Test Driven: Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 TrackPosted: July 5, 2012
Ten years ago if someone had told me that Hyundai would soon be making sports and luxury cars I would have laughed in their face. Hyundai was basically the poster child for offensively cheap cars that people would only buy because they couldn’t afford a Honda or Toyota. Over the next decade though, Hyundai would make one hell of an effort toward improvement, becoming one of the best real values on the market. I have been a huge fan of Hyundai in recent years, applauding their innovation and commitment to quality in their drive up market. The Genesis Coupe you see here is one of the cars that helped vastly step their game up, a fast sports car from a company with little racing history. It couldn’t possibly be that good, could it?
It is that doubtful mindset that defined my experience in this car. Even though I knew how good Hyundais cars were, making a good sports car is still few steps up, and it usually requires some experience and not just “America’s best warranty”. Despite knowing that it was great on paper, 300hp, rear wheel drive, etc, I expected there to be a big “but” when I summed it up. So, throughout the entire experience I was looking for some catastrophic flaw that would taint the whole car.
The “but” is definitely not on the outside of the Genesis Coupe. Its design is actually quite pleasing to the eye with the typically nice sports coupe proportions. This 3.8 Track edition even had some visual enhancements; the rear spoiler gives an aggressive wedged look to the overall shape, and the red painted Brembo brakes peek out at you between the spokes of the wheels. This all sort of hinted at the car’s performance, but in dark gray this GenCoupe was far from flashy. I actually found the design quite a tasteful, and this color showed it off beautifully.
I got into the driver’s seat and looked around the cabin. It was clear that no flaw was to be found here either. In fact this has to be one of the best sub 30k cabins I have ever been in, I would almost even call it “luxury”. Everything was well laid out, and a good design hid the cheaper quality of the materials well (Hyundai is a master at this). The seats were phenomenal though, snug, supportive, and extremely comfortable. The GenCoupe was definitely designed with comfort in mind, and even offered a touch of luxury feel.
The engine came to life with a nice tone when I pushed the start button. Once moving, I immediately notice that the GenCoupe rides nothing like I thought it would. I had expected kind of a chinsy, light sensation, and what I got was an extremely solid, low weighted ride; not unlike many European cars. The clutch and the gear change were both surprisingly good, both well weighted and offering lots of information. The steering was more as I had expected though; it was quick and pretty light but just a little on the numb side. It is not enough to take away too much in the big picture, but is just something they probably should have sharpened up a little for the Track edition.
Through corners the GenCoupe was very well balanced thanks to its 50/50 weight distribution. It was a blast to throw into a turn, and it stayed composed right up until the limit, but then it did understeer a bit in a way that definitely felt artificial. Safety understeer is ok for the standard Genesis Coupes, most of which are not bought by serious drivers, but yet again they should have changed it a bit for the Track edition. Despite that, the Genesis still managed put a big smile on my face in corners, and believe me when I say that it needed to be pushed pretty far before any signs of understeer reared their ugly heads. Stopping power was also phenomenal thanks to the solid Brembo brakes, an important touch on any track worthy car.
Power wise its 3.8L V6 put out 306hp, and it moved pretty good. It had some decent midrange pull, but getting maximum power required some effort being naturally aspirated. The GenCoupe was pretty quick in the lower gears, but it kind of runs out of steam once you’re past 3rd gear. The gears are pretty long, making for good highway mileage, but I really felt like it needed more power to keep the excitement going after 100mph. This is not to say it was slow though, it had plenty of power and gained speed quite rapidly, I just felt myself wanting more pull in the higher speed realm. Cruising on the highway though, the car felt rock solid, definitely a package that will eat up the miles effortlessly.
So, was there a “but” to the Genesis Coupe? As far as one nagging thing that ruined the experience, there wasn’t one, but there were a few things Hyundai should have changed for this Track edition car. Much of what needed changing is easy to do on the aftermarket though. Understeer can be dialed out with sway bars, and more power can be added with bolt on mods. It also does many things right, things that pertain to driving sensation like the clutch, the chassis, and the gear change all are plenty good; the steering wasn’t “that bad” either.
Honestly the Genesis Coupe succeeded where the Nissan 370Z failed in my book. With the Z, everything was about 85% as good as it should have been, all the driving sensations, the power, the handling, the response, everything. The Genesis on the other hand delivered fully on many of those aspects, so in many regards it was a better car out of the box. Hyundai has also since addressed some of the car’s issues with the updated Genesis Coupe for 2013. The V6 now has a healthy 350hp, quite a decent boost that definitely would have made the car I drove pull better at higher speeds. As for the other changes, I will have to drive one to find out, but it looks promising.
This is Hyundai’s first attempt at building a sports car. In my book they succeeded big time because this Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track is legitimately in the same league as a 370Z, G37, Mustang, etc; that is a huge achievement for a first swing like this. This car was also a great value, at just $21k, still with a warranty, a top line 3.8 Track can be had for less than a base 2.0T. The Genesis Coupe also offers one of the better all round packages in the coupe segment; think of it as being right between a Nissan 370 Z and Infiniti G37. It has a great amount of sport, and a nice touch of luxury and comfort as well. In fact, if it had better fit an finish, I would even consider calling it an entry level GT car, but it will have to settle for just having some features in common for now. On the whole I came away very impressed by the Genesis Coupe, I never found a “but” and things will only keep improving from here.
Primary Function: Performance: 2
Secondary Functions: Luxury(2), Practicality(2), MPG(1): 2
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 1
Value for Money: 2
Final Score: 9/10