Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cnet Reveiw: 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track

As a rear-wheel-drive dedicated sports coupe, the 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe occupies a unique position amongst current car models. The Nissan 370Z is its closest competitor, with the only other powerful rear-wheel-drive coupes being retro American muscle cars, such as the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger, and Chevrolet Camaro. Other rear-wheel-drive sport coupes tend to be sedans with the rear doors welded shut.

The Genesis Coupe, with its curvy body, looks nothing like a muscle car, but its power train feels as solid. Handling seems equivalent, if not better. Hyundai also uses the Genesis name for its luxury sedan, which is a strange marketing decision, as the coupe is built from the ground up to be a sports car. The Genesis Coupe offers some of the cabin tech found in the Genesis Sedan, although interior materials reflect its lower price point.

On the road
We tested a 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track model with a manual transmission, the highest-end version of the Genesis Couple available. At the low end is the Genesis Coupe 2.0T, using a smaller engine. The Track trim gives the Genesis Coupe a specially tuned suspension, Brembo brakes, and 19-inch wheels with summer tires.

A quick press on the start button gets the 3.8-liter V-6 burbling. Putting the car into first, the shifter for the six-speed manual and the clutch all feel particularly solid. Unlike the petite six-speed manual in the Honda Civic Si, which you can flick from gear to gear, the shifter in the Genesis Coupe requires a little determination.

The gas pedal also needs a firm push to get the car going. Its long amount of play gives room to modulate the power more finely. We quickly find the same is true for the brakes. Tapping them won't stop the car--you can easily apply quarter or half braking power. These attributes help in sport or track driving but aren't great for heavy traffic, where all that pedal work becomes tiresome.

Driving at speed down the freeway, the track-tuned suspension doesn't prove too rigid for comfort. Fifth and sixth gear work well for cruising at speed, but fourth is geared low, making it useful for situations where power is required. Over an extended freeway cruise, we saw the trip computer go above 25 mpg, climbing toward the car's 26 mpg highway rating.

But in city and mountain driving, fuel economy stayed between 18 and 19 mpg, closer to the car's 17 mpg city rating. Blasting along winding roads, we found a lot of crossover between the second, third, and fourth gear power bands, giving a lot of flexibility in which gear we chose for any particular corner or stretch of road. Hitting the corners hard, traction control found many opportunities to intervene, and we got used to seeing it light up on the instrument panel.

We also had tested the Genesis Coupe at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to see if the Track model actually lives up to its namesake. The car remained flat and predictable in the corners, while the beefy Brembo brakes stood up to lap after lap of abuse without losing their great pedal feel and easy modulation.

Most impressive was how much the Genesis Coupe communicates with the driver. Through the steering wheel, the pedals, and the seat, the car keeps the driver in the loop on how the wheels are gripping and how the vehicle is responding to inputs without being jarringly rough.

Unencumbered by such banalities as speed limits, stop signs, and traction control, we were able to explore the limits of the 3.8-liter engine and found that the power plant was right at home on the track. The V-6's flat torque curve offers plenty of power for blasting down straights and powering out of corners without constantly hunting for gears. Thanks to grip afforded by the wide summer tires and the Torsen limited-slip differential, the Genesis Coupe is able to put its power to the road early and often.

In the cabin
The cabin tech interface in the 2009 Hyundai Genesis Coupe looks pretty conventional, with up/down buttons for selecting songs, tuning radio stations, and going through satellite radio categories or MP3 CD folders. These buttons surround a big volume knob topped by a power button. These buttons are supplemented by switchgear on the steering wheel that has a nice, solid feel.

The display is a simple monochrome LCD at the top of the stack, well-placed for the driver to glance at. A navigation system isn't currently available, although we understand that Hyundai will make one optional later this year, and we assume it will be similar to that found in the Genesis Sedan.

A USB and iPod jack comes standard on all trim levels of the Genesis Coupe, an excellent move by Hyundai. But the interface for browsing music isn't very intuitive. Pushing the Tuning button, on the far right, lets you choose to look at music by album, artist, genre, or playlist. Hit the enter button, and you drill down to lists of content on the iPod. If you have a lot of albums, you'll spend a lot of time pushing that Tuning button to go through them all sequentially.

But our bigger complaint comes from how quickly the display reverts to showing the currently playing track. If you get interrupted for a second while trying to choose music, such as making a gear shift, the display will revert and you will have to drill down through menus again to find the music you want.

Satellite radio is easier to browse because the buttons seem more designed for it. Likewise, the buttons are fairly standard for controlling MP3 CDs, which the car's six-disc changer can read.

We were really impressed by the 10-speaker Infinity audio system. It uses door tweeter and woofers, plus a subwoofer and center channel, to produce truly excellent audio. The clarity is outstanding, making all the subtle sounds you don't normally hear on a song audible. The sound is extraordinarily clean, reproducing music without adding unnecessary effects.

Bluetooth mobile phone integration is also standard at all trim levels. We had no trouble pairing an iPhone to the system, and the sound quality was reasonable. It works with a voice command system, which does a good job of understanding spoken numbers, but it doesn't make a phone's contact list available through its interface.

Under the hood
The 3.8-liter V-6 powering the 2009 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track model uses a dual continuously variable valve timing system along with a variable intake system to optimize efficiency for low and high engine speeds. That gets it 306 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque.

In practice, the low torque number limits theatrics off the line, while the low gearing ratios of the six-speed manual make the horsepower, which peaks at 6,400 rpm, more generally available, as high engine speeds are easily achieved. Hyundai claims a vague under 6 seconds to 60 mph, but other reviews have reached a more specific 5.5 seconds.

As we pointed out above, EPA fuel economy for the Genesis Coupe 3.8 is 17 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. Our average for a mix of driving came in at around 22 mpg. An emissions rating isn't currently available for the Genesis Coupe.

The six-speed manual transmission is standard, but you can get a ZF six-speed automatic with manual gear selection. Given this car's performance, we recommend the manual.

In sum
The base price of the 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track model is a low $29,500. You have to pay an extra $30 for the iPod cable, otherwise you only have a USB port. Our car's total, with a $750 destination charge, came out to $30,375, undercutting a similarly equipped Nissan 370Z by about $3,000.

In rating the Genesis Coupe 3.8, we give it high marks for performance. Handling is excellent, and the manual transmission gives you a good set of low gears for track driving. The engine strikes a good compromise between power and economy. For cabin tech, we like the inclusion of standard iPod connectivity, and that Infinity audio system really impressed us, but the Bluetooth support is only average and the current lack of navigation hurts it. Design is a mixed bag, as we didn't particularly like the cabin interface, but the looks get it noticed. Our staff disagreed about the car's exterior look, with some loving and some hating it, but that polarizing style gives it design credibility.

Wayne Cunningham
Antuan Goodwin

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