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The affordable sports car shootout
by David Pratte
Affordable rear-wheel drive sports coupes, especially those hailing from the other side of the Pacific, have historically been a rather rare breed. But now, thanks to Hyundai and Scion, us regular folk have not one but two inexpensive rear-wheel drive sports coupes to choose from that donít feature big thirty engines or pony car badges.
The Genesis Coupe 2.0T R-Spec and FR-S are priced well under $30k, have been tuned with the enthusiast-driver in mind, and are equipped with 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engines that offer an attractive combination of performance and fuel economy. But which oneís fastest? And does fastest necessarily mean ďbestĒ for a car like this? Only one way to find out Ė itís off to the race track we go, to evaluate these two hard-edged combatants in order to determine which one turns the fastest hot lap and which one offers the most smiles per mile.
KDM VS JDM
Korean automotive juggernaut Hyundai just keeps on raising the bar with just about everything it brings to market these days and the extensively updated 2013 Genesis Coupe is no exception. We liked the original 2.0T coupe when it first hit the market as a 2010 model (we even track tested it against the Honda Civic Si), and although weíre not sure about the front end design changes for 2013, thereís no disputing the fact that Hyundai has upped the ante in a big way by giving the carís 2.0-liter turbocharged engine an extra 74-hp (up from 200 to 274) and 52 extra lb-ft of torque (up from 223 to 275).
But weíre not testing just any Genesis 2.0T coupe Ė weíve got our hands on the R-Spec version, which comes standard with a Torsen limited slip differential, big 4-piston Brembo brakes, and stickier Bridgestone summer tires (225/40R19 up front and 245/40R19 out back). Unlike a lot of R-badged vehicles from other manufacturers, Hyundai hasnít put the Genesis 2.0T R-Spec coupe on a diet though. It tips the scales at a hefty 3,399 lbs, but it still has the superior weight-to-power ratio in this shootout (12.4-lbs per horsepower for the Genesis vs 13.8-lbs per horsepower for the FR-S).
The Scion FR-S (or Toyota GT86 as itís known in Japan and Europe) is a considerably smaller and lighter machine than the Genesis, and as Lotus taught the world, lightness delivers improved performance in every measurable way, from braking and cornering to fuel consumption and tire usage. The Scionís smaller and lighter footprint also means a tighter and less luxurious interior, though my 6-foot 200-lbs frame never felt cramped or otherwise uncomfortable in it. The FR-Sís front seats are bolstered with serious lateral g-forces in mind, and the small race-inspired steering wheel and Spartan interior (there isnít even a cover on the storage bin between the two front seats) give it the look and feel of a machine thatís serious about low mass and high performance.
Given the Scionís very modern sheet metal, which in some ways reminds me of its high-tech supercar brother the Lexus LF-A, I was a bit disappointed by the low-tech gauge cluster. Perhaps itís asking too much of a car that retails for less than $25k, but I would have loved a low buck version of the brilliant digital dash in the LF-A.
It should also be noted that the rear seats are more of a shelf for a briefcase during the week and a set of track wheels and tires on the weekend Ė humans with legs certainly wonít fit back there. But thatís part of the price you pay when opting for a sports coupe with a curb weight of just 2,758 lbs, a number that makes the FR-S quite possibly the lightest non-exotic sports coupe on the market today.
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