2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
Base price: $22,000 – $30,500
As tested: $31,875
MPG: 17 city/27 highway (3.8 V-6 Track model)
- Excellent value, loaded with standard equipment
- Acceleration and handling
- Falls short of American muscle competition
- Unusable rear seat
- Nerdy styling flaws
- It shoulda had a V-8
By Jim Prueter
Hyundai enters the Pony Car race
In the realm of pony cars that date back to the 1960s and early 1970s, the likes of Mustang, Camaro, Challenger, Firebird and others would never allow a “foreign” car to join the club. Monikers like VW Beetle, Renault, Datsun, British Leyland and Toyota need not apply. Those were nerdy brands driven by accountants, chemists and schoolteachers on a budget.
Even today, with the renaissance of the modern day pony car, it took a lot of chutzpah for a Korean auto manufacturer to unofficially pledge the Detroit muscle car fraternity. Hello, Genesis Coupe.
For those who like to read the last chapter of a book first, let me save you some suspense. The new Genesis Coupe is a terrific car except for one major mistake that leaves me scratching my head. More about that a bit later.
Ok, first let’s explain the Genesis heritage. It is not a two-door version of the brand’s Genesis sedan, a car that has earned rave reviews and unabashed comparisons to upscale sedans from Germany and Japan. Hyundai says the coupe and sedan share only the ZF six-speed automatic transmission and rear suspension and subframe. Nothing else. In fact, the coupe doesn’t even look like the sedan.
In a segment where cars all cost more or less the same ($25,000 to $35,000), can smoke the tires of their rear-wheel-drive V-8 powered drivetrains, and can sprint to 60 mph in much less than six seconds, Hyundai crashes the party.
Save sheet metal that pays homage to their soulful beginnings, pony cars are mostly identical. Oh, brand loyalists will take exception, citing quicker zero to 60 times, faster quarter miles or some other recondite fact for bragging rights, but these cars are pretty much the same.
Buyers in this market segment tend to draw open disdain from the Prius crowd for their irresponsible and contemptuous behavior toward the environment because of excess fuel consumption and poor mileage — certainly a natural and expected response.
Still, the popularity lies in the demand, which is generated by the unequivocal pleasure driving enthusiasts derive from spending time behind the wheel of a performance-oriented car. And if that’s the prerequisite for admission to the muscle car fraternity, then Genesis coupe meets the criteria.
After a week spent driving the Genesis on closed short, tight racetrack, interstate and two-lane highways and twisty secondary mountainous roads, we can only say to the new coupe, “Welcome to the club.”
To be sure, the 426-horsepower Camaro SS, SRT Challenger and Mustang GT all offer a brawny V-8, strong performance and agile handling, but the Genesis Coupe was still more than we expected.
It is powered by either a punchy 3.8-liter, 306-horsepower V-6 or the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that puts out 210 horsepower. We only drove the V-6, equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission, leaving us unable to pass judgment on the latter. Both models come standard with a six-speed manual transmission and the four-cylinder has an optional five-speed automatic.
Our smooth revving V-6 gave a lively performance, with precise handling and well-contained body roll and a generally quiet cabin at highway speeds. But the ride is firm, transmitting bumps and jolts into the cabin. The ride may be too firm for some and is less refined than others we’ve tested in this class vehicle. Be sure to take a long test drive before to decide if you can live with it as a daily commuter. Our tester included the track package with excellent Brembo® brakes, larger 19-inch wheels, and a “track-tuned” suspension with stiffer springs and shocks. The base Genesis Coupe comes with 18s, all-season tires and, we’re told, a more civil ride.
Outside, we thought the appearance was less pleasing than competitive models. An example is the rear side window that unexpectedly (and unattractively) dips below the belt line. It seems to draw attention away from the rest of the vehicle in a bad way, and makes the car look odd and rather nerdy.
The trunk is small, with the small opening restricting what you might want to load back there. The grille looks too much “economy sedan” rather than sporting the desirable menacing face of a muscle car.
Inside it feels more economy than upscale, unlike the gorgeous interior of the Mustang,and is nicely finished. Most surfaces are hard plastic except for the padded dashboard. The wide center console minimizes right knee room and the steering column tilts but doesn’t telescope.
The standard leather seats cosset, but shorter drivers will wish for a higher power adjustment. Rear seating is cramped and best left for small children, but the seats do fold forward to yield additional trunk space.
Standard safety gear includes front/front side/side curtain airbags, electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution. It earned the highest possible five star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in front and side-impact crashes and five stars for rollover protection.
So what was the major mistake we mentioned earlier? The omission of a V-8 engine option. While the Genesis sedan is offered with either a V-6 or V-8, we’re both surprised and disappointed the folks at Hyundai didn’t include the 4.6-liter 375 horsepower on the list of options for the coupe. Now that would have made acceptance to the fraternity a slam-dunk.