By Chris Haak
I’m not sure what Hyundai was thinking when they named this car “Genesis.” Like the Genesis sedan, it’s based on an all-new rear wheel drive platform, and in fact both cars share the same 73.4 inch width and the same architecture as the sedan. Having reviewed the Genesis sedan several months ago, I can testify that the Genesis Coupe is an entirely different car. It’s far less refined, has a far smaller interior, and is far more fun to drive. So why not call it something different?
When I first saw photos of the Genesis Coupe a few years ago, I was underwhelmed by its design. It looked like a design that was too busy, with too many curves, creases, and folds. As I’ve seen more of them on the road and at auto shows and media events, my opinion moderated somewhat. Looking at the Interlagos Yellow coupe with 19 inch wheels and low profile tires, plus big, red Brembo brake calipers sitting in our driveway, I became a fan of the car’s design. I also appreciated the swept-back headlights (my tester also had optional HIDs) and small grille opening.
It’s different enough from its primary competitors – the Camaro, Mustang, Challenger, and even the Infiniti G37 coupe – and yet has classic performance car proportions of a long hood, short deck, and low roofline. In fact, the car has fantastic proportions, with tidy overhangs (particularly in the front) and a door cutout that is justright. The low hoodline makes forward visibility excellent (though you can’t see the corners of the hood from the driver’s seat) and visibility is also enhanced by the scalloped bottom edge of the rear side windows. My first impression of that styling feature was that it was overdone, but having experienced the poor visibility of a Camaro and Challenger, I had an appreciation for Hyundai’s solution to the problem.
Open the door, and you’ll see how Hyundai manages to sell a 306-horsepower car for $32,000 when the G37 in Hyundai’s crosshairs costs thousands more. There’s a lot of hard plastic and somewhat cheap-feeling controls. Heck, the Genesis sedan is more than $3,000 more expensive than the Coupe – and some of that extra cost is definitely installed in the sedan’s excellent interior. Again, why do these two cars have the same name? There are a handful of soft-touch spots in the Coupe’s interior, but most of it is covered in hard, rough-grained, black plastic. The gauges, radio and HVAC display, and controls all feature Hyundai’s ubiquitous blue lighting at night, which is attractive, but the display at the top of the center stack creates serious glare on the windshield at night since it’s not hooded.
The front seats are firm and offer good lateral support, but left my rear end feeling fatigued after each of two two-hour highway trips in the car. Entering the car is easy - in the front seats – even for six-foot-plus individuals like me. Access to the back seat is not really any worse than any other two-door car, but headroom is embarrassingly tight. I’m 6’4″, and my shoulders were literally an inch from the ceiling. I have no hope of looking forward while in the back seat of the Genesis Coupe. I did manage to fit two forward-facing convertible car seats into the back of the Genesis (similar to what I was able to do with a Dodge Challenger SRT8 a year earlier), and my sons liked riding in the yellow car. In fact, our not-quite-two year old for the first time specifically asked to ride in one car over another when he asked for “ye-yow caa.” Perhaps he appreciated the improved outward visibility for rear seat occupants versus the Dodge Challanger.
Aside from the overly bright information display and having too much cheap plastic, another thing about the interior that bothered me was the abundance of creaking noises coming from the headliner behind the sunroof. One never knows what kind of tough life press loaner cars may have had before reaching a particular journalist’s driveway, but whenever I traversed over an uneven surface (such as pulling onto my driveway, or over speed bumps), I heard creaking sounds from the headliner. Based on Hyundai’s claims about the rigidity of the Genesis platform, I was surprised to experience that. I was able to duplicate the sound by pressing upward on the headliner behind the sunroof opening, so it may have just been loose trim, but my perception was that it occurred more as a torsional issue rather than a loose-fitting part.
One bogey that Hyundai nearly seems to have hit in development of the Genesis Coupe is the exhaust note and thrust of the Infiniti G37. Because it’s down about 25 horsepower and one gear ratio compared to the G (but also a bit lighter), the Genesis Coupe may not quantitatively be quite as fast as a G37 coupe, but to me, it felt just about as quick as the more expensive Infiniti. Three hundred six horsepower from a 3.8 liter V6 is pretty good, but Infiniti manages 325-330 from 3.7 liters, GM manages 304 from 3.6 liters, and the Lexus IS and GS produce 306 from 3.5 liters. The Hyundai’s Lambda V6 has a similar aggressive exhaust bark to what the Nissan V6 spits out from its twin pipes. I like it a lot. There are no issues with forward thrust whatsoever; the 19 inch wheels and summer tires could barely keep up even with traction control engaged; with it turned off, the Genesis is a wheelspin factory. It’s no wonder the Genesis Coupe is such a popular choice among the drifting crowd.
My tester had “paddle shifters” affixed to the back of the steering wheel, and I hated them. Similar to the “paddle shifters” in the Camaro, they are really just plastic tags that show you where the buttons are located on the back of the steering wheel to accomplish up- and downshifts. Unfortunately, the buttons don’t actuate unless you hit them at exactly the right spot. While Infiniti’s magnesium paddle shifters allow you to hit any spot of their roughly five inch length to change gears, the Genesis requires that you hit the button at the base of the “paddle,” which is a target less than an inch square. Downshifts also don’t occur on your schedule when the downshift button is pressed; they occur on the car’stimeline. Oh, and the car won’t let you stay in a lower gear until hitting the rev limiter. It takes the liberty of upshifting on its own.
Steering feel, no doubt aided by the giant, high-grip tires, was very good. It offers a bit more resistance than does the G37; I’d be happy with either. Braking was great, with a firm pedal and well-controlled stops. Brembos will do that for a car. Handling on twisty back roads was exceptional; again, this is surely aided by the tires, and also by the somewhat overly-firm suspension. I love a car with firm suspension, but the Genesis Coupe with the track package seems to tilt a bit too far toward the harsh end of the continuum. Perhaps part of the fault is that I didn’t drive the Genesis Coupe with the “3.8 Firm Yet Compliant, Back Road Friendly” package, but instead the “Track” package. Buyers need to be aware of what they’re getting. It’s not really an uncomfortable ride for me – I enjoyed driving the car, including two hours of Turnpike driving – but it may be for some.
Observed fuel economy was very good. Hours after I received the car, and literally the first time I started it, my wife and I headed on the aforementioned highway trip. Average economy at a steady 72 miles per hour was in the 27-28 miles per gallon neighborhood. Encountering traffic on the way home (another two hour trip), it dropped to the 25 miles per gallon range. After a week with the car and over 500 miles, observed economy was about 21 miles per gallon. The EPA says the car will get 17 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway, and my experience agrees with that.
Hyundai has always been about value. While in some cases it’s not hard to see how Hyundai cut costs when engineering the Genesis Coupe (such as the interior materials), it really is giving a lot of car for the money. My test vehicle had a base price of $31,750 including destination and no options but a $30 iPod cable (which worked very well) and $95 carpeted floormats for a final MSRP of $31,875. This pricing is very much in line with the pricing on a comparably-equipped Camaro V6, which the Hyundai should handily outperform thanks to its lighter weight. In the Camaro’s favor, however, is better highway fuel economy (29 miles per gallon) and
Hyundai has done a great job in its first attempt at a rear wheel drive sports coupe. The car looks great with an original shape, is fun to drive, fairly priced, and has lots of power. My compliants about rear seat room and interior plastics are likely going to be consistent about nearly every model in the Hyundai’s segment at or near its price; for example, the Camaro also has a nearly-unusable back seat and has received a ton of criticism for its retro-themed interior. As a company, Hyundai learns fast from its mistakes and from criticisms levied at its products. I already can’t wait to see what they can do with the next-generation car.
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