Driven: 2012 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec
Unless you’ve been living in a cave in the wilderness for the past 12 months, it’s impossible to miss the huge strides Hyundai has gained in market share. Its Sonata mid-side sedan and Elantra compact have won numerous industry awards, and dealers can’t keep cars on their lots. In fact, Elantra supply is so short these days that dealers are selling from inventory in the pipeline, not on the showroom floor.
If you get the sense that Hyundai is doing a lot of things right these days, you’d be correct. When Hyundai announced the Genesis R-Spec last February, we’ll admit to being a bit skeptical; Hyundai had proven that they could build and sell mainstream and even luxury cars, but what did the Koreans know about building a sport sedan, long the domain of manufacturers such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz? After all, not much has been done with their sole sports car, the Genesis Coupe, since launch, which has many critics questioning how serious Hyundai is about attracting performance-oriented buyers.
Check out our full review of the 2012 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec after the jump.
The new Tau 5.0-liter V-8 is superb, and it pulls hard from 2,000 RPM to its peak horsepower at 6,400 RPM.
There still isn’t a clear answer as to whether or not the Koreans know what they’re doing in the sport sedan segment, but now that we’ve driven the 2012 Hyundai Genesis R Spec, we’re a lot more convinced that Hyundai knows how to build a sport sedan. The new Tau 5.0-liter V-8 is superb, and it pulls hard from 2,000 RPM to its peak horsepower at 6,400 RPM. The engine’s 429 horsepower and 376 ft-lb. of torque are good enough to get the car from zero to sixty in just over five seconds, although the Genesis R-Spec feels even faster than that. Traction control isn’t overly intrusive, allowing a small degree of wheelspin before stepping in to reign in the enthusiastic driver.
Handling and Responsiveness
There’s not quite as much feedback through the steering wheel as with the BMW, but the ride quality is superb and the vehicle clearly communicates its intentions back to the driver.
On the road, the 2012 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec feels very much like the 3-Series BMW equipped with the Sport Package option. There’s not quite as much feedback through the steering wheel as with the BMW, but the ride quality is superb and the vehicle clearly communicates its intentions back to the driver. There’s still a slight amount of body roll in corners, but it’s only really noticeable in quick left-right-left transitions, and the Genesis R-Spec is much better composed than it’s less-powerful (and more softly sprung) stable mates. Brakes were easy to modulate and had no fade during our time behind the wheel, but we didn’t have the opportunity to test the R-Spec’s handling limits on a racetrack, where issues like brake fade become readily apparent.
That’s not to say the Genesis R-Spec is without fault. The 8-speed automatic transmission won’t hold a selected gear in manual mode to redline, which negates the purpose of having a manually-shiftable automatic in the first place. Aside from that, gear changes were smooth and relatively crisp, but more on par with Acura’s TL SH-AWD than with Infiniti’s M56. In other words, the Shiftronic transmission used in the Genesis R-Spec is good, but it could be better.
The ability to do even better goes with the interior, seats, and steering wheel, as well. The seats are comfortable, but they’re identical to the seats in the regular Genesis sedan. Aimed at luxury, not sport, the seats lack sufficient side or hip bolstering for enthusiastic driving. Worse, the steering wheel rim is thin, with no thumb cut-outs at 9:00 and 3:00, and the leather covering is almost too smooth to deliver a good grip. The steering wheel is the human-machine interface on any sporting car, and Hyundai would be well-served to go back to the drawing board on this item. Aside from that, the interior needs more to differentiate the R-Spec from the regular Genesis, and subtle badging and perhaps some contrasting stitching would go a long way towards improving the interior.
So who’s going to buy the Genesis R-Spec? We don’t see the first model drawing in many buyers from BMW or Mercedes, but it gives the Hyundai Sonata, Azera, and current Genesis owners a clear upgrade path. They’ll sell as many as they care to bring in, and Hyundai will quickly apply the lessons learned from the 2012 Genesis R-Spec to the very next model. Don’t be surprised when a future Genesis R-Spec becomes a legitimate sport sedan contender to the likes of BMW, Infiniti, and Mercedes-Benz.