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 2010 Hyundai Genesis 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.

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