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2012 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec And V6

Hooniverse June 21, 2011 First Impressions, Hyundai Reviews 29 Comments

There’s a scene in Glengarry Glen Ross when maestro salesman Blake (played by Alec Baldwin, a fact I’m particularly fond of) berates a wage slave of the offices of Mitch and Murray:

Dave Moss: What’s your name?

Blake: F**k you. That’s my name. You know why, mister? ‘Cause you drove a Hyundai to get here tonight, and I drove an eighty thousand dollar BMW. That’s my name.

Well, joke’s on you, Alec Baldwin: Hyundai doesn’t build punchline-worthy cars anymore!

Times have changed since Alec Baldwin unleashed his swear-laden rant in David Mamet’s stage (and film) classic. For one, Hyundai doesn’t build insult-worthy machinery anymore—much digital ink has been spilled on the company’s development into a respectable full-line manufacturer of everything from luxury cars to subcompacts, and even crawler excavators. The Elantra, Equus, and the occasional R480LC-9 series tracked excavator have all received high praise.

Today’s case in point: the 2012 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec, which at 429 horsepower is the most powerful car Hyundai has built to date, equal to a half-dozen Excels. If you told David Mamet back in the 80s that Hyundai would build a car with more power than a Ferrari 308, he’d unleash a torrent of swears. Back then, the automaker sold itself on the virtue that for the price of a new car you could get two Excels, like some Costco member’s only discount gone wrong.  Today, however, they’re building off the same legacy: has Hyundai built the ultimate, unsuspecting Q-ship?

Hyundai sent me (and a bunch of equally spoiled, easily-excitable automotive journalists) to the Las Vegas desert to find out, where they managed to lure Don Felder of The Eagles to play for us and our souffléd short ribs. No, not that Don from The Eagles. You can check out of the Genesis anytime you want, but you can never leave until you shill our sound system.*

The new Genesis gets a new transmission, a directly-injected engine and a revised suspension that is as improved over its previous generation as a Cannondale over a penny-farthing. The Genesis also gets obnoxiously subtle styling taken from the Porsche School Of “If It Ain’t Broke, Mess With It” Design And Sandwich-Making Department. This includes a “more premium B-pillar finish,” a band of LEDs that neatly bifurcate the front headlights and some trick integrated faux-exhaust outlets. But other than that, the sort of people who can recite the differences between the 2011 and 2012 Geneses are either Hyundai engineers or the sort of people you wouldn’t invite to a bachelor party.**

Like Porsche still, what’s new is where it counts. Under the hood. For 2012, Hyundai developed a 5.0-liter V8 engine based on its Tau architecture, complete with gasoline direct injection, an aluminum block and heads and variable valve timing all around. At 429 horsepower, it’s the most powerful car Hyundai has ever built. The engine is paired to a brand-new 8-speed automatic gearbox available across the Genesis range, and it’s designed and built completely in-house.

We drove the Genesis R-Spec, as well as the 3.8 V6, around Lake Mead Recreational Area where the temperature was 106 degrees and hot enough to render one of the car’s radios inoperable, triggering a cheery warning message. At Loews Las Vegas, on the suspiciously blue waters of Lake Mead, builders are constructing some eerie replica of Florence, Italy’s Ponte Vecchio—only less grand in scale, and completely uninhabited. The effect is a facsimile in a vacuum: an interpretation of an established icon, while attempting to be unique at the same time. Whether this is a (painfully obvious) metaphor is your guess.

On the freshly paved (thanks Obama!) ribbon of Lakeshore Road, the engine pulled strong and barely rose above conversation volume. We hit 120mph (Ed. Note: Blake surely means 70 max) in some places without even realizing it, with only a “huh, we’re at a buck twenty” to acknowledge it. As befitting a cruiser that’s still more luxury than sport, yet the Genesis feels most comfortable cruising at illegal highway speeds. It’s a shame the touchscreen navigation system doesn’t come with its own radar detector.

Sadly, the transmission hinders the engine like it’s been rereading Harrison Bergeron. Hyundai thought it would be snazzy to jam 8 speeds into that cast-aluminum bell housing, in the spirit of scientific endeavor not unlike the world record for the largest In-N-Out Burger. Eight speeds might sound good on paper, but in the car it’s dog-slow, unresponsive, reluctant to shift and fights your every decision like a petulant teenager. We attempted to clock the R-Spec’s 0-60 time and ended up with the same result as the 120-horsepower-less V6.

The R-Spec weighs 200 more pounds than the 3.8-equipped Genesis. Hyundai claims a 0-60 time of 5.1 seconds with the big-block, and despite the added 99 horsepower, the two engines felt almost exactly the same. Chalk it up to the Genesis’s weight, perhaps, at 4,046 pounds, but a 400+ horsepower car should have some semblance of having 400+ horsepower, you know?

The 2012 Genesis range rides on an all-new suspension comprised of ZF-built Sachs two-valve adaptive damping shocks that, unlike other cars in the class, don’t feature selectable Comfort or Sport modes. The R-Spec has a larger rear stabilizer bar and higher spring rates in order to handle the extra power, and the overall package is a marked improvement over the last generation. The suspension doesn’t crash like it used to, with little body roll and minimal drama. Granted, we were on buttery-smooth black asphalt, which just gave us more time to enjoy the interior.

Photographing interiors in the desert is hard. Hence, the interior shots are from Hyundai, where they have professionals doing this sort of thing.

Both Geneses (Ed. Note: We’re not sure either) come with a lovely, patterned faux-leather dash that seems almost a waste to regulate to sun-warping status. Every surface is soft-touch and solid, and the dashboard is refreshingly free of buttons. (See BMW? This is how you do button-free driving.) The screen controls responded quickly. Navigating the map, however, was either achingly slow or whoops, you’re in Antarctica—it required a steady hand not unlike an unfamiliar shower knob.

Ditto.

As for Lexicon? Maybe the audio settings were off after I played with them, but the Harmon-Kardon-designed 17-speaker system sounded underwhelming and flat. The Grateful Dead deserve more respect than that. In typical German emulation, the R-Spec gets an interior that’s none more black: exterior colors consist of grey, more grey, and black. It seems that whoever designed the R-Spec’s color options must have been going through a Dashboard Confessional phase. V6 models get a bit sunnier: you get metallic red and metallic blue (“Cabernet Red Pearl” and “Twilight Blue Pearl”) for starters.

In fact, the V6 came with all of the features we found in the R-Spec: lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, Lexicon audio, heated and cooled seats, bowling ball shiner, etc. The V6 starts at $34,200 and the R-Spec at $46,500—it seems that with the R-Spec, you’re paying for the cool tuner-esque name and the inevitable price premium that will add $4,000 upon resale. That’s how the game works.

But why? The R-Spec’s purpose is to bestow the owners with the sort of heady one-upsmanship that he or she can revel in, to laugh in the face of the Joneses when they spring for the smaller engine. V6 Camaro owners will know what I’m talking about. Nobody expects a Hyundai to be fast, but nobody expects the smaller-engined car as well. Buy one in black and troll WRX owners all day for great success.

And perhaps Vegas, with all of its lights and reputation, wasn’t the most rational place to introduce a car that features none of the above. But then again, therein lies the beauty of the Q-ship: a car that, when distilled to its fundamental elements, nobody expects to go fast. And if you want to spend $12,000 over the price of the V6 for the chance to own Hyundai’s biggest and most powerful engine, then surely you are a better man than I, and may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest—through the Valley of Fire.

* I blame Alex Kierstein for this line. Don’t shoot the messenger.

** Present company included.

  • Maymar

    Although I don't know the differences between the 2011 and 2012 Genesii, it sounds like the sort of thing I would know. As such, in spite of being the first of my friends to get married, I have a slight suspicion I'm not invited to my own bachelor party. My best man is apparently planning something more debauched than the day of go-karts, guns, and steak I'd be happy with.

  • dwegmull

    So how was the drive in this one?
    <img src="http://english.hhi.co.kr/UploadFactory/GALLERY/R480LC(2).jpg" width="500">
    (image from Hyundai's website via Google images).

    • bzr

      Highs: good turning radius, impresses 6-year old boys, sports-car handling, plenty of torque.
      Lows: no XM satellite radio, priced above the competition, lackluster fuel economy, hard to park, massive C- and D-pillars.
      The Verdict: could make a good prom date car, especially if the high school's roof needs renovating.

      • McQueen

        You would be crazy to think that isn't fully loaded with sat radio , I work with heavy equipment and they now come standard with sat radio mp3 players that have inputs for your iPhone and crap .

  • I've gotten a spin in the new Veloster, driven the Sonata and hooned a Gen Coupe… the Elantra looks good, and the Accent may be a good affordable car. I think Hyundai deserves a closer look.

  • Last time I was in Vegas for SEMA, I went to Valley of Fire and then came back down the west side of Lake Mead and back into Vegas, including over the new bridge bypassing Hoover Dam. Fun drive.

  • bzr

    Man, I wish I had thought of that!

  • Smells_Homeless

    Hrm, so please humor me while I try to sum up. After this I'll go back to my usual sunny self, I promise.

    1. Underperforming 429 horsepower engine.
    2. Slushbox only.
    2a. CRAPPY slushbox only.
    3. Stereos that fall over in the sun.
    3a. And sound bad.

    You see Hyundai, when you make a really bad initial impression, it lasts. And those of us with that really bad impression will take pains to outline your faults when you get uppity and start to believe your press. Which we don't believe. Maybe 10 years in the future, I'll take a look at one of these guys and it will have aged very well and the bugs will have been worked out and I'll change my tune, but you've got more atoning than this to do.

    • facelvega

      You got all that? All I got was "get the V6, the new engine is a waste of time." Oh, I mean "tell your dad/uncle/boss just to get the V6", because I can't imagine any of us here would be interested in this car for ourselves. I don't know what grandpa cruiser is better at $35k, though.

      • bzr

        No, that's basically it. The new engine is great, but let down by its terrible transmission. So therefore, why bother going for the big-block unless you're planning to squirrel it away for a Barrett-Jackson auction in 50 years?

        It's rare, but still: at $35k, the V6 is a LOT of car for the money.

      • Smells_Homeless

        Well, I may have brought a couple of minor preconceptions with me to help.

    • MER

      I question Blake's review on the Hyundai, sounds more bias than anything since I bought a new 2012 Genesis. I test drove both the R-Spec and a fully loaded 3.8 V6. They both are a pleasure to drive and I felt the extra 100 horsepower in the R-Spec, it is very fast. So fast, I would surmise it would keep up with a SS Camaro and/or Dodge Challenger SRT8. I opted for the V6 because it was less of a payment, better on insurance and better gas mileage. The sound system I do not understand what the hell he is talking about. Mine, which has the 17 speaker Lexicon in it sounds "Amazing". He mentioned that maybe it was not set correctly and I was kinda shocked he would "bash" without at least TRYING to configure it. The 8 speed Hyundai transmission very smooth and powerful all the way up to redline in any gear. In fact, I tried the manual shifting and found it to be fun as hell. With everything said, I think Blake Rong either doesn't know what he is doing or he is biased towards Hyundai. it does not matter, not many read his garbage, I just happen to stumble on this review doing a google search, but I had to have my say since I actually own one. Hyundai makes some really nice cars and it shows in their numbers.
      Thanks

  • Jim-Bob

    Dammit….NOW I know why I am not invited to any bachelor parties!

    • That’s more than senibsle! That’s a great post!

  • cool, but thats alot of cash for a hyundai!

  • Number_Six

    (I do like those wheels and the look of the interior, though)…

  • Alff

    Pretty fly for a Hyundai.

  • Artemis from It's Always Sunny does Glengarry Glen Ross. Skip to 3:14:

    [youtube EoKOl-xuWek http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoKOl-xuWek youtube]

  • Eggwich James Dio

    It still angries up my blood that the Genesis Coupe and Sedan are both named Genesis? Are they really that similar? Do they really have that much going on that they have to use the same name twice? One is sporty and the other is luxury, what the schittz?

  • Deartháir

    I like it, I respect it, I am impressed by it. But I don't want it… not one bit.

    It's actually a bit amazing to me in that regard. I look at the interior, and think, "Yup, that's an interior." It reminds me of the interior of my Lincoln… which is a compliment, because I like my interior… but that's a six-year-old car. It's one of the few cars out there I've never driven, and I don't find that to be a glaring omission. More, I think, "Well, that's okay".

    It reminds me of a Phaeton, actually. One hell of an impressive accomplishment… but just not exciting at all.

    • McQueen

      I'm with you on that , nice car but I don't strive to want or drive one .

  • bzr

    Same reason those guys ordered a 100×100 In-N-Out burger: because they can.

  • SSurfer321

    Blake, your review is in stark contrast to the review over at [REDACTED].
    Yours is honest, sings praise where warranted but also shows the vehicles shortcomings.
    Excellent job! This is why I stay here.

    [REDACTED]'s review stated the manufacturing of the slushbox was outsourced to ZF while yours states it is all in house. Which is correct?

    • Jo_Schmo

      And bravo for getting your review out a full day earlier than them!

    • bzr

      Thanks for the praise! Hyundai told us that the transmission was designed and built within the company itself. The new suspension was ZF-built, however.

  • joshuman

    I know of David Mamet from the TV show "The Unit." A mention in relation to cars led me on a jaunt through Wikipedia. Sure, there is "Glengarry, Glen Ross" but did you also know he did the screenplay for the movie "Ronin?" It has been a while since I cracked out that DVD, I might have to rip it to my phone for the next time I travel.

    Oh, the car is nice and all but I'm not buying one ever. Not in a million years. Excellent review though!

    • bzr

      Well, I'll be damned. As if that movie wasn't great enough already.