In case you missed it, Hyundai recently released an all-new front-engine, rear-wheel-drive platform named the Genesis Coupe. Just to bring you up to speed, we like it, and tuners around the world are hard at work developing parts for both the naturally aspirated V-6 and turbocharged inline-four cylinder engines. All indications show that big numbers are coming soon. But horsepower is only one part of a vehicle's performance arsenal. We wanted to find out how the rest of the chassis responded to modifications. To do that we headed out to Willow Springs Raceway with a bone-stock car, a truck load of parts, Rhys Millen, and his talented pit crew.
It should come as no surprise that we chose Rhys for this mission. He's already built a competition version of the car (Jan. '09 cover story), which is currently competing in the Formula D drifting series and should have a few time attacks under its belt by the time you read this. He is also about to launch a line of thoroughly tested components under his private label RMR. Seeing as Rhys chose the 3.8-liter V-6 version for his race car, that's what we went with for the test. It should also be noted that since everything was going to get swapped out anyway, we used a GT model instead of the Brembo-shod Track edition.
The schedule for the day was hectic. Instead of having a private test day, we crashed the second round of the Redline time attack series. This left no time for mistakes on the track or in the pits. In order to get accurate data, we entered the car in the Modified class. By running with the highly tuned competitors, we could get a couple of clean laps in each session before ducking into the pits to get out of the way and get working on the car. Between sessions, the team would bolt parts onto the hot car and adjust the setup to their predetermined settings. As it turned out, the car was potent enough to run with the big boys, and Rhys' crew was seasoned at wrenching under the gun. TJ Hanrihar has been the lead tech on the drift team for two years, and crew chief Costa Gialamas and team manager Eric Cantore have been around since Rhys' rallying program some 11 years back. It all went like clockwork.
Session 1: Stock 3.8GT With RMR Oil Cooler The "Big Track" at Willow Springs is scary fast. And typically it is at its fastest during the first session of the morning. After that the heat of California's high desert tends to wither both power and traction. An ambient temperature of around 65 degrees Fahrenheit with a little sun on the pavement is about ideal. Then the track slows down by roughly a second for every 10 degrees above that. So at 75 degrees, our baseline run was already a little off, but it was as good as it was going to get.
In all fairness to Hyundai's engineers, no stock street car feels good while cornering at triple-digit speeds. The suspension, with its ride comfort compromises, isolates the driver from the road surface. Without being able to feel the tires, you almost have to wait for the horizon to yaw before making corrections. Add to that the increased camber and toe gain from the significant suspension travel and it becomes a real handful. The car never really took a set, and keeping it on the racing line required large and continuous steering and throttle adjustments. Still, the wobbly Drunken Master technique netted us a pair of respectable lap times.
Session 2: RMR Shocks, Springs And Sway Bars The RMR suspension package includes KW springs and dampers with private label RMR upgraded sway bars. The dampers are single adjustable up front and double adjustable in the rear. Aside from being larger and stiffer than stock, the RMR bars are adjustable with two holes per side in the front and three holes in back. As a complete set, these upgrades should provide plenty of tuning flexibility. Fortunately for us, Rhys had previously dialed in the setup at Willow, so when the crew bolted everything on, it was good to go.
"Night and day" was all I could say after turn 1. The feedback from the steering wheel and driver seat were dramatically amplified. It was easy to get the tires to their limit of traction and hold them there. Unfortunately, this meant that the factory Bridgestones could be overheated very easily. Unlike before where the tires were loaded and unloaded as I stumbled through the long sweepers, they were now being unmercifully pressed into the pavement. Tire management was the name of the game, and I lost. Despite having much better control of the car, I could not get it down to the apexes of turns 2 and 9. I was only able to pick up seven-tenths of a second over the stock setup. The increasing track temperature was partly to blame, but it was definitely time for a tire upgrade.
Session 3: RMR Intake And Exhaust, Short Final Drive, Toyo Proxes T1R Tires It was getting really hot out there. I wouldn't have wanted to change the lug nuts after pulling into the paddock, but the crew simultaneously attacked engine bay, searing exhaust and differential-all in one fell swoop. Under the hood, the intake was replaced by RMR's carbon induction tube and K&N filter equipped airbox. The system was carefully designed to not affect the crash-worthiness of the front end. This consideration is part of RMR's plan to market its products through Hyundai's dealerships without interfering with the company's legendary warranty program.
The new exhaust is a nicely constructed stainless steel axle-back piece that opens the diameter up to 2.5 inches. It's hard to really say how much this helped the engine's performance due to the rear differential swap, but it certainly sounded healthy. There are four different engine and transmission combinations available in the Genesis Coupe, and each comes with a different final drive ratio-Rhys has no doubt crunched the numbers on each of them. For this track, he chose to swap out the V-6 manual's 3.538 for a 3.909 from the Turbo-4 6-speed. To go along with the increased torque at the wheels, the crew also swapped on a set of Toyo Proxes T1R tires.
The Genesis' outside temperature gauge read 98 degrees as I headed out on the track. That wasn't helping us any. But despite the sweltering conditions, the car went almost a second and a half faster on its first lap. Part of this was due to the increased acceleration on the straights. It was picking up another 4 mph over what it could pull previously, even with the power-robbing air temp. As far as feel goes, it had about the same balance as it did on the old tires. But I no longer had to worry about babying them. This resulted in increased cornering speeds and a set of fried brakes. The second lap of the session was hampered by a widebody BMW M3 that didn't know how to get out of the way. Despite Hyundai USA's Miles Johnson encouraging me to "use the chrome horn," I decided to back off and bring it in for the final round of upgrades.
Session 4: RMR By Stoptech Brakes, Toyo Proxes R1R Tires My "One More Time!" session was an absolute blast. The car lost its blingy 19-inch wheels in favor of a set of 18-inchers with low-profile Toyo R1Rs. It also got a much-needed brake upgrade. I've always been a big fan of the balance provided by Stoptech systems. And, this one co-developed with RMR, was top notch. It included radial-mounted, six-piston calipers up front, a four-piston rear and two-piece rotors all the way around.
The completed car gave me the confidence to drive the big track the way it was meant to be driven. I entered the corners hot and trusted that the car would hook up when I needed it to. From there it was just a hammer down ride out to the edge of the track at the exits. I never thought it would be that fun to drive a Hyundai. Over the course of the day, the car took a solid 4 seconds from its baseline run. Had the temperatures remained consistent it would have gone even deeper into the respected 1:30 range at Willow. We can't wait to see what happens when puppies like this are mated to the modified powerplants that are right around the corner. It should make for one hell of a ride!