New Car Reviews

First Drive: 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe

It’s all about derivatives these days. If they’re not decimating your 401(k), they’re invading your neighborhood car dealership. Although its similarity doesn’t come across as well in photographs, the coupe is a dead ringer for the Infiniti G37 coupe. In fact, it might as well be badged the Designer Imposter Infiniti G37.

It’s not as gorgeous as the G37 coupe – what is? – but the Genesis coupe shares all the key measurements – any dimensional difference between the two cars is less than the length of your middle finger. Which is exactly the finger you’ll be seeing if you ask someone in a Genesis coupe if they’re driving the new Tiburon.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the Tiburon, but there will be inherent marketing-related growing pains as Hyundai eases out of its entry-level, economy-car past and into its rear-wheel-drive, big-hitter-facsimile future – especially when it tries to appeal to enthusiasts. For that reason alone, many potential buyers of the more expensive G37 won’t give the Hyundai a second look.

If it’s performance they’re looking for, though, perhaps they should. On paper, the Genesis coupe 3.8 is the near equal of the G37 – and for ten grand less. Its horsepower deficit (306 versus 330 hp) is nearly nixed by an almost 300-pound weight advantage, helping the Hyundai come within a half-second of the Infiniti’s 5.5-second sprint to 60 mph. And that’s despite engine programming that refuses to give power back after quick redline shifts. The Hyundai also matches the G37’s very impressive braking performance and cornering figures, which are a near match for the BMW 335i’s numbers. Do we have your attention yet? It may be a copy of a copy (Infiniti unabashedly targeted the 3-series with the G37), but the Hyundai’s performance is anything but derivative.

The question is, though: who’s going to buy this new coupe? Hyundai hopes the tuner crowd will embrace the two-door Genesis, especially the base model, which comes with a new, 210-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter. Unfortunately, the new four-banger makes much better sense as a base engine for those who are looking for a Tiburon replacement – buyers wanting sporty looks and decent performance at a very low price. The 2.0T is tuned for lots of muscle in the low-rpm, daily-driving range, but it runs out of thrust quickly as the tach climbs past 4000 rpm. Worse, without balance shafts, the engine practically begs you to short-shift it, due to deafening boominess and vibrations severe enough to rattle the dashboard.

An even bigger issue for the 2.0T is that the 3.8 costs only $3000 more. Tuners like to tinker but they love speed, and even with three grand in modifications, the four-cylinder likely won’t come close to the V-6’s output – and it’ll never match its sound and power delivery. Despite coming from less enthusiast-focused cars (can you say Kia Borrego?), the V-6 works surprisingly well in a sporty application. It’s an overachiever of an engine, pulling like mad all the way to redline and filling the cabin with a ferocious intake honk, a sonorous exhaust wail, and just enough coarseness to say “sporty” without ever saying “thrashy.”

Infiniti‘s 3.7-liter could take a singing lesson from it, in fact. The meaty clutch in the Genesis has a positive engagement point near the top of its travel, and the high-mounted shifter, although notchy when cold, is a pleasure to row through the gears. Pleasantly devoid of the torque steer that plagues all powerful front-wheel-drive cars, the Genesis’s steering is quick, well-weighted, and accurate – but a bit lighter on feedback than we’d hoped.

The Genesis coupe will be sold in several trim levels – base, Premium, Track, and R-Spec for the 2.0T, and base, Grand Touring, or Track for the 3.8 only. A six-speed manual transmission is standard with either engine; alternatively, base and Premium 2.0T coupes can be mated to a five-speed automatic. All V-6 models are available with the same ZF six-speed automatic found in the Genesis sedan, but inexplicably, in this application, it doesn’t match engine revs on downshifts and has no true manual mode.

Track models are the top-specification coupes and come standard with a full complement of electronics (minus a navigation system, which will become available later this year). Behind the nineteen-inch wheels (lesser models come with eighteens) are red-painted, four-piston Brembo calipers front and rear. The package also includes a Torsen limited-slip differential, stiffer springs, retuned dampers, and bigger antiroll bars.

Although the Genesis’s pedals are spaced a little too far apart for easy heel-and-toeing, the Brembos give fantastic brake feel, and when we took the Genesis for hot laps around a racetrack, they refused to fade. The Track model’s suspension, which adds an ever-so-slight amount of chop to the coupe’s otherwise supple ride, helps the Genesis turn in more crisply and reduces understeer. Unfortunately, even the Track chassis plows resolutely, a situation not helped by the staggered wheels and tires. On smooth pavement, neither abrupt turn-in nor trailing throttle will coax the coupe’s tail out, although midcorner bumps will throw the car sideways – an unfortunate trait also exhibited by the Genesis sedan with which the coupe shares its five-link rear suspension.

The base turbo engine’s narrow power band, appreciable lag, and modest output (when teemed against 3400 pounds of curb weight) aren’t enough to reliably overcome the understeer and kick the coupe’s tail out. But that’s a problem the 3.8 doesn’t have. It lacks the G37‘s perfect chassis poise, but add loads of power and the six-pot Genesis becomes the drift champion that Hyundai has been promising all along. The steering wheel may communicate nearly nothing about what the front wheels are doing at the limit, but the Genesis’s long wheelbase, broad torque curve, and wonderfully progressive limited-slip diff make ludicrous power slides easy. Professional driver, closed course, and all that jazz…

The Genesis coupe works well in daily driving, too. The cabin is finished with nice materials, and its great-sounding Infinity (no relation to the G37) sound system is powerful enough to drown out the considerable road noise at highway speeds. There’s enough legroom in back for six-footers, but the coupe’s raked roofline means their noggins will be firmly planted against the hard rear glass. The trunk’s high load floor and the one-piece folding rear seat’s small pass-through limit cargo-carrying versatility.

Of course, conventional wisdom says that if you need to transport lots of people and stuff, you buy a sedan. Then again, not even the most astute conventional wisdom would have predicted that Hyundai could pull off a car like this.

On sale: Now
Base price: $22,750/ $26,750 (2.0T/3.8)
Engines: 2.0L turbo I-4, 210 hp, 223 lb-ft; 3.8L V-6, 306 hp, 266 lb-ft
Drive: Rear-wheel

Coupe 2.0T Specifications and Test Data

Power: 210 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 223 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm
Displacement: 2.0 liters

Weight: 3380 lbs
Weight distribution (percent, front/rear): 53.8/46.2

0-60 mph: 7.0 sec
0-100 mph: 17.7 sec
0-110 mph: 23.0 sec
0-120 mph: 28.4 sec
0-130 mph: 35.8 sec

1/4 mile pass: 15.4 sec @ 93 mph

Peak acceleration g: 0.6

30-70 mph “passing:” 7.5 sec

70-0 mph braking: 159 ft

Peak deceleration g: 1.1

Lateral Left: 0.93
Lateral Right: 0.88

Speed in Gears:
-1st: 30 mph
-2nd: 52 mph
-3rd: 77 mph
-4th: 105 mph
-5th: 129 mph
-6th: 133 mph

Wheel/Tire Info: Bridgestone Potenza RE050A
Front Tire Size: 225/40YR-19
Rear Tire Size: 245/40YR-19

2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe V-6 Specifications and Test Data

Power: 306 hp @ 6300 rpm
Torque: 266 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm
Displacement: 3.8 liters

Weight: 3480 lbs
Weight distribution (percent, front/rear): 54.6/45.4

0-60 mph: 5.9 sec
0-100 mph: 15.4 sec
0-110 mph: 19.2 sec
0-120 mph: 23.1 sec
0-130 mph: 27.8 sec
0-140 mph: 38.2 sec
0-150 mph: 54.7 sec

1/4 mile pass: 14.9 sec @ 98 mph

Peak acceleration g: 0.57

30-70 mph “passing:” 7.2 sec

70-0 mph braking: 157 ft

Peak deceleration g: 1.05

Lateral Left: 0.93
Lateral Right: 0.87

Speed in Gears:
-1st: 27 mph
-2nd: 61 mph
-3rd: 88 mph
-4th: 116 mph
-5th: 142 mph
-6th: 151 mph

Wheel/Tire Info: Bridgestone Potenza RE050A
Front Tire Size: 225/40YR-19
Rear Tire Size: 245/40YR-19