The 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 hits a sweet spot in the marketplace, combining clean and contemporary styling with rear-wheel-drive performance at a very attractive price point. Until now, if your taste in motorized fun has been of the V6 rear-wheel-drive sports coupe variety, your options have been pretty limited. You’ve either had to choose from retro-styled behemoths from Detroit like the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger or Chevrolet Camaro, all of which feature suspension tuning designed for weekend cruisers rather than weekend warriors, or you’ve had to step up into the $40,000+ bracket for true sports car performance and modern-day styling in the form of a BMW 335i or Infiniti G37. But all that’s changed with the arrival of Hyundai’s sub-$30,000 Genesis Coupe 3.8, equipped with a 306-horsepower 3.8-liter V6 engine linked to the rear tires via a six-speed close-ratio manual transmission (or optional six-speed Shiftronic automatic transmission).
|1. The Genesis Coupe is the first rear-drive coupe ever offered by Hyundai.
2. Its Genesis Sedan sibling won the 2009 North American Car of the Year award.
3. The top-level V6-powered 3.8 model makes 306hp.
4. A 210hp turbocharged four-cylinder is also available.
5. Pricing for the 3.8 model starts at just $25,000.
The basic goodness of the Genesis 3.8 is impossible to deny. Based on its engine output, drivetrain configuration, suspension design and curb weight, it should be a serious performer on the street or around a race track. Although this test drive did not include a race track, the country roads and highways near Hyundai America’s Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan proved secluded enough, twisty enough, and rough enough to fully evaluate the Genesis Coupe’s performance capabilities without too much risk of ending up in handcuffs.
HIGH OUTPUT: 306 HORSEPOWER V6
As you’d expect from a 306-horsepower 3.8-liter V6 with continuous variable valve timing, power delivery is strong and the engine sings a wonderful song as it approaches its 6800 rpm rev limiter. But what impressed me most was how responsive the Lambda RS engine felt at lower engine speeds, making the Genesis coupe feel very quick off the line and eager to make passing maneuvers on single lane country highways.
Unlike its natural rival, the Infiniti G37, where peak power isn’t reached until quite late in the rpm range, the Genesis Coupe 3.8 has clearly been tuned for stronger low end torque and faster throttle response right in the heart of its powerband. The only drawback to the 3.8’s calibration is the way it hangs the throttle open and tends to cut power when shifting aggressively near its redline (a feature apparently designed to protect the drivetrain). But the smooth shifting six-speed manual transmission was otherwise a pleasure to row through the gears, and the aluminum pedal set was well spaced for heel and toe downshifting.
HIGH PERFORMANCE: TRACK MODEL DELIVERS
Through the turns and on the brakes, the Genesis Coupe 3.8 continued to impress. The Track model which I spent the most time in was significantly firmer in ride quality than the Grand Touring or standard 3.8 versions, thanks to its higher-rate coil springs, higher-control shock absorbers, and larger diameter anti-sway bars, but it still soaked up the bumps without undue drama or unwanted harshness.
Pushed to its limit (or as close as I could safely come on public roads), the Track model had limited body roll and felt remarkably composed and well balanced, the chassis stiffness (with body-bending rigidity 24-percent higher than a BMW E46 M3) allowing the MacPherson strut dual-link front and five-link rear suspension to communicate directly to the driver.
A heavier and more positive steering feel would have been appreciated, but perhaps the lightness of the steering is meant to communicate how lightweight the chassis is. At just 3,389 lbs, the Genesis 3.8 coupe is 227 lbs lighter than the Infiniti G37 and 182 lbs lighter than the BMW 335i. Its lightness, combined with a huge Brembo braking system that features 4-piston calipers front and rear, gives the brake pedal on the Track model more than enough stopping power for enthusiasts who enjoy spirited street driving or weekends at the race track. The standard brakes on the other 3.8 models do require more pedal pressure and pedal travel, but for normal street use I had no issues slowing in a consistent and controlled fashion.
The sheet metal of the Genesis Coupe is exactly what a modern sports coupe should be. Its forward rake gives it a purposeful stance, while its headlights and front fascia create an aggressive personality that suits the driving experience very well. The character lines are all subtle enough that it should appeal to a more mature and sophisticated buyer, and although it may strongly resemble Infiniti’s G37, Hyundai has integrated some unique design cues to the Genesis Coupe that give it a distinct appearance.
The feature-rich interior includes supportive and attractive leather-wrapped front bucket seats (powered on the driver’s side and heated on both sides in the GT model), fully automatic temperature control, and a thumpin’ Infinity audio system with obligatory iPod/MP3 player connectivity, but some of the interior materials look and feel a bit too much like those found in an economy car. The steering wheel and shift knob, while nicely shaped and sized, are so coated in preservatives that they no longer feel like leather. And the plastic silver covers on the steering wheel and center console lack a richness of look or texture relative to the competition in this segment.
LOW PRICE: JUST $25,000
But of course price point has to be considered when making these types of comparisons, and on price Hyundai clearly has a significant advantage over both the G37 and 335i. Sure, you give up a little bit of interior quality with respect to the materials used in places, but the driver’s seat of the Genesis Coupe 3.8 is still an entirely pleasant place to be, and at $25,000 for the standard 3.8, $27,500 for the Grand Touring model, and $29,500 for the Track model, the extra $10,000 (or more, depending on how you option out a G37 or 335i) in your pocket should more than make up for the admittedly less refined and luxurious interior. And as far as curbside appeal goes, the Hyundai gives up nothing to its rivals, other than perhaps a little brand envy from the neighbors.
If you’re looking for an affordable sports coupe that delivers performance and style that rivals luxury brands like Infiniti and BMW, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 is built for you. There quite simply is not another rear-wheel-drive sports coupe on the market with modern (dare I say cutting edge?) exterior design and grin-inducing sports car driving dynamics with a sub $30,000 price tag. Take one for a test drive and you may just feel like you’re stealing it at the prices Hyundai have set.