Some 15 years ago, there was this TV commercial where Charles Barkley stepped into a Hyundai Sonata and tried to sound all hard as he said, “You got a problem with that? I didn’t think so.” The goal was to intimidate us into respecting the Korean automobile manufacturer, but really all anybody could do was laugh. If the car could make an NBA star look phony, what would one of us look like driving one?
During this year’s Super Bowl, Hyundai took another shot at boosting its image, but this time the car was the star. The 30 seconds of watching that little coupe roast its rear tires around the apexes of Road Atlanta completely made up for the lackluster first half of the game. Every car enthusiast was thinking the same thing: “I wish I was the one driving that car right now.” But nobody wanted to say it out loud, because the stigma still exists.
For years, the sport compact community has been begging for an inexpensive RWD chassis. Honda’s S2000 and Nissan/Infiniti’s Z and G are all great cars, but none of them is really considered entry level. What we’ve wanted is something like the 240SX. More specifically, we would like a JDM Silvia version with a turbocharged engine, decent styling and a price point that leaves us with some extra cash for making modifications.
When the rumors started spreading that Hyundai was building exactly what we’d been asking for, most enthusiasts responded with a great deal of skepticism rather than celebration. If one of the big three Japanese manufacturers had built it, people would likely be placing deposits sight unseen. But for the Genesis Coupe, we wanted to see exactly what we were going to get before getting our hopes to high. Well, the specifications have finally been released and we have driven the various production versions. The car is now here, and our initial impressions are that it’s everything we’d hoped for and more.
So far there are twelve different option packages to choose from, starting at $22,000 for the base model and going north of $31,000 from there. But don’t be put off by the wide price range. The higher-priced version is a Grand Touring class car with a big V-6, automatic transmission, leather, moonroof, the works. If you’re looking for something like a G37, then by all means it is worth checking out. But it’s the base model with the turbocharged four-cylinder that really has us excited.
The engine comes from the Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance, a joint venture between Chrysler, Mitsubishi and Hyundai. While there are slight differences in valvetrain, block reinforcement and piston profiles, the Genesis’ 2-liter, four-cylinder engine is virtually identical to the 4B11 found in the EVO X. It even has a Mitsubishi TD04H series turbocharger, which according to Hyundai, is capable of producing 15 psi of boost. The claimed output of 210 bhp on 87-octane fuel suggests there is a lot of power to be gained simply by upping the boost and retuning the ECU. Add in the potential power gains from aftermarket hard-parts and this engine mated to the standard 6-speed manual transmission should kick some serious butt.
There are six different trim packages available for the four-cylinder, the one that we recommend is the R-Spec, which will be available later this year. It includes all of the available performance options, drops the non-essentials and comes in with an MSRP of $23,750. For that, you lose the HID headlights, cruise control, rear spoiler and a few other fluff items. What you gain are staggered 19-inch wheels with Bridgestone RE050A summer-compound tires, massive Brembo four-piston fixed calipers at all four corners, a torsen-type limited-slip differential and a quick ratio steering rack. It also includes their track version suspension, which has a beefed up spring and damper setup, and thicker antiroll bars. But don’t go thinking it’s a bare-bones race car. Power windows, air conditioning, a six-speaker stereo and a keyless entry system are all standard. That is a lot of car for $23,750.
Hyundai’s engineers claim that the chassis has a bending rigidity 24 percent stiffer than that of a BMW E46 M3 Coupe. While thrashing the Genesis Coupe at our local Streets of Willow Springs racetrack, there were no symptoms that indicated otherwise. A single touch of one button completely disables the traction control system, allowing the driver to wring everything they can out of it. In stock form, the 3.8-liter V-6 version with its claimed 306 bhp was considerably more fun to drive than the 2-liter turbo. Most of the corners required delicate use of the throttle to keep the back end from stepping out. This was not the case with the stock four-banger, it spent a lot more time at WOT. However, we suspect that it won’t cost much to push the output of the R-Spec beyond that of the stock V-6. With the turbo car weighing in 100 lbs lighter than the V-6, we expect them to be the superior choice once the tuning gets started.
Some aftermarket companies already have a head start on development. As most of you saw on Rhys Millen’s Genesis (Jan. ’09 cover), he has the molds to produce carbon-fiber body panels. The fenders are a little wider than stock, but a little extra room for tire clearance never hurt anybody. A good start might be his front bumper, which ducts incoming air through a relocated intercooler and out through his vented hood. According to him, this vastly improves the efficiency of the intercooler and the setup could easily go into mass production. As you’ll see on page 116, HKS has also built its own version and the thing is absolutely gorgeous. After actually driving the production versions of the new Genesis Coupe and seeing the respected tuners that are supporting it, we can honestly endorse this new Hyundai. You got a problem with that?
Specifications & Details
2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
2.0-liter inline-4 turbocharged w/ FMIC, 3.8-liter V-6
6-speed manual, 5- or 6-speed paddle-shift automatic
MacPherson strut (f), multi-link (r) w/ coil springs and antiroll bars