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2013 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec Sedan

The BMW 550i sedan is a really nice car, there’s no doubt about that. It’s got 449 HP, and lots of leather and brushed aluminum bits, and all sorts of electronic wizardry. But there are some downsides, the primary one being the $63,000 base price. Add some decent options to it, and you’ll find the sticker price soaring over $70,000. That’s the equivalent of one-third of a house. Or a couple of very nice houses in Detroit. Yes, it’s fast, luxurious, and comfortable, but it costs quite a lot. Of course, horsepower, as they say, costs money, but does it have to cost that much?

No, it does not.

Hyundai believes their Genesis 5.0 R-Spec sedan is a direct competitor to at the BMW 550i, and they only ask you to pay them $46,000 for it. That’s not exactly cheap, but it is significantly cheaper. For the frugally-minded buyer, who believes that the word “luxury” is just a code word for “unnecessarily expensive” Hyundai thinks they have a compelling alternative to the BMW offering. I’m not sure about that, but I am sure that Lexus and Acura should be worried.

How it looks

2013 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-SpecThe Genesis sedan is…well…it is what it is. I mean, it’s not…ugly, exactly. It has some very attractive symmetry when viewed briefly, from far away, at certain angles. It has a sort of flowing…you know…design motif that…Oh, screw it. It’s awful. The front end is hideous, with a grille that makes it look like some sort of mutant Mercedes that, against every rational argument, was allowed to be born, and which makes the townspeople so uncomfortable that they are always seconds away from grabbing pitchforks and torches. This might have been a moderately unattractive car in 1995, but in 2014, it’s nasty.

It looks better from the side, and Hyundai has even put a bit of a Hofmeister kink in the C-pillar, to remind you of the BMW. When viewed from the side, it looks like it’s leaning forward into the wind and picking up speed. Viewed from the rear, it’s a little bland, but perfectly all right. Then you see the front of the thing again, and your reality is suddenly skewed with a fundamental sense of wrongness.

It’s a lot nicer inside though, in a very Lexus-y sort of way. In fact, let’s take a second to explore this. Hyundai thinks that their competition is the BMW 5-series. But, any competition that Hyundai has with BMW or Mercedes is strictly at the margin. Really, their competitors are Lexus and Acura. And, frankly, at that level of competition, the Genesis interior stacks up very well indeed. Fit and finish is fully on par with the Japanese luxury machines.

The leather seats are comfortable, though not aggressively bolstered, which limits their utility in more aggressive driving situations. The emphasis on the Genesis seats still hovers closer to the luxury than to the sport end of the equation.

2013 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec InteriorNaturally, there are all the electronic goodies you could possibly want, including a large sat-nav screen in the center stack, a fully-adjustable steering wheel—leather-coated, obviously—and the requisite USB and Bluetooth connections for your various and sundry devices. There’s also a quite nice lane deviation warning system, and adaptive cruise control. Actually, the list of luxury features, from stereo to sunroof, to heated rear seats, is hugely impressive. In terms of value for the money, Hyundai has it nailed, unlike, say BMW or Mercedes, who rape you savagely when it comes to the price of the options list.

The interior is very button-filled, however. There are more buttons and 4-way controllers on the steering wheel than on the control wheel of a 747. There are buttons and dials surrounding the large entertainment/sat-nav screen. There’s a couple of more rows of buttons in the center of the dash, too. All in all, there’s really quite a lot of buttons, and I’m still not sure what all of them do.

Everyone, front and back, gets to control their own climate, and everybody has lots of head and leg room as well. It’s quite comfortable inside the Genesis. Overall, it’s as nice a place to be as any Acura or Lexus. Leaving aside the multiplicity of physical buttons, there’s absolutely nothing to complain about when it comes to the Genesis’ interior. And once you’ve learned all the buttons in the control stack, I’m sure it’s quite convenient, as well.

How it drives

The 5.0L V8 in the Genesis R-Spec pushes it along with authority, hitting 60 MPH in five seconds or so—maybe 4.8 seconds if you really know what you’re doing. Quarter-mile times should be in the low thirteen-second range. So this is not, by any means a slow car. Having said that, though, it’s also not really a sports sedan, so much as it is a grand tourer.

This is because the full 429 HP doesn’t come on until 6400 RPM and the maximum torque of 376 lb-ft isn’t available until 5,000 RPM. So, while the power is there, it’s not low in the power band. For passing on the highway, though, stomping the accelerator for a little passing action puts you right in the meat of the power band. Stoplight to stoplight, however, you’ll get stomped by a BMW 550i. It’s a revvy engine, and if you want power, you’ll have to live higher up in the rev range to get it.

2013 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-SpecHyundai’s 8-speed automatic transmission gets the power from the engine to the rear wheels. It is a Shiftronic unit, so you can take over the shifting duties manually, if you want, and don’t mind a bit of a lag for your inputs to get carried out. Which you will mind, because it’s a bit…slow. Apparently, this is what happens when you stomp on the accelerator for a downshift, or manually pop it down a cog: A telegraph message is sent in Morse code from the engine control unit to the transmission gremlin, which wakes him up. He then listens to Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitgerald” while he enjoys a nice hot cup of coffee to get ready for the day. Then he walks into the machine room and turns a large iron wheel counterclockwise for several revolutions, then pulls a number of valve levers. Then the steam pressure has to build up before the transmission can shift.

This, like the peaky engine, is, I’m afraid, par for the course, even for Hyundai’s more sporty vehicles.

Hyundai has tweaked the suspension on the Genesis, making it a bit stiffer, and using a larger anti-roll bar to minimize body roll in hard cornering. There are some pluses and minuses to this, as the ride is a bit stiff, as well, which is especially noticeable on bad pavement. But that’s always the tradeoff when you’re trying to keep a 4,250 lb. car from rolling over in corners like a fishing scow in the North Atlantic. Get on the highway, however, and all is well, with the Genesis blasting through long sweepers like nobody’s business, with a firm, yet luxurious, ride that’s hard to find anything to complain about.

Steering is fine, I guess. It’s an electric unit. I think we all know how I feel about these, at this point, which is that they’re numb, and provide only a simulation of feel. Hyundai has tried to get it right, but it’s no better than average, really.

Worse than average, sadly, is braking distance, which is 136 feet at 60 MPH. So if a small child or adorable animal jumps out in front of you, I’m afraid they’re going to die quite messily, and bang up the front end of your luxury car badly.

What’s good about it

The interior is quite good for the price, and it comes loaded with…everything. Even the rear seats are heated. The engine is powerful, but the exhaust note is muted, as befits a luxury car, rather than loud and brash, like a sports car. Highway performance is excellent, as is cruising comfort. The value for money it represents is outstanding.

What’s bad about it

The engine is peaky, with the majority of power available at higher revs. The transmission is slow. Braking distance is below average. The ride is harsher than it should be on less-than-perfect pavement. The exterior design is dated and unattractive.

Conclusion

The real strength of this car is not any sort of track day pretensions, but rather getting it out on the open road and opening it up. The Genesis 5.0 R-Spec should really be the GT-Spec, because it is a hard car to beat for gobbling up miles of interstate in stately luxury—especially for the price.

A Cadillac CTS-V or BMW 550i, when optioned like the Genesis, will cost you north of $70,000, while the Genesis will cost you less than $50,000. The Caddy and Beemer are, admittedly, better cars when it comes to driving dynamics, but are they $25,000 better? You could buy the Genesis and a Ford Focus ST for the price of a CTS-V. Which, now that I think about it, is exactly what you should do.

Whatever faults the Genesis has, I’m pretty sure it’s not worth an additional twenty-five large to correct them. And when you compare the Genesis to its competition from Acura or Lexus, I’m not sure why you’d choose anything but the Genesis.

For an automaker that, ten years ago, was regarded as some sort of industry freak with a weird name and weirder cars, the Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec is truly a testimony to how far Hyundai has come.

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