It makes sense for there to be a higher-performance version of the Hyundai Genesis Coupe. Though the R-Spec version of that zippy, low-slung two-door pays few dividends in everyday driving, higher handling limits and sacrificed creature comforts are justifiable on a car that an owner could at least be conceivably preparing to push to its limits on a racetrack.
The same, though, is not true of the Hyundai Genesis sedan, a full-size two-ton premium four-door built from the same approximate rear-wheel-drive architecture as the Genesis Coupe. The sedan’s prevailing quality is its ability to mix the quiet composure of a luxury car with the everyday room and comfort of a large mainstream car. Many of the other premium-car market of cars priced in the $30,000s and $40,000s are competing to be the sportiest to drive and look at, giving up ride quality, interior space and outward visibility in the process.
That didn’t stop Hyundai from trying. For the 2012 model year, it introduced a $47,000 Genesis R-Spec sedan with a stiffened suspension compared to the regular model, bigger (19-inch) wheels and a 5.0-liter V8 engine. The changes certainly don’t do irreparable harm to a strong overall package, but in a car as non-sporting as this Genesis, they do more harm than good. Go for the smoother, quieter ride on versions with the standard 3.8-liter V6 – reviewed earlier this year – and the money you’ll save off the purchase price and on fuel will be icing on the cake.
Make no mistake: With 429 horsepower available, the V8 Genesis has no shortage of power to demonstrate straight-line performance abilities. It’s not instantly explosive, but its might is evident once you’ve made it clear that you’re looking to get going fast. It has a smooth, pleasant rumble when it’s working hard and when it’s not.
But make no mistake: There’s nothing wrong with the performance or sound of the 333-horsepower V6 Genesis, either. Put your foot to the floor and hold on, and you’ll be at 60 miles an hour in just over six seconds in a V6 Genesis, versus five seconds with the V8. This difference, when driving your luxury sedan in the real world, translates to pretty much…nothing. Both cars are comfortably in the range that provides effortless power, and both sound good while doing so.
A difference is more acute at the gas pump, where the V6 outpaces the V8 by an EPA-estimated four miles per gallon in mixed driving – while being less persnickety about regular fuel, at that. The V8 Genesis is rated for 16 miles per gallon in the city and 25 on the highway; a tested R-Spec consistently returned 24 miles per gallon in almost exclusively highway driving during a two-week test. Both engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
But not agile
Very little about the Genesis sedan, from its large size and stately appearance to the ride quality of most versions, suggests it’s a car that you’d push to its handling limits. Steering that’s firm but far short of crisp further discourages you from exploring the full capabilities of your large luxury sedan, but all versions of the Genesis feel stable and planted in routine driving.
As with the straight-line performance, the R-Spec changes increase a limit that the rest of the car doesn’t compel you to explore anyway. The only difference this reviewer observed on the street was a stiffer, bumpier ride. The regular Genesis’ ride quality is already in the camp of good but not outstanding by the standards of big premium sedans; the R-Spec delves further into mediocrity in that regard.
Further detracting from the Genesis R-Spec’s ability to distance itself from the regular Genesis is that its bigger, heavier V8 engine leaves more of the car’s weight on the front end than in the V6 model.
Plenty of luxury
As with other Genesis models, the R-Spec is laden with luxury features and tastefully trimmed with high-quality materials. Roomy, comfortable seating, a large trunk and the available navigation system and adaptive cruise control made it a fine road-trip vehicle.
Many controls, including tuning the stereo, are navigated by spinning a large wheel between the front seats and jumping among various menus – a task best left to a passenger if you have one. But unlike some luxury cars and a growing number of mainstream ones, you at least don’t need to dive into the menus for fairly simple tasks, and it’s fairly user-friendly in the tested 2012 Genesis. Hyundai has tweaked the operation of the system and added features for the 2013 model year.
The Genesis V6 starts at around $35,000, with standard features including power-adjustable heated leather seats, a proximity key system, an in-dash display screen, dual-zone climate control and 17-inch alloy wheels. The $4,800 Premium Package adds a sunroof, navigation system, rearview camera, power-adjustable steering column, memory system for the adjustments, an upgraded stereo system and interior trim, 18-inch wheels, a power rear sunshade, rain-sensing windshield wipers and power-folding mirrors. For $4,300 more, you can add the Technology Package, whose features include a larger screen for the navigation system, radar-based adaptive cruise control, a cooled driver’s seat, a lane departure warning system, further interior and sound system upgrades and a 6-disc DVD changer.
The fully-loaded Genesis V6, with the Premium and Technology packages, has a sticker price of just over $44,000. A Genesis R-Spec, $47,000, adds the sport-tuned suspension and larger wheels – 19 inches – but is otherwise comparably equipped to the loaded V6 model. A V8 model with fewer features and no performance suspension was discontinued for the 2013 model year.
Expect to be able to haggle between $4,000 and $5,000 off the Genesis’ sticker price, with the greater difference coming with the priciest models.
Hyundais include a five-year, 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty on the engine and transmission.
Not worth it
Since it arrived on the market four years ago as a 2009 model, the Genesis has won accolades for departing convincingly from Hyundai’s budget-car image. The R-Spec model was designed as a further demonstration of what the automaker can do – a V8 performance car serving as a halo for the rest of the Genesis line.
The V8 engine is certainly a fine technological achievement. And racetrack testing does demonstrate an improvement to the Genesis’ handling capabilities. But if you’re shopping the Genesis, it’s better to admire the R-Spec than to purchase it.
The Genesis is due for a redesign as a 2014 model. Few details are yet available, but an all-wheel-drive option is expected. But when reviewed in March, the current model of the V6 Genesis was still managing to impress as a fine vehicle for someone who either wants more than the usual practicality in a luxury sedan priced around $40,000, or who wants more luxury than a full-size mainstream sedan would offer.
In part, this is due to continuous tweaks Hyundai has made over the years, most recently with upgraded powertrains last year. In part, Hyundai simply did a fine job in the first place at crafting a premium-quality car with usable interior volume.
In fact, Hyundai did such a good job on the power, refinement and fuel economy of the 3.8-liter V6, that there is no reason to pay $3,000 and endure reduced ride quality and gas mileage for the tested R-Spec V8.
More photos of the 2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec sedan
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Vehicle tested: 2012 Hyundai Genesis
Vehicle base price (MSRP): $34,200
Version tested: 5.0 R-Spec
Version base price (MSRP): $46,500
Vehicle price as tested (MSRP): $47,410
Estimated transaction price as tested**: $43,816
Test vehicle provided by: Hyundai Motor America
Key specifications: Length: 196.3 inches
Width: 74.4 inches
Height: 58.3 inches
Wheelbase: 115.6 inches
Weight: 4,046 pounds
Trunk volume: 15.9 cubic feet
Turning circle: 36.0 feet
Engine (as tested): 5.0-liter V8 with 429 horsepower
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
EPA city mileage: 16 miles per gallon
EPA highway mileage: 25 miles per gallon
EPA combined mileage: 18 miles per gallon
Observed mileage during test: 23.9 miles per gallon
Assembly location: South Korea
For more information: Hyundai website
*Estimated transaction prices are based on data from Truecar.com and dealer quotes.