A little more than three years ago, a Hyundai featured prominently on a site with "Luxury Car" in the title would have been, at best, a good April Fool's joke. Then the company went out and built the Genesis sedan, blowing our minds with its level of sophistication, and making us take a closer look at this Korean manufacturer. In 2010, Hyundai introduced the even more luxurious Equus sedan, upping the company's stakes even further, and further solidifying its intent to be a premium player.
(And if you think Hyundai will never be taken seriously as a luxury manufacturer, I have just one word for you: Lexus.)
Anyhow, Hyundai is not just resting on its critical acclaim for the Genesis, and at the Chicago Auto Show it introduced a new, more powerful version of its luxury sedan, The Genesis R-Spec. This performance-enhanced model isn't just a badge and bigger wheels. Under the hood is a new 5.0-liter V-8 putting out 429 horsepower. It's the most powerful engine Hyundai has ever made, and from a specific output (hp per liter) standpoint, it crushes V-8s from Lexus, Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz. In addition to increasing the bore size, Hyundai also added direct injection. Connected to the new engine is an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission that Hyundai developed in-house. Not only is it powerful, but Hyundai claims that both the new engine's estimated 16 city and 25 highway mpg is off only by 1 mpg compared to the 4.6-liter version. Lest you think the Genesis is suddenly the flagship, the bigger engine and eight-speed automatic will be standard equipment in the Equus starting this summer.
The chassis comes in for some tweaking as well. The front stabilizer bar increases from 25 mm to 26 mm, and the rear from 18 mm to 19 mm. The R-Spec comes with model-unique 19-inch wheels shod in Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 summer tires, and the steering is recalibrated for a sportier feel. Look closely behind the front wheels and you'll see that the front brake rotors have increased in diameter from 13.0-in. to 13.6 in.
To make sure you know this is an R-Spec, Hyundai added a special "R-Spec" badge to the rear, gave it special dark-chrome headlight inserts, and also dressed up the interior in all black. Only three colors will be available: Titanium Gray, Platinum Metallic and the redundantly named Black Noir.
Along with the new R-Spec, the entire Genesis line gets a good tweaking for the 2012 model year. All of the sedans get a mildly refreshed exterior, with a more aggressive grille, LED headlight accents and redesigned taillights. While the 4.6-liter engine remains largely the same, the 3.8-liter V-6 gets direct injection, bumping its output up to 333 horsepower. The whole lineup benefits from various chassis tuning enhancements as well, such as stiffer shocks, and thicker stabilizer bars for 3.8-liter models.
It's obvious that Hyundai is committed to making itself into a player in the premium market. With its continual tweaks to the Genesis, it's getting harder to discount its efforts, too.