2012 Hyundai Genesis

LAS VEGAS — In the 2009 model year Hyundai took one giant step without saying “Mother May I” and entered the rarified air of full-sized mid-luxury sedans. It was already crowded with such inhabitants as the Lexus GS and ES350, Infiniti’s M, BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

Why would a Korean vehicle take on these vehicles and expect to succeed? It seems because it could. As an example, the 2009 calendar sales for Genesis was 21,889; for 2010 sales reached 29,122, a 33% year-over-year increase. Mid-luxury car segment sales are expected to enjoy a significant growth in the 2011-2013 and then expected to level off.

The 2012 Genesis begins with a facelift that include revised headlamps with Daytime Running Lights and Headlight LED accents, a revised front bumper, an Equus-like grille, revised chrome accent trim and revised rocker panels. The rear sports integrated exhaust design, revised rear bumper and revised combination lamps.

But the big news is the addition of Hyundai’s new powerplants. The first is the initial application of gasoline direct injection technology to a 3.8-liter V-6 and a new 5.0-liter V-8. The 2012 V-6 has 43 more horsepower than the previous model with the same displacement; that’s a 15% increase. And it showed.

With a horsepower rating of 333 and 291 pound-feet of torque it’s expected to receive the biggest percentage of orders. It’s mated to an all-new in-house-developed 8-speed automatic transmission with ‘Shiftronic.’ EPA fuel economy estimate is 19 mpg city/29 mpg highway. During this media drive we put on a lot of miles through a series of twisty mountain and desert roads in Nevada and the Genesis hardly broke a sweat (even though it was 107 degrees outside). At the time we couldn’t imagine anything that could top it. That was before lunch.

After lunch we found our imagination challenged when we then drove the 2012 Genesis 5.0 R-Spec. (There is another V-8 model that comes with premium features, the 4.6-liter, but we didn’t drive it.) Hyundai refers to the R-Spec as the “Ultimate Performance & Luxury Sedan.” It sports the gasoline direct injection 5.0-liter Tau V8 that packs a whopping 429 horsepower (premium fuel only) and 376 pound-feet of torque.

It’s also mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and Hyundai estimates a 0-60 time of 5.1 seconds. That’s almost sports car territory. Fuel economy is 16 mpg city/25 mpg highway.  With its sportier suspension it was quickly apparent the R-Spec is a driver’s machine as well as a luxury vehicle.

We have said that if you were put into a Genesis blindfolded and had the blindfold removed after the doors were closed you would bet your life and those of your best friend that you’re sitting in a Lexus LS460. It’s that good!

There are more standard luxury features in the 2012 Genesis than one should be entitled to and more interior room than a lot of New York City apartments. It even has heated rear seats. The LCD cluster display would make a fighter pilot jealous. A new exterior color is offered (Twilight Blue Pearl) as well as three new interior trims (Red Eucalyptus, Brown Zebra and Black Maple).

Considering the neighborhood it lives in the 2012 Genesis is basically a steal. The MSRP of a base Genesis 3.8 is $34,200 and can run up to $43,000 with the Technology Package. MSRP for the 5.0 R-Spec is $46,500. (Freight charges are an additional $850.)

This gives Genesis a $16,445 advantage over the 2012 Infiniti M56S and $17,525 over the 2011 BMW 550i. Money not being a determining factor, with the extra content available on the 5.0 R-Spec and the new powerful engine it would be one vehicle that would be hard to resist. And there is more icing on this cake; as with all Hyundai models Genesis comes with a 10-year/100,000 Powertrain Warranty, a 5-year/60,000 Basic Warranty and 5-Year/Unlimited Mile Roadside Assistance.

Just as the Japanese cars caused angst for the domestic automakers, so too have the Koreans given pause to the Japanese with lots of that anguish left over for the Europeans as well.

— Al Vinikour