The latest Genesis proves that Hyundai isn’t easing up on its aspirational objectives

What is it?

It's never easy changing a brand’s image – especially when you’ve developed a reputation for cheap and cheerful products. Yet Hyundai’s aura has been upgraded substantially in recent years and, along with marked improvements in reliability, the original Genesis saloon (not sold in Europe) was a critical asset in that makeover.

The big executive saloon was the Korean maker’s first plunge into the mid-sized luxury segment. It had its flaws but, nonetheless, landed the North American Car of the Year trophy and generated significant sales. Meanwhile, Hyundai began addressing niggling concerns almost immediately and has upgraded the Genesis for 2012 with a variety of updates that include the launch of its biggest and most powerful engine yet, which makes its debut alongside an all-new eight-speed automatic that has been developed in-house.

Our first drive in this facelifted US-market 5.0-litre Genesis gives us the opportunity to try a version of the car more representative of the next-generation saloon, which is under consideration for right-hand drive production, and UK-market introduction, from launch.

What's it like?

The 5.0-litre V8 itself is a serious bruiser – a direct-injection engine churning out 423bhp, or more muscle than any direct rival. With its 376lb ft of torque coming on quickly, it’s satisfyingly responsive – especially once the self-programming gearbox begins to match shifts to your driving style.

The V8 serves as the heart of an all-new variant of the Genesis, the 5.0 R-Spec, which complements the existing V6 and V8 versions of the saloon. For those who expect a Korean challenge to the likes of BMW’s M division or Mercedes’ AMG, the R-Spec falls short. The car’s handling isn’t sufficiently precise or controlled for full-on sports saloon billing, but it adds welcome composure to the ordinary Genesis’s dynamic act without sacrificing comfort.

Officially, Hyundai proclaims the 2012 model the second update of the Genesis saloon line (which is not to be confused with the smaller Genesis coupé). Visual changes are modest and include a revised front bumper, altered chrome trim, LED headlight accents, tweaked rocker panels, new dual asymmetric exhaust tips and a few other details that only sharp-eyed Genesis fans will notice.

Inside, Hyundai has upgraded the look of the saloon’s trim, the overall feel coming a bit closer to what you’ll get from the best of the Europeans in this segment. There’s also a fair bit of new technology – including Lane Departure Warning, heated rear seats and a TFT LCD display mounted between the speedo and revcounter – although the Koreans aren’t challenging Mercedes or BMW for techno-supremacy.

With this new and impressive engine, the Genesis has become an even more competent executive car. Assuming that the next one can only get better – and that it could be on offer in the UK within just a few years, for a price that’s likely to undercut the competition by more than £10,000 – the Genesis could turn out to be a very smart and appealing buy indeed.

Should I buy one?

If you’re not willing to bankrupt the household budget for a top-of-the-line German or Japanese executive saloon, but still have high expectations of performance, refinement, comfort and quality, it could suit you perfectly.

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Paul Eisenstein

Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec

Price: £30,000 (est); Top speed: 152mph (governed); 0-60mph: 5.1sec; Economy: 25.0mpg (est); C02: na; Kerb weight: 1835kg; Engine: V8, 5038cc, petrol; Power: 423bhp; Torque: 376lb ft

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Lanehogger 29 July 2011

Re: Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec

I've just returned from Canada and while over there I caught a glimspe of some Genesis'. Although they lack the style of, say a Jag XF, they looked impressive and certainly had the presence to rival a XF, E-Class, 5-Series or Lexus GS. But most impressive was that they looked like a quality and sophisticated product and while I didn't sit in one, from the exterior at least, quality looked top notch, almost Lexus-like.

I also saw the current Sonata and I've got to say that in the flesh it is one impressive looking car, far better looking than any Mondeo or 3-Series. The current 'MD' Elantra looks even better and if Hyundai sold this instead of the i30 it could have a winner on its hands if priced competively. And to round things off for Hyundai, the friends I stayed with have an Elantra Touring (i30 estate to you and me) and I have to say that I was impressed with the car, particularly the inside where I found the design and quality of materials better than the current Focus.

There can be no doubt that Hyundai has come on leaps and bounds and they are, in my mind, probably the most improved manufacturer. Certainly changed my 'cheap rubbish' perception.

russ13b 28 July 2011

Re: Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec

How nicely do you have to ask to get this engine in an Evora?

philcUK 27 July 2011

Re: Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec

Well Infiniti have shall we say had a slow drawn out progress since they opened shop here two years ago and until recently still only had one dealership but that's grown to six now. Sales aren't setting the world ablaze but i guess that's to be expected with limited outlets.(would still take an EX over an Evoque though...)

The comment about Lexus and performance of these brands in Europe is a quote from Hyundai themselves - not my opinion :) Looking at their data - Lexus are having a slightly better year this year but their sales are still massively eclipsed by all their rivals. They have been in the UK more than 20 years now and in reality have made little headway into the market.

It's no real surprise then that Hyundai are nervous about trying to introduce a new premium brand here.