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The 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec: Korea's best challenge yet for the American muscle cars

I recently spent some time behind the wheel of the 2012 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec - a V6 powered sports coupe that presents itself as the best chance yet for the Korean automaker to challenge the American muscle cars even without a V8 engine.

The Hyundai Genesis Coupe was introduced in 2009 as a 2010 model year vehicle and for the 2013 model year, the “Gen Coupe” received a facelift and more power to help it keep up with the Joneses in the affordable performance car segment. In doing so, Hyundai has brought their best sports car thus far that can take a real shot at the American muscle cars including the Ford Mustang, the Dodge Challenger and the Chevrolet Camaro.

The Exterior
The 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec looks more or less identical to the rest of the Gen Coupe lineup and that begins with the “new” front end. This exterior design includes a front end that takes a heavier cue from the automakers fluidic design language, with similar cues that we see on the Hyundai Veloster. This begins with the new, massive grille opening that is finished almost completely in black with just a scant sampling of chrome around the Hyundai “H”. Flanking the lower portions of this large grille are a set of uniquely shaped fog lights packed in matte black housings while the upper grille is joined by a set of sharply angled headlights featuring projection style assemblies set in black and chrome bezels. Some might frown upon the front end design of the Genesis Coupe but in a segment where an aggressive design goes a long way – Hyundai has hit a home run with the 2013 Genesis Coupe.

The wide, low front end of the 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe runs back to a hood that is long and flat, extending almost all of the way out to the top of the fenders. New for 2013 is a set of matte black grilles mounted in the middle of the hood that add that certain something in terms of sporty styling although these new items are more aesthetic than function. The hood gives way to a steeply sloping windshield that angles up to a very short roofline that almost immediately angles back down towards the back end. The roofline and rear glass combine to create as much of a fastback form as you can ask for – giving the Genesis Coupe a very sleek, slippery shape while also offering great aerodynamic properties. Along the side, the 19” wheels that are unique to the R-Spec and Track package fill the large, angled wheel openings nicely while a set of hard body lines running front to back with an upwards direction help to give the Gen Coupe the form of a big cat ready to pounce.

Out back the 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec wears new tail lights for the 2013 model year which are angled inward with all of the lighting needs (brake lights, turn signals, backup lights) all incorporated into one single lens design with both red and clear/chrome portions of the assembly. Above these new tail lights is a subtle spoiler molded into the trunk lid while the lower matte black rear fascia houses the large dual exhaust tips for a very clean look.

The Interior
While the R-Spec package is the base model trimline for the 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8, it doesn’t look like a low line model inside. The seats are wrapped in red with bright red deep leather side and bottom bolsters while the center section is finished in a darker red cloth mesh that helps to keep everyone secure to the seat during spirited driving. Some all leather seats in sports cars will leave you sliding around the interior when you are hammering the turns but the Genesis Coupe R-Spec packs the best of both worlds with the firm grip of cloth in the middle while the leather bolsters provide a touch of class. Also, the red interior trim on the seats and through the door panels looks fantastic against the otherwise black interior. In short, the interior just ”looks fast”.

The 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe (regardless of the trimline or engine) offers a great amount of space for the driver and front passenger in terms of head room and leg room. While the driver has plenty of elbow room with the small center console armrest, the passenger needs to keep their elbows to themselves to avoid being in the way of gear-banging fun. The Gen Coupe has a rear seat that is designed to seat two people and while I found that the passenger’s side front seat can be moved forward enough to comfortably seat a front and rear passenger – I was unable to comfortably drive the Gen Coupe with a passenger behind me in the back seat. Luckily, for a guy with a wife and one smaller child, there is plenty of room to keep everyone happy. If you aren’t worried about having rear passenger seating space there is very little to complain about with the Genesis Coupe.

The 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec is a “base model” for the V6 engine option so, unlike many of the other modern Hyundai offerings, you will not find a great many high technology gadgets. There is no big fancy touch screen (although that is available on other trimlines) and no complicated HVAC system – instead offering a quality sound system with a very basic readout controlled by buttons and knobs along with a nice, easy to use heating/air conditioning system. Like most new vehicles, the Genesis Coupe R-Spec stereo system offers AM/FM/CD compatibility along with satellite radio and MP3 capabilities via a USB drive. If you don’t want to take your hands off of the steering wheel to adjust the stereo while rocketing down the road, the Gen Coupe comes with standard steering wheel mounted controls for the radio and the hands-free Bluetooth phone system.

Finally, while the 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec does not have a high tech, customizable gauge cluster with a bunch of options that a sports car does not need – the large speedometer and tachometer flank a smaller information screen that offers fuel economy information. Also, there is a trio of gauges mounted on the center stack between the stereo and the HVAC controls that read out fuel consumption, torque output and oil temperature. These are three gauges that the average driver does not need but I think that these are an awesome feature of the affordable Genesis Coupe and they are a beautiful use of some extra space on the dash. Truth be told, I have yet to find someone who doesn’t enjoy watching the needed on the Torque gauge spike when you put the hammer down. In the current auto industry, it is the little things that can make the biggest difference and these extra gauges are one of those little things that really adds appeal to the sporty Hyundai coupe. I loved the power output gauge in the Dodge Charger SRT-8 and the Genesis Coupe offers a similar –albeit less high tech – way to see exactly how much power your vehicle is making at any given time.

The Drive
The 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec is powered by the Lambda 3.8L V6 that sends 348 horsepower and 295lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels exclusively via a 6-speed manual transmission. Those who want the car to shift on its own will need to step up to the Grand Touring or Track trimlines but in an era where many automakers are going away from the manual transmission – the Gen Coupe R-Spec is only offered with a manual transmission. While it won’t offer the same throaty roar as the American V8 engines, the Hyundai V6 has an awesome sound – especially at high rpm – with a surprisingly low grumble across the powerband and a clear lack of the nasal, whining sound often associated with many smaller displacement high performance engines. However, there is a big difference between a sports car that sounds great and a performance car that runs as good as it sounds. Luckily the Genesis Coupe 3.8 performs better than it sounds.

As soon as you pull onto the open road with the 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec and really put the hammer down – it churns out wow inspiring power. With the traction control turned off (which I feel is the only way to really enjoy the Genesis Coupe), cracking into the throttle hard from a stop will work to immediately turn the back tires into a mixture of smoke and molten rubber. A quick lift of the throttle quickly brings the back wheels into control but a good hard power shift into second gear will put another short, hard spin to the rear rubbers. If you live to drift – you will absolutely love the Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec. However, it should be emphasized that with a little practice, the Gen Coupe with the 3.8 can be launched very hard with little wheel spin to optimize off-the-line acceleration with enough gusto to run the quarter mile in the high 13 second range. When cruising on the highway at 70-ish miles per hour, the Genesis Coupe with the 3.8 is quiet and calm but by dropping down a couple gears and putting the hammer down – the Gen Coupe will happily and confidently reach speeds more than double the speed limit. Best of all, no matter what gear you are in and no matter how fast you are going – be it cruising or standing still – the Genesis Coupe accelerates violently…just like a sports car driver would expect and just like the American muscle cars do with their big V8s.

Finally, the 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec is far more than just a straight line performer with a chassis that feels light and nimble in almost every situation. The steering response is very quick and sharp but if you enjoy unadulterated control of your vehicle like I do and you run with the traction/stability control off – hitting the turns hard without doing lots of drifting will take some practice. The suspension is rigid as you would expect from a modern sports car which allows for great handling in the turns but Hyundai has achieved this without killing ride quality. Don’t get me wrong – the Genesis Coupe doesn’t ride on glass like its four door namesake does but while riding like a sports car, it doesn’t leave you with a sore liver like some sporty models. Whether you are hammering tight turns on a back road or rocketing over the century mark on a long, sweeping turn; the Genesis Coupe feels very confident.

There is very little to complain about with the drive quality of the Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec as it offers solid handling while maintaining a comfortable ride, very strong acceleration from a stop or at highway speeds and the ability to be a drift monster – providing tons of fun for those owners who have the desire to let the back end slide. To sum up the performance of the Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec, everyone who went for a ride with me in this new Hyundai sports car offered a resounding “wow” at how well it moved out and hit the turns. Realistically, the Genesis Coupe offers performance measures that the average driver will not ever fully utilize but if they do…the Genesis Coupe will respond favorably.

The Final Word
Realistically, the advancements in engine technology among the Detroit Big 3 muscle cars has come a long way so their V6 and V8 engines offer a pretty substantial advantage over the 2012 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec. The Gen Coupe’s 3.8L V6 is one hell of a lot of fun to drive with “only” 348 horsepower and 295lb-ft of torque but compared to the V8-powered Ford Mustang GT (420hp), the Chevrolet Camaro SS (426hp) and the Dodge Challenger R/T (375hp) – the Genesis Coupe is a little light on power but it is quite a bit less expensive than the V8 muscle cars. However, with a price of just $29,626 (including the $875 destination fee), the 348 horsepower Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec is about a grand less than the Challenger R/T, $1,400 less than the Mustang GT and almost $4,000 less than the Camaro 1SS. However, the V6 powered Genesis Coupe is priced similarly to those muscle cars when they are fitted with their entry level V6 engines – all of which offer quite a bit less power than Hyundai’s 3.8L V6.

The 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec is an amazingly entertaining car to drive on a road course, a drag strip, a drift course or just the good ol’ open road. While the Genesis Coupe in R-Spec form isn’t going to “wow” many buyers with electronic gadgetry, this low priced trimline packs animalistic driving fun that is hard to find outside of the Big 3 muscle car lineup. It accelerates hard and handles like a dream with an overall design scheme inside and out that just screams sports car. If you are looking for a sports car under $30k that will allow you to enjoy every aspect of your driving experience – the 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec is one car that you must definitely drive before making your next new car purchase.

I liked driving the earlier Genesis Coupe and the changes made to the 2013 model make this a great car for drivers who love to drive. I love to drive and I loved driving the 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec – and I bet that if you love driving, you will too. I have owned a great many American V8 performance cars and as much as I love the current muscle cars – the Genesis Coupe is one vehicle that I am quick to recommend to anyone looking to go fast and enjoy driving on a budget.


Not everyone i… (not verified)    October 2, 2012 - 3:58PM

"Realistically, the advancements in engine technology among the Detroit Big 3 muscle cars has come a long way so their V6 and V8 engines offer a pretty substantial advantage over the 2012 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec."

First of all, are you reviewing the 2012 or 2013 model? Since you refer to the new power ratings and you have 2013 in the title and peppered throughout the review I assume you are reviewing the 2013 model.

Second, the 2013 Genesis 3.8 is tied for second for the most powerful NA V6 you can buy. Not one of the Big 3 have a V6 with as much power. If you had left out V6 and and stuck to the correct year model you would have been fine other than the "you think?" reaction you are still going to get from the idea that a V8 with greater displacement puts out more power than a V6. It would be misleading if the poor writing wasn't so obvious.

I don't own one or have a dog in the fight. I just prefer accuracy and information that is relevant or is more informative than telling me V8s have more power potential than a V6. You don't even touch on important issues like the problems with brake fade from the Brembo's or the issues with up shifting at redline that would have been obvious in a real test of the car. Hell there isn't even a mention that it comes with Brembo brakes.

Anonymous (not verified)    October 24, 2012 - 8:34AM

So how was the visibility? Was the car like sitting in bathtub due to the fact that the R-Spec does not have seat height adjustment? I sat in a Touring model the other day and it was nice, but I didn't have the time to drive it...yet. No R-specs are available in the area to tell for myself.