Expert Review:Autoblog

Korean Luxury Gets A Little Sharper

2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec

2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec - Click above for high-res image gallery

Hyundai isn't interested in knocking shields with the likes of the BMW M guard, the Audi S line or even the Mercedes-Benz AMG legion with its 2012 Genesis 5.0 R-Spec. Instead, the newest addition to the Genesis line is out to offer buyers an extra helping of power and slightly sharper dynamics without all the motorsports pretense of its haughty German rivals. With 23 straight months of sales increases and 29,122 units sold last year, there doesn't seem to be much of an argument for varying the luxury sedan's recipe.

Even so, Hyundai has been quick to update its mid-luxury creation. Despite having arrived in 2008 as a 2009 model, the Genesis received a mild refresh in 2010, and 2012 brings a range of improvements across the line. Those include more power and fuel efficiency for the entry-level 3.8-liter V6 engine, aesthetic tweaks and the arrival of this range-topping Genesis 5.0 R-Spec. We were able to spend some time behind the wheel of the new five-liter four-door just outside of Las Vegas, but is the new bruiser worth its $47,350 price tag?

Outside, the entire 2012 Genesis line wears a few subtle aesthetic updates. The redesigned front fascia is trimmed in reworked chrome accents at the corners and a new grille is flanked on either side by headlights with LED daytime running lights. Down the vehicle's side, revised rocker panels and new matte chrome window trim are joined by redesigned 17-inch wheels. Toward the rear, new tail lamps and a slightly revamped rear fascia with integrated exhaust outlets tie up the changes. Meanwhile, 5.0 R-Spec trim adds in larger 19-inch wheels, dark-trimmed headlights and special badging.

Indoors, Hyundai is offering buyers a new rash of interior colors and trims, but the cabin has otherwise been left untouched. Rear passengers can now enjoy heated seats while the driver is met with a new lane departure warning system and glare-resistant TFT LCD screen mounted in the center of the gauge cluster. Check out the display in the Short Cut below.

When it comes to the 5.0-liter R-Spec, we would have liked a little more differentiation applied to the sedan's cabin. In fact, a set of embroidered floor mats are the only indicator that you're commanding anything other than a 3.8-liter model. Whereas competitors are happy to slather their go-fast monograms over unique steering wheels, high-bolstered seats and premium shift knobs, Hyundai has opted to make use of the same kit as the base vehicle.

While the Korean manufacturer implemented conservative updates to the sedan's cabin and exterior, the automaker's engineers were given free rein when it came time to pop the hood. The car's base 3.8-liter V6 now packs a galloping 43 more horsepower than the outgoing six-cylinder thanks to the addition of a direct-injection system. In fact, the company says that the engine is all-new from the cylinder heads up thanks to the addition of dual continuously variable valve timing, a variable intake system and what Hyundai calls a maintenance-free timing chain. All told, the 3.8-liter GDI V6 is good for 333 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 291 pound-feet of torque at 5,100 rpm, up from 290 horsepower and 264 lb-ft of torque in the last-generation. Even with all that additional grunt on hand, fuel economy has increased to 19 mpg city and 29 mpg highway – a jump of one mpg city and two mpg highway over the 2011 Genesis 3.8.

2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec side view2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec front view2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec rear view

Interestingly enough, the old 4.6-liter V8 is still on the option sheet for 2012, though the engine remains unchanged for the new model year.

Meanwhile, the biggest news in the engine bay comes from the arrival of a new 5.0-liter direct-injection V8 based on the same architecture as the old 4.6-liter lump. Hyundai has brought all of the lessons learned from engineering the company's turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine to bear on the larger-displacement eight-cylinder to both increase power and deliver decent fuel economy. The cylinder sleeves now wear the same counter-spiny liner as the forced-induction four-cylinder for more efficient cooling, and the company's engineers implemented chromium-coated piston rings to decrease internal friction losses. A lightweight clamshell exhaust manifold, tuned intake system and dual continuously variable valve timing all help bump the final power numbers up to 429 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 376 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm. Despite the increase in grunt, fuel economy sits at 16 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.

For reference, the old 4.6-liter V8 churns out 385 horsepower and 333 lb-feet of torque while netting just one mpg better than the new 5.0-liter in both city and highway driving.

2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec engine

Hyundai chose to pair each of its engines with the company's new in-house eight-speed automatic transmission. The gearbox rocks over 130 patents and features a wide gear span with skip-shift capability and direct-control solenoid valves for smoother shifts. By designing and building the transmission itself, Hyundai was able to implement a few weight-saving measures as well, including the use of an aluminum carrier and a plastic oil pan with an integrated filter.

Suspension-wise, the base 3.8-liter Genesis and the mid-range 4.6-liter Genesis still ride on the same mechanicals as last year, though the 5.0-liter R-Spec has received a number of updates designed to give the vehicle more sporting characteristics. A lightweight, hollow 19 mm rear stabilizer bar works in conjunction with higher front and rear spring rates for what Hyundai hopes is a more planted feel once the tarmac goes twisty. In addition, Sachs ASD shocks serve up 25-30 percent higher damping rates to help keep everything under control, and optional Bridgestone Potenza S-04 summer tires serve up extra grip in warmer months.

2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec headlight2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec wheel2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec taillight2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec exhaust tip

The combined effect isn't so much the difference between an M5 and a 550i as it is the shift from 535i to 550i. During our brief stint behind the wheel, we were only made aware of the stiffer suspension when the road turned rough, though the stickier Bridgestone rubber made a noticeable difference in the amount of available grip in mid-to-high speed cornering. The Genesis 5.0-liter R-Spec feels more confident than its 4.6-liter and 3.8-liter counterparts, but only in situations that most Hyundai buyers will never find themselves in. Otherwise, the suspension merely comes across as needlessly harsh.

What's more, the R-Spec uses the same steering rack and brakes as its more plebian siblings, so don't expect any miracles at the turn-in or stopping. And what of the new horsepower? Hyundai claims the R-Spec can click off a 60 mph run from a dead stop in 5.1 seconds, which should tell you all you need to know about how the vehicle accelerates. The strange thing is that the big sedan doesn't feel that fast. You know you're gaining speed because the speedometer scoots skyward with only the slightest provocation, but there's no throaty exhaust note to announce your intention. With 429 horsepower on tap, we want the sound of a chorus of aching angels to mourn our wayward ways every time our right foot finds the carpet.

2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec steering wheel2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec front seats2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec navigation system2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec multimedia system controls

After a couple of hours with the big-horsepower Genesis, we were left a little mixed on the sedan. Yes, it's powerful, and yes, it delivers decent fuel economy, but the vehicle lacked any sense of occasion. We were never under the impression that we were driving anything other than a slightly more potent version of the base sedan, and that's a problem. While the 2012 Hyundai Genesis equipped with the direct-injection V6 engine is an absolute steal at $34,200 plus an $850 freight charge, the automaker politely asks for $46,500 plus the same freight fee for the privilege of calling the 5.0 R-Spec your own.

That's still a far cry cheaper than competitors like the Infiniti M56 at $59,995 (including destination), the BMW 550i at $61,075 or even the Lexus GS460 at $56,245. In fact, there are few vehicles out there that can compete with the R-Spec on price and content. Just don't expect world-class performance or panache.

2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec rear 3/4 view

In the automotive alphabet, the letter "R" has always stood for performance. By branding the company's new top-of-the-line Genesis with the sports-oriented letter, Hyundai may have set buyers up for disappointment. While the R-Spec is an impressive vehicle in its own right, the four-door is far from a legitimate sports sedan. As a faster alternative to the 4.6-liter V8 vehicle, the 5.0 R-Spec shines as brightly as the company's engineers and designers could have hoped.

Unfortunately, with 43 more horsepower than the outgoing V6 and improved fuel economy, the base 3.8-liter Genesis is more appealing than ever. With a snappier final drive ratio than its V8 brethren, the V6 even feels pretty quick off the line, making the extra coin for the 5.0 R-Spec even more difficult to justify. If you're signing on the dotted line for a Genesis, stick with the base model and use some of the cash you saved to pick up a set of the Bridgestone rubber available on the big R for a little more grip. You'll be happier in the long run.

New styling, new powertrains and a sporty new R-Spec model.


Acclaimed for its smart styling, solid build quality and higher-end features found normally on more expensive marques, the Hyundai Genesis sedan has been a darling of automotive experts since it hit the U.S. market in 2008. And consumers seem to agree. Sales of the midsize four-door have been increasing every year since its introduction as a 2009 model. Many Genesis buyers are new to the Hyundai brand, abandoning more established makes and spawning more than one biblically inspired aphorism of how Genesis begets exodus. 

The 2012 Hyundai Genesis gets refreshed front and rear fascia including tweaked headlamps and bumpers, a revised front grille and an integrated exhaust design, along with more upscale-looking exterior trim. New for 2012 are heated rear seats and a lane departure warning system, both included in the optional Technology Package. 

Most significantly, the 2012 Genesis boasts new, more powerful and more efficient powertrains, including three gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines and Hyundai's first proprietary 8-speed automatic transmission. 

Most 2012 Genesis models come with the base 333-horsepower 3.8-liter V6. For those who want more oomph, a 4.6-liter V8 version available in one nicely equipped trim level will get you a satisfying 378 hp. 

Enthusiasts will salivate over the new 5.0-liter Genesis R-Spec for 2012, which cranks out a class-competitive 429 hp and 376 pound-feet of torque capable of a 0-60 mph time in just over five seconds, while still achieving a respectable estimated 25 mpg highway rating. The 2012 Hyundai R-Spec also gets a sport-tuned suspension, steering and transmission along with19-inch alloy wheels and unique headlamp trim. 

In keeping true to its passion for drivetrain advancement, Hyundai's new 8-speed transmission with manual shifting capability (dubbed Shiftronic) was developed fully in-house. More gears, in addition to other features including skip-shift technology, help to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy. Purists will bemoan the lack of a manual gearbox on any 2012 Genesis models. 

Hyundai would like us to believe the 2012 Genesis sedan competes head-to-head with midsize luxury four-doors such as the BMW 5-Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. And while the Genesis sedan offers superb value over these German mainstays, it might be a tough sell for the badge-conscious. Plus, those who live in snowy climes might leave the Genesis off their lists for lack of a four-wheel-drive version. The V6-powered Genesis is best compared with midsize sedans such as the Chrysler 300 and Buick LaCrosse. Features and performance, however, are on par with luxury models like Lexus GS, Lincoln MKS and Cadillac CTS. The 5.0 R-Spec proves to be a good contender with the likes of the Infiniti M56S, but with a much lower sticker price. 

Also compelling is Hyundai's Assurance trade-in value guarantee, which assigns a future value to a vehicle at the time of purchase, based on a 24- to 48-month time frame. This guaranteed value can then be applied to a future Hyundai trade-in, as long as it's within the 24- to 48-month period. Even if the car is worth more than projected at the time of trade-in, the customer gets the higher amount. 

Whether it's a true luxury car in the minds of buyers, the 2012 Hyundai Genesis in all its incarnations remains a top choice, both on paper and on the road. 


The 2012 Hyundai Genesis rear-wheel-drive sedan seats five passengers and is available in three trim levels. The name of each model corresponds to its engine displacement. 

Genesis 3.8 ($34,200) comes standard with leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights, fog lights, heated power outside mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power accessories, power heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt function, steering wheel-mounted controls, cruise control, Bluetooth handsfree phone system, seven-speaker audio with CD player, satellite radio capability and USB, iPod and auxiliary connectivity, 17-inch alloy wheels. 

Options for the 2012 Genesis 3.8 are rolled into two packages: The Premium Package ($4,800) upgrades to 18-inch alloy wheels and adds a glass sunroof, power-folding outside mirrors, rearview camera, rain sensing wipers with auto defogger windshield, power rear sunshade, power tilt and telescoping steering wheels, leather dash and door trim, and navigation with 7-inch display and real-time traffic capability, as well as a premium Lexicon 14-speaker audio system with surround sound. The Technology Package ($4,000) adds adaptive HID Xenon headlights, front and rear park assist systems, lane departure warning system, smart cruise control, an electronic parking brake, upgraded leather upholstery, ventilated driver's seat, heated rear seats, navigation system with 8-inch display and a 17-speaker Lexicon audio system with HD radio and 6-disc CD changer. 

Genesis 4.6 ($44,500) includes the features in the Technology Package plus auto-dimming outside mirrors, chrome lower body side moldings, electro-hydraulic power steering and a wood-trimmed leather steering wheel. 

Genesis R-Spec ($46,500) includes 19-inch alloy wheels plus all the features found on the 4.6 trim. The trim is further differentiated with unique headlamps with dark chrome inserts and R-Spec badging inside and out. The woodgrain steering wheel found on the 4.6 is deleted in favor of an all-leather version. 

Safety features on all 2012 Hyundai Genesis sedans include eight airbags including front and rear seat-mounted side-impact bags and side-curtain airbags, electronic active front head restraints, four-wheel, anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist, electronic stability control, traction control. 


Surprisingly good looks set the Hyundai Genesis apart from its more affordable competitors. Fluid body lines and styling cues are reminiscent of higher-end luxury lines, yet remain distinctive. 

For 2012, exterior tweaks on the Genesis sedan are subtle, but effective. Hyundai jumps on the bandwagon with other luxury car makers by adding integrated LED accent lights (a la Audi), as well as a revised wraparound headlamp design. A modified front bumper sports a new air intake, while the redesigned front grille incorporates cleaner, straighter lines. 

On the sides, a darker trim around windows aims to convey a more upscale feel, while more prominent rocker panels give a slightly more assertive look. New side mirrors are reshaped and now include a power-folding feature and integrated puddle lamps. 

In back, wraparound tail lights are more pronounced and the rear bumper features and integrated rear exhaust design, which lends a seamless, attractive appearance. 


The cabin of the 2012 Hyundai Genesis sedan is elegant and tastefully executed. We took a Genesis 3.8 model for a spin in the Nevada desert and found the leather seats to be supportive and supple. Other leather trim, such as the wraparound two-tone dash gives the interior just the right touch of luxe. However, the wood grain trim looks more plastic than posh, especially around the doors. 

The LCD gauges are bright and sharp, and are pleasing on the eye. Center stack controls are large and easy to read. Despite numerous buttons, layout is intuitive for the most part, although it takes a while to find certain functions. The mode button for the climate control, for example, is on the opposite side of the stack from the other HVAC buttons, which left us momentarily grasping at vents to direct cool air onto our feet in blazing 103-degree heat. Dual climate control worked nicely and the cooled, ventilated driver seat was a Godsend in the hot sun, although our front passenger was understandably put off that the feature was not included on both seats. 

Due to the myriad buttons and knobs, there isn't much center storage space. Curiously, the small compartment between the shift lever and the center stack is dedicated to an ashtray and cigarette lighter, perhaps designed for the Asian market, since many U.S.-bound vehicles have long abandoned these (or make them available in a separate smoker's package). Using Hyundai's navigation system is less time-consuming than others on the market, although one passenger found it faster to punch up our destination on a Google Maps-powered smartphone. 

Visibility is good, thanks to a large rear window, well designed side mirrors and minimally invasive B- and C-pillars. Front head- and legroom were more than adequate for drivers and passengers ranging from petite to tall, but in back, the head of one six-foot passenger nearly grazed the headliner while sitting behind the driver. And because the center seat is slightly raised, it's not an option for taller riders. Rear legroom is plentiful, as long as the front seats aren't all the way back. 

Unlike many of its competitors, the 2012 Hyundai Genesis doesn't offer folding split rear seats, only a pass-through slot. Trunk space is average for the segment at 15.9 cubic feet. 

Driving Impression

The 2012 Hyundai Genesis sedan strikes a good balance between comfortable and responsive. With the Genesis 3.8 tuned to the more luxurious side, it's a good highway cruiser without feeling too billowy. The cabin is remarkably quiet, although rough roads do yield some noise and vibration. Handling in the Genesis 3.8 has the edge over the somewhat boaty Chrysler 300 and Lexus ES. Brakes are responsive and stop the car with confidence. 

Acceleration in the Genesis 3.8 is smooth and satisfying, but it won't leave you breathless. The 8-speed transmission does an admirable job staying efficient while offering up adequate power. Not too long ago, that many gears would have seemed preposterous, but in the days of mandated fuel economy standards, automakers seem keen on ever increasing gear span in hopes to eek out an extra mpg or two (which usually means cruising at pitifully low rpm). Yet, in this case, Hyundai seems to have done a pretty good job with the power curve, keeping torque readily available at low engine speeds. 

Moving from the 3.8 V6 to the 5.0 R-Spec V8 is a little like checking out of the Hilton and into the Mandarin Oriental. The former is perfectly nice, but the top-of-the line model makes us wish we could linger just a bit longer. And order room service. Acceleration is smooth as silk, and gears shift at higher rpm for and extra power boost. The sport suspension makes the Genesis sedan more agile around corners and lessens body roll at turn-in. 

Fuel economy for the Genesis 3.8 is an EPA-estimated 19/29 mpg City/Highway on Regular gasoline. Genesis 4.6 and 5.0 R-Spec are both rated 17/26 mpg on Premium gas. 


For those who can look past the H-shaped logo, the 2012 Hyundai Genesis remains a stylish choice that remains a great value for the money when compared with its more established luxury rivals. Its confident and able handling, bevy of comfortable features and a solid trade-in value guarantee keep it a top contender in the midsize sedan segment. 

Laura Burstein filed this report to after her test drive of Hyundai Genesis models near Las Vegas. 

Model Lineup

Hyundai Genesis 3.8 ($34,200); Genesis 4.6 ($44,500); Genesis 5.0 R-Spec ($46,500). 

Assembled In

Ulsan, Korea. 

Options As Tested

Premium Package ($4800) includes 18-inch alloy wheels, glass sunroof, power-folding outside mirrors, rearview camera, rain sensing wipers with auto defogger windshield, power rear sunshade, power tilt and telescoping steering wheels, leather dash and door trim, navigation with 7-inch display and real-time traffic, Lexicon 14-speaker audio system with surround sound; Technology Package ($4,000) adds adaptive HID xenon headlights, front and rear park assist systems, lane departure warning system, smart cruise control, an electronic parking brake, upgraded leather upholstery, ventilated driver's seat, heated rear seats, navigation system with 8-inch display and a 17-speaker Lexicon audio system with HD radio and 6-disc CD changer; iPod cable ($35). 

Model Tested

2012 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 ($34,200). 

*The data and content on this web site is subject to change without notice. Neither AOL nor any of its data or content providers shall be liable for errors in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

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