Thursday, March 05, 2009
2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 V6 - Road Test
Oriental drifter: It turns, drifts, and stops on not too many dimes.
C'mon, really? Hyundai? No pedigree. No racing history. No factory museum filled with dusty glory machines. Yet here's what Hyundai dares--dares!--to call the phosphorescent-Slurpee spill of paint on our Genesis coupe: Lime Rock Green.
Puh-leeze! Weren't these jokers riding around on donkeys when Bob Sharp was running 240Zs at Lime Rock? There's also Nordschleife Gray and Interlagos Yellow. On a Hyundai? They can't be serious!
Uh, they're serious. On sale since March, the Genesis coupe is a revelation, no pun intended. It's a genuine yardage gain for the yin-yang team and a serious kink in the law dictating that rear-drive hoots must cost big bucks.
Is it HUN-dye, hi-WON-dye, or hi-YOON-day? (Around the factory, at least, it's the latter). If we can't concur on a pronunciation, let's agree that Hyundai has come a long way. Lately, the workmanship has stood with that of the Japanese masters. The designs are fresh, and the dynamics have firmed up and flattened out.
Still, Korean culture works against a Hyundai sports car. Car guys are scarce in a homeland-come-lately to the auto age. Almost everyone drives thrift cubes--often white, always slow--and Korea only built its first racetrack, Everland Speedway about 35 miles south of Seoul, in 1993. In contrast, Japan has a high-performance heritage going back to the A6M5 Zero.
With Hyundai, it has always been about the price, and so it goes with the Genesis twins. The syrupy $33,000 sedan upon which the coupe is based dives for Lexus's knees. The four-seat coupe also aims below the waist at competitors, with a 210-hp, 2.0-liter turbo four starting at $22,750 and a 306-hp V-6 at $25,750. The standard-equipment list is decent and includes a six-speed manual, power locks and windows, cruise control, stability control, a trip computer, and stereo auxiliary jacks.
The 2.0-liter turbo Premium and V-6 Grand Touring are the middle models, with leather, sunroof, and hot stereo, while the loaded Track version comes with all that, plus a stiffer suspension, Brembo brakes, limited-slip diff, and trunk spoiler. The V-6 Track runs $30,250, right where the foreign rivals start.
The base Nissan 370Z opens at $30,625, a poverty-trim BMW 128i, at $30,225. Only a strip-o Mazda RX-8 swings lower, at $27,105. The Genesis coupe is the first Asian to move into the neighborhood ruled by Mustangs, Camaros, and Challengers. As in the movie Gran Torino, we're expecting fireworks.
Considering the price--always considering the price--Hyundai has bull's-eyed the target, starting with specs that are right for enthusiasts. Firstly, it's rear drive, the ne-plus-ultra credential for a sporty car. Also, the base 2.0-liter turbo offers wiggle room for tuners, the V-6 enough horsepower to satisfy if not electrify with its 5.7-second runs to 60 mph (all on regular gas!).
And there's no shell game with the performance options. Six-speed manuals can be had with both engines, as can the Track equipment group. The V-6 gets a name-brand ZF six-speed automatic with paddle shifters (turbos get a five-speed auto made by . . . somebody). A harder-core R-Spec model is coming as basically a Track version cleansed of luxury bits. As you see, Hyundai is working to get this right.
Even after cutting 4.6 inches from the Genesis sedan's wheelbase, Hyundai still had a plus-size form to clothe. The wheelbase is 10.6 inches longer than the new Z's, and the body is 15.1 inches longer. There's enough capsule space for a pair of folding back seats with decent legroom, though Hyundai opted--wisely, we think--to favor a foxy roofline over adult-rated rear headroom. Quarter glass that sags down for extra visibility also gives the coupe some graphic identity, as do the two scimitars for headlights. The fenders bulge alluringly with their big Bridgestones. However, Hyundai couldn't resist pasting on a corporate Sonata grille that does little for cooling and even less for the coupe's cunning visage.
About two years into the sedan's five-year gestation, Hyundai started work on the coupe. Perhaps an inherited emphasis on cabin space explains why the coupe's engine sits a little forward, straddling the front suspension. The best-handling cars aren't nose heavy, and the coupe's 55-percent front weight imbalance isn't ideal--even though it's very similar to the Z's--especially when it's 55 percent of 3480 pounds. Also, struts in the coupe replace the sedan's pricier four-link front suspension.
All things considered, the coupe threatens to fumble the whole mission with la-di-da handling. But it doesn't. Hyundai aces one of the critical tests: steering feel. Cornering forces load the wheel naturally, bumps twitch it, and a ratio tuned for snap-to quickness sharpens your aim.
Fitted with the firmer springs and shocks of the Track package, rolling and pitching is tamped down, but there's just barely enough bounce to allow the suspension to work a rough patch without skittering. No, we're not going to bemoan the rigid highway ride. This is the Track version, after all. Go for the base or the Grand Touring if you need more commuting cushiness.
Drifting glamour boy Rhys Millen demonstrates in the TV ads the stability control's most interesting mode: off. The 3.8 has torque enough to whipsaw the coupe sideways--at least, with some provocation to overcome the inherent understeer. The other stability mode is "on," which ends playtime PDQ. Hyundai either lacked the budget or the chops to program an intermediate stability setting. Perhaps on the next one.
Was it tactile authenticity the engineers sought in giving the clutch a Viking heaviness? Maybe. The stubby, short-throw shifter glides in a satisfying tight path from gear to gear. We're told shift smoothness is thanks to triple-cone synchronizers on the lower ratios. The RS3800 V-6 (RS stands for "rear-drive sport") doesn't rank with the great voices of our age, but it punches back when stepped on and with a high-protein burble not unlike a Z's.
Our 3.8 V-6 Track's stats are healthy, but they are stomped on by the 370Z's: 5.7 seconds to 60 mph against the Z's 4.8 seconds. Skidpad pulls of 0.87 g to the Z's 0.98. Braking distances are much closer, at about 160 feet, the coupe's Brembos supplying solid, repeatable braking but with a flaccid pedal. We suspect flexing in the master cylinder causes the pedal softness.
Both the Genesis coupe and the 370Z are shod in summer rubber from Bridgestone, though the 332-hp Z wears them wider all around. And the Z weighs about a hundred fewer pounds. And comparing test cars, the Z costs about five grand more. Remember, with Hyundai it's always about the price.
When it came to deciding between luxury accoutrements or go-faster parts, Hyundai says it always opted for the latter. A BMW-stiff body, a cross-tower strut brace in front, a Torsen limited-slip differential on Track versions, 18-inch standard alloy wheels, and the like were paidfor with some glaring austerity. Soviet-era hard plastics adorn the seatbacks, dash, doors, and rear-quarter trim. The Track's driver's seat is powered; the passenger's is not, though, oddly, the trunk and fuel-door releases are electric.
There's no sci-fi engine cover to hide the ugly wiring conduits and click-fit connectors underhood, and simple gooseneck arms instead of multilinks support the trunk. Hey, we're merely pointing out that lunch continues to not be free. One item we wish Hyundai hadn't cut is the telescoping steering column. Longer-legged drivers must reach for the wheel and shifter.
The low dash opens up forward vision. Despite the coupe's bigness, the interior feels hand-in-glove cozy if lacking in luxury or gee-whiz design theatrics. Folding rear seats help make the 10-cubic-foot trunk more useful, even if there's no hatchback to widen the narrow entry hole.
The Tiburon notwithstanding, Hyundai is an interloper in the sports-coupe arena. Its bloodline is defined by transport cubes and rent-me sedans and long warranties, the latter for reassuring newcomers lured by the low prices. Hyundai's performance pedigree starts here, now, with this engaging, well-orchestrated Genesis coupe. And as at Lime Rock, a good start is critical.
When I read that the Hyundai Genesis coupe was based on the fine Genesis sedan, I assumed it would share much of that car's refinement and isolation. Then I drove the V-6 model, fast. Whoa, this thing is unexpectedly hard core. There's vigorous throttle response, a husky V-6 exhaust note, and giddy acceleration. In the canyons, the steering turns in with a vengeance, the car tracks through corners like a race car, and the brakes are from Brembo. One small downside: It gets jumpy when it gets bumpy.
JONATHON R. RAMSEY
Compare this car to the biblical book of Genesis, and it's as if Hyundai--playing The Omnipotent--had only reached day four. The coupe possesses intense looks, excellent dynamics, superb braking, and braceable seats. Yet the exhaust note is soggy, the trunk aperture is a mail slot, highway refinement . . . isn't, and the car badly needs a rear-window wiper. Still, it's an achievement: Where there was once a void, there exists an exemplary sports car. Hyundai has earned some rest--a half-day at least.
BY AARON ROBINSON