Complementing its premium character with a megadose of pure performance, the 2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec served notice in Chicago that the Korean automaker is ready to seriously raise the stakes in the sport-luxury sedan game. On sale this summer, it packs a new 5.0-liter/429-horsepower version of the automaker's award-winning Tau V8 along with a new eight-speed automatic transmission, loads of functional chassis tweaks and a host of bespoke cosmetic touches. Equally notable, the arrival of this new flagship of the Genesis line will be accompanied by a similar array of well-focused revisions to its less-intense siblings.

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Thinking bigger and badder

In creating the new 5.0-liter R-Spec engine, Hyundai engineers carried over all of the existing techno wizardry from the existing 4.6 Tau -- including direct injection, Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (D-CVVT), tuned variable induction and extensive friction-reduction measures. However, this incarnation saw numerous design modifications, starting with increasing the cylinder bore diameters from 92mm to 96mm to bring it up to 5,038cc id displacement and a bump in compression ratio from 10.4 to 11.5:1. Other enhancements to help cope with the extra output include a revised bed plate that increases block rigidity and lowers NVH and redesigned camshaft carriers and a roller timing chain to improve valvetrain stability. Despite upping horsepower from 385 to 429 and increasing peak torque 333 to 376 lb-ft, the 5.0-liter sacrifices only one mile per gallon in each of the EPA cycles, and nets 16 mpg city and 25 mpg highways ratings.

One other key change that helps in the mileage-making department is a new eight-speed automatic transmission. The first eight-speed offered by a non-luxury automaker, this Hyundai-designed cog changer -- here specially calibrated for R-Spec duty -- is smoother than the existing six-speed autoshifter that it will replace in all 2012 Genesis sedan models and provides six percent better operating efficiency.

To ensure that its extra muscle can be fully utilized, 2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec also benefits from a major chassis upgrading program. Tauter springs/shocks, bigger front/rear anti-roll bars and revised power steering are teamed with larger front brakes, unique 19-inch machine-finished lightweight alloy wheels and available Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 summer performance tires.

All Genesis sedans receive a number of exterior revamps for 2012, highlighted by a bolder grille, edgier front/rear fascias, revised headlamps and taillamps, LED accent and daytime running lights, brushed-aluminum window surrounds, and more aggressively contoured rocker sills. However, in addition to three distinctive colors -- Black Noir, Titanium Gray and Platinum Metallic -- the Genesis 5.0 R-Spec takes things a mini-step beyond with unique dark-chrome headlight inserts and R-Spec badging on the rear deck. Inside, standard black leather upholstery is matched with a custom all-black steering wheel and black floor mats, also with "R-Spec" indicia.

Trickle-down goodness for the Genesis 3.8 and 4.6

While the 5.0 R-Spec will be the new darling of the enthusiast set, Hyundai has made numerous upgrades to the other members of the Genesis lineup. The 3.8-liter Lambda V6 engine in the entry-level model moves from port to direct fuel injection, a change that ups its pony count from 290 to 333, raises torque from 264 to 291 lb-ft and contributes to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions. Coupled with the new eight-speed automatic features manual-style Shiftronic capability, it's also more fuel efficient. While EPA city numbers are still pending, the 3.8's highway figure moves from 27 to 29 mpg. The 4.6-liter Tau V8 carries over its current power/torque stats for 2012, but in addition to improved shifting, the new automatic helps lift its highway mileage number from 25 to 26 mpg.

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Finally, Hyundai engineers went to work retuning the chassis on both the 3.8 and 4.6 models. Shock damping curves have been revised to improve the comfort/control balance and larger rear anti-roll bars enhance stability on corners. Stopping power of the four-wheel antilock brakes on both cars has also been improved thanks to larger front rotors on both models and new four-piston calipers on the V6. Hyundai also is introducing a new
Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), that will be available on the 3.8 Technology package, 4.6 and 5.0 R-Spec models.

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