Saturday, August 29, 2009

2009 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 GT Coupe

The first words out of your mouth... "This is a Hyundai?" Looking at the new Hyundai Genesis Coupe, you wonder how a car company has gone from being something that you would be ashamed to see in let alone drive ten years ago to a marvelous masterpiece that manages to out price its competition. Years ago, I would not dare think of bringing a Hyundai to a car show, if I did, it would be parked around the corner out of clear view. Today, I am sitting in a new Hyundai Genesis Coupe and let me say, it is garnering a whole bunch of attention from passers by. The first words out of their mouth... you guessed it, "This is a Hyundai?"

What I am going to talk about today is the new Genesis 3.8 GT Coupe. Price, as equipped, $29,000. It is OK, you can pick your jaw up off the ground. For that price, you get a 3.8L V6 engine pumping out a whopping 306HP which is tied to the rear wheels making this one of the few cars in this segment for this amount of money. You also get such niceties such stability control, automatic climate control, tire pressure monitoring system, heated seats, a sport tuned suspension, keyless entry, bluetooth connectivity, xenon headlights and the list goes on and on. The list rivals that of a car costing thousands more than what we are sitting in.

Sitting in the car you feel well supported by the seats bolsters and comfortable by the way of nice padding. The steering wheel, while small, is easy to grab with an abundance of controls littered all over the front of the wheel and paddle shifters behind for those who opt for the automatic transmission. The guages are nothing fancy, but communicate what the driver needs to know. Interior space for front passengers is ample and even with a 6'3" front seat passenger there is still enough room for an adult in the back seat. They will not be happy about it, but if their compare it to walking, it will be a welcomed place to park their rump for a an hour or so.

Now, when the rubber meets the road you may think that Hyundai short changed the driving experience in a car that is this cheap. Nope, put your foot down and your are planted in your seat by an abundance of torque off the line. Keep your foot down and the engine swing easily through its power band and quickly accelerates to speeds that would easily land yourself in hot water with your local law enforcement. The sound the engine and exhaust make give you a grin from ear to ear and you wonder why other sports cars can not figure out how make noises like this. Power is ample at engine speeds, but the car designed to be a sports car, is quick to down shift if you ask for power to move forward. It is itching to run. Ask for some passing power and it will skip down a gear or two to make sure you get what you want. Things in the rear view mirror will start disappearing quickly if you are not careful.

The handling of the car is nice and smooth. The steering, while a little delayed (one might thing because of the tall tires), points the front of the car where you want to go easily. Push the car and you are greeted with a little bit of understeer which can be countered by less throttle application to bring the front end back, or if you are a daredevil, feeding more power in to rotate the rear of the car with a nice tail out slide if desired. Lift throttle oversteer car also be accomplished easily on demand should you want. The beautiful part about it, is the car is so easy to control in all situations. Almost nothing comes as a surprise and countersteering or balancing is easy to accomplish (if you know what you are doing -- don't try this at home kids). The suspension manages to communicate to the driver what is going on... the harsh conditions are soaked up while the feedback the driver is looking for remains in tact. One downside, which we were unable to figure out was a strange vibration noise apparent at 70-90 mph. As you cross past the 75mph mark this weird vibration would become quite annoying. The noise would slowly go away as the speeds dropped below 65. We are hoping that this noise had something to do with the tires on the car and was not a design flaw. Another car will have to be tested to figure that out.

Braking... now you must be thinking, this has to be where the car falls on its face. No way can a sub $30k car do everything well. You would be wrong. From 70mph, the braking of the car was rock solid. It actually out brakes many cars twice the price. Braking from highway speeds was predictable and balanced. There was no sway from side to side, and the ABS worked as it should stopping the car in a quite respectable distance without any crazy nose dive found in other cars. The tires did squeal as if they were being tortured, but that is expected from an all season tire. Repeated braking I would imagine would be just fine as the pedal showed no signs of fade or sink after a few hard braking attempts. Again, quite a surprise when compared to other cars.

Now, It would not be fair to tell you all the good things about this car and leave out the bad things. You want to know what we think, not being a complete sales pitch to go out and buy one. The downsides are few, but there are some. The throttle on the car is very twitchy. Ask for just a hint of throttle from a stop and you get a bag full. Do not be surprised when you first drive the car that the rear tires chirp on smooth surfaces from over application of throttle. With practice, you can smooth that out, but the throttle is twitchy from a get go. The interior trim items are a little flimsy to the touch. Some of them feel as if they are going to break off in your hands, but we were unable to break them during our testing period. So they are attached well, they just feel flimsy. The door line of the car feels rather high. To accommodate viewing, one may want to raise the seat up so you don't feel as if you are sitting in a bath tub... this is mostly due to the design cues of the car though. Another thing is rearward visibility over your shoulder and through the back glass. The design makes for a rather large C pillar area making sometimes turning into traffic a mission. Plus, with such a raked rear window and high trunk, rearward visibility is a bit interesting. Using you rear mirrors will be key here. Plus, from our chief in charge of design explains that with such a raked rear window combined with no rear wiper, seeing backwards in the rain will be downright impossible as the rain will just sit on the back window. Final complaint, the trunk, while copious, suffers from a high lift over and an extreme small opening. The trunk is large enough to suck up many suitcases, but you would be hard pressed to get them up and over the trunk lift over plus, having them fit through the small opening would be a mission. You are better off carrying the suitcases in the back seat and just sticking all your clothes in the trunk. You can pack the when you get where you are going.

All in all, for the money you are spending. You are going to be hard pressed to find a better car. The value is definitely there, the performance is definitely there and the warranty without a doubt is there. With Hyundai offering a 10 year, 100,000 mile warranty (on certain items), it is very likely this car will last for a very long time. These days, Hyundai is really giving the other manufacturers something to think about. Driving a Hyundai these days is no longer something to be ashamed about. I would be happy to stand next to this car and call it my own. Not only does it scream performance, it also screams value... showing others I know what I like and I don not need to spend twice as much to get it.

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