Hyundai's Genesis coupe R-Spec is a stripper — and not the kind you'll find in a gentleman's club. The R-Spec's goal is performance for the dollar, which means features that don't make the car faster are stripped to keep costs low, while high-performance parts from the coupe's Track model are added.
The 2011 Genesis coupe 2.0T R-Spec is on the right track with its low price ($24,500), but it falls short in the "bang" department with a poky turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and unrefined handling.
The V-6-powered Genesis coupe 3.8 also comes in R-Spec garb, but we have yet to test that version. See our 2010 Genesis coupe review here for a more thorough look at the coupe as a whole.
What You Get
The R-Spec's suspension — the same one that can be found on the coupe's Track models — has stiffer springs than the base suspension, plus unique shock absorbers, thicker stabilizer bars and a strut-tower brace. I've driven this setup both on the street and on a racetrack, where the R-Spec's handling often feels unpredictable and squirrely. The rear end is eager to slide around when the electronic stability system is switched off, which isn't the most welcome feeling. Rear-wheel-drive coupes like the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro V-6 and 2011 Ford Mustang V-6 (with the Performance Package) handle more predictably.
I know what you're probably thinking: "So turn the stability control on, dummy!" I wish it were that easy. The Genesis' stability system reacts way too aggressively during spirited driving. It ruins any possible fun by cutting engine power abruptly, stopping the coupe dead in its tracks. The Camaro's and Mustang's systems are less intrusive and can smoothly reel in tail-happy drivers.
On the upside, the Track suspension is perfectly manageable as a daily driver, without being overly harsh or bouncy. Sometimes a "sport" suspension doesn't provide sporty performance, it just beats up drivers with a rough ride instead. The R-Spec's agreeable ride is an admirable feat for its 19-inch wheels wrapped in high-performance, stiff-sidewalled summer tires. However, I would gladly sacrifice some of the R-Spec's ride quality for a more refined handling experience.
Rounding out the R-Spec package is a Brembo braking system and limited-slip differential. The brakes may be overkill for use on the street: Like many upgraded braking systems, they don't offer much of a different feel until taken to the track, but they do look great combined with the R-Spec's wheels. A limited-slip differential isn't out of the ordinary for cheap-speed cars; one can also be had in the 2011 Mazdaspeed3, the 2012 Honda Civic Si and the Mustang V-6. The Camaro V-6 includes one only on models with manual transmissions.
What You Can't Get
I wouldn't normally focus on features a car doesn't have, but R-Spec models offer no optional equipment — not even features that come standard on the less-expensive base model, including cruise control, automatic headlights and upgraded interior trim pieces. These deletions do keep its price low, however, and the only feature I really missed was cruise control.
Those wanting a sunroof, navigation, automatic transmission or a choice between more than three exterior colors can cross the R-Spec off their list. The pricier Genesis coupe 2.0T Premium is a feature-laden model with all the aforementioned options, sans the R-Spec's performance upgrades.
Even with those features deleted, the R-Spec isn't a total stripper: It retains carpet, air conditioning, power windows and locks, a USB audio input and steering-wheel audio controls.
Under the Hood
The turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder feels more powerful than its 210-horsepower rating suggests. Even so, it doesn't move the coupe quickly enough to make it stand out from the competition. The Mazdaspeed3, Subaru Impreza WRX and six-cylinder versions of the Mustang and Camaro have more to brag about under the hood.
Editor Mike Hanley mentioned in his review of the 2010 Genesis coupe that the 306-hp, 3.8-liter V-6 engine is the way to go in this car, and I agree. At $26,750, the 3.8 R-Spec is a worthier choice because the base car itself is already a more potent performer, even before the R-Spec additions. Plus, the 3.8 R-Spec represents a $4,000 discount versus the Track trim level with the same performance upgrades. That's a bargain if you're comfortable with deleting certain convenience features. The 3.8 addresses half of my beef with the coupe, though it still has the same handling issues as the 2.0T R-Spec.
Both engines pair with a six-speed manual transmission. With a name like R-Spec, a manual transmission is the only way to go. The shifter needs improvement, though; its rubbery, vague feeling doesn't inspire confidence during quick gear changes.
Standard safety features include front and side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags, an electronic stability system with traction control, and active head restraints. To see how child-safety seats fit into the coupe, click here.
As of this writing, the 2011 Genesis coupe hasn't been crash-tested.
Genesis coupe R-Spec in the Market
Hyundai touts the 2.0T R-Spec as "the ultimate upgradeable, affordable, turbocharged rear-wheel-drive performance platform." Even if the R-Spec's flaws are addressed by throwing aftermarket upgrades at the engine and suspension, buyers will just be spending more money to match competition that already does cheap speed better. A little more research and development in the handling and engine department would go a long way toward making the R-Spec a more refined overall package.