Hyundai Genesis Coupe — Dynamic performance vs. debatable design

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

We liked the new Hyundai Genesis coupe from the minute we cranked up the 3.8-liter V-6 engine and hit the highway.

We were torn about the styling. Styling, we admit, is a subjective thing. What appeals to one person may be unappealing to another. It’s just that in the case of the new coupe — a very well done sporty car from the ever- improving South Korean company – there is an arguable difference of opinion.

It’s definitely more Asian — more four-wheel drift — in looks even though it’s directed at North American buyers. Its overall stance is aggressive especially with the large rear haunches; and while we can’t quite get past the broken belt line and the pulled-back headlights and wide front grin we liked the balanced look.

Without a doubt the Hyundai designers (reportedly) were trying to emulate the Infiniti G37 coupe — there are many similar design cues — but we think they maybe threw too much seasoning into the design stew stirring too many conflicting styling elements into the brew.

We admit our take on the styling may be in the minority. One major magazine called the Genesis the best looking Hyundai in history. Then again it’s not a long history. Let’s just say the design is dramatic and worlds better than the Tiburon it replaced.

As in any automotive purchasing decision you must decide how important its driveway stance is because in the case of the Genesis coupe, it is a winner big time in areas of performance, handling, interior solitude and overall composure — areas that can be measured more objectively than styling.

Mechanically the Genesis is being compared — very favorably in many instances — with the V-6 version of the all-new Chevrolet Camaro, the Ford Mustang, the Dodge Challenger, and also Infiniti’s G37. After driving both the turbocharged 4-cylinder and the V-6 during a media preview, and spending a week with the V-6 Grand Touring edition at home, we agree with many of those favorable assessments, although it doesn’t have the cachet of the retro American cars.

And another thing — the Genesis coupe is not a two-door version of the Genesis sedan. Even though they share the same name, basic platform and V-6 engine, the sedan is a plush ultra-quiet luxury car in the likeness of Lexus or Mercedes. The coupe is more basic and with a more sporting nature, starting at just over $22,000, and fits into the Mustang, Camaro, Mitsubishi Eclipse niche.

It’s a bigger and much improved Tiburon, Hyundai's just-retired sporty coupe built from 1996 through 2008. The Tiburon always seemed to be a step behind its peers even as it offered a good price and exceptional warranty. The Genesis doesn’t have that problem. It enters the marketplace on an equal footing with any number of coupes including all those mentioned above.

Hyundai apparently has learned many things about sports coupes over its decade-long production of the Tiburon and it has put its experience to good use. We indeed found very few downsides to the Genesis driving experience, and we found the living quarters to be attractive, user-friendly and comfortable. And which ever way you decide to go with the Genesis — turbo 4 or healthy V-6 — we think you will enjoy your choice.

We had a short time behind the wheel of the 4-cylinder/6-speed manual version. The 210-horsepower 4-cylinder turbo gives buyers on a budget the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a sporty coupe for a starting price of $22,750 including destination charge.

And that may be the way to go. The shifter works well and the 2.0T Hyundai is very tossable, capable of reaching 60 from a standing start in around seven seconds. And important to a lot of buyers — overall handling and grip are competitive with the 3.8 edition. A five-speed automatic with the four-banger can be had for $24,000.

Standard equipment on all coupes includes 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, full power accessories, air conditioning and an audio system with steering-wheel-mounted controls, Bluetooth, USB/iPod connectivity, and CD and MP3 player. Standard safety includes stability control, antilock disc brakes with brake assist and a full complement of airbags.

While the 2.0T is certainly worthy of its 23 grand price tag, the big news here is the 3.8-liter V-6 edition. Hyundai’s engineering feat is noteworthy.

The rear-drive machine sticks to the twists and turns as well as the new Camaro and most any Mustang we’ve driven. And we dare say it gives the G37 a run for its money. That’s high praise from people like us who adore the new Infiniti.

Genesis’ straight-line prowess stands up quite well, too, with the six- speed automatic. No need for the available manual to gain extra steps. Figuring in four or five of the many available magazine tests of the Hyundai we have come to the conclusion that the Genesis V-6 automatic can complete a 0-to-60 run in 5.9 seconds, a dead heat with the V-6 edition of the new Camaro. The quarter mile can be completed in about 14.5 seconds at 99 miles per hour. Also impressive is braking. The Genesis stops from 60 mph in just 118 feet.

We were impressed with the interior’s fit and finish and the tasteful use of materials. The gauge package is well done, set in canted oval chrome-ringed insets. The center stack’s audio and climate controls are easy to use. For now, there is no navigation available.

We found the driver’s seat to our liking. And we discovered that two normal-sized adults will fit comfortably in the rear seats with decent leg room as long as the front passengers do not require their chairs far back on the tracks. Rear head room, however, could be a problem for anyone six-foot and taller.

The Genesis comes in six basic trim levels, three for the 2.0T and three for the 3.8. The top line track editions come with goodies that enhance road-holding performance such as limited-slip differential, stiffer springs, re-tuned dampers, and bigger anti-roll bars.

The 3.8 starts at $25,750 and goes up to $31,750 for the track edition with automatic transmission. Our test car was the mid-level Grand Touring edition with automatic and all the stuff you think you need and stuff you don’t, carried a base price of $30,800. Carpeted floor mats raised the bottom line to $30,895 including the destination charges.

While we continue the debate on the styling, we are sold on the build quality and the outstanding driving dynamics of the new Genesis. We applaud Hyundai for a job well done.

Base price: $22,750; as driven, $30,895
Engine: 3.8-liter V-6
Horsepower: 306 @ 6,300 rpm
Torque: 266 pound-feet @ 4,700 rpm
Drive: rear wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 111 inches
Length: 182.3 inches
Curb weight: 3,470 pounds
Turning circle: 37.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 10 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 17.2 gallons (regular)
EPA mileage: 27 mpg highway, 17 mpg city
0-60-: 5.9 seconds (Automobile)
Also consider: Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, Infiniti G37

The Good:
• Good handling with capable engines
• Attractive cabin
• Great value, long warranties

The Bad:
• Should not be mistaken for coupe version of Genesis luxury sedan

The Ugly:
• Polarizing styling