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The Hyundai Genesis Coupe is not merely a shortened, two-door, four-passenger version of the larger, four-door, five-passenger Genesis sedan. While it shares some of the sedan's underpinnings, in almost every way that matters, and in some that probably don't, it is a unique, sporty coupe that offers remarkable value. Using rear-wheel drive makes it a driver's car.
The Genesis Coupe was launched as a 2010 model. The 2011 Genesis Coupe has been upgraded inside to make the cabin an even more pleasant place to pass the time, from more soft-touch materials and higher-grade leathers to added chrome and metalgrain trim. The model lineup has been revised for 2011, also.
The Genesis Coupe offers a choice of engines, between a turbocharged, 210-horsepower four-cylinder and a 360-hp V6. Both come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, increasingly a rarity, if offered at all, in the sporty coupe market. The optional automatics are Shiftronic manu matics with steering column-mounted shift paddles. In a hat tip to the car's rear-wheel drive, the rear tires and wheels are wider than the fronts, making for a better managed, more efficient delivery of power to the road.
Inside you'll find leather upholstery on most models, but the fabric seats are more than up to the dual challenges of keeping their occupants comfortable over long distances as well as reassuringly restrained on winding mountain roads. For the multi media generation, iPod and USB audio inputs are standard along with a simple auxiliary jack.
All of this, though, is icing on the cake. This is a very competent, nicely balanced sporty coupe that feels as at home on a closed track as slogging through daily commute traffic. Rear-wheel drive is generally regarded as being better for sporty handling than front-wheel drive, and the Genesis takes advantage of this. We found the ride and handling on the street and on the track to be remarkably good, especially for a car with a starting sticker price of $22,250.
The 2011 Hyundai Genesis Coupe comes in two basic models: Genesis Coupe 2.0T and Genesis Coupe 3.8. Each model has three trim levels: The 2.0T ($22,250), the 2.0T R-Spec ($24,500), and the 2.0T Premium ($26,750); the 3.8 R-Spec ($26,750), the 3.8 Grand Touring ($29,750), and the 3.8 Track ($30,750).
The 2.0T comes with a 6-speed manual transmission or an optional 5-speed automatic with Shiftronic ($1,250). The 2.0T R-Spec comes only with the manual, and the 2.0T Premium only with the automatic. Similarly, the 3.8 R-Spec is strictly manual, while the 3.8 Grand Touring comes with a 6-speed automatic with Shiftronic. The 3.8 Track comes standard with the manual and offers the 6-speed automatic as an option ($1,500).
The 2.0T comes with fabric upholstery; power windows, outside mirrors and central locking; leather-wrapped shift knob and manual tilt steering wheel; and a six-speaker multi-media stereo. XM satellite radio and Bluetooth capability are also standard across the line. Premium adds power driver seat, automatic climate control, auto-dimming inside rearview mirror with compass and programmable garage/gate remote, a 360-watt multi-media stereo with 10 speakers including woofer, touch-screen navigation, power tilt-and-slide moon/sunroof, and proximity key with push-button start/stop.
The 2.0T R-Spec is a performance model that deletes some trim from the base 2.0T, as well as the base model's automatic headlights and cruise control. In exchange, the R-Spec adds 19-inch wheels with 40-series summer tires (instead of all-season tires), a Brembo braking system, track-tuned suspension, limited slip differential, black leather seats with red cloth inserts, and matching cloth and leather inside door trim.
The 3.8 lineup begins with R-Spec trim, plus fog lights. The top-of-the-line Track adds the sunroof; cruise control; automatic climate control; the 360-watt stereo; folding and heated features to the outside mirrors, which include integrated turn signals; automatic xenon HID headlights; aerodynamic front wipers; a body-color rear spoiler; aluminum pedals and other metallic trim. Heated front seats are upholstered in black leather with power adjustment for the driver.
The 3.8 Grand Touring shares most of the Track's luxury features, but deletes some of its performance equipment (including the Brembo brakes and stiffer suspension) while dialing back to 18-inch wheels and tires. It also sports a backup warning system, brown leather seats and other unique trim inside and out.
Options are limited to floor mats ($105), an iPod cable ($35), and other accessories that can be added after the Coupe leaves the ship at the port of entry. (All New Car Test Drive prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
Safety equipment includes frontal, side-impact and side-curtain airbags. The front seats have active, anti-whiplash head restraints. All four passengers get three-point seatbelts with pre-tensioners and force limiters. The rear seat comes outfitted with child safety seat anchors. Active safety features include antilock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, electronic stability control with traction control and tire pressure monitors. A backup warning system comes on the Grand Touring model.
The 2011 Genesis Coupe has a quirky mix of styling themes. Some of it works and some of it doesn't. On the upside, it's distinctive. On the downside, it's distinctive. One thing about which there is no confusion is that the Genesis Coupe is not merely a sporty, two-door knockdown of Hyundai's award-winning Genesis sedan. The only visual feature the Coupe shares with the sedan is the company's stylized H logo.
The front end is an intriguing collage of swoops and scoops. Two sharp hood creases squeeze past the upper grille to pinch down on top of a lower grille flanked by horizontal polished ribs on flat black insets pushing the fog lights to the extremes of the lower fascia, which itself wraps around the front tire wells to emphasize the broad stance. Projector-beam headlights peer out of compound housings slashed into the fenders. The busy front end is not going to look any better with a license plate bolted to it, a realization that might have buyers living in states requiring two plates sorely tempted to scoff at that particular law.
Side view shows what at a quick first glance could be the INFINITI coupe. There's a nice balance between hood and boot, which are split by a perfectly proportioned glasshouse. Right-sized tires on airy alloy wheels fill round wheel wells. Topping it off is something called a Z character line that broadcasts sportiness to passersby. The curves of the body catch the light and shadow and a Z-shaped reflection breaks up what would otherwise be a large expanse of sheet metal along the sides of the car.
To the extent there's any Hyundai legacy in the Genesis Coupe it's found in the hindmost view. Were it not for the car's mass, followers might think they were tailgating a Tiburon, the smaller, lower priced, less-sophisticated sporty coupe (phased out during the 2008 model year). There's the same lower valance with almost identical wide spaced exhaust tips, a similar oval ness to the taillight rear bumper fascia trunk lid grouping and the same tucked-in tapering of the rear quarter panels behind the rear tires. This isn't to say the look is other than pleasant, but the clear visual linkage to that older, lesser coupe is strong enough that it could dim the new coupe's up-market prospects, at least to those following behind.
2011 Genesis Coupes come with new soft-touch, matte-finish surfaces on the door panels, center speaker grille, glove box, and lower instrument panel; plus dark metal-colored accents on center stack, door handles, air vent bezels and steering wheel hub. Armrests are now padded, a softer leather covers the steering wheel, and even the inner A-pillars are now dressed in cloth. Coat hooks have been added in the rear-seat area, and flashes of chrome complete the facelift. Where function and feel matter, the Genesis Coupe measures up.
The front seats are comfortable but sufficiently assertive to hold the backside in place during spirited motoring, especially in the 2.0T with its basic black cloth. The 3.8's leather is a nice touch of semi-luxury. The back seats are only for small children and, in some states, lower insurance premiums.
The steering wheel feels good, with just the right rim thickness and cross section. The shift knob, steering wheel and driver's seat hip-point triangulate well for 90-percentile males. The column-mounted shift paddles for the Shiftronic automatics are at the fingertips of hands at the 10-and-2 o'clock positions and are within reach from 9-and-3. The up/down slot on the console mounted shift gate opens toward the driver, where it's a natural tug at the lever. The foot pedals are where the driver's feet expect; heel and toe with the 6 speed manuals could be easier but doesn't demand a stretch or awkward ankle twist. Unlike the buttons for the power windows, which are placed on the door armrest at an odd angle and using them is awkward.
The primary gauges are analog, with coolant temperature and fuel gauges embedded in the base of the speedometer and tachometer, respectively. Basic, bright red needles communicate their information quickly and surely. Knobs, buttons and rocker switches for the audio and climate management controls are large and logically located, with audio controls up top for ready access requiring minimal shift of the driver's line of sight away from the road ahead, to which a low dash gives bay window-like visibility. Quite the contrary is true for lane checks; despite a recessed lower sill that expands the glass area, the rear quarter windows offer limited visibility, in large part due to the large C-pillar.
Front-seat roominess is very good by coupe standards. Front-seat headroom in the Genesis Coupe tops that in the RX-8 and 3 Series coupe by about one inch, while legroom bests those two by at least an and inch and a half. Hip room in the Genesis Coupe's front seats is wider by almost three inches than in the RX-8's seats. (BMW, like most German carmakers, does not publish figures on hip room.)
If rear seats must be added to the chart, the Coupe does not fare well, trailing in head room by two inches, in leg room by two to three inches or more, but eking out a win by one inch over the RX-8 in hip room. But what do you care? You won't be sitting back there.
With 10 cubic feet of cargo space, the Genesis Coupe holds more than the Mazda RX-8 (7.6 cu. ft.), a little less than the BMW 3 Series coupe (11 cu. ft.). The rear seat of the Genesis Coupe folds down to increase cargo capacity, but the opening is small.
Bringing the Genesis Coupe to market at this price point meant compromises. Fortunately, Hyundai made those compromises elsewhere and not in the handling package. It's a pleasant ride in cruise mode and surprisingly fun, and competent, during play time.
If there's a complaint, it's with steering feel at high speeds over anything other than glass-smooth pavement, when too much sensitivity to surface irregularities feeds back through the steering wheel; the best descriptor is high strung. This afflicts the 2.0T more than it does the 3.8, which is more relaxed, but both feel as if they could use a little more damping. Driven hard on a closed track, however, both were a delight, nicely balanced, with just a smidgen of understeer from the mild front-end weight bias. One of the benefits of rear-wheel drive is that it allows the driver to better control the car in a turn using the throttle. Lifting off the throttle after carrying too much speed into a corner (a driving mistake) kicked the rear end out a bit, but a touch of opposite lock and giving it gas put everything back in line.
What was truly fun was turning off the electronic stability control and using that same throttle to manage the line through a turn and then to draw different exit lines in search of the optimum entry line into the next turn. All of which every one of the Genesis Coupe powertrain combinations took in stride, never surprising with some unexpected dynamic resulting from an unnecessary compromise during development. Sure, the Track editions' envelopes were more expansive, especially in the braking category (love those Brembos!) but the other two models were no slouches.
Power delivery in the 2.0T was linear with virtually no evidence of turbo lag. Power was sometimes in short supply for executing a pass on mountain two lanes. Shifts in the automatics were smooth and precise. Upshifts are controlled solely by the driver when the Shiftronic is in manual mode. Shift throws in the manuals were short but could have been more precise.
The ride was comfortable on well-maintained interstates, showing some rough edges only on weathered urban roads, where broad expansion joints and broken pavement sent jolts through the suspension hard points. Road and tire noise was mostly muted, as was wind noise, even at interstate speeds.
The Hyundai Genesis Coupe offers sporty handling and rear-wheel drive. Our impression was the Genesis Coupe rides smoother than the Mazda RX-8, though it feels less sophisticated than the BMW 3 Series coupes. Power and fuel economy from the four-cylinder and V6 engines is competitive. The BMWs are tops in styling, and those two and the Mazda have richer, although not necessarily more comfortable, interiors. Then there's price. Sticker for the Genesis Coupe starts out lower than the least expensive RX-8 by about $4000 and by more than $15,000 than the least expensive of the BMWs. In terms of value, the Genesis Coupe prevails. Interior revisions for 2011 add to the appeal.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report from Las Vegas, Nevada.