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Automotive trim-level packaging is a bit of an odd science. In the case of the Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8, there's the Grand Touring trim level, which includes all of the tech and luxury goodies available, and the Track trim level, which includes all of the performance and luxury goodies. But what if you just want to go fast? For these drivers, Hyundai has created a new R-Spec trim level.
Essentially, the R-Spec trim level incorporates all of the go-faster goodies that come as part of the Genesis Coupe 3.8's Track trim without the comfort and convenience upgrades. Hyundai purposely limits the vehicle's options to reduce the Coupe's weight and keep the price manageable. It's been a while since we've driven a car that doesn't even have cruise control, but during our review we learned that Hyundai's idea of a stripped-down track car still manages to include many of our must-have tech features.
The end result is a surprisingly cheap car that manages to draw favorable comparisons to sports cars that are many thousands of dollars more expensive.
Performance: Every day is a track day
The Genesis Coupe starts with the conventional 3.8-liter V-6 engine with variable valve timing at the heart of its rear-wheel-drive power train. The result is a maximum 306 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque through a six-speed manual transmission--no automatic option is available with the R-Spec. After being converted by the gearbox, torque is transferred down a driveshaft to the rear axle where a Torsen limited slip differential (LSD) splits power delivery between the rear wheels.
Power delivery was quite good and very linear, but that six-speed gearbox had us scratching our head at times. There was a very mechanical feel to the shifter, so much so that we could almost feel the teeth of the gears meshing together with each shift. This led to a fantastic connected feeling when we were rowing through gears one to four on our favorite country back road. However, when the time came to make the four-to-five shift for highway driving, the slightest miscalculation in matched revs would lead to a slight grinding of the gears. We never got this grinding coming down to fifth from sixth gear or on any of the other shifts, but darned if we didn't grind nearly every upshift to fifth gear during our week with the Coupe. A quick Google search revealed that this is a known issue with the fifth-gear synchros, so it wasn't just us or our test car.
Power is only half of the Genesis Coupe's R-Spec's appeal; the other half is control. Helping to balance out the speed generated by the 300-plus horsepower V-6 are uprated Brembo brakes at all four corners with big four-piston calipers up front and a track-tuned suspension that's even firmer than the sport-tuned setup of the standard Genesis Coupe.
The rubber meets the road via a set of 19-inch wheels shod in 225-profile summer tires up front and 245-profile rubber out back. The R-Spec simply sticks when pushed through a turn, going exactly where you point it with little to no drama and communicating nearly every detail of the road up through the steering wheel. The V-6's generous and flat torque curve also means that power is nearly always available to adjust the Coupe's attitude midturn. With a gentle application of throttle, the tail can be pushed out and the nose tucked neatly into any turn's apex--a feat that we found ourselves replicating on back roads, around off-ramps, and through regular city block intersections.
When behind the wheel of what's basically a track car, every day is like a track day. It's a good thing, too, because if you weren't actively trying to have a good time while piloting the R-Spec, you'd definitely be having a rough one. There's nothing comfortable or refined about that bone-jarring suspension and its bad habit of following every rut in the road if the driver's attention lapses. The suspension and chassis are so firm that we noticed the Coupe would occasionally lift a rear wheel when entering our garage's driveway at too severe an angle--causing the Torsen LSD to grind if we took it too slowly. Factor in our fifth-gear issues and the clutch's sometimes too-quick engagement and you've got a recipe for a lurching, jarring, grinding ride. If you're going to put yourself through that, you'd better have a good time doing it.
And you'll have to pay for that fun at the pump. At the end of a wild weekend of canyon carving and mountain-road climbing, the Coupe's trip computer read a disturbingly low 14.3 mpg. Taking it easy for a few days and mixing in some scenic cruises through the beautiful wine country surrounding California's Napa and Sonoma, we were able to boost our average to about 22.3 mpg. The EPA rates the 3.8-liter Genesis Coupe at between 17 city and 26 highway mpg when equipped with the manual transmission.