Power and refinement stand out
Despite punishing fuel prices, large performance sedans remain highly popular in the premium segment. The 2012 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec represents all that's desirable in that market, and it does so with more horsepower and less capital outlay than most.
5.0L Tau powerplant is awe-inspiring
Anyone jumping into the driver's seat of the Genesis R-Spec for the first time will undoubtedly marvel at the quality of its cabin, but the real sense of awe is to be found beneath the right foot. Electronically connected to the accelerator is a new engine for Hyundai, and it's as sweet as they come.
Displacing an even 5.0 litres, the 32-valve DOHC V8 utilizes Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) technology combined with Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (DCVVT) to produce a staggering 429 hp @ 6,400 rpm and 376 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm.
Those numbers represent potency, and plenty of it, but that's only half the equation. The other half is represented by the number "8." That's how many cogs spin in Hyundai's new automatic transmission. Too bad paddle-shifting isn't available to make the most of the octet.
A cluster of eight cogs provides the engine with a much broader range of gear ratios to choose from to match immediate performance needs, whether they be power or fuel-economy related. Maximizing those two polar opposites is the ultimate challenge, and Hyundai has made some progress.
The powerful Tau engine is rated at 13.1L/100km city and 8.1L/100km highway driving. Although not great figures, they're decent when the size of the Genesis and its outstanding performance capability are factored in.
Hyundai literature says it goes from 0 to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. Add a couple of tenths more to convert that to 0-100 km/h and one can draw the conclusion that this is a notably fast automobile. It's also brilliantly smooth.
Hyundai went to great lengths to produce an upscale performance sedan with premium-level operational refinement. Now I've heard some journalists bemoan the tomb-like quiet operation of this vehicle, believing that it should impart greater auditory messaging when the horses begin a gallop.
I'm not one of those "need to hear and feel" the roar kind of guys.
I'm glad that Hyundai didn't fall into the shallow end of the pool to satisfy the pre-pubescent who equate power and performance with noise and coarseness. Hyundai understands that tranquility and performance can co-exist, and they do so exceptionally well in the R-Spec.
In fact, Hyundai reports that the cabin of the Genesis is sound engineered to maintain a hushed 63.2 decibels regardless of road surface. My tester was equipped with Continental snow tires, yet it remained remarkably quiet even at highway speeds.
If one cares to listen, the engine develops a slight burble within normal operating parameters and a muted vanilla growl when pushed to the max, and frankly that's what I like: massive power underfoot and the silence of a bank vault after hours.
Complementing its serenity is the sense that nothing happens abruptly in the Genesis R-Spec. Slam the throttle open and the car launches itself with dignity and aplomb fit for the Royals; speed builds progressively and more rapidly than apparent.
With such an immense rush of power to the rear wheels, traction can easily be overcome resulting in the intrusion of the electronic nannies unless deactivated. Unfortunately, all-wheel-drive (AWD) isn't available on the Genesis -- too bad.
But the R-Spec isn't just about forceful propulsion, it's also about agility.
The R-Spec badge carries with it a sport-tuned suspension setup and recalibrated steering effort to enhance the big sedan's ability to lose its shadow. While not in the territory of some German rivals, the Genesis R-Spec is well-composed and secure when pushed aggressively through corners.
It remains flat and holds a line quite effectively, making it an enjoyable sled to toss about when road and mood dictate. On the debit side of the ride-versus-handling ledger is ride quality, which suffers ever so slightly from the retuning.
Driver-selectable suspension settings would be a welcome addition here to allow an off-set to the sport tuning when a more absorbent ride is craved to complement the near soundless cabin and its premium Lexicon audio system.
Of course, sophisticated "active" suspension systems aren't inexpensive ventures. Adding driver-selectable underpinnings and AWD traction would undoubtedly elevate the R-Spec's modest price point of $53,499, and that would undermine the significant value this vehicle carries.
The R-Spec R-Wrap
It's missing a few accoutrements that some of the pricier competition have in their basket of hi-tech goodies, such as adjustable suspension, AWD and shift paddles. Nonetheless, the Koreans have created a mighty sedan that in many ways beats the segment leaders in terms of power, performance and comfort. Who saw that coming?
The 2012 Hyundai R-Spec is an immensely capable car. It's also one of the best-looking performance sedans regardless of country of origin. Before dropping vastly more money for a Euro premium performance sedan, only a fool and his money would overlook the Genesis R-Spec.
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