2011 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track Review


2011 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track (select to view enlarged photo)
2011 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track

SEE ALSO: Hyundai Buyers Guide

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2011 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track

If the idea of a high-performance Hyundai makes you laugh, you really do need to get out of the past. After a rough start in the American market in the 1980s, Hyundai has consistently improved its products, to the point where its cars and crossovers are now as good or better than any direct competitors -- or even a price class above.

Case in point, and only one of several in the lineup, the Genesis Coupe. With it Hyundai serves notice to the major Japanese and American performance automakers in the $20 to $30,000 class. Or even the $30-40k class. The Genesis Coupe is a purpose-built 2+2 coupe based on Hyundai's Genesis sedan, but shortened. It has the right design for maximum performance for minimum money: the engine, a 2.0-liter turbo four or naturally-aspirated 3.8-liter V6, is in front, and drives the rear wheels via a six-speed manual or five-speed (for the 2.0T) or six-speed automatic. Front-wheel drive not spoken here. Yes, it replaces the old front-wheel drive Tiburon, but the Genesis Coupe is a much more serious piece of machinery.

No matter how well-designed a sports sedan is, it's still a compromise. It's tall, for easier passenger access, and that means a high center of gravity and weight-transfer issues related to that. Four doors might improve rear-seat passenger access, but the extra holes in the unibody structure decrease rigidity. And the extra size due to height and design means more weight, further compromising performance, and fuel economy as well. Lighter is better…

And at 3300 to 3500 pounds stated curb weight, depending on engine and transmission, the Genesis coupe is light for a fully-equipped car today. And it is very well-equipped, even in base-model trim. It's also a functional four-seater, providing the rear passengers are under 5-6 and relatively limber -- a bit of a surprise for a sports coupe, and a big surprise for one that looks as small as the Genesis. It's not just a weekend toy.

Genesis Coupe models are base, R-Spec, and Premium with the 2.0T turbo, and R-Spec, Grand Touring, and Track with the 3.8 V6. Premium, Grand Touring, and Track models get interior upgrades including leather seating, a touch-screen navigation system, and an Infinity audio system. Track means stiffer suspension and BremboŽ brakes; R-Spec means "Track minus the heavy accessories".

I've just spent a week with a Genesis Coupe in 3.8 Track form, six-speed stick thank you very much. It's no poseur, it's a real deal sports coupe. The price is low, especially considering its ability, but this is not necessarily a car to be bought on price. With a torquey 306-horsepower engine, full range of amenities, even proximity keyless entry and start, nav system, and high-grade audio system, very good interior comfort, and tenacious grip and powerful four-piston Brembo brakes, it's the car that some Japanese manufacturers who don't seem to do that any more should be building. Adding to that, four-seat capacity and a useful trunk make the Genesis Coupe viable as an only car.

APPEARANCE: The classic sports coupe shape is long hood, short rear deck, and fastback roofline. Hyundai's interpretation of this involves an interesting mix of character lines, angles, and complex curves. If it seems vaguely similar to the old Tiburon, the resemblance is really minimal. The hood is not all that long -- but neither is a V6 or inline four -- and that fastback greenhouse deceptively hides space for the rear seat. The most distinctive styling features are the complexly-pointed headlights and exotic-looking lower intake in front and strong character line and lower kink in the bottom window line at the rear passenger windows. The small upper grille with inset "H" logo gives brand identity; a reworked front clip with that removed and a larger lower intake could give a truly exotic look.

COMFORT: The Genesis Coupe's interior trim materials have been upgraded for its sophomore year, with soft-touch materials on the instrument panel and doors, fabric on the inside A-pillars, softer leather wrapping the steering wheel, and metal-look trim on the center stack. Fit and finish are at least equal to anything is its price class. In the Track model, leather covers the seating surfaces, and the driver's seat cushion is power-adjustable, with manual adjustment for the driver's seatback and front passenger seat. Seat comfort is very good, and the side bolsters provide good support during cornering without impeding access. Rear and quarter visibility is better than in many sports coupes, but correct mirror setting is a necessity. Cruise, phone, and auxiliary audio controls on the tilt-adjustable steering wheel add convenience. The instruments are successfully shielded from glare, and controls, even for the nav system, are simple to use. The most unusual interior feature is found at the top of the stack: an instantaneous display of torque and fuel economy. Moderately entertaining for the front passenger, don't get distracted if you're driving.

The front passenger seat slides forward for rear-seat access. The rear seat is strictly for two, separated by a high central tunnel. Access is average for a coupe, watch the front shoulder straps, and there is a surprising amount of room for people under about 5-6. The trunk is also larger than expected, but since the Genesis Coupe is not a hatchback, access is through a smallish opening. A space-saver spare and jack live under the trunk floor.

SAFETY: All Genesis Coupe models are designed and built to protect passengers with front and rear crumple zones. They have a full complement of airbags, active front headrests, four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel antilock, electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), and Brake Assist. Electronic stability control is also standard. Track and R-Spec models get larger vented discs and four-piston Brembo calipers front and rear. NHTSA crashworthiness ratings are 5-star for driver front and side and rollover and 4-star for passenger front impact.

RIDE AND HANDLING: For all vehicles, be they car, motorcycle, bicycle, or even aircraft, the primary compromise in handling is stability versus agility. True sports vehicles (or fighter planes) tend toward the agility end of that spectrum, and that's where the Genesis Coupe Track fits. Its fully-independent MacPherson strut/multilink suspension is very firm but has enough compliance not to give a jarring ride on all but the worst, most poorly-maintained surfaces. That, and a low center of gravity, means very little body roll, and flat cornering. A front strut tower brace increases lateral rigidity. Appropriately for the car's nature, controls demand more effort than in a family sedan. Steering, although engine speed-sensitive power-assisted, is heavy and very direct -- minimal wheel movement is required for any response, especially at speed, and any surface irregularities are sent straight up the steering column. No soft steering bushings here! This means that the driver must pay attention to driving, but that is what a sports car is all about. Ultra-low profile tires, larger in the rear than front, grip very well and help quicken turn-in response. The Brembos stop, now! and repeatedly.

PERFORMANCE: Long ago, Hyundai's engine-building was less than stellar. But that's ancient history. The 3.8-liter "Lambda" V6 is a contemporary engine with aluminum alloy construction, 24 valves, dual overhead cams with continuously-variable cam phasing on each, and a variable-length intake system. Maximum horsepower is 306 at 6300 rpm, with maximum torque 266 lb-ft at 4700. (If the front passenger is bored, he or she can calculate instantaneous horsepower from the torque display and tach…) There is enough low-end torque easy, quick acceleration, but the engine is most responsive above 3000 rpm. At that point, it builds power linearly, with no surprises. There's no need to run it to redline for maximum enjoyment, and shifting is a pleasant task with good linkage. The clutch pedal is stiffer than in less-powerful cars but far from an Italian exotic. It makes all the right, lovely, six-cylinder music, and runs on unleaded regular gasoline. EPA fuel economy is 17 mpg city, 26 highway and that's probably pretty accurate as I got 20 overall with as little highway droning as possible and as much twisty-road driving as possible.

CONCLUSIONS: Performance Hyundai? Believe it - the Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track is a seriously capable sports coupe.

2011 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track

SPECIFICATIONS

Base Price $ 30,750
Price As Tested $ 31,690
Engine Type aluminum alloy dual overhead cam
24-valve V6 with variable cam phasing
and variable-length intake
Engine Size 3.8 liters / x cu. in.
Horsepower 306 @ 6300 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 266 @ 4700 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length 111.0 in. / 182.3 in.
Curb Weight 3389 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 11.1
Fuel Capacity 17.2 gal.
Fuel Requirement 87 octane regular unleaded gasoline
Tires Bridgestone Potenza RE 050A
F: 225/40R19 89Y R: 245/40 R19 94Y
Brakes, front/rear vented disc all around,
Brembo 4-piston calipers.
ABS standard
Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut /
independent multilink
Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
city / highway / observed
17 / 26 / 18
0 to 60 mph 5.5 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Carpeted floor mats $ 105
iPod® cable $ 35
Destination charge $ 800

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