2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe Review - VIDEO ENHANCED
HYUNDAI GENESIS COUPE
By Steve Purdy
The hard-driving folks at Hyundai continue to amaze me. Each time they’ve entered a new market they seem to do it with surprising efficiency and aplomb offering a serious challenge to those already there. This time they seem to have created a new market for themselves, a small, sporty, rear-wheel drive coupe in a modest price range sort of market.
There are not a lot of direct competitors. What other cars come close? Well, how about the Mazda RX-8, Infiniti G35 or BMW 335i – all pricier, some much pricier. Camero, Mustang and Challenger share a similar formula but they are all much bigger and heavier. How about the Altima Coupe? Well, Altima is great looking coupe with excellent performance, but is front-wheel drive. One of the Hyundai guys suggested the most appropriate comp might be the Nissan 240SX built more than 20 years ago. If you remember that car, you’ll have a good sense of this one, though technology and sophistication have come a long, long way in those 20 years.
We first saw the new Genesis Coupe during a press preview at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2007. It was on display again in pre-production form at Detroit this year. I have been struck by the distinctive, brash styling, sort of in the vein of Hyundai’s bold little Tiburon. Hyundai sedans have not typically broken new ground in terms of styling, but the Genesis Coupe stretches existing conventions.
This Genesis Coupe is not what I first thought. It’s not just a coupe version of that wonderful full-size Genesis luxury sedan, which by the way is the North American Car of the Year. This is an entirely different car. It shares only a few components, like the rear suspension and rear-wheel drive system plus a few other bits. It’s considerably smaller than the sedan – perhaps two classes smaller. Hyundai is not using the Genesis badge to delineate clones of the same model, rather it is the nom deplume for cars of the rear-wheel drive performance persuasion. In this case the product planners were shooting for a 3,400-pound sporty coupe benchmarking the RX8, G35 and 3-Series referenced above.
The confident Hyundai folks wanted to show off the performance prowess of the Genesis Coupe so they hosted us at the Spring Mountain race track in nearby Pahrump where three trials were set up: hot lap opportunities on a section of the road racing course, an autocross and a skid pad coned for drifting practice. Unfortunately, the desert winds gusting to 50-mph kept knocking over the cones on the autocross course so we just concentrated on racing and drifting.
I headed first to the race course where I donned a helmet, hopped in a Genesis Coupe with V-6 and six-speed manual transmission, turned off the traction control and hit the course. Around and around I went with cars of each configuration. All were quick, competent and gratifying. The hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering provides precise input and the chassis felt right at home pushing hard around the race course. We were the third wave of merciless journalists to flog this set of cars this week and they held up admirably.
Suspension is a conventional design with 24mm stabilizer bar, struts and dual links up front and a five-link rear system with gas shocks and 18mm stabilizer bar. Track models get special tuning, Brembo brakes and 19-inch Bridgestone Potenza tires.
On the race track I started out with a V6 manual then rotated through the other versions of this slick little car. The track was quite challenging for its size with one straight where we managed 85-mph and a couple of tight turns that brought us down to about 30. I had plenty of laps to acclimate each powertrain variation and I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. The chassis provided plenty of feedback, some have described it as perhaps a bit too much, but I didn’t think so. It felt stiff, precise and under control in spite of my less-than-professional technique. I got into the decisive rev limiter often enough to know I was wringing the maximum out of it at some points on the track. The cars and I always felt right at home out there.
Over at the skid pad I got a few pointers from the pro, a young Frenchman named Stefan. He first showed me how to do it. The sport obviously requirs a certain touch and feel, but it didn’t seem that complex. Then I tried it with Stefan trying to talk me through it from the other seat. After about a dozen tries with various degrees of dismal failure he hopped out and let me work on it. I never made it all the way around but got close a couple of times.
For those who haven’t seen the sport of drifting, it involves putting a car into a skid and keeping it there under complete control. It can be done on a race course or a skid pad. In this case the challenge was to start driving slowly around a tight circle of cones, then punch the throttle hard making the rear wheels spin and bringing the rear end out as if on ice. Then we must quickly whip the steering wheel into opposite lock while getting off the throttle a bit to keep the rear end from coming all the way around. From there it’s a matter of modulating the throttle and steering to keep the nose of the car facing the circle of cones at a consistent angle and the rear end sliding in a smoky skid around and around and around. If you’re really good you can change direction without ever leaving the skid.
The whole idea, of course, is that there are some things you just can’t do without rear-wheel drive. This is one of them. They expect the “tuner” enthusiasts, mostly youngsters, will love it. Not being one of those, I guess I’ll not hazard a guess, but I’ll not be surprised if it’s a hit with that crowd.
Click PLAY to watch Steve Purdy's video review of the Hyundai Genesis SEDAN
Pricing $22,000 for well equipped (standard Bluetooth, USB/iPod, satellite radio, full chassis dynamics, 6 airbags I4 and $25,000 for the V6. Add a bit over 4-grand to get the “Track” version with the performance tires, Brembo brakes and other stuff that will make the car (and maybe even you) competitive on the race track. Later this year we’ll be seeing an R-Spec version of the I4 with some decontenting of stuff not necessary for racing. That one will be selling for around $23,750. Don’t hold your breath for a convertible, though, since none is planned.
Like all Hyundais you get the Assurance program that allows you to return the car without penalty if you loose your source of income. That just enhanced the already leading warranty which covers the powertrain for 100,000 miles. While modifications will effect the warranty you can take it to the track without worry. The warranty still applies.