Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hyundai Genesis Coupe - Korean Exotic

As the Hyundai Genesis sedan marked the Korean company's entrance to the rarefied luxury league, the Genesis Coupe shows the world that it can build a semi-exotic sport coupe that is the equal of all comers. From the Mitsubishi Eclipse to the Infiniti G37, the Genesis Coupe rips 'em up.

Hyundai's next-generation Tiburon is rumored to be a fun little pocket rocket based on the Veloster concept from 2007, and may even be called something else entirely. It's all OK because the Genesis Coupe will make you forget there ever was a Tiburon, no matter how good the front-drive GT has been all of these years.

Sharing a rear-drive platform with the award-winning Genesis Sedan, the coupe is tuned to be much sportier and more engaging for drivers. It rides on a four-wheel independent suspension system - five links in back like the Germans - that is firm and energetic, but not jarring. Our test car came with handsome 18" alloy wheels, but 19" rollers are optional. Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with plenty of surface area suck the car down from speed with confidence. Electronic brake force distribution, traction control, and stability control are available.

Genesis Sedan comes with a choice of V6 or V8 engines, however the coupe offers four- and six-cylinder units. I have no complaints with the verve generated by our 210-horsepower 2.0-litre Turbo-four that provides a unique combination of efficient power with rear-drive balance. Fuel economy is rated 21/30-MPG city/highway. Uplevel models use the sedan's 3.6-litre DOHC V6, which generates 308 horsepower. Four-cylinder engines are matched with a 6-speed manual or 5-speed manumatic transmission; V6s make friends with a 6-speed manumatic.

A reasonably priced sport coupe with rear drive and ample power makes tuner kids giddy when they romp on the throttle in first gear and drive their tires into road goo. The pros will tell you that they think the Genesis Coupe is divinity when it comes to getting all greasy on the track. Fortunately, the same balanced chassis and quick wit that dances to rock is also a pro when it comes to attacking quick on-ramps, mountain passes, or just a favorite backroad.

Exterior styling is reminiscent of the Tiburon, but the car is noticeably larger in person - especially across the front where the car looks Corvette wide and from the rear where thoughts of Aston Martin come to the fore. Two-tier side surfacing, menacing air intakes, and a "Z profile" windowline leave their calling cards. The overall styling was developed during the past few years on auto show concept cars, but it also shares much with the Infiniti G37 and Lexus IS convertible - both intended competitors on the high end.

A twin-cockpit interior is right in line with the sport-luxury exterior styling. Available leather seats (we enjoyed a comfy checked cloth pattern), leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, Bluetooth, USB iPOD interface, keyless push button starting, and silver console surfaces not only look great but also put a stake in the future. Auto up/down power windows, deep cupholders, door cubbies, and a large dead pedal add convenience.

"We think our entry-level Genesis Coupe 2.0T, with its unique combination of rear-wheel drive and four-cylinder turbo power, offers an intriguing alternative to existing front-wheel drive sport coupes," said John Krafcik, president and CEO, Hyundai Motor America. "The 3.8-litre version of Genesis Coupe takes driving to an even higher level, rivaling the capability of premium-performance coupes like the Infiniti G37."

You would be hard pressed to tell the Genesis Sedan and Coupe share the same undercarriage and basic engineering, but it is easy to feel the premium genes that went into the coupe. It offers a firm, but comfortable and precise ride. As with the Genesis Sedan, Hyundai developed a world-class coupe that should make no excuses or apologies. It carries on Hyundai design tradition, including a fabulous 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, while aiming directly at Japanese luxury competitors - not to mention the Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro, and Dodge Challenger. Equipped with a four-cylinder engine, our test car retails for $22,875. Slide one while you can.

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