Curbside Modern: 2012 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec – What Is A New Car Doing Here?

Better yet. What am I doing here?

Well, our sister site currently has somewhere between six to eight different reviewers for new cars. Most of those folks get to pick and choose their rides since Detroit, San Francisco and NYC have extensive press fleets.

Yours truly, who lives in northwest Georgia, is not one of those people. So when certain models have already gone through the proverbial TTAC ringer and find their way to my driveway, I will offer my insights here.

With one small twist. I love to look at anything new with the prismatic beauty of history. As for Hyundai’s luxury roots? They are truly youthful and bitter. But they are bearing some unusually unique fruits. Let’s delve into it shall we?

Korea’s elite brand has struggled more than most in the North American luxury market. The Hyundai XG300 and XG350 fell far short of even a Buick LeSabre back in the day. Cheap interior materials and awkward styling elements turned Hyundai’s first luxury car into a one generation wonder.

Hyundai then decided to get even more Buick-oriented with the Azera. Although a hit in its home market, it has become little more than the Hyundai version of a modern day Toyota Cressida. Popular in the domestic front. Ignored here.

But what of the Hyundai Genesis? At the $35,000 to $40,000 price range it remains one of the strongest competitors in the near-luxury market. Prestige is not a must-have when a model’s price is within spitting distance of a Toyota Avalon or a Chrysler 300.

But what happens when Hyundai develops an ‘R-Spec’ performance and trim package? A unique blend of tastes that couples entry level luxury with performance that was strictly in the realm of the exotic only a generation ago. Can the Hyundai Genesis R-Spec make way in the big boy market of $50,000 and beyond?

The Walkaround

Is it a Mercedes up front? A cookie cutter on the side? A Sonata in the rear? Not in person. Not at all.

The Hyundai Genesis has a ‘fluidic sculpture’ exterior design. Nothing protrudes at all beyond the chrome and modest curves.

The front has no diamond star halo or Lincoln-esque waterfall. No Bangle butt in the rear. No sweeping strakes or deep indentations in the side profile to give off the usual sporty overtones. The Genesis offers strength and simplicity in a world where everything from portholes to protruding headlights and taillights are as common  as LED’s.

Some call it bland. Others look at it as a modern day Q-ship. I see it as “What a luxury car should be.” The more time I spent with the Genesis, the more I thought that this is what Lincoln should have become. Conservative with a sound level of presence. At least from the outside.

The Interior

The interior is a completely different story. Here is where the Genesis R-Spec fell into the cost cutting realities of today’s new car market.

Most near luxury vehicles that are priced in the $35,000 to $42,000 range use the same exact tricks to look good. Shallow chrome inserts around the vents. Dark interiors enshrouded with Jethro Tull levels of dark intent: to make the few well padded interior surfaces blend in with cheap dashboard materials and upper door panel plastics.

This is nothing unusual. Most new car buyers consider this to be par for the course these days. Nissan Murano, Mercedes C-Class, Lexus ES350, and this Genesis all come with softness at the touch points and hardness at the look points. At the $40,000 level, you have to make do with budgetary constraints.

The problem with the Genesis R-Spec and its $48,500 MSRP becomes obvious when you look at the interior of say, an Audi A6…

…or a Lincoln MKZ.

Both of these models start in the $41,000 range. While the base Genesis is $6,000 cheaper at $35,000.

What happens when the Genesis competes in the higher price points? It ends up one notch lower in the interior department. If I could encourage the folks at Hyundai to do anything for the Genesis, it would be to offer a more upscale interior with the R-Spec.

Which is okay…because the powertrain on the Genesis R-Spec is comparable to one you would find in a $70,000 car. Unrivaled smoothness. An engine that is so strong and happy, that you get the sense it can run nearly forever and out-diesel a diesel. The Genesis in R-Spec form is truly an epic upgrade that makes the car perform; especially if you are a road warrior with many miles to cover.

The Drive

Four hundred and twenty-nine horsepower. Now mind you, I’m not much of a numbers guy. But when you take a Genesis R-Spec on the road, the pace of every journey seems to hurry up a bit.

Want to go up a 25 degree incline and lose virtually no speed at all? Done.

Heck, do you want to just gain speed on nearly any mountainous journey without losing eighth gear?  Or have your ‘Holy *@&!’ moment by flooring it on a big expanse of empty asphalt? The Hyundai V8 Tau engine coupled with the 8-speed automatic is an absolute work of wonder that can dial up your preferences at will.

The spec sheet also states that 376 lb-ft. of torque can be had at 5000 RPMs. In real world driving though, it is the strong torque at the lower power bands that gets you going. This powertrain could easily go into a vehicle at twice this car’s price. On the road it loses absolutely no street cred with it’s status-seeking competitors.

Potholes, dips, and various forms of road debris are felt but not overtly intrusive, and the tightness of Hyundai’s recent upgrades to the braking system and powertrain have eliminated the last of the old-school float of the original model.

The Lexus ES300 seemed a bit quieter when it comes to road noise, and the Germans still offer a better feel for the road. But this vehicle isn’t really a direct competitor to either one. It aims straight at the Chrysler 300 and the ghosts of Lincolns and Cadillacs past.

The Hyundai Genesis R-Spec does it in a far more modest fashion than any of these marques.


Strength and modesty. A Q-ship for those content with an interior laden with nickel satin and a variety of plastics. Nothing unusual in these days of so-called luxury. With this handicap, the Genesis R-Spec is a heavy hitter that seems to be only a right hook away from becoming a true knockout.

Some consumers like the feel and smell of high quality leather and great expanses of hardy wood trim for their ride. The Genesis R-Spec does not offer that…for now. However, if you are in the market for a powertrain that is commensurate with a $70,000 car, and can live with a near-luxury interior that usually sells in the $40,000 range, put the Hyundai Genesis R-Spec right at the top of your list.