Acclaimed for its smart styling, solid build quality and higher-end features found normally on more expensive marques, the Hyundai Genesis sedan has been a darling of automotive experts since it hit the U.S. market in 2008. And consumers seem to agree. Sales of the midsize four-door have been increasing every year since its introduction as a 2009 model. Many Genesis buyers are new to the Hyundai brand, abandoning more established makes and spawning more than one biblically inspired aphorism of how Genesis begets exodus.
The 2012 Hyundai Genesis gets refreshed front and rear fascia including tweaked headlamps and bumpers, a revised front grille and an integrated exhaust design, along with more upscale-looking exterior trim. New for 2012 are heated rear seats and a lane departure warning system, both included in the optional Technology Package.
Most significantly, the 2012 Genesis boasts new, more powerful and more efficient powertrains, including three gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines and Hyundai's first proprietary 8-speed automatic transmission.
Most 2012 Genesis models come with the base 333-horsepower 3.8-liter V6. For those who want more oomph, a 4.6-liter V8 version available in one nicely equipped trim level will get you a satisfying 378 hp.
Enthusiasts will salivate over the new 5.0-liter Genesis R-Spec for 2012, which cranks out a class-competitive 429 hp and 376 pound-feet of torque capable of a 0-60 mph time in just over five seconds, while still achieving a respectable estimated 25 mpg highway rating. The 2012 Hyundai R-Spec also gets a sport-tuned suspension, steering and transmission along with19-inch alloy wheels and unique headlamp trim.
In keeping true to its passion for drivetrain advancement, Hyundai's new 8-speed transmission with manual shifting capability (dubbed Shiftronic) was developed fully in-house. More gears, in addition to other features including skip-shift technology, help to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy. Purists will bemoan the lack of a manual gearbox on any 2012 Genesis models.
Hyundai would like us to believe the 2012 Genesis sedan competes head-to-head with midsize luxury four-doors such as the BMW 5-Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. And while the Genesis sedan offers superb value over these German mainstays, it might be a tough sell for the badge-conscious. Plus, those who live in snowy climes might leave the Genesis off their lists for lack of a four-wheel-drive version. The V6-powered Genesis is best compared with midsize sedans such as the Chrysler 300 and Buick LaCrosse. Features and performance, however, are on par with luxury models like Lexus GS, Lincoln MKS and Cadillac CTS. The 5.0 R-Spec proves to be a good contender with the likes of the Infiniti M56S, but with a much lower sticker price.
Also compelling is Hyundai's Assurance trade-in value guarantee, which assigns a future value to a vehicle at the time of purchase, based on a 24- to 48-month time frame. This guaranteed value can then be applied to a future Hyundai trade-in, as long as it's within the 24- to 48-month period. Even if the car is worth more than projected at the time of trade-in, the customer gets the higher amount.
Whether it's a true luxury car in the minds of buyers, the 2012 Hyundai Genesis in all its incarnations remains a top choice, both on paper and on the road.
Hyundai Genesis 3.8 ($34,200); Genesis 4.6 ($44,500); Genesis 5.0 R-Spec ($46,500)
Surprisingly good looks set the Hyundai Genesis apart from its more affordable competitors. Fluid body lines and styling cues are reminiscent of higher-end luxury lines, yet remain distinctive.
For 2012, exterior tweaks on the Genesis sedan are subtle, but effective. Hyundai jumps on the bandwagon with other luxury car makers by adding integrated LED accent lights (a la Audi), as well as a revised wraparound headlamp design. A modified front bumper sports a new air intake, while the redesigned front grille incorporates cleaner, straighter lines.
On the sides, a darker trim around windows aims to convey a more upscale feel, while more prominent rocker panels give a slightly more assertive look. New side mirrors are reshaped and now include a power-folding feature and integrated puddle lamps.
In back, wraparound tail lights are more pronounced and the rear bumper features and integrated rear exhaust design, which lends a seamless, attractive appearance.
The cabin of the 2012 Hyundai Genesis sedan is elegant and tastefully executed. We took a Genesis 3.8 model for a spin in the Nevada desert and found the leather seats to be supportive and supple. Other leather trim, such as the wraparound two-tone dash gives the interior just the right touch of luxe. However, the wood grain trim looks more plastic than posh, especially around the doors.
The LCD gauges are bright and sharp, and are pleasing on the eye. Center stack controls are large and easy to read. Despite numerous buttons, layout is intuitive for the most part, although it takes a while to find certain functions. The mode button for the climate control, for example, is on the opposite side of the stack from the other HVAC buttons, which left us momentarily grasping at vents to direct cool air onto our feet in blazing 103-degree heat. Dual climate control worked nicely and the cooled, ventilated driver seat was a Godsend in the hot sun, although our front passenger was understandably put off that the feature was not included on both seats.
Due to the myriad buttons and knobs, there isn't much center storage space. Curiously, the small compartment between the shift lever and the center stack is dedicated to an ashtray and cigarette lighter, perhaps designed for the Asian market, since many U.S.-bound vehicles have long abandoned these (or make them available in a separate smoker's package). Using Hyundai's navigation system is less time-consuming than others on the market, although one passenger found it faster to punch up our destination on a Google Maps-powered smartphone.
Visibility is good, thanks to a large rear window, well designed side mirrors and minimally invasive B- and C-pillars. Front head- and legroom were more than adequate for drivers and passengers ranging from petite to tall, but in back, the head of one six-foot passenger nearly grazed the headliner while sitting behind the driver. And because the center seat is slightly raised, it's not an option for taller riders. Rear legroom is plentiful, as long as the front seats aren't all the way back.
Unlike many of its competitors, the 2012 Hyundai Genesis doesn't offer folding split rear seats, only a pass-through slot. Trunk space is average for the segment at 15.9 cubic feet.
The 2012 Hyundai Genesis sedan strikes a good balance between comfortable and responsive. With the Genesis 3.8 tuned to the more luxurious side, it's a good highway cruiser without feeling too billowy. The cabin is remarkably quiet, although rough roads do yield some noise and vibration. Handling in the Genesis 3.8 has the edge over the somewhat boaty Chrysler 300 and Lexus ES. Brakes are responsive and stop the car with confidence.
Acceleration in the Genesis 3.8 is smooth and satisfying, but it won't leave you breathless. The 8-speed transmission does an admirable job staying efficient while offering up adequate power. Not too long ago, that many gears would have seemed preposterous, but in the days of mandated fuel economy standards, automakers seem keen on ever increasing gear span in hopes to eek out an extra mpg or two (which usually means cruising at pitifully low rpm). Yet, in this case, Hyundai seems to have done a pretty good job with the power curve, keeping torque readily available at low engine speeds.
Moving from the 3.8 V6 to the 5.0 R-Spec V8 is a little like checking out of the Hilton and into the Mandarin Oriental. The former is perfectly nice, but the top-of-the line model makes us wish we could linger just a bit longer. And order room service. Acceleration is smooth as silk, and gears shift at higher rpm for and extra power boost. The sport suspension makes the Genesis sedan more agile around corners and lessens body roll at turn-in.
Fuel economy for the Genesis 3.8 is an EPA-estimated 19/29 mpg City/Highway on Regular gasoline. Genesis 4.6 and 5.0 R-Spec are both rated 17/26 mpg on Premium gas.
For those who can look past the H-shaped logo, the 2012 Hyundai Genesis remains a stylish choice that remains a great value for the money when compared with its more established luxury rivals. Its confident and able handling, bevy of comfortable features and a solid trade-in value guarantee keep it a top contender in the midsize sedan segment.
Laura Burstein filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after her test drive of Hyundai Genesis models near Las Vegas.