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2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe First Drive

A Korean Pony Comes of Age

What It Is/Who It's For

The freshly restyled 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe is meant for the enthusiast crowd and working professionals looking for some kick.

Best Thing

Hyundai backs up the Genesis Coupe's bold styling and athletic appearance with ample performance to please all, and a gratifying exhaust note.

Worst Thing

While powerful, the 3.8-liter feels heavy up front, and we wish the new steering wheel had the same sporty character as the rest of the cabin.

Snap Judgment

In a segment defined by performance and style, Hyundai has worked out the Genesis Coupe's kinks to offer up a formidable player in the field.

Hyundai has spearheaded a Korean renaissance here in the U.S., and it's done so largely by adding needed style to segments full of humdrum value-boxes. The resulting models such as the Hyundai Accent, Elantra, and non-turbo Veloster are aesthetically superior to most of their respective competition, but suffer from a promise of performance that isn't quite realized. The 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe arrives just in time to balance things out.

Hyundai sent us out to Las Vegas to check out its latest rear-wheel-drive sports car (and dry our skin out, feed us yummy things, and put us in a hotel where the lighting and curtains were controlled by an iPad-like tablet). While we could allude to the city's penchant for fast-living and ample flair as a good match for the Genesis Coupe, Hyundai probably liked its proximity to the Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch, too. Actually, so did we. The drive up to the Spring Mountain track offered us wide-valley vistas, Joshua trees, dramatic mountain peaks and big puffy clouds common to the desert. It was just what was needed to get us acquainted with the Coupe. On the track there wasn't going to be much time for leisurely evaluation, and really that was OK with us.

We drove three different models, sampling both the new eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, as well as the six-speed manual transmission. We happily pushed both the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder and meatier 3.8-liter V-6 engines, and with the packed schedule¬—we also drove the 2012 Hyundai Azera…come back next week for that one—we got just enough time to make some interesting initial observations.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

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Walkaround

The Genesis Coupe wasn't short on styling before, but the 2013 Genesis Coupe ups the ante, and the Coupe arrives with new vigor. The more aggressive styling replaces the small grille with the gaping-mouth hexagonal grille Hyundai favors these days. We like both, but the more striking visual cue will remind fans that under this Coupe's hood are more powerful engines, regardless of which you choose. With 18-inch alloy wheels and noticeable brake calipers (and we're not even talking about the high-performance Brembo brakes on the Track package here), the tires look bold and ready to run. Air-slits on the top of the hood add a sporty character, and the draped-back fog lights and headlamps give the illusion of motion. The narrow window-pane and sloping beltline only add to that illusion, and sweeping taillights and a dual-pipe exhaust in back make this car one you want to hop into.

Getting Inside

There are things we love about the new interior that might make this Hyundai's most thoughtful effort yet, and one glaring let-down. First, let's start with the good, as there is plenty to go around. Hyundai took the previous car's button-heavy radio and climate control setup, and replaced it with a sporty, racecar-like design. Three circular instrument gauges display the miles-per-gallon the driver is getting at any particular time (hit the throttle and watch the needle drop from 40 to 0); a torque reading that seems to fulfill every promise this car has made, and simultaneously lets drivers know Hyundai is really going for the enthusiasts on this one; and an oil temperature gauges, which enthusiasts will recognize as a key way of determining your engine's health at any given time, especially if you plan on doing a little racetrack driving in extreme temperatures. Here they're all lined up giving the cabin a genuine cockpit feel.

The center stack also has piano-black accents and brushed metal that look expensive and work well. The instrument panel has a blue trim, white hashes and numbers, and red needles, much like the Euro-spec VW Golf R we drove a few weeks back. We loved it on the R, and the Genesis Coupe wears it well. All three models we drove had different seats, and all were decidedly sporty. The regular leather seats were fine, but we especially liked the two-tone red and black leather. It's a setup you'd expect in a higher-end sports car such as Porsche rather than a Hyundai, more evidence the Genesis Coupe happily ignores the more proletariat badge slapped on its rear. All the seats were comfortable and the material was agreeable at this price point.

The 2013 Genesis Coupe boasts ample space, and an unexpectedly roomy cabin considering what most automakers offer in the segment. Although there's sufficient rear seat legroom for a coupe, taller passengers may want to avoid the backseat. Despite the smaller windows, we didn't have any major visibility issues. Audio and air controls are logical and accessible. The shifter is comfortably at hand, offering short and easy shifts. Interior materials were a mix of sleek, polished and hard, with soft and cushy materials blended in.

The one thing we absolutely didn't care for was the steering wheel. This could have been the wheel in the Accent or Sonata, and there's nothing especially sporty or engaging about it. That same Euro-spec Golf R we drove a few weeks back seemed to nail a perfectly sporty wheel. Audi also does an excellent job here in its TT RS and TTS.

Driving

There is one thing we have to mention before we get into driving specifics: the engine note of the 2013 Genesis Coupe is glorious. Glorious and addictive, it creeps deep into the recesses of our brains, to the "engine-note-gratification-chamber," to be specific, and doesn't let up. We started off with the 3.8-liter eight-speed auto with paddle-shifters, but it didn't take long for that grumble to rip out as we got to speed. A note about the paddles: they're within easy grasp of the wheel, but clicking through eight-speeds is almost a chore. Sure, it'll make the ride smooth and bump those mpg numbers, but if you want to shift your gears, the six-speed manual is much improved over the Hyundai's we've driven before.

After avoiding the fuss with the paddles in the stop and go freeways surrounding Las Vegas and just sticking it in "drive," we were able to really focus on feedback from the engine. The 3.8-liter engine had no difficulty getting us up to ultralegal speeds when we finally got on an open highway and it didn't let up any either. Power is always at the ready. One thing we did notice was despite the high speeds, the car still felt a little heavy in the nose. The suspension is sport-coupe tight, which means if you're on bumpy roads, those bumps are going to come straight through to the cabin.

Once at the track, we wanted to get our hands on the same 3.8-liter engine, but with the six-speed manual transmission. If you haven't ever driven on a track, a few advantages are evident: you can push the car without fear of a uniformed officer trying to clock you; those pesky pedestrians that you always have to watch out for are absent; and a good track, one like Spring Mountain, will provide you with enough cornering and handling maneuvers to really get a grasp of what the ultra-sophisticated machine you're operating is really capable of.

The 3.8-liter manual transmission Genesis Coupe was surprisingly agile, and can take a hard turn or sharp corner as well as anything at this price point. In fact, the car's grip was so good, so confidence inspiring that you actually get encouraged to really push it. And we did. And thankfully, the brakes are sharp and responsive, with little effort required to shed some of that speed in a hurry.

The 2.0-liter turbo-four-cylinder was surprisingly satisfying to drive. While you give up 70-hp, you don't give up too much of the low-end power. In fact the 2.0T felt more balanced, even easier to maneuver, and handled at least as well. The shifts on both were quick and without drama, the clutch was light, allowing for easy and fast gear-changes when needed.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

Click thumbnails for detailed view

Summary

The 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe impressed us not only with its striking design and thoughtful and sporty cabin, but with the beans to back the whole thing up. Driving was fun, and unlike some Hyundai's the sporty styling delivers on its promise. The 2.0T will give the Scion FR-S a good challenge, but seeing as we've yet to drive the FR-S, we can't compare them just yet. The 3.8-liter Coupe is commanding and matches both the power and finesse of the Infiniti G37 Coupe. The engine note was a delight, and with a beautifully restyled center console, Hyundai has made it clear it aims to be a player in this segment. Now if we can just get a sporty steering wheel in there we'll be all set.

We're anxious to get behind the wheel again on our familiar roads where we can really gauge road noise, tinker around with the stereo, and see what real-world driving in the 2013 Genesis Coupe is like. Driving on a track is undoubtedly fun, but what kind of mileage will we average in our Southern California commute? We're also curious to see if the new styling will turn many heads around Los Angeles.

Basic Specs

2.0-liter turbo-four-cylinder six-speed manual transmission, 274-hp, starting $24,250, 21 mpg city/30 mpg hwy
2.0-liter turbo-four-cylinder eight-speed automatic transmission, 274-hp, starting $25,500 20 mpg city/31 hwy
3.8-liter V-6 six-speed manual transmission, 348-hp, starting $28,750, 18 mpg city/27 mpg hwy
3.8-liter V-6 eight-speed automatic transmission, 348-hp, starting $32,000, 18 mpg city/28 mpg hwy

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