PAHRUMP, Nevada - Unlike some automakers, Hyundai entered 2009 with a resoundingly successful new model under its belt. Launched as a 2009 model, the Genesis rear-wheel-drive sedan sent the South Korean manufacturer into a new market niche. Now, for 2010, Hyundai has taken the rear-drive concept in a different direction, with the Genesis two-door coupe.
Rather than focus on the family-sedan market, Hyundai is promoting the Genesis coupe as an unabashedly sporty model that's virtually ready for the racetrack. In fact, one of the versions on sale is called the Track edition, because it could actually undertake competition driving. That's quite a shift in theme for Hyundai, which built its reputation on smaller, budget-priced automobiles.
Rather than stressing the coupe's rather loose relationship to the Genesis sedan, Hyundai calls it the "spiritual successor" to Nissan's 240SX coupe of 1989. Derived from a concept car unveiled at the 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show, the Genesis coupe features an arching roofline and tapering greenhouse, helping to give it an apart-from-the-pack appearance.
Two engines are available. The 2.0T model contains a dual-CVVT 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, which produces 210 horsepower at 6000 rpm, and 223 pound-feet of torque at 2000 rpm. A Genesis coupe with that engine and manual shift gets an EPA fuel-economy estimate of 21 miles per gallon in city driving and 30 mpg on the highway (20/29 mpg with automatic).
The 3.0-liter V-6 generates 306 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 266 pound-feet at 4700 rpm. According to the EPA, the V-6 version earns a fuel-economy estimate of 17 mpg city/26 mpg highway with manual shift, or 18/26 mpg with automatic. Both engines run on regular-grade gasoline.
Regardless of engine, either a six-speed manual gearbox or an automatic transmission may be installed. With four-cylinder power, the automatic is a five-speed; the V-6 is accompanied by a ZF six-speed automatic with Shiftronic operation. All automatic-transmission coupes have paddle shifters for manually-selected gear changes. Hyundai claims the V-6 version can accelerate to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds.
Built on a relatively long (111-inch) wheelbase, the Genesis coupe is 182.3 inches long overall and weighs 3,294 pounds with the four-cylinder engine. Design features include short overhangs, long cowl-to-axle distance, a Z-shaped character line along the bodyside, a rear wing spoiler, and a blacked-outrear diffuser.
In addition to six airbags, each Genesis coupe contains electronic stability control,traction control, and antilock braking that incorporates electronic brake-force distribution and Brake Assist. Active front head restraints also are included.
Genesis two-door rivals includes the BMW 335i, Mazda RX-8, and Infiniti G37. Product manager Derek Joyce suggests that the Genesis is a "much more edgy design" than the G37.
Turbo four (2.0T) coupes come in Premium or Track trim. The V-6 is offered as a Grand Touring model, or as the Track edition. Spring rates are higher for Track models, which get 19-inch wheels rather than the usual 18s. Brembo brakes also are installed on Track coupes.
Easygoing on the road, the Genesis coupe can sizzle on a race course - depending on its powertrain
In addition to driving down regular southern Nevada highways, outside of Las Vegas, Hyundai made its Genesis coupes available at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch. This tightly-configured race track, with its succession of demanding curves, gave the new coupe an opportunity to demonstrate the seriousness of its sporting aspirations.
Distinctive styling, described by Hyundai as "sinister," is clearly a drawing card, regardless of model. Genesis coupe performance, on the other hand, depends upon the powertrain and how the car is driven.
Rich exhaust rumble emerges when accelerating even a little with the automatic-transmission Grand Touring V-6 coupe, but it's quiet at cruise. Ample passing power is available, though it's not blast-off level. Automatic-transmission gear changes are barely noticeable.
Ride quality is fine on smooth roads, but definitely stiff over bumps. Easy control and effective handling come across as promised, though the two-door Genesis doesn't have the taut sure-footedness or finesse of a BMW 3 Series. Close, at least some of the time; but not quite.
Utterly serious seats are contoured and amply-bolstered, but surprisingly comfortable, too. Front-seat space is quite good, though getting into the backseat is a tight chore.
Out on the race track, the 3.8-liter automatic edition proved to be the most civilized of the four powertrain possibilities. With a manual gearbox behind the V-6, shifting was surprisingly balky. More than once, the transmission resisted downshifting into second gear for a rapid turn. In milder driving, out on the highway, the stick-shift V-6 shifted more easily, but still not as smoothly as some rivals.
Although the 2.0-liter turbo engine appeared energetic enough, on two occasions a manual-shift coupe suffered a dead spot when coming out of a turn. An automatic-transmission turbo was markedly easier to control on the race course, and thus more enjoyable.
Genesis coupe prices start at $22,750 (including $750 destination charge) for the 2.0T with manual shift; $24,000 with automatic. With the V-6 engine, the base price is $25,750 with a manual gearbox, or $27,250 with the automatic transmission. Options include a proximity key, 360-watt Infinity audio, automatic temperature control, and (this summer)a navigation system. Sales began in February.
Coming in fall 2009 is an R-Spec edition priced at $23,750 ($3,000 below the 2.0T Track model). Many comfort/convenience items are deleted, and the R-Spec coupe gets a track-tuned suspension.
Of course, few buyers of any Genesis coupe are likely to find themselves on a race track. For most, it's a matter of knowing their car could handle such a task if the need ever arose.
Hyundai hasn't been among the leaders in residual values: a measure of how much a vehicle is worth at the end of a specific lease period. Those figures help gauge the car's eventual resale value in the secondhand market. Hyundai advises that according to Automotive Lease Guide (ALG), the most highly regarded source of these figures, in 2007 the average vehicle had a residual value of 40.2 percent after 36 months of use. In 2008, that average rose to 43.6 percent. For the Genesis coupe, it's claimed to be a far more impressive 57 percent - comparable to some premium brands.
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