Thursday, February 26, 2009
First Test: 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track
Ssssssssliderule: Calculating Performance Numbers for the Hyundai Genesis Coupe was Easy. Figuring Out Where it Fits Into The Sports-Car Equation is Another Story.
Just a year ago, Hyundai pulled out the red carpet to launch the Genesis, a rear-drive, V-8-motivated luxury car with power and grace akin to that of a Lexus LS 460. Its pricetag, however, resembled the one dangling from the rearview of a Chrysler 300C. And wouldn't you know it, just as the original Lexus LS did 20 years ago, the Genesis garnered much attention, plenty of love, and due respect.
It certainly got ours. In fact, had it not been for the extraordinary Nissan GT-R, the Genesis would be reveling in Motor Trend Car of the Year glory for the next seven months. Suffice it to say, the Genesis is one of several top-notch products coming from the now formidable Korean brand.
Don't believe us? Well, Hyundai was one of only four automakers to sell more vehicles in January 2009 than it did in January 2008. In other words, in a month when such terms as "Great Recession" were floating around and Chrysler's sales were down 54.8 percent, GM's 48.9, and Toyota's 31.7, Hyundai's were on the rise. Baby steps? Hyundai is making giant strides.
One such stride -- and it's a big one, especially considering Hyundai's sportiest vehicle to date was the 172-horsepower front-drive Tiburon -- is the all-new 2010 Genesis Coupe. Just as the Genesis sedan's mission was to boldly lead Hyundai into the luxury-car arena, the Coupe's is to unabashedly storm the sports-car field. What's the formula? Try 300-plus-horsepower, rear drive, and styling that'll startle a Town Car. But does it work? Let's explore.
HEART AND SEOUL
Similar to Nissan's VQ-series V-6, which powers everything from the Altima and 370Z to the Infiniti FX35 and G37, Hyundai's Lambda V-6 is an engine that gets around. In transverse configuration, it powers, among others, the Hyundai Azera and Veracruz, and the Kia Amanti and Sedona. Shift the configuration 90 degrees, though, and the 3.8-liter Lambda is ready for rear-drive duty, as in the Genesis sedan and the Kia Borrego SUV. Now it trickles its way into the Genesis Coupe, in which it represents the topline power plant. (A 2.0-liter turbocharged four gets the call for entry-level assignment.) Accordingly, the 3.8 is tuned to 306 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque, and features all-aluminum construction, dual overhead camshafts, and continuously variable valve timing on both intake and exhaust. Perhaps most pleasing is the fact that the 3.8 consumes good old-fashioned 87 octane. Every other rear-drive import in its class, including the 370Z, Mazda RX-8, and BMW 135i, guzzles costlier 91 octane. Plus, the 3.8's estimated fuel economy of 17 city/26 highway is better than that of the 3.0-liter twin-turbo BMW (17/25) and the 1.3-liter rotary Mazda (16/22).
Transmission choices for the Genesis Coupe, which is built alongside the sedan at Hyundai's Ulsan, Korea, assembly plant, include a Hyundai-sourced six-speed manual and a ZF six-speed automatic. The manual utilizes a sporty 3.54 axle ratio while the auto, also used in V-8 Genesis sedans, gets an even more dynamic 3.73 as well as steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Saddled with curb weights within just four pounds of each other (the 3478-pound manual vehicle, surprisingly, weighed more than the auto car), the two 3.8 Track models each hoofed from 0 to 60 in 5.5 seconds, with the negligibly lighter and more aggressively geared auto car clipping the quarter mile two-tenths sooner, at 14.0 at 101.0 mph.
This is a quick coupe, for sure -- a Jag XK needs 5.8 seconds to reach 60 and to 14.3 at 98.3 to nab the quarter -- but not as brisk as several others in its class. The 370Z, 135i, and Mustang GT all put up better numbers. Maybe the onus falls on the engine. The so-called "RS 3800" V-6 (for Rear-drive Sport), which does emit a pleasing growl as it revs effortlessly to the 6500-rpm redline, is no-doubt a refined engine -- arguably more refined than Nissan's VQ -- but it doesn't seem 306 horsepower strong. "I realize that on paper this is a 300-plus-horsepower car," says associate editor Allyson Harwood, "but it doesn't feel like it. It was pretty quick off the line, but I guess I expected a little more thrust."
The six-speed manual also was a bit of a letdown. Its rubbery feel generally led to imprecise experiences, especially when attempting to shift quickly, and its placement on the center console seemed an inch or so too rearward. An RX-8's gearbox will make you jealous. And as editor-at-large Arthur St. Antoine notes, our manual test car suffered from "Lots of driveline lash, making it very difficult to execute smooth shifts and throttle inputs." The manual, alas, left us feeling that the proven ZF slushbox is the transmission of choice, certainly in light of the standard paddle shifters and generally quicker acceleration times.
BETTER THAN AN E46 M3
The last-generation BMW M3 was, and still is, a fantastic GT car. No person in his right mind could say its structure felt like soggy fettuccine. Well, according to Hyundai, the Genesis Coupe boasts a body 24 percent stiffer in bending rigidity than that of the E46 Bimmer. Better than an M3? In this instance, it appears so.
We all agreed the Genesis Coupe feels sapphire solid. Build quality seems first rate. The doors shut with a reassuring thump. Whether navigating a straight highway or a winding byway, the Hyundai comes across tight and well put together. This overall feel of solidity, of course, is a welcome plus, as it not only gave Hyundai engineers a strong starting point, but it also provides the driver with quicker and more communicative responses. Within these realms, the robust Genesis Coupe mostly succeeds. The front strut and rear multilink suspension can be best described as modestly stiff, thanks in part to our Track model's sport-tuned gear, which flaunts firmer springs, larger front and rear anti-roll bars, and 19-inch alloys with summer Bridgestones. The ride is never jarring, but it does act unrefined at times, occasionally crashing onto its bump stops and relaying a wee too much road granularity.
Present the Genesis Coupe with a curvy road, though, and the tautness of the track-tuned chassis pays dividends. The steering, with its relatively rapid 14.7:1 ratio, offers crisp turn-in and solid linearity, but disappoints with a somewhat gluey feel. When the pace quickens, the Hyundai displays modest roll and understeer, but its instinct to stay flat inspires confidence when exploring the limits. Speaking of limits, the Genesis Coupe's standard stability and traction control can be turned completely off. But unless you're impersonating drift champ Rhys Millen, it's probably best to leave that button untouched, as the Track's Torsen LSD can't cheat the laws of physics.
In our instrumented handling tests, the 3.8 Track cars recorded lateral acceleration of 0.90 g (manual) and 0.91 g (auto), and figure-eight runs of 26.2 seconds at 0.67 g and 26.3 at 0.68. Again, these figures outgun those of the upper-echelon Jag XK (0.89, 26.8 at 0.66), but not of its two main rivals, the Mustang GT and 370Z. Ditto for 60-to-0 braking, which, at 111 feet, is just shy of the spans from the Ford (108) and the Nissan (109). As usual, credit goes to the Track model's unfaltering Brembo braking system, which uses meaty monobloc fixed calipers and substantial 13.4-inch front/13.0-inch rear vented rotors.
CHECKING THE BOXES
While the Genesis Coupe doesn't head its competitive field in driving dynamics, it is far and away the value leader. A base 3.8 with a manual, which comes with leather, automatic climate control, foglamps, active front head restraints, keyless entry, Bluetooth, and USB/iPod connectivity, starts at $25,750, or $3095 less than a base Mustang GT. Select the ZF auto, and the cost jumps an extra $1500. Step up to the luxury-bent Grand Touring that adds distinctive brown leather, heated seats, a 360-watt Infinity audio system, and HID headlamps, and the bottom line barely crests $28,000. Or, opt for the go-getting Track and pay just $30,250. A comparably equipped 370Z Touring with Sport Package demands over $38,000. And did we mention that the 210-horse turbo starts at under $23,000?
Obviously, Hyundai has much to be proud of with its first rear-drive sport coupe. The value is unbeatable. The quality is tip-top. The road manners are respectable. The styling, with its unique Z-shaped character line and drop-beltline rear window, is standout. Sure, there are some details -- namely, the inexact manual and the numb steering -- that need some fine-tuning. But for an initial effort, in a field that it's never played, Hyundai has delivered a solid, sexy product.
Don't need a V-6? If a large-displacement V-6 seems superfluous, the Genesis Coupe's 2.0-liter turbo four will seem just plain super. With 210 horsepower and 223 pound-feet channeled through a six-speed manual (a five-speed automatic is optional), the 2.0T should hit 60 in about 6.0 seconds and the quarter mile in roughly 14.6 ticks at 95 mph., yet still dispense an estimated 21/30 mpg. And given the $22,750 starting price, the 2.0T delivers bang for the buck that will make such front-drive pocket-rockets as the VW GTI and Honda Civic Si take notice. For those in search of more street cred, there's the $27,500 2.0T Track, replete with a limited slip, Brembos, and 19-inch wheels, as well as the $24,500 R-Spec, a decontented Track trim for tuners and autocrossers.
WAGGING TAILS AND SMOKING TIRES
Drift on Sunday, sell on Monday. That'll be Hyundai's motto as it enters the 2009 Formula Drift Professional Drifting Championship with multiple champion Rhys Millen. To achieve the target curb weight of 2400 pounds, Millen and his team gave the Genesis Coupe drift car an alkali bath to remove all rubber and adhesives from the chassis and then replaced every metal body panel with ones made from carbon fiber. The chassis is stitch-welded for extra strength, a necessary step given the stiffness levels of the KW three-way adjustable coil-over suspension. A stroked 4.1-liter Lambda V-6 that makes 550 horsepower and 520 pound-feet provides the rubber-melting power; and there's plenty of it to instantly fry a pair of Toyo Proxes R1R tires. Look for Millen and his Red Bull Genesis in the drift championship as well as in the Pikes Peak hillclimb and select Redline Time Attack events.
2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track
Drivetrain layout Front engine, RWD
Engine Type V-6 alum block/heads
Valvetrain DOHC 4 valves/cyl
Displacement 230.6 cu in/3778 cc
Compression ratio 10.4:1
Power (SAE net) 306 hp @ 6300 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 266 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm
Redline 6500 rpm
Weight to power 11.4 lb/hp
Transmission 6-speed man; 6-speed auto
Axle/final-drive ratios 3.54:1/2.81:1 (6M); 3.73:1/2.58:1 (6A)
Suspension, front; rear Struts, control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Steering ratio 14.9:1
Turns lock-to-lock 2.7
Brakes, f;r 13.4-in vented disc; 13.0-in vented disc, ABS
Wheels f;r 8.0x19 in; 8.5x19, cast aluminum
Tires f;r 225/40R19 89Y; 245/40R19 94Y, Bridgestone Potenza RE050A
Wheelbase 111.0 in
Track, f/r 63.0/63.6 in
Length x width x height 182.3x73.4x54.5 in
Turning circle 37.4 ft
Curb weight 3478 lb (6M); 3474 lb (6A)
Weight dist, f/r 55/45%
Seating capacity 4
Headroom, f/r 39.2/34.6 in
Legroom, f/r 44.1/30.3 in
Shoulder room, f/r 56.7/52.8 in
Cargo volume 10.0 cu ft
TEST DATA (6M; 6A)
Acceleration to mph
0-30 1.9; 1.9 sec
0-40 3.1; 2.9
0-50 4.3; 4.1
0-60 5.5; 5.5
0-70 7.5; 7.2
0-80 9.3; 9.1
0-90 11.8; 11.1
0-100 14.3; 13.7
Passing, 45-65 mph 3.0; 2.8
Quarter mile 14.2 sec @ 99.5 mph; 14.0 sec @ 101.0
Braking, 60-0 mph 111 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.90 g (avg); 0.91 g (avg)
MT figure eight 26.2 sec @ 0.67 g (avg); 26.3 sec @ 0.68 g (avg)
Top-gear revs at 60 mph 2250; 2050 rpm
Base price $30,250
Price as tested $30,250 (6M); $31,750 (6A)
Stability/traction control Yes/yes
Airbags Dual front, front side, front curtain
Basic warranty 5 yrs/60,000 miles
Powertrain warranty 10 yrs/100,000 miles
Roadside assistance 5 yrs/unlimited miles
Fuel capacity 17.2 gal
EPA city/hwy econ 17/26 mpg*, 18/26 mpg*
Co2 emisssions 0.96 lb/mile*, 0.93 lb/mile*
Required fuel Unleaded regular
By Ron Kiino