Pros: Big sedan ride, great value for the money, roomy interior.

Cons: Base steering wheel tilts but doesn't telescope, all-wheel drive isn't available, imprecise steering.

Introduction

The 2012 Hyundai Genesis luxury sedan is an interesting mishmash of where Hyundai's been and where it's going. The styling is very much Old Hyundai, a conservative combination of familiar cues from established luxury brands rather than a bold expression of Hyundai's latest "fluidic sculpture" design language. But it's all New Hyundai under the hood, where the addition of direct injection and an eight-speed automatic transmission has resulted in serious power and refinement upgrades for both V6 and V8 models.

When the Genesis debuted a few years ago, of course, there was no "New Hyundai." The rear-wheel-drive Genesis was quite simply a revolutionary product at the time-the first Korean luxury sedan that could truly compete with the world's finest, nonetheless maintaining Hyundai's traditional price advantage. The revolutionary fluidic styling exemplified by the Sonata and Elantra, meanwhile, was still a year or two away.

So where does that leave the 2012 Hyundai Genesis? In a pretty good spot, we think. It remains the best car Hyundai makes, and the under-hood improvements for 2012 help it maintain a safe distance from the sharp new Azera full-size sedan. Particularly for those who aren't sold on Hyundai's radical new stylistic direction, the 2012 Genesis might be the perfect mix of old and new.

Comfort & Utility

The 2012 Hyundai Genesis comes in three trim levels defined by engine displacement: 3.8 (the V6), 4.6 (the standard V8) and 5.0 R-Spec (the high-output V8).

Even the 3.8 is bursting with standard amenities, including 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, automatic halogen headlamps with LED accents, keyless entry with push-button ignition, electroluminescent gauges, a trip computer, dual-zone automatic climate control, woodgrain interior trim, a surprisingly tilt-only leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, leather upholstery, heated power front seats with driver height and lumbar adjustments and a seven-speaker audio system with iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity.

The 4.6 steps up to 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive xenon headlamps, power folding exterior mirrors with puddle lamps, rain-sensing wipers, a sunroof, adaptive cruise control, leather dashboard and door trim, upgraded leather seat upholstery, driver memory functions, cooled front seats, heated rear seats, a power tilt-telescopic steering wheel with woodgrain trim, a power rear sunshade, a 4-inch driver information display, a navigation system with an 8-inch touchscreen and a 17-speaker Lexicon audio system with an in-dash 6-DVD changer.

The 5.0 R-Spec adds a sport-tuned suspension, sporty styling elements and 19-inch alloy wheels with available summer performance tires, but it's otherwise equipped similarly to the 4.6.

Many of the V8 models' luxuries can be added to the Genesis 3.8 as options, including the 8-inch navigation screen and the 17-speaker Lexicon audio system, both part of the $4,000 Technology Package which requires the $4,800 Premium Package.

The Genesis' front seats vary in their adjustability and other features, but one thing remains constant: their flat cushions, which are fine for long hauls but not fine for holding occupants in place during spirited cornering. The base 3.8 model's standard tilt-only steering wheel is an insult at this price. Luxury sedan buyers shouldn't have to pay extra for a basic convenience item like a telescoping steering wheel.

The Genesis' gauges could have been taken straight out of a Lexus, as they employ the same minimalist look and electroluminescent illumination. Turning to the central control stack, the buttons look similar and take some getting used to. Also, we're not completely enthused about the silver plastic Hyundai uses for some of the trim pieces. Aside from that silver plastic, the quality of the materials is outstanding, giving even executive-class luxury sedans a run for their money.

The Genesis' back seat is another highlight-if there's a roomier, more comfortable back seat under $70,000, we haven't sat in it. Trunk space is an average-plus 15.9 cubic feet.

Technology

A glance at the 3.8's standard equipment shows that even the cheapest Genesis has a first-class technology roster given its mid-$30,000s starting price. In terms of options, we haven't been as impressed as some other publications by the Lexicon audio system that sounds pretty darn good. Whether you get the 7-inch or 8-inch navigation screen, the system's graphics may leave something to be desired, but we're fans of the iDrive-style controller knob on the center console, which obviates the need to lean forward for adjustments when you're driving.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The rear-wheel-drive Genesis (all-wheel drive is not available) starts with a 3.8-liter V6 engine that sends 333 horsepower and 291 lb-ft of torque through an eight-speed automatic transmission. This is an excellent engine, delivering serious doses of power and refinement. Indeed, it's so good that it diminishes the appeal of the otherwise lovely 4.6-liter V8, which cranks out 385 horsepower and 333 lb-ft of torque (with premium fuel) via the eight-speed automatic. The R-Spec's 5.0-liter V8 certainly puts plenty of distance between itself and the V6-429 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque will do that for you-but you're stuck with the R-Spec's racy styling and firm sport-tuned suspension, so it may come as a mixed blessing.

Fuel economy is 18 mpg city/28 mpg highway with the 3.8, 16/25 mpg with the 4.6 and 16/25 mpg with the 5.0.

Safety

The 2012 Hyundai Genesis comes with standard stability control, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, active front head restraints and eight airbags (front, front-side, rear-side, full-length side-curtain).

The government has not crash-tested the Genesis, but the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Genesis its highest rating of "Good" in all categories.

Driving Impressions

Interestingly, the base Genesis 3.8 comes with conventional hydraulic steering, while the V8-powered models get an electro-hydraulic setup. On the road, though, the main impression we get from the steering is a detached numbness, regardless of the model. That may be fine by folks who just want a smooth, isolated luxury experience, but it's an area in which Hyundai could certainly improve. Otherwise, though, the regular Genesis models are a treat. The ride is exceptionally quiet, and thanks to some suspension tweaks a couple years back, bumps are dispatched with executive-grade disdain. Moreover, the Genesis is actually surprisingly composed in fast corners; it's just that the steering can't keep up with the chassis. Unfortunately, the R-Spec has needlessly firm suspension tuning that compromises its luxuriousness.

Other Cars to Consider

BMW 3 Series - We know the 3 Series sedan isn't nearly as large as the Genesis, but it's got an adult-friendly back seat for 2012, and it delivers superior dynamics without sacrificing much in the way of ride quality.

Hyundai Azera - Hyundai's new full-size sedan got the full fluidic-sculpture treatment inside and out, which could sway some buyers who find the Genesis a bit old-fashioned. The Azera is front-wheel-drive, though, and its 3.3-liter V6 isn't notably strong.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class - You'll have to settle for the Benz's base V6 instead of the Hyundai's V8, but a loaded Genesis does command E350 money these days. At that price, some may be tempted to go with the Benz badge and mystique.

AutoTrader Recommends

We want the 5.0-liter V8-badly-but we 'can't deal with the R-Spec suspension that comes with it. So we'd recommend sticking with the base 3.8 model, perhaps adding some options if the mood struck. The Genesis may be getting on in years, but it's still a heckuva bargain with that V6.

In November 2012, Kia and Hyundai adjusted the fuel economy ratings on some 2011-2013 models. This article has been modified to reflect the accurate EPA ratings.

author photo

Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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