First Drive

2012 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec

An exceptional new luxury car with a poweful new engine


When Hyundai introduced its Genesis sedan for 2009, it clearly had the German contingent in its sights. The whole notion was to produce a full-size luxury car with the engineering and features expected in this class at a significantly lower price. While the Hyundai name did not carry anywhere near the cache of the German marques, the car was amazingly good – good enough to be named AJAC’s Canadian Car Of The Year and North American Car Of the Year.

To give its mainstream luxury car some added presence in the market, Hyundai has now given it the hot rod treatment. The 2012 Genesis R-Spec takes direct aim at the high-performance division of the German companies.

Where Audi has RS, BMW it’s M-Series and Mercedes, AMG, Hyundai now has R-Spec. Vehicles carrying these descriptors are hugely capable conveyances with steering, suspension, brakes and drivetrains developed specifically for high performance.

The 2012 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec has a new 429-hp, 5.0-litre V-8 powering the rear wheels through a new eight-speed automatic transmission. The most powerful Hyundai yet, it is a supremely capable big sedan thanks to unique suspension tuning that includes lightweight, hollow, anti-roll bars, higher spring rates and dampers developed and supplied by Sachs AG of Germany.

The suspension upgrades were aimed specifically at improving front-rear balance and stability while reducing body roll and speeding up turn-in. The R-Spec also gets unique 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in performance rubber and larger (345-mm) four-piston front brake calipers.

The second-generation Tau V-8 is an enlarged version of the 4.6-litre version used previously. In addition to the added displacement, 44 hp and 43 lb-ft of torque, it gets a high-pressure Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) system. By injecting fuel at more than 2,200 psi and using powerful electronics to control multiple injections and sparks in each cylinder, the GDI system is able to control the burn more effectively, increasing the amount of power obtained from each unit of fuel, and thus the efficiency.

Other changes include a solid plate attached to the bottom of the aluminum block for added rigidity and reduced NVH and revised camshaft and timing chain for improved valve train stability.

Despite the considerable increase in power, the new V-8 all but duplicates the fuel mileage of the outgoing version. The Tau V-8 has been named to Ward’s ten Best Engines list each year since its introduction.

The other new drivetrain development is Hyundai’s own eight-speed automatic transmission. Developed entirely in-house and the subject of 130 patent applications, it replaces the six-speed Aisin unit used previously and offers a 6% improvement in efficiency.

The R-Spec exhibits a great deal of class with only subtle markings to distinguish its elevated position: a small R-Spec badge on the deck lid, the unique wheels and the sound, under wide open throttle, emanating from those big dual pipes.

The R-Spec needs a little more steering and suspension development to play with the German letter-series competitors on a twisty track, but it has the engine and transmission to do so. And of course, at $53,499 it has a price advantage of tens of thousands of dollars!

The "base" Genesis also gets a serious upgrade for 2012. It too starts with a dose of steroids. Thanks to a new Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) system the 3.8-litre "Lambda" V-6 now has 333-horsepower, more than any naturally-aspirated competitor. Premium fuel is recommended but even if you use the cheaper stuff you only lose five or six of the 43 additional hp of the new engine! Paired with the new eight-speed automatic, city fuel economy has improved from 11.4 L/100 km in the city to 11.1 and from 7.2 to 6.9 on the highway.

The base 2012 Genesis also gets a revised grill, headlights, front bumper, rocker panel, rear lights, rear bumper with integrated exhaust outlets and new 17-inch wheels. On the inside there are a number of upgrades as well including new trim colors.

On the feature front, it is available with lane departure warning, power folding mirrors with puddle lamps and heated rear seats. There are four trim levels: Genesis 3.8 $39,999, Premium ($44,999), Tech ($49,999) and 5.0 R-Spec ($53,499).



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