“If you want a Veloster Turbo,” quipped Hyundai CEO John Krafcik, at September’s launch of Hyundai’s oddball, front-drive Veloster hatchback, “you can buy one right now. It’s called the Genesis Coupe.” The Veloster Turbo ended up materializing at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show – and so did a new Genesis Coupe. Apparently, Hyundai never planned on making a Veloster Turbo until after the car’s launch. But they did plan on a refreshed Genesis Coupe, and a brawnier Veloster means that the Genesis gets to move up in power and price.
Gone are the Coupe’s sleek, almost generic lines up front, replaced by an aggressive, open-mouth design that looks like, you guessed it, the Veloster. Unfortunately, the Genesis Coupe also gets clear “Altezza” tail lights. Initial photographs elicited a groan from myself and others, who liked the “grown up” styling of the Genesis Coupe, but in the flesh, the new look works quite well, adding some character to a car that many criticized as looking derivative.
Substantial powertrain upgrades should delight anyone with a pulse. The formerly wimpy turbocharged 4-cylinder engine gets a boost from 210 horsepower and 223 lb-ft to 274 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque while the 3.8L V6 is up to 348 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque from 306 horsepower and 266 lb-ft. The two powerplants can run on regular or premium gas, but 87 octane will take the power down to 260 horsepower and 260 lb-ft for the 2.0T . For the V6, 87 octane will result in outputs of 344 horsepower and 292 lb-ft. Hyundai also claims that fuel economy is up for the 2.0T, 20/31 mpg for the auto and 21/30 mpg for the manual. The V6 rates 18/28 mpg for the auto and 18/27 mpg for the manual).
As a charter member of the Normally Aspirated Snobs Club, I was taken aback with how lovely the revised turbo 4-banger is. The 2.0T is still not that quick, but it now has enough power to be satisfying, and the boost comes on in a very linear, lag-free fashion, with peak torque generated at 2000 rpm. On the other hand, the V6 engine, which delivers lots of quantitative performance but little in the way of qualitative excellence. There’s nothing wrong with the engine per se; it delivers lots of power at a moment’s notice, but wringing out the 2.0T engine proved to be more fun on the street, while the 3.8 was perhaps better suited to the 1.5 mile road course, if only because it allowed for fewer shifts on the tight, technical circuit.
The drive to the Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch was conducted in a 3.8L V6 Track model with an 8-speed automatic transmission – the heaviest car in the lineup. The 3,600 lb car “didn’t feel like it had 348 horsepower” according to my co-driver, and while it wasn’t slow by any means, the Genesis Coupe felt like it could have benefited from lap-band surgery. Even the lightest Genesis Coupe, a base model 2.0T, weighs 3,362 lbs, a not insignificant figure for a small sports coupe. The porky package is an inevitable consequence of sharing a platform with a large luxury sedan, but with the 2800 lb Scion FR-S around the corner, a whole new generation of drivers are about to feel what lightweight sports cars are all about.
The 8-speed auto worked well, with crisp quick shifts when using the paddle shifters and a pleasant, seamless feel in normal situations. We also got to try out the 6-speed manual gearbox in both the 2.0T (on the street) and the 3.8 R-Spec (on the track). The stick shift feels similar to other Hyundai models, with a vague shifter and a too-soft clutch that feels as if there’s a leak in the hydraulic lines. Hyundai managed to get so much right with the driving dynamics of this car, yet their treatment of the car’s manual gearbox stands as a glaring oversight for an otherwise competent performance car.
The test route’s marble-smooth roads gave little opportunity to evaluate the Genesis Coupe’s ride quality. One gremlin that was immediately evident was wind noise. At 80 mph, it became excessive, with most of it seeping in through the A-pillar. The interior, while better than before, is still largely composed of hard plastics that aren’t the most impressive in the business (though competitors like the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang are hardly any more impressive). An addition for 2013 is a series of three gauges in the center stack that displays fuel consumption, torque, boost (on the 2.0T) and oil temperature – the gauges may look cool initially, but the novelty wears off fast.
While there were roughly 8 cars available to drive on the road course, only one was a 2.0T Despite sampling both trim levels, I felt little difference between the “Track” and “R-Spec” models. Both models get bigger sway bars, 4-piston Brembo Brakes (13.4″ rotors up front, 13″ in the rear), adjustable camber bolts (that can be installed by the owner, and allow as much as 1.5 degrees of negative camber), and get 19” wheels. The Track Package comes with a higher grade of standard equipment and a spoiler on 3.8 models. The R-Spec, which I spent most of my time in, is more Spartan. I decided to go out with an instructor riding shotgun- even after a year of karting and a year of ice racing (with podiums in both series) my driving needs work. The stakes are higher when driving a brand new $28,750 3.8 R-Spec versus a 125 cc TAG kart, or a $500 BMW E30.
What makes the Genesis Coupe such a rewarding track car are the little details – the important kind that won’t impress anybody on web forums but will make your track experience more enjoyable. The seats are comfortable, and allow you to get a perfect driving position, with your elbows bent and your hands at 9 and 3, without sacrificing any visibility or comfort. The pedals allowed for flawless heel-toe downshifts even with my size 12 feet. The steering is heavy, well-weighted and provides ample feedback while the brakes (even the standard ones on the R-Spec) resisted fade and provided a consistent pedal feel. I kept the stability control on during the session, but could still use the throttle to adjust the direction of the car; not in a heroic, tail out fashion, but enough that it would make my times faster were anyone timing me. Despite the noticeable heft, body roll is well controlled and the car’s not insignificant curb weights become a secondary concern on the track. The 3.8L had plenty of useable power on the tight circuit, but the 2.0T did require more shifting to stay in the power band. The Genesis Coupe seems like it would make a great learning tool for anyone interested in seriously honing their driving skills, rather than just a toy for those who want to brand themselves as a car enthusiast to their Facebook friends.
To make room in the pricing structure for the Veloster Turbo the Genesis Coupe gets a price bump of about $2,000. The base car is now $24,250, with an 8-speed automatic costing an extra $1,250. A 2.0T R-Spec will run $26,500, while a 3.8 R-Spec will set you back $28,750. An automatic 3.8 R-Spec rises to $32,000, with a loaded track model retailing for $34,250. The price may have gone up, but the Genesis continues to slot between the Mustang/Camaro V6 on the low end, and the Nissan 370Z on the high end. It’s difficult to imagine many buyers cross-shopping the Pony cars with their import competition, as the two flavors are as distinct as chocolate and vanilla.
Making direct comparisons between the revised Genesis Coupe and the competition would also be difficult. Press trips like these give us an early look at new vehicles, but under carefully choreographed circumstances. This event, from the long, straight stretches of highway to the specially designed track sessions provided gratis tell us what Hyundai wants us to know about the car, and nothing more. In that context, the Genesis Coupe seems promising. Compared to a Camaro or Mustang V6, the driving dynamics seem more engaging (and feel more at home for someone like myself, who grew up with imports rather than muscle cars) and the whole package is attractive and affordable enough for the everyman. But I’d prefer to reserve final judgment until I can drive the Genesis Coupe in an environment full of potholes, traffic jams and real world fuel economy observations – the kind of driving that we all face once the afterglow of a track day has faded.