(All photos: Bill Griffith/Boston.com)
(All photos: Bill Griffith/Boston.com)
The plan was to make a legal U-turn in front of my house.
The street is so wide that I'm almost able to make the swing without backing up; unfortunately there's not quite enough room.
At this pivotal point - in both the turn and in getting used to today's test car, the 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe - I discover that it's not so easy finding reverse in the six-speed manual transmission. Oh, I know where reverse is but moving the gearshift lever through the spring-loaded gate, especially on this maiden trip, isn't so easy.
The Hyundai engineers must have had the same trouble because once reverse is found, the car reacts audibly, not with a crunch of gears but with a beep. The sound is much like the reverse alarm on a school bus or big dump truck.
Fortunately, driving the Genesis Coupe isn't about reverse or U-turns. It's about using those six speeds to go forward, whether they're attached to the 2.0-liter turbocharged four or the available 3.8-liter V-6.
Our test model is the 2.0T Track, the top of three trim levels with this four-cylinder engine. Base sticker price: $26,750. Hyundai tacked ALL the available options on this tester — an iPod cable ($30) and signature Genesis carpets ($95) — plus the obligatory destination charge $750 to get a final price of $27,625. One more option — a navigation system — is scheduled to be available later this year. So, too, is an R-Spec version of the coupe aimed at the tuner market.
Prior to the Genesis coupe, Hyundai's last sporty offering was the Tiburon, a funky vehicle that found its niche. However, that niche was too small to keep it viable.
The Genesis Coupe shouldn't have that limitation.
For those who like to catch things on the upswing, this may be the vehicle. It has the feel of something special, possibly being one of life's beat-the-crowd victories like picking the next hot college, getting in on the ground floor of a stock that takes off, or being among the first to have what's going to be a hot-selling car.
The coupe follows the successful debut of Hyundai's Genesis sedan, which was named North American Car of the Year and topped the list in J. D. Power and Associates first-ever Inaugural Vehicle Launch Index, a measure of new car quality, marketing and sales.
So, if you've driven the sedan, you think you know what to expect in the coupe, right?
Hardly. Hyundai calls the coupe the sport sedan's "evil twin." The term is apt because where the sedan bespeaks comfort and luxury with a bit of sportiness, the coupe is mostly about performance, handling, and styling. Our "track" model has 19-inch wheels, Brembo brakes, a spoiler, sport-tuned suspension, xenon lights, fog lights, limited-slip rear differential, aluminum pedals, and red cloth inserts in the leather seats.
The coupe uses the same basic platform as the sedan. The difference comes with big shoulders (bulging fender wells), strong sides and wide stance. I see hints of Mustang, Solara, Porsche and others, but the result is clearly a new vehicle, though a view from above shows that, when parked alongside a 2004 Solara, a coupe is a coupe is a coupe.
"Like a lounge," said Mrs. G of the curving interior design with red cloth, black leather and vinyl, and silver-toned plastic. "The seats are really comfortable and there's lots of legroom."
A different view? "I think the seats look hideous," said my daughter, "though they are comfortable."
My take is that they make a statement and it certainly isn't understated.
The Genesis hits the market at a time when two nice coupes - the Solara and Pontiac G6 - are being discontinued. It will compete with other newcomers such as the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger, and the redesigned Nissan 370Z. The Hyundai plan is for the V-6 version to compete with the Infiniti G37, but we feel the 2.0T will be a strong seller at a significantly lower price point.
One point to consider in buying (or reviewing) a vehicle is "Does it have a lot of bang for the buck?" The Genesis Coupe does, especially in this configuration.
Fit and finish is fine, and the trunk space seems enormous. While the coupe technically is a four-passenger vehicle, be advised that the rear seat is only for the very limber or tiny folks. We climbed back there to take some photos of the dash and could have settled in for a short ride, if necessary — but it wouldn't be a joyride.
The instruments are lit with "Hyundai blue," a nice match with blue lighting playing off black and white background and red needles.
Mrs. G pointed out a curiosity. The vanity mirror had a light, but one had to switch it on manually instead of having it switch on automatically when the mirror was opened.
For the driver, Hyundai has a plug at the bottom of the center stack that accommodates the keyless entry fob. That works fine if you don't have it on a ring with other keys. If you do, they sprawl over the console and would be destined to scratch the plastic.
We averaged 24.5 miles per gallon in local driving and feel that we'd have done significantly better on a real road trip. At night, the xenon lights brightened a wide swath, a welcome feature on summer nights with lots of pedestrians around town.
Many of those pedestrians gave the Genesis Coupe a second look, no doubt caught by a combination of the styling and nice tone from the twin exhaust tips. Others asked in surprise, "That's a Hyundai?"
The answer is "THAT's a Hyundai."
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