer from no such deficiencies. These seats are firmer and farm more supportive. And unlike the Hyundai, which features simple on/off settings for the suspension’s sport mode, the A6 offers Audi’s full drive select system, which allows customization of driveline, suspension and steering settings, allowing you to calibrate any of them for sporty driving or long-distance cruising. Even with everything set to comfort, the Audi still hugs the road better than the Genesis, but still falls far short of punishing. Another win here for the German.
As we hit the freeway, I start to get comfortable with the Audi’s complex infotainment system. Unlike the Genesis, the Audi’s connectivity system recognizes my phone as a Bluetooth audio device, allowing me to stream my mp3 collection and control the volume and song selection from the wheel. Inexplicably though, the tune up/down function is only available as a button on the passenger side of the center console, which was an awkward, uncomfortable reach whenever I wanted to skip a song. A win for the tech, but a loss for the interface.
As the miles rack up, the Audi ticks off several more small victories. The A6’s cabin is quieter, though the Hyundai’s bald tires may be to blame. The cruise control, while still not something I’d pay extra for, isn’t nearly as frustrating as the Hyundai’s. And then there’s the acceleration. Like all quattro-equipped Audis, the A6 is a master of brisk standing starts, but the tight gearing and quick shifts from the Audi’s eight-speed automatic gearbox make for great highway response as well. The Hyundai’s V8 is a flexible engine, and the eight-cylinder’s exhaust note trumps the Audi’s supercharged burble. But even though it’s paired with Hyundai’s own eight-speed automatic, it’s just not quite as eager to go.
We make our mid-way stop in Florence, just as we did on the way down. The Audi has a 2 mpg advantage again at fill-up, but both are returning slightly poorer mileage than they did on the previous trip. I do some quick mental math and realize we’re making better time than we did on the way. Perhaps the two are related.
When we step into the convenience store to get water and chat about the cars, I learn that Nicole has found fewer faults with the Hyundai than I did. Her iPod works flawlessly with the car’s auxiliary input system, and she likes the simple control interface even more than I do. The cruise control also doesn’t seem to bother her, but it probably helps that I’ve been the lead car for the entire trip. All she has to do is settle in behind me and let the radar do the rest whereas I’m at the mercy of all the stupidity happening up ahead.
The miles melt away as we crank through the last leg. By this point, there are few surprises left in either car. Both are great cruisers, and it’s hard to fault either car too much for its small flaws. As we approach D.C., Nicole swings into the lead position for the miles she’s most familiar with. After tailing her for a bit, I get tired of the highway slog through waning rush hour traffic, so I jump off the Beltway to take the back roads home.
The weather is much nicer than it was when we left Annapolis four days prior, and the dry roads let me explore the Audi’s handling a bit more extensively than Nicole could before. Like all Audis, the A6 is exceedingly competent on back roads, responding well to changes in direction and putting power down out of corners without any drama at all. Knowing the tires, I don’t push too hard, but enough to learn that while the A6 may do a better job of keeping the driver in place in switchbacks, it’s not really any more exciting for it. The R-Spec may not quite have the chops either, but it’s a bit more of a grin when you start to misbehave. It’ll kick the tail out when turning onto a main road or wiggle around if you just mash the pedal from a stop. It’s just playful enough to be entertaining. The A6, on the other hand, is better suited to drivers who think wheelspin is impolite. This is as close to a draw as I’d ever call, but I think I have to give the nod to the Hyundai here.
Not that it matters much in this comparison. The Audi isn’t faultless, but it’s more perfect than the Hyundai in just about every way. Even if the Genesis does offer a slightly better fun-to-drive proposition, the A6 is still more comfortable, more efficient, more tech-friendly and more upscale. The supercharged V6 is an absolute gem, and while it may not be a very exciting engine for sportier cars, it’s the better fit for a luxury sedan without question. Not only does the Audi excel in more categories than the Hyundai, but it is significantly better where it really counts.
And what then of the question we posed last week in our first Long Haulin’ installment? Is the luxury sedan still the dominant road trip machine? For my part, I felt no more comfortable in the A6 or Genesis than I did in the Rio. All three were relaxing drives, and to be honest, the Rio had it all over the Audi and Hyundai in terms connectivity and efficiency. Throw passengers into the mix though, and the Rio’s rear seat room would swing the balance back in favor of these bigger cruisers.
We’re oversimplifying this question, of course. The Genesis and the A6 aren’t the only two luxury sedans on the market, and there are plenty of alternatives out there to more closely match the efficiency of the Rio without compromising as much on space. But that’s not the point. Think of our question this way: If you walk up to a rental counter at an airport and the clerk offers you the choice of either a Rio or an unnamed “midsize” or “premium” alternative for three or four times the price, should you take the more expensive option? One could argue that somebody who can afford to contemplate the more expensive option need not be concerned with the frugality of his or her choices, but for the rest of us, it’s something to think about.