Genesis Coupe photos courtesy of Hyundai. Comparison photos by the Author.

For the enthusiast buyer, the introduction of the Genesis Coupe was a watershed moment for Hyundai. The closest the company had previously come to building a true fun car was the Tiburon, a front-wheel drive compact coupe whose drivetrain options were straight out of the 1990s. The Tiburon would have been right at home in the company of the Ford Probe, Mazda MX-6, Mercury Cougar and, if you like things a bit more exotic, the Alfa Romeo GTV. However, in the world of 370Zs and 300hp V6 pony cars, Hyundai’s oddly-sculpted shark just didn’t have teeth.

The Genesis Coupe then was exactly the right car at the right time, but like many first attempts, it was far from perfect. When I drove the 2011 3.8 R-Spec at Virginia International Raceway, I found it to be full of potential, but lacking in execution in several critical areas, even going so far as to liken the Hyundai to an NFL kicker who looks great in practice but can’t deliver in the clutch.

Since my last trip to the track in a Genesis Coupe didn’t exactly end the way I wanted it to, I decided to stick to the street for this evaluation. I’m pleased to report that while the results are mixed, the 2013 is definitely an overall improvement on an already killer package.

As in our previous review, our tester is an R-Spec. For those not familiar with Hyundai’s lineup, the R-Spec is the exact trim level enthusiasts claim to pine for, but rarely actually buy. Small wonder manufacturers don’t bother, right?

With this package, you get only the go-fast bits and nothing else. You start with either the revised 2.0-liter, turbocharged four cylinder or the 3.8L, naturally aspirated V6. Add Brembo brakes, a Torsen limited-slip differential, up-rated shocks, your choice of a 6-speed manual transmission or 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters, and… not much else, really.

The lack of frivolous comfort options keeps the 3.8 R-Spec’s price to an attractive $28,750, a $2000 increase over the same model in 2011. Those looking for a little more luxury can opt for the Grand Touring model ($32,000), with its cushier suspension and open rear differential, or the fully-loaded Track model ($33,000), which incorporates all of the R-Spec’s track-ready parts with the GT’s fancier interior options.

For our purposes though, the R-Spec hits the spot. Even without the fancier interior packages, you still get Bluetooth connectivity and a decent AM/FM/MP3/CD Stereo with aux input–plenty to keep you entertained on your way to a track day or autocross. The only glaringly absent feature here is cruise control. The ubiquity of throttle-by-wire makes cruise a zero-penalty option these days, so it’s almost as if Hyundai omitted it just to make a statement about the R-Spec’s purpose.

So why the extra $2,000? Well, part of it is natural price inflation, but you can also thank Hyundai’s decision to add direct injection across the Genesis Coupe lineup. In 2011, the 3.8L V6 put out 306hp and 266lb-ft of torque. With the addition of DI and some tuning adjustments, the 2013’s engine makes 348 horsepower and 295lb-ft of torque–a nontrivial increase.

In addition to some small but welcome interior improvements (a previously unavailable telescoping steering wheel, for example), Hyundai also revised the shifter. It’s crisper and much more appropriately weighted. Unfortunately, the drivetrain-preserving torque management system is still in place, so the tricky low-gear downshifts haven’t been improved. A black mark on some otherwise excellent enhancements.

There’s better news elsewhere. The previously tamed-to-death engine note has been enhanced beautifully. This is easily one of the best-sounding V6s in the business, and it’s a joy to rev all the way to red line. The enhanced engine note helps improve the immediacy of the driving experience, and helps add to the illusion that the Genesis Coupe shrinks around you as you dial up the aggression, a sensation that I didn’t experience in the 2011. The old car felt big even when being hustled, the 2013 much less so.

Everything I loved about the old car carries over. The brakes are still excellent, and Hyundai saw fit to avoid adding to an already five-liter-Mustang-rivaling curb weight. Any further penalties in heft would have served to reverse the progress they made with the power train, so be thankful for that. I drove the Hyundai the same week I returned from testing Audi’s refreshed S5 in Denver, and despite the German’s additional torque and outright grip, I actually found the Genesis Coupe to be more entertaining of a drive.

Indeed, I can confidently say that Hyundai has squeezed just about everything they can out of this platform. But any halfway-decent car can be satisfying in a vacuum. Let’s talk about the competition.

Ford Mustang V6 (Performance Package)

The Mustang is the most common, and to be fair, the most compelling counter-argument to the Genesis Coupe. For a little less than $27,000, you can option the pony with the Recaro seats and Brembo brake package, giving you perfect parity with the Genesis Coupe R-Spec for roughly $2,000 cheaper than the Hyundai. Unfortunately, while the Mustang is cheaper, it’s also lacking in power.

And performance package or not, the Ford just doesn’t have the same buttoned-down feel of the Hyundai. While “feel” is subjective and has no bearing on performance numbers, it will probably influence buyers coming from Asian or European sport compacts who are used to harsher, more connected suspension calibrations than you’ll find in the Mustang. Unfortunately, to get a Pony like that, you’ll have to do some suspension shopping or spring for a Boss 302. I’d also put my money on the Hyundai’s brakes out-lasting the Ford’s.

Nissan 370Z

This is an unfair comparison for both the Hyundai and the Nissan, but given the closing price gulf between them, it’s worth looking at. For starters, keep in mind that the Genesis Coupe is a 2+2, the 370z just a two-seater. The Nissan is lighter, smaller and wears more aggressive rubber. On the flip side, the Hyundai has an 18hp-advantage, a mechanical limited-slip differential (the 370z’s optional LSD is a viscous unit), and is significantly cheaper, especially if you’re inclined to compare both cars’ most aggressive, track-oriented trims. Nissan’s 350hp NISMO model rings the till at $43,000–$10,000 more expensive than the comparable Genesis Coupe Track and $15,000 more expensive than the R-Spec. Even the 370Z Sport Package is $36,150.

The Z is a little more tight and nimble than the Genesis Coupe, but it’s also more of a raw, raucous driving experience. I’d give the edge to the Z here in outright performance, but it’s a bit more of a wild card when it comes to engine and braking system longevity.

There are others in this price/performance bracket, the Camaro and Challenger V6, for instance, and a handful of front-wheel and all-wheel drive sport compacts. All of them have their merits and their drawbacks, but I’m comfortable calling the 3.8L R-Spec a must-consider if you’re shopping in the under-$30k performance car bracket.

Hyundai provided the 2013 Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec for the purposes of this review.


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Byron Hurd

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