Cramming for a Better Coupe
In June 2008, a month before top Hyundai North American executives would get behind the wheel of the Genesis Coupe for a final, pre-production ride and drive, David Dutko, senior Engineer responsible for the chassis, and his team came to a stark conclusion: “We couldn’t use a big luxury car suspension like the one in the Genesis sedan in a sports coupe,” he says.
The ride and handling for the rear-wheel-drive prototype Genesis Coupe was too “squishy,” as Dutko describes it, to satisfy the youthful crowd of North American tuners and performance buyers Hyundai hoped to entice. So the team went to work on the rear subframe, which, not surprisingly, was nearly identical to the stately Genesis sedan.
First, the Irvine-based team contacted an Anaheim, CA, rubber company to make stiffer rubber components, replacing the softer bushings in the rear subframe, thereby limiting its movement. Next, with the help of a Costa Mesa-based fabricator, they literally cut off an existing rubber bushing from the outer upper arm and added a welded solid steel ball joint purchased from a racing parts supplier to the existing arm. “It was better, but we felt there was more in the car that we needed to get out,” Dutko says.
So they addressed assist/arm toe link, which included a ball joint on one end and a rubber bushing on the other. Again, the existing bushing was too soft. They found a rubber bushing with a steel insert of the same size, which was installed in the car along with the other two modifications. The result: A stiffer ride, improved steering response and better stability. The street feel had been cut and pasted into the new Coupe, at least to the team’s satisfaction.
“We said, ‘Wow, this is really a big difference,’” Dutko recalls.
Like a horde of students cramming for finals, they scrambled to weld the assembly modifications to the fleet of prototypes, an activity which ran literally up to the night before executives drove the coupe. Hyundai Motor America CEO and President John Krafcik said the modifications “kicked butt” and helped elevate the car from an also-ran “brain dead” coupe into a legitimate street fighter. But Dutko still had to make his case to Korea.
In October, he flew to Seoul, prototypes in hand, just two months before production was scheduled to begin. When he arrived, he found several of his emailed designs had already been machined by Hyundai engineers, who were evidently intrigued enough to see how they looked in the flesh. After two weeks of simulation and testing, the home office signed off on the suspension modifications, sourced the new components and stayed on schedule for December production at the Ulsan, Korea plant.
“The most unique thing about working for Hyundai is the ability to make late changes,” Dutko says. “They were willing to take a risk to try something new.”