The 2012 Hyundai Genesis R-Spec is targeting the luxury sedan market offering drivers an aggressive ride in a sporty and refined car.

Photo by Len Ingrassia
Assistant Sports Editor

Let’s try a word association game.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear E-Class?

Most likely your answer would be Mercedes. Right?

How about Hyundai Genesis. Probably not, unless you are one of the 25,000 Genesis buyers through the third quarter this year. That’s roughly the same number of cars sold as the GMC Yukon, Dodge Challenger, Audi A4 and BMW X5. Not quite a household word, yet.

No doubt their engineers had eyes on the Benz when designing the Genesis though.

This year’s Genesis models -- there are three -- start at $34,000 and run north of $46,000 for the flagship 5.0 R Spec edition. The Genesis is in its fourth year of production.

The R-Spec is powerful with 429 horsepower and an 8-speed automatic transmission developed by the Korean automaker for 2012. It scoots along, reaching 60 miles per hour in just over 5 ticks, really fast for a large sedan.

On the open road, the ride is impressive and goes a long way toward meeting Hyundai’s goals of developing a sporty, aggressive and refined automobile. While okay, interior finish material could be taken up a few notches to match its pricey sticker.

With the exception of a $35 iPod cable there are no additional options available on the R Spec. They’re all included. Navigation, leather, selective damping shocks, laser cruise control, lane departure warning system, heated, cooled seats, 10 airbags, satellite radio and stand out 19-inch alloy wheels are all standard fare.

A V6 engine comes standard on the base model and delivers better fuel economy than the R-Spec. In a week of combined driving, the R-Spec clocked in with 17 miles per gallon.

I found the new transmission on the R-Spec a bit finicky though. For all its gears, it seems to pause under aggressive driving off the line before kicking in all that power to the rear wheels.

Also on the finicky list for me is the mouse-like electronic interface, a controller that is center console mounted, a bit reminiscent of the bothersome BMW i-Drive system.

Hyundai’s version seems dated with a large round knob that turns and pushes downward to click its way through system adjustments for climate, navi, radio and phone. There may be a learning curve here but it seems that a lot of driver-distracted clicking is needed for system adjustments that could be easily handled with a dash knob.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle the R Spec model will have is its lack of brand recognition in the luxury sedan market. It is a Hyundai after all, a name synonymous with mid-level entry cars with great warranties.

If you like all the bells and whistles of a euro-luxury sedan without the $70s - $80s price tag and don’t mind the hood moniker, this is the car for you.

This Week's Circulars