2009 Hyundai Genesis Coupe Review
By Alex Kalogiannis
Let’s acknowledge that the mention of Hyundai doesn’t exactly spark excitement among enthusiasts when brought up during water-cooler discussions. It’s not associated with words like “sporty” and “fast” or indeed “drifting,” but all that is soon to change. The Hyundai Genesis Coupe is the brand’s foray into the RWD sports coupe market. Enthusiasts the world over twitched with excitement ever since its J-turning debut at the ’08 New York International Auto Show. Amongst the heavy competition of BMW, Infiniti, Ford and others, how does it contend? I took not one but two Genesis Coupe 3.8 Grand Touring for a comparison to find out what was intriguing about this particular ride.
The Genesis Coupe’s top package, the Grand Touring, features a 3.8L V6 that produces an intriguing 308 hp, available with either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic with paddle-shift. Between the cars I had, both were available to me. As mentioned before, the Genesis Coupe is entering well established company. Hyundai hopes to draw attention by offering the performance of a high-end coupe, but at a much reduced price. Seems like a lot to offer, but the big brother of the coupe, the Genesis sedan, has done a decent job of offering the same for luxury sedans.
First impressions of this car are that it is a purpose-built machine, designed to please the variety of driving enthusiasts it has targeted. The gaping front grill stands out as the most prominent design feature, complementing the car’s aggressive style and gulping large quantities of air as it does so. The body side lines follow a “Z” shape, which have been made as wide as possible to fit the wheels into the fenders. The two we had were Bathurst Black and Tsukuba Red, which, if you haven’t guessed, are named after famous tracks from around the world; a fun nugget of car-nerd info to include when someone asks about your ride (” mine’s Nordschleife Gray”).
Inside, the Coupe is pleasantly spacious. The driver’s seat is adequate, with a fair degree of comfort, steering wheel input devices, and easy-to-reach controls. Passenger-side seating is particularly enjoyable, with plenty of leg and elbow room to keep a guest from feeling cooped-up or nauseous. Even the back seats are relatively spacious. The center console has the usual array of devices, with the stereo and corresponding LCD screen at the very top, followed by the air conditioning controls. Below this is a storage panel with a cover, in which you can put various “life flotsam” (phone, sunglasses, gum, etc.) and, most interestingly, the keys. The Genesis Coupe has push-button start, but if you feel the need to plug the key in somewhere, the only spot allotted is in this storage shelf which can’t be closed once the key is entered. One could say this was a design afterthought, and another could say that “it doesn’t close so you won’t forget the keys in there when you leave.” I”m leaning towards the former. Comfortable as the interior is, the…Hyundai-ness of the car is apparent in the rubbery dashboard and abundance of hard plastics. The center console, for example, is replete in a chrome-like paint which in itself is not usually significant, but because there’s so much of it concentrated in one area, it’s hard not to notice.
The true gem of the Genesis Coupe is what it has under the hood. I was pleased to see a naturally aspirated V6 perform as well as it was touted. The V6 is surprisingly throaty, and flicking paddles on the 6-speed automatic made for quick responses, followed by imposing bellows. It is clear that, though I haven’t driven the 2.0L turbo I4, the car was built to accommodate this power plant. An interesting observation is that the 6-speed automatic performed reasonably better than the 6-speed manual. Of particular note is that downshifting is almost non-existent. Say you’re clipping away in 5th and with a little heel-toe action, slide it into 4th and you will barely notice any engine braking at all. Downshift without revving, and the experience is nary a hiccup. I was almost compelled to attempt a 5th to 3rd shift, just to get the response I was looking for but I, wisely, decided against it. I’m no engineer, but I attempted to put logic to use and hypothesized that maybe there’s one gear too many. This is not to imply that the Genesis Coupe has any trouble getting around corners, the MacPherson strut dual-link front suspension and a five-link rear suspension grip the coupe firmly to the road well. Windy country road bends are well navigated in this car, with either transmission.
While certain aspects of the car emit the pungent odor of cost-cutting, the money saved seems to have been spent in the areas that truly matter. Furthermore, there is a great deal of standard features that other manufacturers would charge a pretty penny for, such as AM/FM/XM/MP3/CD audio system with six speakers, iPod/USB auxiliary jack, Bluetooth® hands-free connectivity with steering wheel controls, and Power tilt and slide sunroof. All these, save for few exceptions, are featured in every package of the Genesis Coupe. Speaking of which, there are in total 7, yes 7 configurations planned for the Coupe within its first production year. Along with the 3.8 Grand Touring, there’s the 2.0T, the 4-cylendar base model, the 2.0T Premium, the 2.0T Track, 2.0T R-Spec, 3.8, and the 3.8 Track. Outside of consumer grasp will be the 550 horsepower Genesis Coupe piloted by Rhys Millen for the RMR Red Bull Racing drift team.
Hyundai has stated that one of its design benchmarks was the Infiniti G37, and if that’s what it’s shooting for, I suggest they carry on with development. It may be better priced than the G37, but it hasn’t met its performance and build quality. This brings up the issue of just what to compare the Genesis Coupe to. Yes, there are lofty milestones like the Infiniti, and it’s surely a better choice than the similar priced FWD cars. For the price, which fully loaded is just under $30,000 by the way, the Ford Mustang is nearest in a power-to-cost ratio. Does this mean a shopper would be hard pressed to choose between the two? I’m not one to say. I can say that the Genesis Coupe is a fun car to drive, but not without faults. Hyundai seems to recognize that they won’t have a mind-blowing super coupe right out of the gate, these things take time, and the Genesis Coupe is a very good start.
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