The 2012 Hyundai Genesis is a harmonious piece, played in three parts. Two models offer up a driving experience that's considerably softer and more plush than the competition, but the third has a stiffly tuned ride that's at odds with the car's character.
The base Genesis sports more power and more gears for the new model year. Its engine is a 333-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6, up from 290 hp last year through the addition of direct fuel injection and other tuning. It's no slouch with this engine, and as it's coupled to Hyundai's new eight-speed automatic, it also comes with a sport-shift mode. The powertrain makes a strong value statement, with the six-cylinder growl the most noticeable difference from other versions. Hyundai pegs its 0-60 mph times at about six seconds, and sets a top speed at 130 mph.
A 4.6-liter V-8 engine is the next step in the Genesis lineup. It plumps up power to 385 horsepower, and with the same eight-speed automatic, it pours out unruffled acceleration, switching gears with great isolation and Lexus-like invisibility. It's truly quick, and only a bit more expensive than some V-6-powered luxury rivals. Its 0-60 mph times check in at about five seconds, and top speed rises to 155 mph.
The Genesis' independent suspension has multiple links and lightweight aluminum construction for nimbler response, but at least in these two versions, the big Hyundais are tuned more for comfort than for outright handling prowess. The Genesis doesn't have the crisp steering responses or the taut ride quality of a Mercedes-Benz or BMW--but it does have a creamy, compliant ride and very low cabin noise.
The R-Spec edition is new for 2012, and it gets its motivation from the uprated 5.0-liter version of the 4.6-liter V-8. With 429 horsepower and the same automatic transmission, the R-Spec has a promised 0-60 mph time of under five seconds. Along with some cosmetic touches, it also comes with stiffer anti-roll bars, bigger 19-inch wheels and tires, and a quicker steering ratio. The tighter feel isn't a net improvement: the Genesis R-Spec feels overdamped, with sharp responses to bumps that get filtered out in the other models. It's also fitted with seats that feel like they've been softened to mute the effects of the R-Spec package. Shoppers who want the exclusivity of the R-Spec package and the new engine won't pay much more for them--only about $2000--but we think most Genesis buyers will be happier with the stock V-8 or even V-6 versions.