While it may seem like all-wheel-drive (AWD) is a prerequisite when it comes to luxury sedans today, manufacturers will tell you that’s more of a Canadian thing as our neighbours down south are surprisingly cavalier when it comes to AWD.
“There are a lot of states – California, for example, Texas being one of them – they don’t have such a big appeal for AWD vehicles over there,” said Ricardo Chan, manager for product and corporate strategy at Genesis (although he may want to talk to Texans again after what happened in The Lone Star State earlier this month). “And considering the volume in states like California that are so important for our brand, AWD penetration is minimal.” So not only do Americans not all want AWD, according to Genesis, the majority don’t.
In Canada, however, it’s an entirely different story in that most of our population lives through severe winters and as a result, we love our AWD. So, in an effort to both simplify the buying process and appeal to as many Canadians as possible, Genesis has made AWD standard on every single vehicle they sell in Canada – the G70, G80, and G90 sedans and the GV80 SUV – and your only option on all but the G70, whose compact sports sedan digs mean there is a rear-wheel-drive (RWD) option. Although, as of 2021, that model is gone, too. So it’s AWD all the time at Genesis.
And a big reason for all that is – you guessed it – Canadian winters.
“Our vehicles are built with Canadian winters in mind,” said Bianca Pettinaro, public relations and corporate communications specialist at Genesis. “When you look at the exact same vehicles in the US, they’re packaged differently because our engineers and designers know that Canadian winters are very very different than what you get in other areas of the world.”
So, that means heated seats and a heated steering wheel are standard on all trims, as are heated exterior mirrors and high-intensity discharge (HID) LED lighting to punch through those deep, dark Canadian winter nights. Or afternoons.
Which is why, according to Genesis, they conduct winter testing in the Northern parts of Ontario, Quebec, and the Prairies, and it’s done exclusively of vehicles from corporate partners Hyundai and Kia. According to Genesis, it’s crucial that Canadians know that the vehicle they’re buying is tested in their own backyard.
“What we try to focus on here in Canada is what a Canadian customer might go through on a daily basis,” said Malaka Peris, quality assurance analyst with Genesis. “Canadian winters can be quite harsh and variable. Through (our testing), we make sure all vehicles are operating as expected, even in the most extreme conditions.” Some of these tests are performed in temperatures dipping below the -30 degrees Celsius mark, which is bitterly cold and likely harsher than most Canadians will ever face.
While Genesis takes the performance of their AWD systems seriously, that’s not really this cold-weather testing is about.
“The first thing people think about (winter testing) is doing donuts on frozen lakes,” said Peris. “In reality, that’s not what we do.” Indeed, drifting through snow-covered trails like an amateur rally driver is not something most Genesis drivers – or any drivers, for that matter – are likely to practice.
What’s more important, then, to Canadian drivers? It’s the everyday stuff. Think about it: How many times have you sat in your car on a cold day and wished it would heat up faster? Or looked at how quickly the seat heaters take effect? How fast the defroster operates? Or what about which parts of the lower back and butt seat heating works on? According to Genesis, that last one is a big deal to many owners. That’s the stuff that matters to Canadians, and Genesis goes to the wilds of Northern Canada to learn all about it. While they’re not ready to reveal exactly how long it should take, say, a GV80 to reach the set temperature, it’s stuff they have tested at length.
Of course, while they may not be up there doing donuts, as Peris says, extensive attention is paid to the AWD system employed by Genesis for both the G80 and GV80. It’s what’s helped Genesis develop a comprehensive AWD system that includes an electronic limited-slip differential (eLSD) as well as their Terrain Mode system.
The eLSD allows power dispersal between the front and rear wheels, including up to 100 per cent of all power to a single rear wheel. That way, the wheels that have traction are given all the help they need to help pull the rest of the car out of a slippery – or stuck – situation. In the dry, meanwhile, that eLSD allows for better rotation through corners, as well as more stability all at the same time and makes for a fully-RWD car in ideal conditions; it’s a RWD-biased system to begin with, meaning more of the power is sent to the rear wheels more of the time.
For this part, Terrain Mode isn’t quite as standardized as AWD – you have to option up to it but it is specifically tuned for Canadian cars with the addition of Snow mode; even US cars equipped with AWD and Terrain Mode don’t get this.
Terrain Mode takes the ECU, AWD, stability control, eLSD and more and tweaks them to provide the best possible traction in slippery conditions.
It’s all hands on deck for Genesis in Canada and indeed, it kind of needs to be. They are a relative babe in the luxury car world, and while it’s going to take some time to build up the brand equity required to start playing with the big boys from Germany and Japan, there’s little denying that they’ve come a long way thus far, in just a few short years.