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2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec review: 2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec

The specs look good on paper, but can a more powerful engine and an R-Spec handling package breathe new life into Hyundai's aging Genesis sedan?

Antuan Goodwin Reviews Editor / Cars
Antuan Goodwin gained his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and electrification to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable.
Expertise Reviewing cars and car technology since 2008 focusing on electrification, driver assistance and infotainment Credentials
  • North American Car, Truck and SUV of the Year (NACTOY) Awards Juror
Antuan Goodwin
7 min read

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.


2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec

The Good

The <b>2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec</b> 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.

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."

2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec (pictures)

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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.

This multimedia controller almost makes the rest of the cabin feel cheap by comparison.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Hyundai's Ultimate Navigation infotainment system is standard for 4.6 and 5.0 models and features a large, 8-inch color display that is commanded by the control knob. The system is built around flash-memory-based navigation software that features SiriusXM NavTraffic and weather. This is a fairly simple navigation system (there are no 3D maps or Web connectivity), but the system has aged surprisingly well, for the most part.

Audio is provided by a 528-watt Lexicon 7.1 premium audio system that features 17 speakers. Audio sources include an in-dash six-disc DVD changer, HD Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, and USB and auxiliary audio inputs that can be bridged to form a high-speed iPod input with a $35 cable (the only optional feature that our 5.0 R-Spec model was equipped with). Bluetooth hands-free calling features voice command and address book sync. Users can also voice input addresses via a series of spoken prompts.

The Ultimate Navigation system is simple, yet effective.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

It doesn't do much, but what it does, Hyundai's Ultimate Navigation system does well. However, there are a few features that I would like to see in the next iteration of this aging vehicle. For starters, Hyundai's BlueLink telematics system is not available on this, arguably the automaker's flagship model. Likewise, there's no Bluetooth A2DP audio-streaming option, which is bad news for owners of non-Apple smartphones who want to listen to audio on their devices. These are small omissions, but the tech landscape has changed over the last few years, and Hyundai needs to evolve the Genesis to keep up.

As I said, the cabin of the $46,500 Genesis 5.0 R-Spec is a nice place to sit. It's comfortable and rather quiet. However, look closer and you will notice all sorts of places where Hyundai has cut corners to keep the sticker price below $50k. For example, the buttons on the dashboard are of the same cheap plastic that you'd expect to find in the Elantra. So is the dull, black plastic that make up the hub of the steering wheel. The "ultra-premium leather" that wraps the dashboard, steering-wheel rim, door panels, and seat surfaces is of the thinnest variety; and while both front buckets are heated, only the driver's seat receives cooling ventilation. Avoid looking too closely and you'll likely be pleased with the economy with which Hyundai have chosen to tackle this cabin, but direct comparisons between the latest German and Japanese premium models paint the Genesis as a decidedly "economy car" light.

The Genesis' cabin is nice, but it's easy to see where corners were cut to keep the price low.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

If I can continue to pick nits, the 5.0 R-Spec's steering wheel is the same, rather large tiller that you'll find in any Genesis model (albeit wrapped in leather rather than trimmed with wood). This wheel simply never really felt right in my hands, sitting at an odd angle regardless of how I adjusted it. I would like to see a smaller-diameter, thicker-rimmed wheel with a heavier steering feel for at least the R-Spec model to help it to feel sportier and special. Perforated leather trim and sportier pedals would also help here. While you're in there, Hyundai, a retune of the R-Spec's power steering for a weightier feel and fewer turns to lock would also be nice.

In sum
While the Genesis sedan starts at about $35,000 for the 3.8-liter model, choosing a $46,500 R-Spec model is an all-or-nothing affair. Everything is standard, with the only option being that $35 iPod cable. Add $875 for destination charges and you reach our as-tested price of $47,410.

The Genesis 5.0 R-Spec compares most favorably with the likes of the Ford Taurus SHO or the Chrysler 300 SRT8.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

At that price, the Hyundai Genesis seriously undercuts the cars that Hyundai would like us to believe it competes against. However, put this sedan next to a Mercedes Benz E Class, the BMW 5 Series, or even the Lexus LS, and it becomes obvious that you get what you pay for. Personally, I think Hyundai's comparison expectations are a bit high, and choose to compare the Genesis 5.0 R-Spec to something like the Chrysler 300 SRT8 or Ford Taurus SHO -- both arguably premium large sedans, but still grounded in the Genesis' pricing and quality reality. In this company, the Genesis 5.0 compares more favorably, but it does lose some of its "value alternative" appeal. If performance is why you're looking at the R-Spec model, then the SRT8 is definitely worth a second (and even a third) look -- it's clearly the most badass of the bunch.

Tech specs
Model2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0
Powertrain5.0-liter, direct-injected V-8, eight-speed automatic transmission, RWD
EPA fuel economy16 city, 25 highway, and 19 combined mpg
Observed fuel economyn/a
NavigationStandard, flash-memory-based, SiriusXM NavTraffic
Bluetooth phone supportYes
Disc playerSix-disc, in-dash DVD changer
MP3 player supportStandard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB connection, optional iPod connection
Other digital audioSiriusXM Satellite Radio, HD Radio
Audio systemLexicon 17-speaker premium audio standard
Driver aidsLane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear camera with proximity sensor, adaptive cruise control
Base price$46,500
Price as tested$47,410

2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec

Score Breakdown

Cabin tech 8Performance tech 6Design 7


Available Engine Gas, 5.0-liter V8Body style Sedan