First Drive: 2012 Hyundai Genesis Sedan 5.0 R-Spec

The Hyundai Genesis launched for 2009, and it has done pretty well for itself, with some 29,000 units leaving dealer lots last year. That number is a ways off from the big boys (the Mercedes-Benz E-class and the BMW 5-series) but betters the entries from Infiniti and Lexus. That's not a bad performance, considering the Genesis is Hyundai's first-ever rear-wheel drive luxury sedan (in the U.S. market at least), and that the Genesis is sold in only two versions, the six-cylinder Genesis 3.8 and the V-8 Genesis 4.6.

Adding to the family
For 2012, Hyundai is addressing a key missing element in the Genesis family. No, it's not all-wheel drive -- that's still not available -- it's a sporty variant. The new 5.0 R-Spec endeavors to fill that role.

A Hyundai 5.0
To do so, Hyundai has given it a larger engine of, yes, 5.0 liters. Hyundai's biggest-ever V-8, it's part of the Tau engine family, and is essentially a stroked and direct-injected version of the 4.6-liter (which continues). The 5.0 makes an impressive 429 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque -- with over 330 pound feet available at only 2000 rpm.

The 5.0-liter is paired with a new eight-speed automatic (which replaces the six-speed box in the other Genesis models as well). Hyundai estimates a 0-to-60 time of 5.1 seconds. The engine is plenty responsive even if it doesn't have a whole lot of personality. And the eight-speed gearbox can be stirred manually with a plus/minus shift gate but there are no paddles.

Besides the bigger engine, the R-Spec boasts...uh, not a lot. The suspension is firmed up a bit -- the other Genesis models have been softened -- and the steering is recalibrated. Although the steering is firmer on center than the standard car's, the electro-hydraulic system is springy and artificial when you wind on more lock. And while the chassis tuning felt pretty good on our short drive, it didn't have quite the over-the-road solidity of the best competitors.

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Both the Genesis and Equus are very capable cars, and will probably appeal to consumers who want something luxurious and don't like driving. I just cringe at the thought of these two models in the same showroom with the Accent. It's kind of "Phaetonic".

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