2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec Road Test

Hyundai's 429-hp performance beast is calling out the big boys, but is it even in the same league?

What It Is/Who It's For
Hyundai's executive cruiser with punch, for those that want all the amenities, sans the steep price of the competition.
Best Thing
The 2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec gives you more luxury and performance per dollar than German and Japanese counterparts.
Worst Thing
The craftsmanship and refinement are still not on par with the more experienced players in the field.
Snap Judgment
The 2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec is not the best luxury sports sedan in its class, but it is the best value.

We've said before that Hyundai offers you a petite filet for the price of flank. But in the case of the 2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec, you're already paying for petite filet, so the question is, are you getting the real deal?

For 2012, Hyundai's most inspired performance sedan receives the Korean automaker's beefiest 5.0-liter engine, aptly mated to an automatic eight-speed transmission. With 429-hp at the ready, paired with a sumptuous interior and a long list of standard features, the R-Spec may furrow a few German and Japanese brows.

The styling of the Genesis is highlighted by xenon headlights with an attractive LED strip, a wide stance and 19-inch alloy wheels. While we got a few looks thrown our way while driving around car-conscious Los Angeles, the exterior styling is still bland compared with Hyundai's German competition. Which brings us to an interesting point: a few years ago Hyundai's German competition would be relegated to a few of the lowly Volkswagen models, but we're now in fact referring to mid-level models from BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz. Japanese automakers Lexus and Infiniti can also be counted as rivals -- a testament to how far this company has come in recent years.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

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Inside the R-Spec gets some special treatment with illuminated door sills and "R-Spec" floor mats. The multimedia system is reasonably easy to use, nice leather embellishes most surfaces, and the cabin is roomy and comfortable. Similarly equipped rivals such as the BMW 550i are $15k-$20k more, a considerable difference. But it's not all roses. Some cheap interior materials and a few little touches pace the Korean go-getter behind the competition in terms of refinement. Also, while there's power in abundance, the ride feel nevertheless is still a work in progress. If we were to compare the 5.0 R-Spec to competitors from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi, on driving dynamics, design, and the opulence of the cabin, the Hyundai would fall short. But if you're to compare the Genesis 5.0 R-Spec to comparatively priced vehicles, the Hyundai has far more content, and would generally outclass all comers.So where exactly does this leave the Genesis?

What We Drove

For 2012 the Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec is available as a four-door sedan in one extremely well-appointed trim. Non R-Spec models and smaller engines are available as well. Our 5.0 R-Spec was priced at $46,535 and came with the goods that three years ago would have been an impossibility to associate with Hyundai: Attractive xenon headlights with a unique LED strip; a mighty 429-hp V-8 engine; both heated and cooled seats up front; heated seats in the rear; 19-inch alloy wheels; a 17-speaker HD stereo; an abundance of nice leather sneaking on to virtually every surface; a fully telescoping steering wheel; Bluetooth; rain-sensing and auto defogging windshield wipers; heated auto-dimming outside mirrors with turn signal indicators and much more. The only thing added to our model was an iPod cable.

The R-Spec includes electronic stability control with traction control; four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and brake assist; dual front, front and rear side-impact and side curtain airbags; tire pressure monitoring, and active front head restraints. A blind-spot warning system, and both front and rear parking sensors are standard. A rearview camera makes backing up and parking a breeze. In IIHS crash test ratings, the 2012 Hyundai Genesis received a "Good" rating, the highest possible, in front-impact, roof strength, and in side-impact crash testing.

The Commute

All of our staff got to break up the daily commute to work in the R-Spec, and overall we were impressed. The seats are covered in stitched leather and are wide, comfy, and both front seats are heated and cooled. The fully telescoping steering wheel allows you to find an optimal driving position. When we found ourselves out of maddening traffic, the engine was powerful and satisfying, and the eight-speed transmission kept things moving along smoothly. Visibility was good, and the backup camera's image is large and confidence inspiring.

As for the ride, we found it to be inconsistent. It's almost as if the suspension was bi-polar. At times we were treated to a comfy luxurious cruiser that was able to sync and find an unusually smooth rhythm on the infamous 405 freeway here in Los Angeles, a rarity. But other times the ride was firmer, the sportier side vying for attention.

There are a few details in the cabin that appear incongruous and out of place: the dash is soft and leather, but it looks as if in a cost cutting measure Hyundai took a slab of dense foam, patterned it after leather and painted it black. The steering wheel appears uninspired, possibly the same one used in some of the Korean automaker's more economical cars. And there are little things too, like flimsy plastic door handles that are not befitting a car of this class, or at least not one that purports to compete with a BMW, Audi or Mercedes-Benz.

But there are some fantastic, unexpected treats. At night the cabin features a special cool blue lighting, illuminating "Genesis" on the door sills, a reminder that you're driving a premium car. A member of our team boasted getting 21.3 mpg on strictly freeway driving, while I averaged 13.6 on aggressive city driving. Both are below the EPA estimated 16 city and 25 highway mpg. But getting around is easy in the very capable and comfortable sedan. The navigation is easy to use, which means when you inevitably get lost, you can recalibrate and be on your way with little fuss.

The Grocery Run

The Hyundai Genesis can lay claim to a very wide and deep trunk. Having a few grocery bags sliding around on the way home will be a bigger issue than whether or not you can fit the whole thanksgiving feast in the rear. Slipping into parking spaces is a breeze with both front parking sensors and a rear parking camera that displays nicely on the large screen. The Genesis is a full-size vehicle, which means its wide and long stance should keep you away from compact and snug spaces.

If you plan to use the Genesis as a high-end family sedan for your two offspring, they'll love the roomy back seat, and you'll love the easy-to-access LATCH points. However, the center position leaves something to be desired, even for little ones. It's notably higher than the two outboard positions, and the seatbelt buckle is harder to reach. Still, there's plenty of headroom to adjust belts, and the door openings are nice and wide for rear-seat access as well.

While a couple friends joined me while running a short errand, they were full of compliments regarding the interior styling, but neither mentioned anything about the exterior, which was a little telling. The Genesis suffers much from the same culprits that ail the bulk of the Lexus lineup. While the cars are not deficient in most of the marks of luxury, they do lack pizzazz. Cars don't need to be flashy, but when you're shelling out for something in this class, you want the car to feel special. In the case of the Genesis, it feels like Hyundai created a checklist of components found in higher end cars, and went through checking them off. While making sure all of the essentials are included is a good idea, there's something missing, and it's not found on a checklist.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

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The Weekend Fun

Make no mistake about it-- this performance car won't exactly have you pining for two-lane roads to zip about on come Saturday, but it will get the whole family or a few friends to that weekend getaway fast, and in style and comfort. The roomy cabin and plush seats are a delight for longer trips, and even backseat passengers get heated seats and ample leg room, though taller passengers may find head room to be snug.

The 17-speaker stereo is as good as any we've heard. The 2012 Genesis also boasts seemingly endless cargo room, the whole gang can fit a carry-on in back no sweat, and even large suitcases can fit in the trunk opening without difficulty. The cabin is relatively quiet even at higher speeds, and road and wind noise are minimal. The 5.0 R-Spec isn't necessarily a driver's car, but for a road trip there are few that would offer more comfort and be as pleasant to ride in.


With the Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec, the Korean automaker set out to compete with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series, and Lexus GS among others. What the R-Spec lacks in refinement and gusto, it makes up for in price. Like a true Hyundai, the 5.0 R-Spec offers more content-for-your-cash than any in the segment. The proudest Genesis doesn't offer the cachet of its competition, but then again, it's priced significantly less.

Spec Box

Price as tested: $46,535
Fuel Economy
EPA City: 16 mpg
EPA Highway: 25 mpg
EPA Combined: 19 mpg
Estimated Combined Range: 385.7 miles per tank
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Low

Notebook Quotes

"It's more of a competitor with the new GS, as well as the E-Class and 5 Series. And, no, it's not as nice as those. But those aren't $20,000 better than this." -Keith Buglewicz, News Director
"Though the 2012 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec is not the bad boy we were (secretly) hoping to join stalwarts like AMG and BMW M series, it is still a viable option for those luxury car buyers who like a little extra in their vehicles." -Joel Arellano, Assistant Editor
"I was hoping to be more impressed with the interior. It was by no means bad, I just expected more. The 5.0-liter engine however, I loved." -Jason Davis, Associate Editor
"The seats were the first thing I noticed. Most comfortable of everything we've tested so far." -Trevor Dorchies, Associate Editor
"It doesn't feel all sorts of special like a BMW or a Mercedes, but it does feel like you got a lot more than you paid for." -Jacob Brown, Associate Editor
"Eight speeds might sound good on paper, but in reality it fights your every move like a reluctant and petulant teenager." -Blake Z. Rong, Associate Editor