First Drive: 2012 Hyundai Genesis reviews luxury cars hyundai first drives auto articles
2012 Hyundai Genesis. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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2012 Hyundai Genesis

Las Vegas, Nevada – When Hyundai introduced the Genesis for 2009, it was a substantial departure for an automaker best known for its entry-level vehicles. The new model was Hyundai’s first rear-wheel drive, full-size luxury sedan for the North American market. While it naturally didn’t steal too many sales from the company’s bread-and-butter cars, it picked up its fair share of hardware, including Canadian Car of the Year from the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.

The company has already gone back to the drawing board, and the Genesis emerges with some substantial refreshing for 2012. The interior is essentially untouched, and exterior styling changes are more evolutionary than extreme.

Instead, the bulk of the work is under the hood. The 3.8-litre V6 now receives direct injection, which beefs up the horsepower from 290 to 333 horses, and torque from 264 to 291 lb.-ft. The previous 4.6-litre V8 is replaced with an all-new, direct-injection 5.0-litre V8, which increases available power from 385 horsepower and 333 lb.-ft. of torque to 429 horses and 376 lb.-ft. On both engines, last year’s six-speed automatic is swapped out for one with eight cogs.

First Drive: 2012 Hyundai Genesis reviews luxury cars hyundai first drives auto articles
First Drive: 2012 Hyundai Genesis reviews luxury cars hyundai first drives auto articles
2012 Hyundai Genesis. Click image to enlarge

The V8 also comes in a new single trim line called the R-Spec, which includes a sportier-tuned suspension, very handsome 19-inch wheels, and the highest level of features. Hyundai broadly hints that the R-Spec badge will be applied to other models down the road.

Prices are up slightly over last year. The 3.8 starts at $39,999, and can be optioned to a Premium Package for $44,999, and then to the Technology Package for $49,499. The 5.0 R-Spec is $53,499. It’s packed with more items than you’d probably expect at the price, but for reasons I’ll get into shortly, I’d rather stick with one of the V6 models.

At the moment, the Genesis occupies a thin slice of the market, unable to catch up to rear-wheel luxury competitors such as Chrysler’s 300, or the far more expensive BMW 5 Series or Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Genesis sales peaked at about 1,200 and now about 1,000 go out the door each year in Canada (the Genesis Coupe finds about 3,500 new owners annually). Still, the company doesn’t seem to be too worried, and at the moment seems to view the Genesis more as a next step up for current customers – those currently driving a Sonata, say, or an Azera – rather than a car to draw drivers out of other brands. Part of that, the company reps readily admit, may be due to the fact that all-wheel drive, available on most of the competition, still hasn’t been plugged into the Genesis. Stay tuned, though: it’s coming, although a timeframe wasn’t given.

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