If you are simply trying to get the most for your $50,000, the Genesis 5.0 R-Spec makes a ton of sense — more power than a BMW 550i or Infiniti M56 for the price of a 535i or M37. The ten-spoke wheels add a welcome touch of menace to the quiet exterior, and the hushed 5.0-liter V-8 sounds pretty good when you really wail on it. Even at full throttle, though, it can’t drown out the sound of Hyundai knocking a glass ceiling. The automaker has hit many homeruns over the past two years — including the Genesis — but it still has something to learn when it comes to getting people to spend close to $50,000. The 5.0 R-Spec is nice, of course. It’s fast, luxurious, and well put together. So is the $35,000 Genesis 3.8. The important difference is that the 3.8 competes in a price range where many buyers really want a practical, luxurious, nondescript looking sedan. For $45,000 to $50,000, I think people want to feel a bit special.
Premium competitors shouldn’t breathe easy, though. More recent Hyundai offerings like the Sonata, Elantra, Accent, and Veloster embody a sense of swagger and identity that the brand had not yet earned when it was developing the Genesis. I highly doubt the next one will be so tentatively styled.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
The Genesis R-spec is a disappointing effort from Hyundai. The powertrain is quite nice, with lots of power on tap, and there’s a serious set of wheels and tires: nineteen-inch wheels and available Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position tires. You can power oversteer and have a little fun, but the steering is awful. It’s completely wooden and totally lacking in linearity and precision. It’s heavy without being accurate and it ruins the driving experience for me. It just demonstrates that Hyundai has come a long way but they are not quite to the point where they can build a serious sport sedan. They need to spend a lot more time driving and tearing apart BMW M cars, Mercedes-Benz AMG cars, Jaguar R-type cars, and the Cadillac CTS-V. They don’t know how to do a car like this and have taken themselves too far, too soon. When I was driving the R-spec, the analogy that came to my mind is that you can take someone with average cooking ability, send them to the fanciest grocery store in town with lots of cash, and have them buy the highest-quality ingredients, but it doesn’t mean they will be able to create a great meal. With this V-8 engine and these tires and other components, Hyundai also has a stellar list of ingredients, but it hasn’t combined them into a five-star meal. It all still comes down to the execution, whether it’s in a kitchen or an auto-development center, and Hyundai has not yet earned its master chef certificate when it comes to high-performance luxury.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Hyundai’s biggest problem with this Genesis is the out-of-place R-Spec badge. The Koreans have done a nice job with their big-displacement, high-power V-8, but the entire package comes off as a refined, luxury sedan and nothing more. The racy nameplate on the trunk distorts expectations, though, leading you expect something more dramatic. Comparisons with M, AMG, and V cars–cars that cost $20,000 to $40,000 more–aren’t appropriate. Hyundai is aware of that, but the undefined R-Spec badge leaves some uncertainty for those who don’t sit in on corporate product planning meetings. Our test car would be much more comfortable with itself if it were simply sold as the Hyundai Genesis 5.0 with the sport suspension package.
Marketing confusion aside, the 5.0-liter Genesis is a pleasant luxury sedan that makes good on all of the fundamentals but comes up a bit short in the details. The new 429-hp engine delivers on every expectation, accelerating instantaneously, effortlessly, and linearly. The shifts from Hyundai’s eight-speed automatic aren’t as crisp as what you get from a ZF gearbox in a BMW or an Audi. Instead, they’re practically invisible in their smoothness, like you might expect from a Lexus. The ride is appreciably firmer than that in a standard Genesis, but it proved plenty comfortable over a weekend trip to Milwaukee and back to Ann Arbor. While the interior is comfortable, attractive, and easy-to-live-with, the center stack and center console materials feel a bit cheaper than what you get in a German or Japanese luxury sedan. The steering doesn’t offend me, but I don’t disagree with Joe DeMatio’s assertion that it could use improvement. This is likely where the difference in expectations shows. In my mind, the Genesis — in any trim — is a Lexus competitor. Hyundai hasn’t come close capturing the dynamic attributes of a BMW or Jaguar because that’s not the target they’re aiming for. We might prefer an M5 or an E63 AMG, but there’s no shame in chasing the success Lexus has had. Like every other Genesis model, the Genesis 5.0 R-Spec is a steal if you want luxury, space, and power but can do without brand cachet.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
This 429-hp, 5.0-liter V-8 isn’t really necessary in the Genesis, but I’m glad that Hyundai engineers decided to offer it. I mean, who can complain about this kind of passing power? Owners of luxurious large sedans tend to gravitate toward this type of power, so the R-spec Genesis gives them one more reason to consider ditching their old German or Japanese sedans. This car isn’t as good — or nearly as prestigious — as the best from BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, or even Lexus and Infiniti, but it’s also quite a bit less expensive. I’m disappointed by the new eight-speed automatic transmission’s sometimes slow downshifts, however, which slightly diminishes the effectiveness of all this power. Also, I can’t argue with Joe DeMatio’s comments about the car’s steering, and I felt quite a bit of steering kickback when cornering aggressively over roads that were moderately bumpy. Still, this a super-comfortable car that’s lavishly appointed and even offers the same 17/26 mpg city/highway EPA fuel-mileage rating as the Genesis 4.6, with its 385-hp, 4.6-liter V-8.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
No one will ever mistake the Genesis 5.0 R-Spec for a Mercedes E63 AMG or a Jaguar XFR or a BMW M5, but then again, that was never really Hyundai’s intent. Instead, the R-Spec, for which you pay only a $2000 premium over the Genesis 4.6, is aimed at Japanese competitors like the Lexus GS460 and the Infiniti M56. In that company, it holds up pretty well. It is priced about $10,000 less than either of the GS or the M, boasts a powerful V-8 engine that produces 429 hp (versus the GS460’s 342 hp and the M56’s 420 hp), and offers a refined eight-speed transmission.
The Genesis is a very nice highway cruiser and offers a very comfortable driving environment; for those who want a modicum of sportiness, the R-Spec’s upgraded engine and suspension modifications offer a bit more power and slightly sharper handling. True sport sedan aficionados will likely pass this vehicle by, but it still offers very good value for the money. One more model in the Genesis mix definitely a good thing.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec
Base price (with destination): $47,350
Price as tested: $47,935
8-speed automatic transmission w/Shiftronic
Electronic stability control
Lane departure warning system
Selective damping shock absorbers
R-Spec sport tuned multi-link suspension
19-in. machine finished alloy wheels
Rain-sensing wipers w/auto-defogging windshield
Leather seating w/heated seats
Cooled driver seat
Tilt/telescopic steering column
Power rear sunshade
Lexicon 17-speaker audio system
Navigation system w/8-inch display
Driver information system w/multimedia controller
Electronic parking brake
Options on this vehicle:
iPod cable – $35
Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position tires (245/45R19) – $1400
Key options not on vehicle:
5.0-liter aluminum V-8
Horsepower: 429 hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 376 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
8-speed automatic transmission w/Shiftronic
Curb weight: 4046 lb
19-inch machine finished alloy wheels
Competitors: Mercedes-Benz E550, BMW 550i, Audi A6 3.0T, Infiniti M56