First drive: 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe

Hyundai’s rise through the automotive ranks has been meteoric — the company has shot from non-entity to major player in short order. Success like this comes from one thing; product. Having refreshed its core models, Hyundai has turned its attention to the Genesis Coupe.

As before, the Coupe will be offered four models. The base car, which starts at $26,499, is the 2.0L T. It is followed by the R-Spec, which is the go-faster model in as much as it features a reworked suspension, a Torsen limited-slip rear differential, bigger Brembo brakes and 19-inch wheels. The Premium mirrors the base model, but earns more equipment, including leather seats, a navigation system, 360-watt audio package and a power sunroof. The lineup is anchored at the top end by the 3.8L GT ($36,999), which gets everything the R-Spec and Premium packages bring plus items such as xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights.

The 2013 edition of the Coupe is a mid-cycle makeover — it has a new nose with a larger, more aggressive grille and a more sculpted hood. New LED tail lights differentiate the rear end. Inside, the materials take a big step forward as does the layout. The addition of three gauges to the centre stack speaks to the Coupe’s sporting bias — they show fuel economy, oil pressure and either boost pressure in the 2.0L T or torque output for the 3.8 GT. Aft of that, the rear seat remains token in nature with limited legroom and tight headroom.

When first launched, the Genesis Coupe was a good car that only lacked one thing — a serious sense of urgency. For 2013, that goes by the wayside. Both the four-cylinder and V6 models now get significantly more power without affecting fuel economy.

In the case of the 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder, which is a modified version of last year’s unit, a new twin-scroll turbocharger and an intercooler that’s 53% larger bump the output to 274 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque at 2,000 rpm. That’s a whopping increase of 64 hp and 52 lb-ft compared with the outgoing engine. One of the reasons the engine does not change dramatically boils down to the ability of the aftermarket tuner to tweak things a little further. The 3.8L V6 benefits in a similar manner — the addition of direct injection pushes the output to 348 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, which is an increase of 42 hp and 29 lb-ft, respectively. The six also gets an acoustically tuned intake with an attenuator that actually dumps some of the intake roar inside the car, which really makes the engine sing when the driver nails the gas pedal.

The good news is that, unlike so many performance-oriented engines, both consume a diet of regular-grade gasoline, although the best performance and the numbers quoted are derived from the use of premium fuel — there is a 15-hp drop on the turbo and a four-hp reduction on the V6 when dining on regular fuel.

Both engines can be teamed with the base six-speed manual or Hyundai’s all-new eight-speed automatic. The manual has a refined gate, short throws and a light, progressive clutch. The better choice — heresy, I know — is the automatic. It features Normal, Sport and Manual modes, the last of which can be operated through the shifter or via steering wheel-mounted paddles. Even when left to its own devices, it manages to find the right cog every time. It is an advanced unit that really makes the best of the new-found power.

The Coupe’s body uses a lot of ultra-high-strength steel, which brings a solid base of operations for the suspension. Up front, there are MacPherson struts, while the rear suspension features a five-link setup. The whole lot has been retuned — the objective was to reduce body roll and deliver better road feel while improving ride comfort. For the most part, the rework has the desired effect. There is noticeably less harshness over smaller road ripples, yet there is enough travel to absorb larger swales. The steering also has a keener feel and a crisper turn-in.

The R-Spec and GT earn firmer suspensions with larger anti-roll bars. They are noticeably tauter in nature, which hones the driving experience, especially when the Coupe is driven to its considerable limit. On the track, the R-Spec ducked and weaved without so much as putting a wheel wrong. The upside is that the ride quality is good enough to live with on a daily basis. The most impressive part of the Coupe proved to be its seemingly endless supply of torque — and that applies equally to both engines. Dive deep into a corner, nail the gas at the apex and it will pull strongly toward the next corner.

The other welcome change is a three-stage electronic stability control system. Default is all-on (engine and brake intervention), while the mid-position shuts off the engine side of the control logic, meaning it relies on brake management to keep the car pointed in the right direction. This position allows a rewarding large latitude before it finally steps in and rains on the driver’s fun. For the brave, there is an off position and, unlike so many other modes, it does turn everything off. Push too hard and the back end will take the lead!

The revisions to the 2013 Genesis Coupe address all of the nits found in the previous car. The powertrain upgrades really serve to vault the car from mildly pedestrian to truly sporting — so much so that it actually gives some more expensive marques (think Nissan 370Z) a real run for their money.

The Genesis Coupe hits dealer showrooms in early spring.

Photograph by: Graeme Fletcher, for National Post