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Hyundai's Hardcore Racer

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On: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 9:21AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Hyundai's Hardcore Racer

As the member of a family that owned a 1987 Sonata, I can tell you that back then, Hyundai was not in the business of making a car it was easy to get excited about. That 1987 four-cylinder, four-speed auto transmission did about what you would expect it to do in a four-door family sedan. It wasn’t a race car, but, to its credit, it never tried to be despite my best 16-year-old efforts to imagine it as such.  

What that Sonata did do, however, was last a decade with very few complaints. Sure, the alternator went once or twice and the water pump gave up the ghost around year eight, but other than those natural auto ailments, there were no real surprises or recalls that made us give up our car before we were ready and willing to.  

Fast forward 23 years later. Today, Hyundai has taken most of those same principles that our 1987 Sonata conveyed to us, and gone from a relative punch line in the automotive community to the fifth largest auto manufacturer in the world. With a very simple strategy that could have once been called the ‘Toyota Model to Success’, Hyundai has worked tirelessly at building a brand name synonymous with economical quality for the masses. 

In 2010 Hyundai introduced the sports coupe for those masses in the Genesis Coupe. In 2011 Hyundai is bringing to the table a hardcore version of that sports car for all to enjoy—the Genesis Coupe R-Spec.  

With the understanding that most people have seen, or at least know of the Genesis Coupe by now (it has graced most every auto magazine cover in the last year or so), it would be an exaggeration to call the R-Spec a juiced up version of that car. Think of it more as a Genesis Coupe that has just discovered P90X, creatine, and protein powder: It is a more toned and athletic version of itself. The juiced-up version might be when Hyundai really wants to throw down the gauntlet, and drop the Genesis Sedan’s 4.6 liter 375 horsepower V8 into the Coupe’s very compatible chassis, but I digress …

Although the standard car does receive some interior updates for 2011 like softer leather on its steering wheel, and some chrome highlights, the R-Spec differs in many ways that make it quite a bit sportier. Both the 2.0T and the 3.8 R-Spec share many of the same features. The R-Spec package includes suspension tweaks for better handling like higher-rate coil springs, stiffer shocks, and a pair of stabilizer bars (25mm front and 22mm rear), and a very useful strut tower brace tops off the handling upgrades. A Torsen limited-slip differential is added, as well as a very impressive set of 19-inch gunmetal-grey wheels mounted on sticky Potenza RE050A (225 front/245 rear) summer tires that hide 13.4-inch front and 13.0-inch rear four-piston Brembo brakes to help rein in the fun.

Both the 2.0T and 3.8 R-Spec offer only a 6-speed manual transmission, with no automatic option in sight. The R-Spec does convey some other classic racing principles. Weight and cost reduction were paramount in Hyundai’s design plans, and are apparent in the deletion of non-essential features like automatic headlights, cruise control, and some interior accent pieces. However, what both lose in chrome, they make up for with model specific R-Spec badges.

Obviously, the 3.8 is higher on the totem pole than the 2.0 in price, so Hyundai throws a few more features into the top end R-Spec model. Unlike the 2.0T, the 3.8 gets Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with a Traction Control System (TCS) as well as ABS with Electronic Brake-force distribution (EBD) that allows the car to apply more or less force to a given wheel depending on road conditions in order to maximize stopping power. Tire pressure monitoring, Bluetooth, an iPod/USB auxiliary jack, and no less than six airbags come along for the ride in the 3.8 R-Spec.

The same 210 horsepower turbo four will come with the 2.0T and the 306 horsepower dual overhead cam DCVVT 3.8 liter V6 will carryover from the 2010 models (despite several emails sent in by yours truly promising to buy a Genesis Coupe the day it comes with the 4.6 liter motor). With the added weight savings and improved rear, the 3.8 R-Spec should easily eclipse the best 0-60 posted by a 2010 3.8 Track model of 5.5 seconds, while more than likely improving fuel efficiency for both cars.

As-tested price for the 2.0T R-Spec should come in at $23,750 which is three grand cheaper than the previous 2.0 Track model, and the 3.8 R-Spec should come in right at about 30 grand putting it on par with its previous Track model. Both R-Spec model’s should hit showrooms by year’s end.

Unlike some Hyundai models of days gone by, I can say from experience that this Genesis Coupe R-Spec is as close to a race car as Hyundai has come yet, and is very much a car to get excited about.

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