2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0L R-Spec Road Test and Review - VIDEO ENHANCED
Simply put, this is the best car for the money
By Thom Cannell
The Auto Channel
Hyundai recently unveiled it’s 2012 Genesis, a refresh of a car that is barely a year old. These are our early thoughts on the vehicle pending longer drives. Did we tell you there are three Genesis, a V-6 and two V-8s, and that all use a new Hyundai built and developed 8-speed Shiftronic automatic transmission with manual mode? Or that both updated Genesis engines (3.8 and 5.0-liter)use direct injection? No wonder they compete against mid-luxury brands like Infiniti M, BMW 5-Series, Cadillac CTS, Lincoln MKS and others? And we, too, continue to struggle with using Hyundai and luxury in the same sentence, but less after driving these cars.
You’ll see the difference between 2011 and 2012 Genesis in subtle ways, like new wrap-around headlamps that contain LED accents, a new grille and bumper, and revised chrome accent trim that uses a more subtle, darker finish. At the rear you’ll see integrated twin exhausts that are sculpted in an asymmetric design and revised rear lamps that better integrate into the tail. If you’re really looking closely, 19” wheels mean the 5.0-liter Direct Injected R-spec Genesis is next to you. 17-18” wheels mean a 3.8-liter DI V-6 or 4.6-liter MPI V-8. And why two V-8s? The new power plant also slots into the premium Equus luxury car.
Inside the interior trim colors are changed—no biggie, but handsome—and totally befits mid-level luxury. You get nice audio and speed controls on the steering wheel, available lane departure warning, electroluminescent gauges that feature large numerals for a quick read, and perforated leather seats. The console looks and operates somewhat like a mashup between BMW and Audi with assignment buttons surrounding a command wheel. It’s rather easy to use, however the navigation database had trouble finding one particular destination.
You’ll like the finely inlaid fit of the controls, as well as the leather covering of the dash and steering wheel. Not as great are the combination of a thick A pillar and large exterior mirrors. Combined, they can obscure oncoming left side traffic. Also, I find the steering wheel needs a bit more range in its electrically adjustable telescoping as my elbows are normally in and tight. As instructed by the master, Jackie Stewart, the wheel rim is set at my extended wrist and I couldn't get the wheel that far away from my body without moving the seat back a bit. If you've watched NASCAR... And, while excoriating electrically adjustable steering, like most, it simply moves too quickly to stop where you want it. If seats moved as quickly you'd risk whiplash every time rake was adjusted.
Watch TACH's exclusive Genesis R-Spec promo video
Before we get into driving the car let’s consider engines and transmission. Oddly, it’s the new 8-speed transmission that impresses us most. In the USA, 6-speeds are still considered premium products, 7-speeds are barely available and 8-speed transmissions are in-development products at BMW, Ford, GM, Land Rover, Chrysler, and ZF. Lexus fits one to its flagship LS 460; Hyundai’s is available on a $40,000 car and it is good, very very good. Smooth, with imperceptible shifts, it is light weight due to extensive use of engineered plastic and aluminum, uses direct control solenoid valves for smoother shifts, and can skip shifts (like 7 to 5) for better control and economy. Manual mode shift on the console—no paddle shifters yet—mean precise control when needed.
Engines? There’s a DI (direct injected) 3.8-liter V-6 with 333 hp and powerful 291 pounds feet of torque. It’s coupled to that smooth-shifting 8-speed, making us ask why you’d want a V-8; our answer is in the next paragraph. The DI V-6 has continuously variable exhaust and intake valving for emissions goodness, a variable intake with two runner lengths, maintenance-free steel timing chain, and it delivers 18 City and 27 Highway MPG. The older multi-point injected V-8 is unchanged.
What’s new, hot, and tasty is the 429-horsepower 5.0-liter. If we had another few pages, or a separate story, we could describe its wonders. Suffice to say it delivers all those pony’s on premium, less on regular fuel, and it’s high-pressure die cast aluminum block and aluminum head make 376 pound-feet of torque, also on premium. Like the 3.8 it has tuned induction, dual continuous valve timing, 2,175 psi fuel injection, a rigidity-inducing engine bed plate, light weight clamshell exhaust headers coupled to ultra thin-wall catalysts, and a host of other features. It rocks.
So how do the R-spec bits come together under your right foot? The short answer is, a bit disconnectedly. That 5.0-liter engine is a raging river of power, delivered smoother than Guinness from a tap. Under the car the R-spec has a heavy-duty hollow 19 mm rear stabilizer bar, uprated springs and Sachs dampers with 25-30% increased damping over the V-6. While it is balanced, the steering feels wonky on rough, patchwork roads, which describes most of Michigan's secondary roads where we tested. It feels like the whole steering rack shuttles side-to-side, causing feedback in the steering wheel. If both wheels run in roughened tracks the impression and sensation is amplified. This causes the steering wheel to alternately push or pull on your hands. When the going smooths out, so does the steering. And it’s best to initiate turn in either late, or early to adjust for what feels like too-soft rack bushings. This is likely the tuning and mounting of Electronic Power Steering and we’ve found reason to comment on almost all EPS-equipped cars.
The R-spec, which Hyundai says is not to be confused with a competitor to BMW's M or Mercedes’ AMG specialty cars, can cause other distractions. Specifically, on curves it can feel floaty, which means the car does not come to rest firmly when traversing smooth rises. It comes down too softly, as if your head was falling into a down pillow when you expected firm foam. If you go over abrupt compressions, it can again feel a bit unadjusted. These complaints are monkey's picking at fleas. The car, overall, is smooth and comfortable so the niggling little defects stand out and don't allow the car to feel as poised as it ought.
During our test drive, temperatures exceeded 92°F and the cooled seats, we had the black leather interior, a joyous luxury, particularly after cars sat in sunshine. We also found it easy to use the navigation system and maps, switching to XM satellite radio or FM, and all the other electronics which we cannot say about all cars. Why we couldn’t find the restaurant comes down to a flaw in the database, or our input. Because of the heat we chose not to experience the heated rear seats, which have a nice bit of knee room and comfort. And mostly, we really anticipate a week-long test to confirm or refute or first impressions.
So, when we get an opportunity for a full test we’ll flesh out these comments. In the meantime, if you’re shopping in this segment of the market, be assured that it will be hard to find more car for the money than the freshened Genesis and Genesis R-Spec.
Steve Purdy in The Auto Channel Detroit Bureau contributed wisdom and insight to this review