If the prospect of a Hyundai Genesis sedan with a more efficient and powerful V-6 engine doesn't get you going, maybe the semi-premium sedan's new R-Spec trim will. The 2012 Genesis R-Spec introduces a third engine to the car's lineup: a 5.0-liter V-8 pumping out 429 horsepower.
Debuting at the Chicago Auto Show, the 2012 Hyundai Genesis sedan is prepared to battle competitors from above, like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and, more directly, the Chrysler 300C. Whether you choose the V-6 or one of the two V-8 models, the Genesis uses a new eight-speed automatic transmission.
In addition to the transmission, direct-injection technology increases the power and efficiency of the 3.8-liter V-6 Genesis. Power is now 333 horsepower (43 more ponies than before), and torque has risen from 264 pound-feet to 291 pound-feet. Hyundai expects highway fuel efficiency to increase to 29 mpg, though city fuel economy probably won't stray far from the 2011 model's 18 mpg. With power on the 4.6-liter V-8 remaining at 385 horsepower, this makes the V-6 model more of a value than before. Don't be surprised if the 2012 Genesis 3.8 accelerates as fast as a 2011 Genesis V-8.
The real news for the 2012 Genesis is the R-Spec model. Its 5.0-liter V-8 makes 429 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 376 pound-feet of torque at 5000 rpm. This latest version of Hyundai's Tau V-8 has a revised bed plate to improve block rigidity and lower NVH-both important considerations since the engine also replaces the 4.6-liter V-8 in the larger 2012 Equus.
For the full R-Spec package, we'd recommend upgrading to the Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 summer performance tires. Larger front and rear stabilizer bars should also help improve the driving experience, and form the backbone of what the automaker calls "aggressive chassis tuning." The R-Spec adds a little flash with dark chrome inserts in the headlights and unique 19-inch alloys. The steering has been tweaked, too, though we'll have to wait until we get some seat time before determining whether it's a true competitor with sportier entries in the segment.
Front brake rotors on the 4.6 and 5.0 models are up to 13.6 inches; the 3.8 model gets four-piston brake calipers and 13.0-inch rotors. Fuel economy of the R-Spec model matches that of the 2011 Chrysler 300C: 16/25 mpg city/highway.
Efficiency on the Chrysler 300 and Hyundai Genesis may be comparable, but even in refreshed form, the Genesis four-door falls behind its American rival in terms of design. Genesis styling is as understated as before, though the front grille is definitely bolder. But it's awkward on the 2011 and 2012 models without a Genesis or Hyundai badge.
A close look at the 2012 Genesis reveals that the headlights have been redesigned, incorporating daytime running lights and, like everything from the Kia Sportage to the Cadillac CTS, LED accent lights. The brushed aluminum trim around the side windows is new, as are the reshaped exhaust tips. The refreshed taillight design is immediately reminiscent of the Infiniti M sedan.
All the boxes are checked on the safety front with, with eight air bags, electronic active head restraints, stability control, and the optional Lane Departure Warning System. To help ensure that the Genesis isn't more difficult to park than an Elantra, the full-size four-door has eight ultrasonic sensors on the front and rear bumpers and a rear backup camera.
The 2012 Genesis fills an important niche for customers who want more than the outgoing Azera can offer, but don't need the size and expense of the flagship Equus. When the Genesis goes on sale this summer, the R-Spec model will help Hyundai raise transaction prices as well as serve as yet another halo model. As long as 2012 Genesis prices are kept in check, the target remains on the backs of Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.