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2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe test drive

Different is better

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

By

2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe front-left view

2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe

Photo © Aaron Gold

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The 2010 Genesis Coupe is the latest in a series of who-woulda-thunkit cars from Hyundai. First it was cheap wheels, then sensible family transportation, then high-end luxury; now Hyundai has designed a proper rear-wheel-drive sports car, and it's a good 'un. Hyundai invited me out on a press junket to sample the 2010 Genesis Coupe. Read on to find out why I'm so taken with this car. Price range $22,750 - $31,750, EPA fuel economy estimates 17-21 MPG city, 26-30 MPG highway.

Larger photos: Front - rear - all photos

First Glance: You're not like the others

A lot of car reviews are going to compare the Hyundai Genesis Coupe to other cars -- muscle cars (Challenger, Camaro, Mustang), rear-drive sports cars (370Z, G37, RX8), and front-drive sport compacts (Civic Si, Mazdaspeed 3, GLI). Chances are the 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe won't fare well against any of them.

This is grossly unfair to the Genesis Coupe, which is a brilliant little car. Truth is, there's nothing quite like the Genesis Coupe. It features a choice of 200+ hp turbo four-cylinder, like a Volkswagen GTI, or 300+ hp V6, like a Chevy Camaro; optional track-tuned suspension, like a Cobalt SS; high-end amenities, like an Infiniti G37; and a $23k-to-$32k price range, like a Honda Accord Coupe. It uses rear-wheel-drive, like a Nissan 370Z, and runs on cheap 87-octane gas, like a Honda Fit.

Before I go on, I should explain why rear-wheel-drive (RWD) is such a big deal. (Those in the know can skip this paragraph. Go on, I'll catch up to you in the next section.) For various reasons -- primarily economic -- most modern cars use front-wheel-drive (FWD). But FWD sports cars have three major problems. First, a tire can only generate so much grip, and with FWD the front tires must split that grip between acceleration and steering. Second, acceleration shifts weight backwards, off the drive wheels. Third is torque steer -- powerful front-drive cars tend to pull to one side under hard acceleration. RWD is immune to all of these problems, which is why a) most serious sports cars use RWD and b) you pay a premium for it. At least you used to, until the Genesis Coupe came along.

In the Driver's Seat: Great expectations

2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe dashboard

Dash is straightforward, if a bit plain; brown leather seats mean this is the 3.8 Grand Touring model

Photo © Aaron Gold

Larger interior photo

Now is as good a time as any to tell you that I think Hyundai made a mistake by calling this car Genesis, the same name they use for their lovely luxury sedan. (For more on why Hyundai did this, check out my interview with CEO John Krafcik.) After being spoiled by the leather-lined Genesis Sedan, I was disappointed to get into the Genesis Coupe and find an interior dominated by black plastic...until I sat in an Infiniti G37, which Hyundai brought along for comparison, and found that its interior is lined with the same stuff, albeit not quite so much of it.

We could debate the merits of cabin plastics all day -- seriously, don't ever get me started on the subject, I will bore you to tears -- but the rest of the interior is actually pretty nice. The front seats are comfortable, the controls are sensibly laid out, the blue lighting looks killer, and all-around visibility is unusually good for a coupe, thanks largely to a dip in the rear-side windows. My biggest complaint: The steering wheel is set too close to the driver. (I'm 5'6" with short arms, so if I think the wheel is too close, trust me, it's too close.) Why Hyundai didn't fit the steering column with a telescope (in-and-out) adjustment is beyond me.

The back seat is tiny and cramped; one Hyundai staffer offered to sit back there for a ride back to the hotel, then got in and promptly changed his mind. And the trunk is small, with a tiny opening -- fine for groceries or a weekend getaway, but useless for helping your brother Merle move (again -- can't he just pick one apartment and stay there?).

On the Road: Decisions, decisions

The Genesis Coupe offers two engines. First is a 210 horsepower 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, which is a model of turbo-engine decorum. This darling-to-be of the tuner set produces its power without the sudden surging or peakiness typical of turbocharged engines. It's really noisy under acceleration, but once you (or, in the case of the automatic, it) shift(s) into high gear on the highway, it settles right down. And unlike most turbo engines, it doesn't require premium fuel. No question, this is the engine to have.

The optional 3.8 liter V6 muscles out 306 hp, and the sound that comes from under the hood is like no other V6 I've heard -- it sounds more like the Challenger's HEMI V8 with the bass turned down. The 6-speed stick is marvelous, but the 6-speed automatic is pretty good too -- upshifts are as smooth as glass, even with the accelerator mashed to the floor. Like the four, and unlike most 300 hp V6s, it too runs on regular gas. Wait... maybe this is the engine to have.

Hyundai compares the GenCoupe's handling to the Infiniti G37 Sport and the Mazda RX-8. The Genesis Coupe isn't quite as sharp or responsive, but it is a lot more friendly and forgiving. Despite up to 266 lb-ft of torque going to the rear wheels, and despite the fact that I'm a big honkin' coward, I felt safe turning off the electronic stability control system -- on the closed-loop race circuits set up by Hyundai, of course, not on public roads -- and I loved being able to kick out the tail with a flick of the accelerator pedal. Not that I'd recommend doing either, lest you crash and sue me.

Journey's End: Great -- but is it right for you?

2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe rear-left view

2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe

Photo © Aaron Gold

This is one of those times when I curse the space limits in our review template, because I haven't even begun to talk about what a great value the Genesis Coupe is, nor have I given due time to the sharper-handling Track models, which get a stiffer (but still comfortable) suspension, a limited-slip differential, 19" wheels, big Brembo brakes and a tell-tale trunk wing.

There are a couple of places where the Genesis Coupe comes up short. First, it really needs a telescope adjustment for the steering column. Second, it could use Sport modes for both the automatic transmission and the electronic stability control system -- the former to provide more aggressive shifting without forcing the driver to rely on the steering-wheel paddle shifters, and the latter to allow skilled drivers to push the car a bit harder without ESC cutting in and cutting the power. And one word of warning: Track models come with summer performance tires, so if you live where it snows, you'll need a set of winter tires.

If you're looking for a sporty car that can double as a family car, this ain't it -- you'd be better off with a Subaru WRX, a Chevy HHR SS, or even an Infiniti G37. If you want a bargain muscle car, skip the Genesis and buy a Camaro. But if you're looking at cars like the Nissan 370Z, Ford Mustang, Chevy Cobalt SS or Volkswagen GTI, you'll definitely want to test drive the Genesis Coupe. It's not better, it's not worse -- it's just different. Although, in the case of the Genesis coupe, different is better. -- Aaron Gold

Next page: Likes and dislikes, who should buy it, details and specs

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