First Drive: 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe

Major power upgrades and a new look mark an early mid-cycle refresh for Hyundai's 2013 Genesis Coupe.

Fresh from a Hollywood surgeon sporting a new nose that is more fluidic than ever, the 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe has arrived.

And that begs two questions: How does it look, and is beauty only skin deep?

Receiving a revision after only three years on the market telegraphs to the public either that Hyundai is not content to rest on its haunches or that the stylized H brand is willing to admit that its first effort fell a little flat. But one thing the outgoing Genesis Coupe did well was handle, so we were anxious to hit the track at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Nevada for an early media evaluation before the car goes on sale.

The details
On sale in mid-March, the Coupe, which is developed on the platform it shares with the four-door sedan of the same name, is chock full of new technologies and efficiencies. With improved residual values and cars leaving dealers with an average of less than a grand in incentives the brand's CEO, John Krafcik, is feeling a bit chuffed at the moment.

Krafcik boasted to us that the upgrades in version 2.0 of the Genesis Coupe help to elevate it to compete with such segment stalwarts as the Infiniti G37, the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and the soon to be introduced Scion FR-S. That's heady - and diverse - company.

New for 2013 is a nose and grille that is polarizing: either you love it or not. Yes, it carries on with the firm's "fluidic design" language, but we also see cues from Aston Martin, which is hardly a bad thing. A set of faux scoops adorns the hood, which also sports some nicely creased sheetmetal. A fresh front fascia also appears with fog lamp housings, which look a little naked on non-fog-equipped base models, and lip spoilers. The overall shape is good, but the bulky grille looks almost like a government-mandated safety upgrade, at least to our eyes.

The interior benefits from new, enhanced materials and fittings to help it realize its sporting intentions more easily. A seven-inch display at the top of the center stack is now standard, while a new set of gauges in the lower bout provide oil temperature, turbo boost (2.0T models) and torque (3.8 models) readouts, but we find an ECO gauge's placement a bit baffling as it requires the driver to remove his eyes from the road. It might be more serving to safety if it were located between or near the main dials.

Lower-sheen soft-touch materials continue the interior improvements, while nicely bolstered front seating held us in place during our spirited sessions behind the wheel. Improved access to the rear seat from the driver's side and available power lumbar support help to round out the inside improvements. We especially liked the tan and black interior combinations, as well as the new shifter functions. But more on that later.

Other available features include Blue Link telematics, which are available on the 3.8 Grand Touring/Track, and the 2.0T Premium packages. A telescoping steering wheel adjustment has been added to the already tilting column.

Underhood not overlooked.
Both the 3.8-liter V6 and the 2.0T inline-four receive technology upgrades for added performance and efficiency. The V6 gets direct-injection, which adds 42 horsepower and 29 lb-ft of torque for 348 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 295 lb-ft at 5,300 rpm. Hyundai claims 0-60 mph times in the low fives, with a top end electronically limited to 149 mph. EPA numbers are 18/28 mpg.

The 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine is a variation on the previous multi-port injected mill that has been revised to include a new twin-scroll design turbocharger with a 53-percent larger intercooler for more dense induction and power. The new features bring power output up to 274 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, and 275 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm. That converts out to a 12.3:1 power to weight ratio. Hyundai has not released 0-60 mph times for the 2.0T but does claim an electronically limited top speed of 146 mph. The EPA tags this four-banger at 20/31 mpg.

Both variations of the Genesis Coupe are standard with a six-speed manual transmission that can only be described as a night and day improvement over the gearbox it replaced. Gone is the clunky 4-5 gear change that plagued the first row-it-yourself model. Additionally, both can be had with an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode. Acceleration was excellent with the slush box and offered spirited driving whether with the paddles or the shift lever. Regardless, a readout in the gauge pod showed the selected gear.

On both cars, a deeper baritone exhaust note now comes from the dual cat-back exhaust that will hopefully do its part to kill the coffee-can muffler craze of the tuner-car set.

The suspension features a MacPherson strut dual-link front suspension and a five-link kit at the rear. Genesis R-Spec and Track models are equipped with an enhanced version that has track-calibrated settings and beefier stabilizer bars for improved contact and roll control. The two-performance oriented variations also receive front camber adjustment bolts to improve handling further for track-day excursions. Hydraulic power steering is now 7 percent quicker for improved steering response. At the end of the day, braking is covered as well, with standard models receiving 12.6/12.4 inch front/rear rotors while Track and R-Spec models get a Brembo big brake kit with 13.4/13.2 inch ventilated platters.

Road manners.
Improvements are all well and good on a press release but what about in the real world? Ride quality from the 19-inch Bridgestone Potenza tires on smooth roads north of Las Vegas was considerably quiet while cruising, but increased on coarser surfaces. The 2.0T gave audible feedback to let you know the engine was at full roar, which we enjoyed. The vastly improved manual transmission displayed quick, sure throws and none of the clunkiness from the last version. The excellent eight-speed automatic seemed just about right for everyday driving.

On the race track, the 2.0T was aggressive with the proper amount of torque to pull it through, while the 3.8-liter V6 was a beast considering this car is around 3,484 lbs. No superleggera for sure, but it felt as though it was fighting in a lighter weight class. Its 348 ponies under the hood quickly passed many cars at the Race Ranch. The Brembo brake packages were up to the task on the racetrack and provided limited fade even after laps of hard braking.

Leftlane's bottom line
With many improvements from its first appearance, Hyundai creates a cult classic that appeals to the boy-and girl-racer in all of us.

Two vastly-improved engines and a much more dynamic look should help make the Genesis Coupe into a more competitive offering, although the sporty two-door segment is by no means the easiest playground to conquer.

2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe base price range, $24,250 to $34,250.

Words and photos by Mark Elias.