In comparison to the Genesis sedan, the Genesis Coupe has appeared on dealer lots like a Stealth bomber sliding into Whiteman Air Force Base. Either Hyundai thinks their new two-door makes such a strong impression it doesn’t need a huge marketing campaign to jump-start the public imagination or they blew their wad with the sedan. Whatever Hyundai’s intentions, the Genesis Coupe speaks for itself, surpassing its current competitors in the pony car market. (2010 Ford Mustang test to follow.) If you’re looking for a rear-wheel drive, high-powered, sporty car with a recession-friendly price, exodus forms on the right.
Hyundai took a few risks with the Genesis Coupe’s styling, but receives extra credit for staying away from The Temple of Bangle. The Korean car’s clean lines, balanced proportions and captivating details form a design language that mimics Infiniti, without the full-on bug-eyed look. Of note: the Hyundai Coupe’s rear quarter windows. They sport a lower edge dip that’s somewhere between interesting and plain old weird. I like it; it’s not the split window of a Stingray, but at least its something.
The Hyundai Genesis Coupe’s cabin welcomes refugees from the plastic armageddon known as the [current] Ford Mustang GT and Dodge Challenger R/T. My Hyundai tester’s two-tone brown and black interior offered rich textures and a solid build. Okay, the silver accents around the center stack are formed from discarded Revell pieces, but at least they don’t try to look like aluminum. Meanwhile, melted Barbie doll crept up the door panels and the center tunnel, awaiting their fate of permanent scuffing.
The Coupe’s interior ergonomics are spot on if a bit unusual. Stacked or not, duplicate controls belong in an aircraft with a co-pilot, not an automobile. Still, everything works well enough, with Accord-compliant haptic feedback. If you’ve rented a Hyundai Sonata, you’ll find it all a bit familiar. Honda owners will yawn. Charger owners will feel under-dressed.
The Genesis Coupe’s heavily bolstered seats are a genuine highlight. The chairs cradle drivers like the Spine-Melter 2000, caressing their keisters with the perfect amount of padding, support and contours. Think Recaros built for crossing the country instead of an autocross.
Hyundai did not bless the Genesis Coupe with the remarkable V8 powering its Lexus-wannabe brother. Fortunately, the Hyundai’s 312 bhp (on premium gas) DOHC 3.8-liter V6 screams loudly enough to drown out the “Doh, I could’ve had a V8″ crowd. Fitted with the Aisin six-speed manual transmission, the Genesis two-door keeps up with its V8 competition. The mill’s good for a sub-six second dash to 60 mph.
Better yet, the Korean Coupe delivers a superior transmission feel, with short throws, precise engagements and one of the best clutches you can buy this side of $30K. The track version of the Genesis Coupe’s available with a ZF six-speed automatic. If you can drive a stick, do; the “cheaper” unit suits the car’s engine and character well enough.
So the Genesis keeps up with its pony car competitors in a straight line. And? And the Hyundai also provides more than merely adequate stoppers, standard strut tower braces and an [available] Torsen limited-slip differential. So equipped, the Genesis Coupe will literally run rings around anything else in its class.
The biggest surprise in this entire package: the Genesis Coupe’s steering. While the Europeans seem to favor lighter and lighter steering feel (to disguise their model’s increasingly obese if safety-oriented curb weight), the Genesis feels perfectly weighted and precise. BMW’s M3—yes, that one—should take lessons from the Genesis Coupe’s steering rack. It serves-up Porsche-level feel, with just a tad less precision.
The Genesis Coupe is one of those cars that’s constantly urging you to waste gas in the senseless pursuit of pleasure. The harder your push the engine, the throatier and lustier it sounds. The faster you push the chassis, the more athletic it feels. Until it all goes wrong.
The Genesis’s Achilles’ heel lies just beyond the limits of adhesion. When the back end lets loose, you’d better be right with your god as the car becomes all but uncontrollable. The traction control jumps in like an unwanted sidekick only to muck up the mess. Although I didn’t get a chance to test the theory (the Hyundai salesman looked green and saw red), I assume that turning it off might prevent a hit on your insurance deductible.
For the past 20 years, Hyundai has progressed as an automaker. The Genesis Coupe is another step Fordward. It’s a fast, well priced, well-built, generally competent, comfortable and good looking car. But the Genesis fails in the one key area, where its competitors excel: smoky powerslides [NB: not the nightclub singer from the forties]. Is the lack of tail-out expertise a big deal? Probably not. Will the Genesis Coupe find happy homes? Definitely.