2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec review:

2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec

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Starting at $34,200
  • Engine V6 Cylinder Engine
  • Drivetrain Rear Wheel Drive
  • MPG 22 MPG
  • Passenger Capacity 5
  • Body Type Sedans

Roadshow Editors' Rating

6.8 Overall
  • Cabin tech 8
  • Performance tech 6
  • Design 7

The Good The 2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec is a comfortable, large sedan with an affordable price tag. The Lexicon stereo sounds great. USB and HD Radio are standard features.

The Bad The R-Spec upgrades don't really boost performance. BlueLink telematics and Bluetooth audio streaming are not available. Parts of the cabin look and feel cheap.

The Bottom Line It may look like a sport sedan on paper, but the 2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec's feature additions amount to little more than a styling upgrade.

When we last took a look at Hyundai's Genesis, it was from behind the wheel of a 2009 Genesis 4.6 model, not long after the model's launch. We were impressed by the navigation system and the refinement of the automaker's first real foray into the luxury sedan market. But that was three years ago and time waits for no car, so its unfortunate that the Genesis 5.0 R-Spec hasn't changed much since that first encounter.

However, there's the small matter of that new, larger, and more powerful 5.0-liter V-8 engine and the sport-tuned R-Spec suspension package to attend to. The R-Spec package makes a night-and-day difference in the performance of the Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec's cornering and stopping abilities, so it was with a good deal of excitement that I settled into the "ultra premium" leather driver's seat to see if this big, black sedan could back up the performance claim of that bright, red "R."

As I mentioned earlier, the numerals at the end of the Genesis 5.0's moniker indicate that this sedan is powered by a 5.0-liter V-8 engine that uses direct-injection technology to achieve an output of 429 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque when fueled by premium gasoline. A single-option, eight-speed automatic transmission transmits that power to the rear axle and features a manual shift mode. All Genesis models feature Sachs Amplitude Damping Shock Absorbers that are passively adaptive, but the R-Spec model features a unique, sportier tune and larger 19-inch wheels fill its wheel wells.

Sportier suspension? More power? Bigger wheels? So far, the 5.0 R-Spec sounds good on paper.

Unfortunately, all of the V-8's power is available near the top of the power band (max power comes at 6,400rpm and torque peaks at 5,000rpm), but the automatic gearbox simply doesn't want to give you access to any of it. This is mostly due to the fact that transmission only features one shift program, an economically tuned default that is hesitant to let the revs rise freely. As a result, the Genesis 5.0 R-Spec always feels much less powerful and less responsive than it potentially could be. I would expect a vehicle that wears an R-Spec badge to at least offer some sort of "Sport mode" shift and engine program that sharpens up the throttle response and raises the shift points.

The 5.0 is more powerful than previous iterations, but its transmission keeps that power under lock and key. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

As it is, you have to request your shifts by ham-footing the accelerator and waiting for the computer to catch up to your intentions or by using the manual mode to select gears by nudging the shift lever around. Unfortunately, timing your shifts in anticipation of a corner is tricky using either method and, once you get the revs up, you're punished with a sound that's more akin to a video game approximation of what a V-8 engine should sound like than the growl of the performance variant of a premium sedan.

Likewise, the R-Spec handling upgrades don't really make themselves felt when driving with zest. For example, the larger 19-inch wheels are shod with tires that are no wider than the stock 235-width tires. So while you do gain a bit of turn-in responsiveness, there's not much more lateral grip to be found from this upgrade. The suspension tune is stiffer than stock, but pales in comparison to the controlled, yet supple, ride of the 2013 Lexus LS 460. (Of course, the Genesis 5.0 R-Spec is significantly less expensive than the LS.)

The R-Spec suspension is stiffer and its wheels larger, but the handling is far from "sporty." Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The addition of a true, active adaptive suspension system and a sport program for the gear box would make the R-Spec package worth the money for me, even if it were more expensive as a result. The addition of paddle shifters would also be a nice upgrade to make the R-Spec trim level feel special. In its current setup, the R-Spec doesn't feel much sportier than the standard Genesis model and I feel that I can safely call the R-Spec package more of an appearance upgrade than an actual performance booster. Check that box if you like the look of the dark chrome headlamps, the leather-wrapped steering wheel, or the larger wheels, but don't expect any gains beyond the aesthetic sort.

After dropping all pretense of sportiness and deciding to drive the Genesis 5.0 R-Spec like a grandpa, I found that the sedan's ride was satisfyingly quiet and comfortable. Fuel economy is rated at 16 city, 25 highway, and 19 combined mpg, which is nothing to get too excited about. If you're not in it for the performance (and if you've gotten this far into the review, then you're probably not), consider stepping down to an optioned up Genesis 3.8 for a jump to a combined 22 mpg and just buy your own 19-inch wheels with all the money you'll save on the sticker price and at the pump.

Cabin comfort and technology
I've said it a dozen times before: Hyundai is a master of making cheap cabin materials seem more expensive than they actually are. Most of the points where the driver comes into regular contact have received a bit of extra attention to feel good to the touch and in the hand. Nowhere is this more true than the center-console-mounted rotary controller for the infotainment system. This metallic knob twists around and nudges in four directions to make selections, clunking into its various positions with a nice, heavy feel. Surrounding it are metallic buttons that access the handful of functions available through the standard infotainment system.

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