New car test: Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec – 429 hp bargain sport sedan

The 429-hp, Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec sedan is a halo model with global aspirations, but this car is no angel.

The 5.0 R-Spec has a tuned suspension that feels like BMW; it has the commanding substance of Mercedes-Benz; and the millimeter-tight assembly for which Lexus is known.

To these positive similarities, the Genesis adds a big, booming presence that is unique to this car. It is a collection of advanced Hyundai engineering, of which only Genesis owners are aware. The 5.0 R-Spec is an engaging sport sedan, but not a threat or comparison to cars from BMW M, Mercedes’ AMG or Audi’s S line.

You will like Hyundai’s sport treatment if you lease a sedan but want added style and performance without voiding the warranty.

And while the Hyundai Genesis may be the most unrecognized sedan on the highway, it is also the biggest full-size bargain, too. The Genesis line starts with the 333-hp, 3.8-liter V-6 and moves up to the 385-hp, 4.6-liter V-8 and on to the 5.0 R-Spec. Base pricing starts at $35,050, $45,350 and $47,350. The test car was $47,385, with just one option for a $35 iPod cable.

That additional $10,000 to $16,000 buys a badge of renown, when the Genesis doesn’t even have a badge in the grille. But what it does have, the owners will brag about.

For a gallery of the Genesis 5.0 R-Spec http://veh.cl/31w

5.0 R-Spec is a comfortable step up in performance and style

The 429-hp, Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec is a bargain sport sedan that exceeds expectations in almost all ways. Pricing starts at $47,350, but the standard equipment list includes just about everything, except an iPod cable.

R-Spec features include a navigation system, moonroof, proximity key lock/unlock and push-button starting, Lexicon 17-speaker audio system, headlights with dark chrome inserts, perforated heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, embroidered floor mats and three paint colors Black Noir, Titanium Gray, and Platinum Metallic, each with black leather interior and black leather, multifunction steering wheel.

Competitors such as the entry-level, six-cylinder versions of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class or BMW 5-Series have starting prices of $51,365 and $45,925, respectively.

The exterior styling is “traditional” and won’t offend, but the interior dimensions are excellent: Front headroom is a little more than 40 inches and front legroom is long at 44.3 inches. The raised back seats are richly comfortable and rear legroom is limo-like at 38.6 inches.

The interior is contemporary and upscale with no stodgy, dark wood trim. The R-Spec’s ultra-leather treatment is tender to the touch and aromatic as a tack room of English saddles.

Sightlines are good even without the rearview camera and the advanced tech features assist without interfering: Lane departure warning, smart cruise control.

Slam the doors, rock the throttle and let the R-Spec’s 429-horses run. The response isn’t what you might expect of this Korean carmaker. The aluminum, 5.0-liter V-8 is highly engineered with direct injection and the other usual, power-enhancing suspects, including dual continuously variable valve timing.

Wield this rear-drive ax through a corner, and it brings a smile – not that it could do it, but that it does it so well. Ride quality is firm but not harsh and it performs well on all surfaces. Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position summer rubber on 19-inch wheels gives a hefty stance. And behind them are 13.6-inch vented, four-piston front discs at the front and 12.4-inch, four-pot solid discs rear.

With an eight-speed Shiftronic transmission, fuel economy on the highway is a respectable 25 mpg on premium fuel, which is required for peak performance. The Genesis matches or beats the mpg of the competition and it has more power.

The transmission has a manual shift-gate, which sharpens performance to a Sport mode. But there is no dedicated Sport mode to enjoy the quickened pace. The quicker response is available only in the manual shift mode. The standard Drive setting isn’t dull, but at times when the hammer goes down, there’s a long second of communication before the engine clears its throat and roars.

The 5.0 R-spec is a hunk of power, but it is well executed for American-class comfort and drivability.

About Mark Maynard

Mark Maynard has been the automotive editor at the San Diego Union-Tribune since 1992.

He drives nearly 200 vehicles a year for review, has attended several high-performance driving schools and a few off-road driving courses.

He attends many new-vehicle press introductions and schmoozes with auto-industry execs.

Mark Maynard