Back by unpopular demand is a juicy new PSA, or “Pile of Shit Announcement.” My inaugural post described my intention make amends after several years as a shady used car dealer, retiring my gold chains and hair gel to start caped crusade preventing the readers of Jalopnik from buying a lemon. Here’s one to avoid: the 2012 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec, on which many owners report having excessive oil consumption.
It’s easy to go after the Germans for their infinite examples of engineering stuhlgang, but no automaker is immune producing a pile of shit. Today’s ddong (now you’ve learned the translation for poop in two languages) comes from Korea, but not in a way you would expect.
In the beginning, Hyundai created boring cars that roamed the heaven and the earth. Their cars were formless and empty.
Then Hyundai said, “Let there be Genesis.”
Copying the Lexus formula, Hyundai created a luxury sedan in Europe’s image. While Lexus reversed engineered a Mercedes S-Class to create their new flagship sedan almost 30 years ago, Hyundai wrote the Book of Genesis by taking styling pages from several companies.
The grill and headlights of the Genesis bear quite a resemblance to a Mercedes, while the rear pays homage to the Bangle era of BMW. The optional large interior wood dash panel screams Jaguar, and to a non-enthusiast, the Genesis emblem could be confused for a Bentley.
One of the key elements making the Genesis sedan successful, other than being an insane value proposition, was a powerful new V8 engine.
Hyundai was so proud of this engine, they affectionately named it Tau. I scoured the internet for the meaning of the word Tau. Google translate in Korean came up blank. According to Wookiepedia, Tau is the name of an Imperial Navy squadron in the video game Star Wars: X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter. So maybe the Korean engineer who named this engine is a big gamer.
Another possibility is the engine project was assigned a name from the Greek alphabet, Tau being the 19th letter. Let’s go with that one.
Naming aside, after a few years of production with good reliability, Hyundai fed Tau steroids and took him to the gym. The result was the brand’s most powerful engine ever, a 5.0-liter V8 with 429 horsepower.
Along with tweaks to the suspension and steering, and a more aggressive appearance package, the Koreans did their best karaoke of David Hasselhoff’s “Looking for Freedom” that actually shook some walls in Germany.
This effort, called the Genesis 5.0 R-spec, was unveiled for the 2012 model year. While it’s laughable to compare this car to the E63 or M5, used car prices of the Autobahn’s Hans and Franz have remained pumped up.
Tau is an attractive prospect considering you can buy a four-year-old luxury performance sedan with 429 HP for under 20 grand, plus rear-wheel drive, as luxury cars are meant to have.
You probably think, based on the reliable history of the Tau, and Hyundai’s new commitment to nipping at the German’s heels, they would avoid making a horrible mistake on their first flagship luxury performance sedan.
Unfortunately, the 2011 and early 2012 Beefy Mutant Ninja Taus became thirsty for their own blood. Motor oil escapes past the cylinders and into the combustion chamber. Many owners have reported dramatic oil overconsumption.
Some were able to get their engines rebuilt or replaced. Many have reported no consumption issues at all, while another good chunk are forced to live with oil consumption due to Hyundai’s definition of “normal.”
Long term effects of oil consumption aside, imagine the embarrassment of having to regularly top off the oil in your newish luxury performance sedan like you would expect to do in a 210,000 mile 1993 Ford Tempo.
Hyundai appears to be pretty tight lipped on the issue. I can only find two technical service bulletins pertaining to the matter, which apply multiple engines, not just Tau. One describes how to test for excessive oil consumption, stating up to a quart per 1,000 miles is acceptable. Another lists particular parts that should be cleaned after a motor replacement due to “Engine oil consumption and/or increased blowby due to reduced seal between cylinder wall and piston rings.”
This stated norm of 1,000 miles per quart is very high. More oil in the combustion chamber is known to cause fouling of spark plugs, dirty injectors, and can ruin exhaust components over long term. Increased blowby means excessive combustion gasses are escaping past the piston rings into the crankcase, contaminating engine oil more quickly, as well as putting excessive pressure on engine seals and sending oil to other places it doesn’t belong.
Yes, the piston rings transform poor Tau into a blood-thirsty Kim Jong-Un. They were special piston rings with a low friction coating on them called Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD). This was not invented by the Koreans—rather the patent is held by a man named Manfred.
Manfred may sound familiar because it’s also first name of a famous World War I German fighter Ace, Manfred Von Richthofen, known as the Red Baron. The full name of the co-inventors of PVD piston rings are Manfred Fischer and Frank Munchow. Both very German names. These piston rings are being produced by very German companies, like Mahle.
So poor Hyundai, in an effort to be more like the Germans, looks to have borrowed a part from the Germans and got stabbed in the heart.
Conspiracy theorists may wonder if the Germans did this on purpose, giving them a bad batch of rings to sabotage the Genesis 5.0 R-spec. It’s much more likely this was just poor luck somewhere in the production chain. I can only confirm the Germans hold a patent on PVD rings and cannot find any evidence they were the actual supplier.
To Hyundai’s credit, it appears the issue was fixed quickly, with later production 2012 and newer cars showing no signs of blood thirst. Unfortunately this doesn’t help disgruntled 2012 Genesis 5.0 R-Spec owners, many of whom have voiced their frustrations the 73 page thread linked previously from Genesisowners.com. Here’s an example:
So you can buy Hyundai’s tribute to the 38th parallel and risk stepping on a landmine, or be smart and purchase a Genesis 5.0 R-spec later in the production cycle.
Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.