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Back in 2009, just at the point when Americans began truly accepting Hyundai s affordable cars, they dropped the Genesis sedan on us. At launch they claimed it would run with the high-end brands. There was V6 and V8 power to choose from and it came with many of the bells and whistles people expect in luxury cars. In short, it was an appealing car with an appealing price tag. The only thing it didn t have was a badge on the grille. I m not talking premium status badge, I mean any identification at all. From the front, Genesis was completely anonymous.

For 2012 they ve refined it with a new transmission, engine refinements, fresh taillights and a new front end. Still, no logo on the nose. There is one on the back though and reads a bit like a book- Genesis 5.0 R-Spec.

Deciphering the Badge

The R-Spec badge on the back tells the world that Genesis transmission programming, suspension tuning, steering calibrations and summer performance tires are up for a little fun.

5.0 means tucked under the hood is a five-liter Tao V8, which is Hyundai s most powerful engine ever. The sound of its 429 horsepower and 376 lb-ft or torque at 5,000 RPMs (when drinking premium fuel) is refined though not overly throaty. The automatic gearbox, which is Hyundai s own design, gets eight speeds. That s up two from last year.

Fuel economy? The Genesis R-Spec is EPA rated 16 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. The V8 power almost makes you forget about the price of gas these days. Almost. Still, not bad for a machine this powerful.

The 5.0-liter is exclusive to the R-Spec. There is another V8 for Genesis, their 4.6-liter Tao engine makes 385 horsepower and is just a smidge more fuel efficient, adding 1 MPG to highway mileage.

Go Speed Racer

Put the pedal down on the R-Spec and suddenly you re going very, very fast. 0-60 happens in five seconds flat, about twice as fast as a Prius. If you haven t experienced G-forces like this in a car, it is great fun. Duh. With very capable brakes it stops well too. That is important.

Yes, it handles well. Cornering is flat and adhesion limits are on the high side. It s a bit sterile when it comes to road feel though and tranny shifts are more leisurely than expected in a sport sedan. R-Spec is not as athletic as BMW M and Cadillac V performance models. Power delivery, cornering, ride quality, and steering feel is all very smooth, almost Lexus-like in that double-coat-of-Teflon kind of way. R-Spec leans toward the coddling side of the luxury/sport segment. Certainly not a bad thing if that s what you re looking for.

There s advanced tech on board. Radar assisted cruise control matches the speed of the car ahead and the lane departure warning helps to keep you centered and looking good to the rest of the world.

Dark Treatment

Go for an R-Spec over the standard sedan and everything about the conservative interior is deep black. Details are mostly quite nice. The door handles in the armrests are made with supremely soft leather, gauges are crisp and clear, materials are high quality. Considering the upscale mission of Genesis a digital clock is a bit of a surprise. Also, the side bolstering of the comfortable seats is minimal for a car with performance chops. The driver s chair is heated and cooled. Only bun warmers for the passengers.

User interfaces in luxury cars can be confusing, the one in Genesis is decent. The knob that gets turned, nudged and tapped is intuitive enough and the surrounding buttons are helpful. Overall, the experience has a consistent operation and it s easy enough to decipher without cracking open the manual. Personally I prefer touch screens, but this set up isn t half bad.

The Back Half

Moving rearward there s a very comfortable and supportive back seat. Your friends will ask you to drive on chilly days, they get heated seats. Leg and foot room is generous, though the driveshaft tunnel is large and will get in the way of the middle passenger. There are spaces to stash things away and a powered screen keeps the sun off your friends necks.

There s nothing too special about the trunk. It s well trimmed but the back seats don t drop to expand utility, there s just a ski pass through. In my standard testing metric, six packs of Kirkland brand bath tissue can be packed into the boot. That s one short of average. Large hinge arms take up space, at least they are covered by trim so they don t smash luggage.

A Little Less Fluidic

Design? Genesis predates Hyundai s swoopy new fluidic sculpture language so it s less flashy than the rest of the clan. I especially like the lighted ribbon in the headlamps, and the R-Spec s 19-inch wheels. This is a car that had a vague Mercedes-like look to it when it first arrived. Since Mercedes has moved on to a crisper style that s not the case these days.

What s this all cost? The retail price for this car is $46,535, the only option being a $35 iPod cable. That s quite reasonable for what s included,. Prices for the base V6 model start at around 35 grand. Compared to BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E Class and Lexus GS, it s a steal that s priced closer to Chrysler s 300. Need a luxury badge? Look someplace else. Those who can settle for power, luxury, features and crisp handling will find Genesis R-Spec a great deal.

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