Hyundai’s Genesis sedan is only three years old, but it’s already on it’s second refresh, which is business as usual at the Korean automaker. As someone once said, “the Koreans are the only people on the planet who can make the Japanese look like slackers,” and nowhere is this more evident than in the regular updates of their vehicles. Most automakers wait three to five years between model updates, with only minor changes year to year. Hyundai, on the other hand, will incorporate fairly significant changes from year to year, based on the accomplishments of their engineering and manufacturing teams.
For 2012, the base Hyundai Genesis sedan gets a greatly improved 3.8 liter V-6, now equipped with gasoline direct injection and good for 333 horsepower. That’s up by nearly 15 percent over last year, but fuel economy also grows by 1 mpg city and 2 mpg highway. The GDI helps contribute to the fuel savings, but I suspect the bulk of the improvement comes from the new eight-speed Shiftronic automatic transmission, used across the Genesis model line.
Exterior styling gets a few updates for 2012 as well. Front and rear bumpers are new, and a beefier rocker panel gives the Genesis a sportier look. Window trim is toned down, and now consists of brushed aluminum instead of chrome trim. There are new 17-inch and 19-inch wheels, and the headlights get LED accents for the first time.
The real story, though, is the launch of the 5.0-liter, 429-horsepower Genesis R-Spec sedan. Heavy rains and flooded street prevented me from pushing the handling limits of the R-Spec, but I can tell you this: acceleration is grin-inducing, and Hyundai says the R-Spec will get from 0 to 60 in 5.1 second. It actually feels even faster than that, and I would be surprised to see magazines and websites start clocking times in the sub-five-second range.
Even on wet pavement, the traction control isn’t overly intrusive. It allows for some wheelspin before the brakes clamp down and turn that into forward progress. The steering calibration and suspension are unique to the R-Spec, and my initial impression is that Hyundai’s engineers put a great deal of effort into finding the perfect blend of comfort and handling. The ride in the R-Spec is firm but never harsh, and it feels much like a BMW 3 Series with the factory sport package.
I’d like to have the opportunity to wring out the R-Spec on the track, and I think it would prove to be every bit as well balanced as the BMW 335i and the Infinity G37. It’s no M3, but that’s not the market that Hyundai was going after; in fact, Hyundai has the car positioned against the substantially more expensive Infiniti M56 and BMW 550i. I’m not sure I agree, since the Genesis feels smaller and more nimble than either competitor.
With Hyundai’s recent success across their product line, this much is clear: BMW and Infiniti had better be working on a response as we speak. Even if the current Genesis sedan doesn’t beat them in all categories, the Koreans won’t stop tweaking it until it does.