I think people have the wrong idea of luxury. Luxury isn’t heated seats, a sunroof or leather. It can’t be defined by options lists, vehicle types nor engineering feats — nor with pedigree, prestige or presence.

Worse still, luxury becomes meaningless immediately when many people have access to it. Espresso in the morning used to be a luxury. Sushi used to be a luxury. So did cottages, condos, bottled water, cellphones and designer handbags. Once you can buy it at the local mall, it’s ubiquitous.

Hyundai knows ubiquitous. From the Pony to the $9,995 Accent, for decades its electricity bills have been paid on the back of frugal and simple vehicles.

There’s nothing groundbreaking about the Genesis’ styling. Apart from the conspicuous absence of a Hyundai badge, of course. From some angles it looks like a Mercedes-Benz S-Class; other viewpoints bring out a little BMW 5-Series, Lexus GS, or Infiniti M. All of which are easily recognized as luxury vehicles, and admittedly the Genesis also looks like it could be parked out front at the Four Seasons.

The car’s trump card is its drivetrain: Either a 3.8L V6 with 306 horsepower or a 4.6L V8 with 375 horses. All that power is channelled through — yes — the rear wheels. The V8 even has a limited-slip differential.

So-called the “Tao” V8, a Genesis so equipped can do 0-100 km/h in well under six seconds, and onto a 14.1-second quarter-mile time.

Credit goes to a near-perfect weight distribution and adaptive shock absorbers manufactured by Sachs — which are standard on all models. The chassis seems reluctant at first to liven up, being geared more toward ride comfort than Nürburgring Nordschleife lap times. But because the suspension needs to sense the driver wants to attack a series of corners, you need a certain absence of imagination to what will happen if the 1,817 kg car doesn’t decide to stick.

Price ranges from $37,995 to $48,995, with the V8 starting at $43,995. Standard on the V6 and V8 base models are: Six-speed automatic transmission, ABS with EBD, eight airbags, front active headrests, electronic stability control, air conditioning, leather seats, heated seats, power locks, power windows, dual zone climate control, auto defogging system, proximity entry with smart key system, AM/FM/XM/MP3 stereo with six-disc CD player and seven speakers, iPod and USB/AUX-input, heated exterior mirrors and front fog lights.

Which, if we’re honest, is more than anyone could ever want — until you get to the $2,000 premium package, which adds things like a sunroof, larger rims, HID headlights, and front and rear parking sensors.

But wait, there’s more. The $5,000 technology package installs woodgrain trim, power rear sunshade, Lexicon 17-speaker audio system, cooled driver’s seat, navigation system, back-up camera and adaptive headlights.

2009 Hyundai Genesis

Type: Luxury sedan
Price: $37,995–$43,995
Engine: V6, DOHC 3.8L/V8, DOHC, 4.6L
HP: 290@6,000/375@6,550

• Named 2009 North American Car of the Year at the Detroit auto show
• Value for money
• Impressive drivetrain