2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe: First Drive

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In recent years, Hyundai has surged toward the top of the sales charts because it plays so strongly to value-minded shoppers. It’s done well in sensible metrics like reliability, resale value, and satisfaction; achieved good safety ratings; and offers a strong list of features for the money on all its cars.

That’s all fine and dandy. But the 348-horsepower Genesis Coupe is in some respects positioned as a true sports car; and for sports cars the priorities are a bit different.

With its current Genesis Coupe it's shown that it understands that; but with the substantially refreshed 2013 Genesis Coupe, it’s truly put the right game face on. And just a couple of hours on the road, combined with several more hours on the track, was enough to reconfirm, emphatically, that the Genesis Coupe is not only a completely different beast—in a good way—than Hyundai’s sensible sedans, but also a serious contender for those who love to drive.

To sum how the Gen Coupe drives—at least for those who've been around sporty cars for a long time: Extrapolate how classic Japanese sports-car models like the Nissan 240SX or Toyota Supra might drive if they were still made today, and you won't be far off the mark.

Thankfully, very few of the front-wheel drive Hyundai driving characteristics from the Elantra or Tucson or Sonata carry over into the Genesis Coupe. The shift action is clean and precise, clutch takeup is neat (both are improved for 2013) and, most importantly, the steering is a tried-and-true hydraulic system, tuned just right.

And then there are the engines. Just as in the 2012 Genesis Coupe, the 2013 model offers a choice of turbocharged four-cylinder or naturally aspirated V-6 engines. While they’re the same displacement as last year’s engines (2.0 and 3.8-liter), that’s about where the similarities end. The 2.0T engine now gets a twin-scroll turbocharger and larger intercooler, so that it makes 274 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque, with peak torque reached at just 2,000 rpm, and a new Lambda direct-injection V-6 in the 3.8 models makes 348 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.

Two engines, several different personalities

With either engine, you have a choice of a standard six-speed manual or Hyundai’s new eight-speed automatic, which includes paddle-shifters.

The two engines have different personalities on the street, and those differences are amplified out on the track. Like so many of the newer turbocharged fours with twin-scroll turbo arrangements, 2.0T doesn’t require you to work it the way that you had to in the last-generation Genesis Coupe; and probably because of that, it’s considerably less boomy and coarse in its personality. You can simply roll into the throttle and tap into a wave of torque that takes you all the way up the rev range. Slam the accelerator down rapidly though, and there's only the slightest bit of lag. Meanwhile, in the 3.8 versions, the new Lambda engine responds to the throttle much quicker—and more energetically, of course—than its predecessor. It’s not intensely torquey down low in a muscle-car sense, but it’s an engine that you ‘get’ right away, with a nice build of power and torque up the rev range.

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