Driven: 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe

By Brandon Turkus

February 19, 2012

—Pahrump, Nevada
 
When the Hyundai Genesis Coupe burst onto the automotive scene in March of 2008, we’ll admit we were skeptical. Really? Hyundai? Building a sports car? It seemed, at best, improbable. Or it would have been, if the Genesis hadn’t been a totally awesome rear-driver that went toe-to-toe with some of the best affordable sport coupes around (and came away in pretty great shape).
 
Of course the Coupe wasn’t without some substantial flaws, too: a fickle shifter, some sub-par interior materials, and a suspension that was too soft to be sporting and too firm to be comfortable were a few of its more notable issues, not to mention a turbocharged engine that was more in line with the front-drive hot hatch crowd than the sporty rear-drive coupe group.
 
Now, the Genny has had its first mid-cycle refresh. Well, Hyundai calls it a mid-cycle refresh. To us it smacks of being a very-nearly-second-generation Genesis, as it boasts significantly revised engines, sheetmetal, interior trimmings, and a host of other changes and improvements.
 
To test out just how far the South Korean Coupe has come, we traveled from Las Vegas to the Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch to check it out, driving some great desert roads in the process.
 
The big news for the Genesis Coupes is, besides its handsome new sheetmetal (new fascia and hood being the most notable changes), the seriously improved powertrains. Both the turbocharged 2.0-liter base car and the brawnier 3.8-liter have seen significant bumps in power.
 
The 2.0-liter, formerly delivering a modest 210 horsepower and 223 pound-feet of torque, has been bumped to a much more significant 274 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque. These improvements are thanks to a new twin-scroll turbocharger (replacing the single-scroll turbo of the last Genny) and a larger intercooler.
 
The 3.8-liter V-6, meanwhile, jumps from 306 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque to 348 and 295, respectively. This significant increase comes from the employment of direct gasoline injection in the 3.8-liter powerplant. The V-6 also features an induction pipe built into the intake system, which filters the sweet-sounding six-cylinder engine note into the cabin. We like.
 
We spent the majority of our on-road time in the turbocharged R-Spec Coupe, and found it to have an addicting amount of torque. With the 275-pound-foot torque peak coming in at a low 2000 rpm (and hanging around for what felt like an eternity), the 2.0-liter turbo car felt extremely usable in day-to-day driving. An initial inkling of turbo lag gave way to a powerful surge that, even in sixth gear, was enough to push us back in the red cloth seats. Kept on the boil, the turbo lag was even less of an issue, with the 2.0T revving quickly and that fat torque band always evident. Even at high rpm, an area in which turbo stalwarts like the Mazdaspeed3 struggle, the Genesis had power to spare.
 
Our time with the 3.8-liter V-6 was limited, but we were able to discern a few key things about its character. For one, that intake induction pipe is a gift from the car gods. Piping engine noise into the cabin turns out to be very satisfying, with the V-6 eliciting a smooth growl at low revs and a visceral howl at the higher reaches of the range. With 295 pound-feet of torque coming in at 5300 rpm, thrust didn’t seem as easily available with the V-6. With a horsepower peak at 6400 rpm, the 3.8 felt more at home in the highest parts of the rev range, and a bit more exciting on the track where that power was easy to exploit.
 
One of the issues with the last Genesis was a notchy feeling shifter, with, as one of our editors called it, a second-to-third shift that was “a special stinker.” While Hyundai has improved the shifting experience for 2013, there’s still an underlying notchiness in this box that takes some getting used to. We also took issue with the retuned clutch. Hyundai claims its uptake is more progressive, although we’d have to disagree. It was a difficult unit to adjust to, and it took some concerted effort to elicit a smooth shift from the manual trans.
 
On the automatic side, Hyundai has debuted a segment-first eight-speed automatic transmission. With standard paddle shifters, the new autobox is designed to balance driving fun and economy. Left in automatic, the auto liked to upshift early and often. Switching to Sport, it would happily hold gears, with slightly faster upshifts and downshifts. Switching to the paddle shifters we found a rather competent manual mode that was able to execute relatively quick upshifts and throttle-blipped downshifts. Not bad for a traditional torque-converter automatic transmission.
 
Hyundai also addressed one of our other complaints: the dodgy cabin materials. The new interior featured soft-touch plastics and padded leather in the doors, while a new stitched-leather crash pad added a feeling of quality to the dash. Still, some of the materials, particularly the lower dash area, are of a variety of hard plastic that looks and feels too cheap for a $25,000 to $33,000 car. We weren’t huge fans of the shift knob either, as it seemed rather oversized for the rest of the lever.
 
Overall though, Hyundai improved most of the things that needed improving, while keeping the things that worked. That meant the same sport seats that cushioned our tushes in the last Genesis, as well as the right-sized leather-wrapped steering wheel.
 
The smooth roads of Nevada were a bit too glass-like to inform the ride comfort of our Genesis Coupe, but a few of suspension traits were evident. Vertical motion felt well controlled as we crested the hills of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Over the periodic cattle traps (the closest simulation we’d get to potholes), the Genesis felt quite stable. Even taken at speed, we never had the sensation that the bumps would get the car out of sorts, at least not the way rough patches would in the old car. We’ll need to get a Genny Coupe onto the third-world roads around Detroit for a proper examination of ride comfort.
 
Steering on the Genesis Coupe is as good as ever. It’s a light rack this one, but there’s an abundance of feedback that is missing from the car’s American competition. With a 13.8:1 steering ratio, it’s also quite a fast tiller.
 
Our time at Spring Mountain was on the 1.5-mile handling loop, as well as a short autocross course. We tested the turbocharged car first and found it better balanced between oversteer and understeer than the 3.8-liter. It took charging into a turn at a fairly ludicrous speed to really elicit any plowing from the front end, while oversteer only ever reared its head on the wet autocross course (oh yeah, they sprayed the autocross course with water…in the desert), usually when we got a bit too happy-go-lucky with the sharp throttle response. On the undulating bends of the handling course, the 2.0T felt stable and planted. We found grip to be impressive, as we charged into the corners with little protestation.
 
Switching to the 3.8 revealed an all-together different experience. The sonorous engine was what we noticed first, followed by a handling character that didn’t have quite the poise of its small-displacement counterpart. The Genesis 3.8 Track felt more prone to plowing through corners, and we had to work harder to keep the naturally aspirated powerplant in its power band. Perhaps we’d been spoiled by the broad torque curve in the turbocharged car.
 
Now, rather than give you the rest of the bog-standard drive review of the car, we thought it would be constructive to continue our look at the 2013 Genesis Coupe in the context of the competition—cars that we happen to be intimately familiar with. Good luck and timing may see us repeating some of these matchups with actual, car-to-car comparison tests in the months to come, but for now we thought the relationship of the new Genny to the competitive set would prove illustrative for you. It certainly did for us.
 
VS: 2012 Ford Mustang
 
We can look at the Mustang/Genesis comparison two different ways. On the one hand, we have the V-6 Stang and the turbocharged 2.0-liter Genesis. On the other, we have the 3.8-liter Coupe and the 5.0-liter, V-8-powered Mustang GT.
 
In the V-6/2.0T fight, the Genesis boasts more usable power, with all 275 pound-feet of torque available at a super-low 2000 rpm versus 280 at 4250 rpm for Mustang. The quick-spooling twin-scroll turbo is a real trump card in terms of accelerative performance, and is aided by the free-revving nature of this engine. Helped along by a super-crisp throttle response, it’s quite easy to get the most from the Hyundai’s two liters of displacement.
 
Things are more differentiated in the V-6 versus GT comparison. Here, we need to give the win to the Mustang GT. With 412 horsepower, 390 pound-feet of torque, and a curb weight that is only about 50 pounds more than the Genny, it’ll outrun the Hyundai without much issue.
 
Both the Genesis and Mustang utilize six-speed manual gearboxes. Even with the marked improvements Hyundai has made here the Mustang’s shifter is still the better-to-use piece; less balky than its Genesis counterpart.
 
The Ford’s Achilles’ Heel is, and has been for the past several years, its solid-rear axle. The Genesis utilizes a McPherson strut setup upfront, like the Mustang, but crucially, it features a five-link independent suspension in back. That means over bumps and rougher patches of road, the Mustang can feel out of sorts. Not only is that bad for comfort, but it’ll hurt stability during aggressive driving.
 
Finally, we have pricing to consider. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll be running comparative pricing for the performance-oriented Genesis Coupe 2.0T R-Spec and 3.8 Track. The 2.0T starts at $26,500, while the 3.8-liter Track costs an even $33,000. Those numbers are actually quite comparable with the Mustang. A manual-trans V-6 Premium model starts at $26,310, but lacks the performance features of the R-Spec (track-tuned suspension, nineteen-inch wheels, limited-slip diff). That being said, you do get things like cruise control, as well as a greater wealth of optional equipment on the Mustang. The real bargain for the Genesis is when the 3.8 Track is compared with the V-8 GT. Unlike the R-Spec, that Track model has all the luxury features of the Genesis range, along with the performance goodies. And with a Mustang GT Premium model starting at $33,710 ($710 more than the Hyundai) before options, the value winner here is clearly the Genesis Coupe, as long as the power deficit isn’t too much for you to swallow.
 
VS: 2012 Chevrolet Camaro
 
The Camaro presents a different set of challenges for the Genesis. With 323 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque from its V-6, and 426 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque from the V-8, the Chevrolet has plenty of power. Of course, the Camaro is not a light car, either. Compared to a Genesis, it’ll be anywhere from 200 to 400 pounds heavier. So while the Camaro might be the victor in a straight line, that extra bulk will be felt in the handling department.
 
The Camaro also has some practical concerns. This is a car with a pretty large footprint. It’s a full eight inches longer than the Hyundai—more than enough to make a difference in tight driving situations. Visibility is also a concern in the notoriously tomb-like Camaro, with forward, rearward, and lateral visibility all lacking when compared to the relatively open greenhouse of the Hyundai.
 
Pricing is a bit higher on the Camaro, with a comparable V-6 (we opted for a 1LT with the RS package) ringing in at $27,855. As with the Mustang, that includes a few luxury items, and almost none of the performance items that the R-Spec Genesis offers. At $36,430, the Camaro 2SS is almost $3500 more expensive. However, it backs that price up with standard Brembo brakes and a higher level of luxury content, not to mention a heaping helping of horsepower.
 
VS: 2012 Nissan 370Z
 
If there were a perfectly direct competitor for the Genesis family, we’d make the argument that it was the 370Z Sport. With 332 horsepower, 270 pound-feet of torque, and a sub-3300-pound curb weight, it straddles the Genesis range perfectly.
 
Really, you could throw either the 2.0-liter turbo or the 3.8-liter V-6 Genesis up against the 370Z and have a pretty interesting fight. The 2.0-liter turbo is the driver’s car of the Genesis family, delivering better handling and balance than the 3.8, but at a far larger horsepower disadvantage, and for the first time, a weight disadvantage.
 
On the other hand, we have the V-6, which outguns the Z in both horsepower and torque (348 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque in the Hyundai compared to 332 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque in the Z). The Nissan does weigh a bit more than 200 pounds less than the Coupe.
 
With a Genesis 2.0T R-Spec running $26,500, it is possibly the performance bargain of the year, delivering 90-percent of the 370Z’s driving experience for about $8000 less. As for the V-6, well, that’d be a harder sell for us. The 370Z Sport starts at $34,950, while a Genesis 3.8 Track starts at $33,000. In this case though, the 3.8 Track packs more content and luxury features into its cabin. The 370Z Sport, meanwhile lacks things like leather and navigation without the Touring packaging.
 
Conclusions
 
Hyundai has taken its already potent Genesis Coupe and turned it into one of the most compelling and affordable performance cars on sale today. The fact that it can go toe-to-toe with three very well established nameplates, and in most cases, outperform them, is a real testament to just how good a vehicle this is.
 
2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T R-Spec
Engine: Turbocharged four-cylinder, 2.0-liters, 16v
Output: 274 hp/275 lb-ft
Top Speed: 146 mph
Weight: 3492 lb
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy: 21/30 mpg
Base Price: $26,300
On Sale: March 2012
 
2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track
Engine: V-6, 3.8 liters, 24v
Output: 348 hp/295 lb-ft
Top Speed: 149 mph
Weight: 3563 lb
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy: 18/27 mpg
Base Price: $33,000
On Sale: March 2012