Review: 2013 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 "Track" — Track Tested

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
review 2013 hyundai genesis 3 8 track track tested

This is the companion piece to yesterday’s pilot episode of our new video series. Did you watch it yet? If you didn’t, why not? Don’t you know that my son needs to eat? Have you no heart? Have you no sense of decency Sir, at long last? — JB

Context, to distort the phrase, is a hell of a drug. Anyone trying to make a purchase decision on this fully-loaded, $33,875 (in the United States), high-power, impractical, fully-loaded, sporting coupe will need to put their face down against a mirror and snort context with both nostrils open. In this brief review, we will first go cold-turkey, evaluating the Genesis Coupe’s on-track performance without referring to the competition. When that’s done, we will take a white-hot hit of context and try to determine if the pug-nosed Hyundai is worth buying.

Our venue for the test was Toronto Motorsports Park, a dead-flat road course located in the approximate middle of nowhere and approximately as close to Toronto as “French bread” is to France. TMP isn’t a very fancy place, and it’s definitely short of the kind of topography which makes for exciting racing, but it has quite a few second-and-third-gear corners, so it corresponds very well to what drivers will experience on fast back roads. A track map can be found here if you want to follow along.

To cleanse our palate and learn the track, I took my 2004 Porsche Boxster S “550 Spyder Edition” out for some warm-up laps. The Boxster has long been a standard for on-track behavior and clarity of feedback, even if it isn’t a paragon of durability or quality. To remove tires from the equation, I threw on a set of Hoosier R6 tires which I rescued from the trash stack at Mid-Ohio four years or so ago. They don’t grip very well any more, but they are consistent. After about fifteen laps, I swapped into the Genesis.

First impressions: the V-6 is strong and sounds good, rocketing us down the front straight with more than a Boxster’s worth of push. The brakes are good, but as is usual with “Brembo packages” on affordably-priced cars, they aren’t “anchors” or anything like that. The Porsche has the Hyundai beat six ways to Sunday here, offering more pad area for less weight. Not a surprise. Time to turn in for the fast third-gear Turn 1, and here we get the first surprise: the front end has good, solid, no-BS grip. We’re very near to the edge of tire traction on this very first corner, and I’m not worried at all. Small movements in the wheel are met with the appropriate responses.

The Genesis arrives at Turn 2 very quickly and already the brakes are starting to show their annoyance. I think that a good set of pads and some SuperBlue or similar fluid would fix this. The fundamentals are there, and indeed later on in the day when I worked consciously on managing brake temperature I never got an unpleasant surprise. Now it’s time for the first dynamic problem with Hyundai’s big coupe: gearing and throttle mapping. It’s reluctant to rev-match, no doubt due to the same kind of emission-test-friendly computer control that can be frustrating in recent BMWs. I need second gear for Turn 3, but I can’t get the revs high enough and the transmission’s synchros aren’t willing to cover the gap. Instead, we coast through in third.

The transmission ratios in the Coupe don’t match well with TMP, but a faster road course would let third gear shine a bit better. Mid-Ohio would be a nice place to run this car, as would VIR.

Turns 4 and 5 require a hard direction change, somewhat like a slalom test, and it’s here that the Genesis shows some weakness as well. Like it or not, this is a big car made smaller, not a small car expanded to hold a big engine. A Mustang’s worth of patience is required here. Your friends in Miatas will be long gone…

…but you will pull them back before Seven with the aid of the engine. Now we can slot second and hustle down the back straight. In an impromptu drag race with an Aston Vantage, the Genesis didn’t lose much ground. The 8-9-10 complex we handle like a straight and simply mash the Brembos for the hard left and run up to 11.

The weight of the Genesis tells through 11. Quite a bit of patience is required. In this respect, the Genesis really is a ponycar. My on-track definition of modern ponycars runs like so: good on fast corners, not so good on slow ones, and the Genesis lives up to the billing. And although the 3.8 has power, it’s low on the kind of torque which so effortlessly turns understeer into neutral balance in a car like, say, a 5.0 Mustang. (I know, I know! I promised “no context”. Not every lap, or every article, goes according to strict plan.)

Turns 12 and 13 aren’t that much of a chore here, since the Genesis is easy to accurately place on the curbing at 13’s exit. It’s also here where the rear suspension shines. Most cars are easily upset by curb-hopping, and in fact a lot of drivers will deliberately use the “kick” from a hard curb to throw a little extra rotation into a corner. Not so the Genesis. Any attempts to hooligan a curb are met with a well-damped outside tire firmly touching ground and stopping the fun/idiocy/whatever. As a result, our re-entry to the front straight is far more disciplined than it is in the Boxster.

The tale of the stopwatch is that we are about two seconds a lap behind the slick-shod Boxster and three seconds behind what we’re told an E92 M3 can do on street tires. This is respectable territory for any car, whether it’s a “budget Korean” or not. The Genesis can deliver the proverbial mail. You don’t need to make excuses for it.

I noted this in my video, but it’s worth stating again: this Genesis simply doesn’t deliver the long-hood, high-center-of-gravity feeling one gets in a Mustang or Camaro. This feels like any other two-door version of any other imported mid-size sedan. The hood isn’t very visible, the hip point is low but not excitingly so, and the control efforts are decidedly mild. Think 328i or G37. My Audi S5 actually had more dramatic proportions and a more conventionally ponycar-ish driving position than the Genesis. It was also usefully faster in the real world, leading me to suspect that Audi’s 350 rated horseps aren’t from the same breeder as Hyundai’s 348.

Once off the track, we can take a moment to notice that the interior is spacious enough for my 6’2″, 230-pound self, even if the air vent of my helmet rubs the roof at any seat setting besides that used by Ron O’Neal in “Superfly”. The shifter is acceptable but feels quite a bit like the cable-operated mechanisms used in FWD Hyundais. The precision of a Bimmer box isn’t available here. Visibility is outstanding to the front, slightly perilous to the rear. Everything I can see seems to be of reasonable quality and at least equal to what you’d find in, say, a used G35 Coupe.

With that phrase, “used G35 Coupe”, we enter into the decidedly contextual portion of the review. Can you go faster for $33,875? Sure. Go buy a D Sports Racer or used Formula Atlantic car. A five-liter Mustang costs a few grand more once you adjust for trim: the base GT is $2500 more than the 3.8 R-Spec and the GT Premium is two grand or so above this “Track” model. Don’t kid yourself that the cars are close: as we will see in a later test this week, the Mustang will put the hurt on the Genesis everywhere the track runs straight and it won’t lose much ground elsewhere. It has probably a genuine hundred horsepower over the Genesis and it’s geared much better for track work.

The Camaro and Challenger are really too bulky to be directly considered against the Genesis. What else is out there? Well, you have hardware like the base 328i coupe. I wouldn’t bet five dollars on a base 328i staying within shooting distance of a Genesis on course. Better upgrade to the 335i and make sure it’s nice and cool outside for the turbos. The Audi S5 plays in a different pricing neighborhood, plus it now comes with that candy-assed V-6. No thanks.

It goes without saying, almost, that FWD V-6 cars like the Accord Coupe don’t have a prayer of running with the Genesis, right? Well, you’ve been told, anyway. It would seem that the Genesis really has no natural competition, nothing that offers the same kind of package for the same kind of money.

Except, of course, for that used G35 Coupe. Too bad it isn’t fair to compare used and new cars. If it were fair, I could compare a beat-up Testarossa to the Genesis and declare it the victor based on the “Miami Vice Gotta Have It” factor. In the new-car world, I think the fairest, most honest competitor to the Genesis, on-track or off, is the six-speed Infiniti G37. It costs about eleven thousand dollars more than the Hyundai. Won’t be much faster, if at all. Doesn’t offer too much more in the way of interior quality, visual excitement, or — sad to say — brand prestige. I couldn’t recommend a G37 over this Genesis to anyone who wasn’t a raving Nissan or Infiniti fanatic.

The casual track rat will be satisfied by the Genesis Coupe. If you’re more hardcore than that, you need a five-liter Mustang for a few more bucks. If you don’t care as much about lap times, the Accord Coupe would fit the bill. Within its narrow range, however, the Genesis 3.8 Track is a solid winner.

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  • Theswedishtiger Theswedishtiger on Jun 08, 2012

    I sold my Accord V6 6MT Coupe for a used 2011 Mustang 5.0 convertible. On the seat question, the rear seats are sometimes used. The Accord seats are comfortable and passengers commented favourably on them, although gaining access to them was a chore. With the Mustang folks cannot wait to get in the back seat and have me drop the top. If you even think of taking more than two folks on a long journey and your choice is a Mustang, Genesis or Accord, take the last two.

  • 05lgt 05lgt on Jun 09, 2012

    Thank you JB. An enjoyable write up and video combo. I look forward to many more. On context, the obvious answer is a used V8 Stang, no?

  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Ed That has to be a joke.