All photos copyright Dan Roth / Weblogs Inc.
One thing's for certain, the Genesis Coupe has serious potential. In 2.0 Turbo form, the GEMA four-cylinder that Hyundai shares with Mitsubishi and Chrysler is mildly boosted to deliver 210 horsepower and 223 pound-feet of torque. The torque is all-in by 2,000 rpm, and there's serious untapped potential in the aluminum engine. In fact, the Hyundai 2.0 shares some of its design with the raucous Mitsubishi Evo's powerplant, although parts differ between the two. The Evo connection is a tantalizing road map to increase the force-fed Genesis' hijinks, and the aftermarket ought to have a field day once it sinks its teeth in.
In the engine room, things are tidy and laid out in a businesslike fashion; the details have clearly been sweated. The turbocharger hangs off the passenger side of the block, and is plumbed through an intercooler before pressurizing the intake tract. There's plenty of room underhood for larger plumbing, aftermarket boost controllers and the usual hot-rodding suspects. The engine has been constructed with all of the right details: aluminum block and heads with cast-in cylinder liners, a bedplate for the lower end, oil sprayers to cool the pistons and dual overhead cams with continuously variable valve timing. Stout stuff. And the square dimensions, with both bore and stroke equaling 86 millimeters, make a good trade-off between off-boost torque and revvability.
The Track suspension package starches up the chassis with stiffened springs and dampers, adds larger diameter stabilizer bars (25mm front and 22 mm rear), stuffs 19-inch wheels with staggered, summer-only Bridgestones under the fenders, and upgrades the brakes with Brembo pieces. Four-piston calipers all around in the obligatory shade of red squeeze 13.4-inch rotors in front and 13-inchers out back, which is impressive braking hardware on a vehicle that's just shy of $28,000 dollars. More importantly for building performance cred, the Track package is not available with an automatic transmission.
Exiting a corner with Tutta Forza
called up, a Track-trim Torsen limited-slip differential helps get the power down. The 2.0T has to work hard to break loose – which might strike some as less impressive to some than the big-torque V6 version, but on the track, most wheelspin is little more than wasted motion. While the Coupe and Sedan share a platform, there's nearly five fewer inches of Genesis wheelbase in the two door. A more substantive change is the strut front suspension in the coupe instead of the sedan's control arms. The struts keep costs down, but not at the expense of performance, and the strut towers are braced to keep the geometry stable. The Track suspension in our Genesis Coupe 2.0T is simply the finest job of performance-minded chassis calibration we've ever sampled from Hyundai. The extra stiffness might make your pocket change jingle, but it's still got enough compliance to be comfortable on most surfaces. The ride is busy, but it's acceptable for the extra capability, and more cushion is available by opting out out of the Track package. It's cheaper, too.
The rest of the goodies covered in the Track package are mostly cosmetic and comfort upgrades, including all the goods in the Premium trim level like an Infinity audio system, power moonroof, a power driver's seat, auto-dim mirrors and push-button start. Inside, aluminum dresses up the pedals and the comfortable, bolstered seats are covered in a combination of black leather and red "high friction" cloth. Navigation is forthcoming, too, though our tester sported a large, legible LCD at the top of the center stack in its place. Exterior details include foglamps, high-intensity discharge headlamps, and a large rear spoiler that we'd have accepted reduced downforce to avoid.
The driver's office is also a fantastically good effort. Controls are in the right places, the wheel and stubby shift knob are wrapped in leather, and the center stack is attractively clean while still carrying a full complement of controls for the ventilation and comprehensive entertainment systems. The metallized plastic that tastefully accents various surfaces in the interior may be easily marred, especially where the fob docks, so an entire keychain resting on the lower left corner of the console for thousands of miles is bound to leave a mark. In front of the driver are two metal-ringed nacelles housing legible gauges with halo-style lighting. All of the switches and buttons feel first-rate, and cheap plastics only invade unseen areas.
The only gripe we can muster is the way the steering wheel spokes occasionally block the stalks, making it difficult to see what you've set the intermittent wipers to. Casting an eye around the interior of the Genesis Coupe, you see refined design, and even though some surfaces appear richer than they feel, for the most part, only those who'd rather poke and prod the dash pad will be disappointed – the rest of us will be too busy driving the car.
Upon pressing the "go" button and setting off, we noticed pedals well placed for heel and toe downshifting, and the machinery is game to play along. Underway, there's a growl from the four-cylinder's exhaust, and you can detect the occasional whoosh from the mostly silent turbocharger. The Genesis impresses by being tight, rattle free, and more serene than we expected. A common complaint, at least among those who've tried the V6 Genesis Coupe, is that it has a heavy clutch. In the Turbo, we found the opposite to be the case; the clutch is light and the take-up point is vague. Likewise, steering feel has been widely praised when fitted with the other powertrain, but our initial impression was that it erred on the light side. However, the steering's communication won the day, conveying plenty of detail about what's going on at road level.
There's some softness when off-boost, especially in the first couple of gears where the shorter gearing of the Turbo prevents boost from building. It all fizzes up nicely in 3rd gear, though, and the 2.0 pulls strongly. At speed, a poke at the pedal delivers a responsive surge of pressurized acceleration. When attempting a quick tear through the gears, the electronic throttle's tendency to hang open during shifts precludes smooth driving. It's an emissions thing, for sure, but the calibration forces either slower shifts, or an acceptance of less graceful forward progress.
While there's certainly noticeable grunt delivered by the powertrain, the joy in the turbocharged Genesis Coupe is not in a thuggish shove into the seat. That's what the V6 is for. The 2.0T Track is all about being a pavement scalpel. The handling is clean and deft, the transmission plays along nicely as you row the six-speed gearbox, and the overall execution is impressive for a first effort at a rear-wheel drive coupe that's essentially a ponycar. The capable Genesis Coupe might not have you bellowing the theme to "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" in the same way that the telepathic Nissan 370Z does, and there are cars that will outrun it, but the Genesis Coupe can still hang without excuses.
The potential that lies within this inexpensive, well-crafted coupe is what's really exciting. The easy way to increased capability is winding up the boost. With the aggressive buy in price, there ought to be coins left rattling in the piggy bank for immediate upgrades. On the practical side, the Genesis Coupe offers a (very tight) back seat that folds, a trunk that's not too shabby for a coupe, and it can return 30 miles per gallon on the highway when driven far more gently than we managed. We made too many visits to Boostville to attain that EPA highway estimate.
While the Genesis Coupe is not perfect, it's an extremely solid entry into a newly refreshed RWD sport/ponycar class with plenty of competition. Anyone contemplating the neo-retro Mustang, Camaro, or Challenger ought to check out the Genny, as it offers a whole lot of performance for a solid price without egregious corner cutting. Hyundai's money has gone into the things that matter with this car, and it works phenomenally well, even if we were left wanting more torque in first and second gears every time we launched it hard. Wrap the package in handsome, original bodywork that's not trying to recapture 1969, and Hyundai's effort makes a compelling argument.