Driven: 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe

Reviews I By Tom Martin I March 27, 2009

Pahrump, Nevada —

Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch

We had a chance to drive several Hyundai Genesis Coupes this week at Hyundai’s launch event outside of Las Vegas. Our summary: The Genesis Coupe is both intriguing and confusing; kind of like a girlfriend you probably had once (or have now).

The basic car is an all-new design, done with the attention to detail that we saw on the much-praised Genesis sedan. But don’t let the name fool you; the Genesis coupe is not a Genesis sedan without the rear doors. Genesis, in Hyundai-speak, indicates a rear wheel drive car with premium aspirations. You can almost see Genesis being a sub-brand at the top of the Hyundai line.

The Genesis Coupe is a short car (182 in. long) on a long wheelbase (111 in.). Two engines are offered, a 3.8-liter V-6 with 306 horsepower, and a 2.0-liter turbo four, with 210 horsepower. You might be tempted to write off the turbo, but remember that intriguing bit? Well, the 2.0-liter is related to the 4B11 engine used in the much loved Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart and Evo X. The intriguing part is what Hyundai calls “scalable power potential”. Basically, tuners can increase the turbo boost level for more power and torque.

Hyundai also offers different packages with each engine. Essentially the three packages are Base, Premium/Grand Touring and Track. The Premium level gets you some luxury features and the Track gets you a more responsive suspension along with a limited-slip differential, better brakes (Brembo), and bigger tires.

We started our driving with the 3.8 Track model ($30,250) with manual transmission. More intrigue. The interior finish of the Genesis Coupe is to a high standard. The design is pleasant and the materials are of high quality. You won’t confuse it with an Audi, but you won’t confuse it with a Hyundai either. The seats are very comfortable, and we quickly found a good driving position. 

More importantly for the driver, the body structure feels very solid. Hyundai used the last generation (E46) BMW M3 as a benchmark and built the Genesis Coupe to have 24% more torsional rigidity. You can clearly feel this, which is a good thing because you can’t really modify a car to solve problems with a flexible chassis. The structure also pays dividends in terms of ride quality and quietness.

The 3.8-liter V-6 sounds great as you run it through the rev range. The torque curve feels pretty linear and torque is modest to begin with (266 pound-feet at 4700 rpm), so this engine feels ample but not amazing in a 3389-pound car.  While the shifter feels solid, it has wide gates, which make it notchy. We also thought it was placed a tad too far back and to the right of the driver.

The suspension calibrations on the Track model are about what you’d expect for a sport suspension on other cars. In other words, if you mostly drive on the street, there is no reason to avoid the Track model. Highways around Las Vegas are pretty smooth, so we couldn’t fully assess ride quality, but the Track suspension seems moderately firm, with good compliance. The long wheelbase and stiff structure worked well on those highways. Stability is good at 80-90 mph, and in this setting the Genesis coupe feels a lot like luxury coupes at more than 2X the price.

Even on the street, the Genesis Coupe Track is clearly set up to understeer at the margin.  You can feel the rear roll a bit more than the front, which is a telltale sign of an understeer bias. 55 percent of the weight in the Genesis Coupe is on the front tires, as well, supporting that tendency.

On the track the understeer was more evident. The 3.8-liter Track is fun on a track (sounds right), but that isn’t its natural habitat. The car is easy to control and is great for practicing good race habits because it punishes overdriving. The track environment also revealed that Hyundai’s traction and stability control system is pretty aggressive. Fortunately, you can switch it completely off.

Not fully satisfied with the 3.8-liter on the track, we jumped in a 2.0T Track model, again with manual shift ($26,750).  Switching to the turbo four removes 95 pounds from the car and it removes it in the right place—off the front end. You instantly feel this as you dive into the first hard corner. The 2.0T feels more balanced and rotates more willingly.  If you’re really hardcore, the 2.0T could use a stiffer set-up with bigger roll bars (especially in back). But for quick street driving, this is a well-calibrated suspension.

The intriguing and confusing limitation of the 2.0T Track is the engine. This may share DNA with a Mitsu 4B11 deep down inside, but Hyundai has tuned the turbo and ECU for a much smoother torque curve than Mitsu would ever dream of. The result is that the 2.0T seems to have just adequate power. On a short track it isn’t bad, but on the street it lacks the character and fun that we think it could show. As a point of comparison, the Genesis Coupe 2.0T engine delivers 210 horsepower, while the Lancer Ralliart version musters 237. When it comes to torque (a better indicator of what you feel on the street), the Hyundai makes just 223 pound-feet, while the Mitsubishi is good for 253. Those differences aren’t huge at a little over 10 percent, but you feel it even though the Lancer Ralliart is about 150 pounds heavier. You really feel it because of the artful, non-linear way Mitsubishi ramps the torque curve. On the other hand, Hyundai delivers the Genesis Coupe with a 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty.

In our view, this leaves room for an uprated 2.0T version in the future. Hyundai may address that itself (the company knows that coupes need to be freshened regularly), but it also plans to let the tuner community pursue it. To that end, in the fall of this year, Hyundai will release a 2.0T R-Spec version. This has the Track model suspension, wheels, tires, Torsen LSD, and Brembo brakes. It deletes a bunch of small items (sunroof, xenon lights, power seat, Infinity audio, Bluetooth, Homelink, etc). And, instead of charging more for this basic performance model, Hyundai intelligently has taken $3000 off the MSRP, bringing the R-Spec in at $23,750. If you invest your $3000 savings in suspension and ECU upgrades, you could well have a very fun car. To make this really attractive, Hyundai needs to work with a few tuners to create a dealer-installed package that retains the factory warranty and which can be rolled into the financing for the car.

Walking away from a full day in these cars, we’d say that the Genesis Coupe has real potential. For our tastes the current lineup is too slanted toward middle-of-the-road smoothness and inoffensive behavior. This should go down well with first-car buyers, young women, and empty nester couples. But the basic car could eventually be tweaked to live up to the Track name, and tuners could do a lot with the basic elements on hand. We hope they do.

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