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.
If the R-Spec has an Achilles' heel, it's its unrefined six-speed manual transmission.
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.
If you're looking for a sports car with a lot of performance on a shoestring budget, the Genesis Coupe R-Spec deserves a second (and even a third) look.
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.
Those who want to save a few bucks at the dealership and a few more at the pump can opt for a 2.0T R-Spec model with a six-speed, which boosts mpg to an EPA estimated 21 city and 30 highway. Of course, to get there you'll have to lose about 96 horsepower and 43 pound-feet of torque, but at least you'd still have the LSD, suspension, and brakes.
Cabin tech: What you get and what you don't
The R-Spec trim level is defined as much by what creature comforts you don't get as by the go-faster additions that you do. You'll find no cruise control buttons on the Coupe's steering wheel and the exterior rearview mirrors lose their heating elements and turn-signal indicators. The Track trim level's Xenon HID headlamps don't make the cut and neither does its proximity keyless entry with push-button start. While you're at it, go ahead and forget about navigation tech, a sunroof, Infinity premium audio, or power-adjustable heated seats. The manually adjusting leather buckets get red fabric inserts, as do a few other dash and door panels, but that's the extent of the R-Spec's luxury appointments.
However, as stripper models go, the Genesis Coupe R-Spec is still pretty well-equipped.
Hyundai's standard Bluetooth connectivity suite is present, with A2DP stereo audio streaming and hands-free calling with voice command and address book sync. Simply hit the voice command button and tell the system who you want to call, and the Genesis Coupe will handle the rest. However, when pulling entries from our test HTC ThunderBolt Android phone, the voice command system inverted the first and last names of the entries, meaning that we had to awkwardly say, "Call Goodwin Antuan at work" rather than the more natural "Antuan Goodwin." Editor Wayne Cunningham has reported a similar issue when testing other Hyundai vehicles with an iPhone. Whether you'll have this problem or not depends on how your particular paired phone stores and reports its entries.
Bluetooth A2DP meant that we were able to use our smartphone for most cabin tech functions, leaving the Coupe displaying this default streaming message.
Audio sources piped through the R-Spec's standard six-speaker audio system include a single-disc CD/MP3 player, AM/FM terrestrial radio, XM Satellite Radio, analog auxiliary audio input, and a USB port with MP3 playback capability. If you want to connect your iPod or iPhone to the audio system, you'll need to spring for the optional Hyundai iPod dock connector cable, which bridges the Coupe's USB and analog inputs to offer total control of the iPod's file system. It's a $35 option, but it's worth every penny.
By tech car standards, the R-Spec is sparsely equipped. But by track car standards, it's got everything you need and nothing you don't. Add a Bluetooth-connected smartphone running a navigation application and the Genesis Coupe R-Spec's technology will easily rival about any OEM technology package on the road today.
Standard USB connectivity in a stripped-down performance model? Are we living in the future?
The R-Spec options are even limited where color choice is concerned. You can only get the R-Spec in one of four colors, while the other trim levels offer seven. Our vehicle looked great in Bathurst Black--which does a good job of hiding the odd shape that the Coupe's lower grill makes--but we've also got a soft spot for the R-Spec exclusive Interlagos Yellow.
We started testing the 2011 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec with the Nissan 370Z's Sport package as our benchmark. The Z is more powerful and more refined--particularly in the transmission department--and its shorter wheelbase means that the Z's suspension doesn't need to be tuned as harshly as the Genesis. The Z is better appointed, too. However, those looking for near-Z levels of performance on a budget will be pleased with Genesis' $26,750 MSRP. That's $4,700 less than the Z's starting price and $7,730 less than the comparably equipped 370Z Sport trim. The Z's good, but is it $7,730 better? We're not so sure, especially when you consider that even the Genesis R-Spec beats the Z's standard tech complement.
Our 3.8 R-Spec also included the $35 iPod cable, a $50 cargo net, $105 floor mats, and an $850 destination charge, bringing our as-tested price to $27,790. At that price point, we're thinking that there may be another competitor with which the Genesis Coupe may be better matched: the 31-mpg, 305-horsepower Ford Mustang V-6 Premium with its Performance package for $29,100. The Genesis is likely the better performer, but the extra 5 mpg offered by the Ford might make us feel better about losing that race.
The R-Spec isn't just a low-cost alternative to better sports cars; it's a contender in its own right.
|Model||2011 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8|
|Power train||3.8-liter V-6, six-speed manual, RWD|
|EPA fuel economy||17 city, 26 highway mpg|
|Observed fuel economy||22.3 mpg|
|Bluetooth phone support||Basic voice command, phonebook sync|
|Disc player||CD/ MP3|
|MP3 player support||Analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB/iPod connection|
|Other digital audio||Standard XM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth stereo streaming|
|Audio system||Six-speaker standard|
|Price as tested||$26,940|