2012 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec
2012 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec. Click image to enlarge
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Hyundai Canada

Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony

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2012 Hyundai Genesis

The Hyundai Genesis was the Korean brand’s first serious foray into the North American luxury market. Not since Toyota crashed the luxury party by introducing the Lexus LS has any brand made such waves. The Genesis reflects Hyundai’s aspirations to move its brand further upmarket, or to possibly split the Genesis name into its own answer to Lexus, Acura, Infiniti and the longstanding European luxury brands, BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Volvo.

Before we get into too many details about the Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec, let’s first clear up some confusion about the R-Spec badge attached to the bumper. It should not be confused with Audi’s top performance RS models, Chrysler’s SRT division, Honda’s Type R/SiR or Nissan’s GT-R Spec V models. Putting Rs and Ss and Specs together is very suggestive of high performance, and commonly applied to sporty or racy models. Gee, I wonder why…

Anyhow, Hyundai makes no great claims that the Genesis Sedan is a sports car — after all, it has the Genesis coupe to fill that niche. Forget the promise of a sport-tuned suspension and the fact that the company entered the Genesis R-Spec in the Sports/Performance Over $50K category in AJAC’s Canadian Car of the Year testing.

2012 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec
2012 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec. Click image to enlarge

It’s not a sports car. It’s a luxury car.

Fixating on its performance credentials only leaves us wanting seat time in an M5 or a Cayman R. The badge does not make the car.

In retrospect, I should really only have been thinking of the Genesis 5.0 R-Spec as the fully loaded Genesis and the only trim available with the 5.0-litre “Tau” V8. And at $53,499, the R-Spec is an excellent value to take on Hyundai’s targeted 5 Series, E-Class and Infiniti M. The Hyundai has the numbers to compare well on the spec sheets, and the features and value to put them on notice, but it doesn’t really have the “breeding” to match those cars’ amazing blend of performance and luxury. The generations of development invested by those companies result in greater poise and capability at the limits of handling, where sport sedans are judged.

Anyhow, back to our luxury car tester, the Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec. That 5.0-litre V8 makes an impressive 429 hp at 6,400 rpm and 376 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm, while keeping fuel consumption at 13.1 L/100 km city and 8.1 L/100 km highway. Hyundai applies the latest power and efficiency technologies: direct fuel injection (GDI in Hyundai-speak) and variable valve timing on two separate cams. Observed fuel consumption was 14.2 L/100 km in my usual mix of city and highway driving, and including my usual habit of stomping on the gas pedal like it was an insect threatening my wife with untold ickiness. If you’re looking to save at the pumps, this is not the answer.

2012 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec
2012 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec
2012 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec
2012 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec. Click image to enlarge

If you want abundant, silky smooth power for tearing up highways and cruising with the authority of V8 power at your beck and call, the R-Spec answers that call in spades. The engine revs with ease and makes a pleasant growl, and a new eight-speed automatic transmission matches Lexus and BMW in the ratio wars. It delivers smooth shifts at all speeds, but it’s not a sport-oriented transmission, as evidenced by the lack of paddle shifters, and the manual mode is no match for Volkswagen’s DSG.

But really, most Genesis owners — even those that pony up for the R-Spec — will likely be more concerned with the amenities and interior quality than super-fast downshifts. And this is where the Genesis just smokes the competition. While there will always be different opinions on the car’s interior design, Hyundai follows the same approach as Lexus, with a curving dash and door inserts for a flowing, graceful interior, with just enough chrome brightwork and satin effect accents to break up the heavy, black colour scheme.

Although some of the curves aren’t my taste, the fit and finish is excellent, the leather seats with heating and cooling functions feeling particularly rich and inviting. Plastics were also of high quality, and every large, clearly labelled buttons, switch and handle had a firm action that promised durability over the long haul.

The interior also delivered credible functionality, with a knob controller for the touch-screen interface and easily-accessible Bluetooth pairing and phonebook functions. One big flaw was that the USB connection completely rejected my iPhone, not even allowing it to charge with the available iPod connector before it started vibrating uncontrollably and yelling at me: “Device not recognized! Device not recognized!” I have since learned that Hyundai dealers will be happy to sell you a specialized adapter that combines both Aux-in and USB jacks to peaceably connect iPhones.

Back seat occupants are similarly treated to leather, but only the outboard positions offer heated, contoured bucket seats, with ample leg and head room. The middle seating position is high and flat, poorly supported, and best used for the wide armrest that includes cupholders for rear VIP passengers.

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