Wednesday, October 28, 2009

2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe: First Impressions

Many in the automotive press have spent a significant amount of time this year covering the new Hyundai Genesis Coupe... so I took a moment a couple days ago to drop by a local Hyundai dealership to see what all the hype was about.  Now, before you guys start giving me a bunch of flack for showing up at a dealership and pulling the age-old "I'm looking for a new daily driver" joyride ploy, keep in mind that 1) I don't really have any "connections" within the automotive industry at the moment and 2) it's a ploy that I can pull off very, very convincingly (yes, the M Roadster helps substantially with this).

So, right, yes... The Genesis Coupe:

Not the greatest photo, but all I had with me at the time was my cell phone...

Since this is a first impressions article rather than a review piece, I'm going to be keeping things rather short.  With that in mind, this car's exterior lines are very pleasing to the eye considering its price point and Hyundai seems to have even taken a bit of a risk in resurrecting and accentuating some design cues from the RD2 Tiburon ('00-'01), the most notable of which being the strong, sweeping lines originating from the front and rear that run all the way to the doors.  I'm not a fan of the textured plastic inserts that Hyundai went with in the front, but that's merely a matter of preference since I find the black, textured plastic look to be cheap.  There are only so many "aggressive design" risks that a company can take before shrinking their pool of prospective buyers I suppose.

The back-end of a Genesis Coupe 2.0T Track Edition from the OC Auto Show

Moving to the interior, I found the front cloth buckets to be very comfortable and supportive (a rare combination, or so it seems), with the adjustable lumbar support hitting just the right spot in my back.  Materials choices and quality were average, at best, but still leaps and bounds ahead of the "American" cars that I sat in at the OC Auto Show a couple weeks back (I don't really see how anyone could stand to be inside that new Camaro).  Despite the interior being merely "average," it still manages to be a pleasant place to spend some time and that, after all, is the real test of an interior.  The back seat isn't really worth mentioning as, like with most 2+2's, it's little more than a shelf to put cargo on.

Interior of a GC 2.0T Track Edition from the OC Auto Show

I would have preferred to test drive the manual version but their manual 2.0T test drive car was out of gas at the time.  So, the version of the car that I got to poke around in was the standard 2.0T with the paddle shifter equipped autotragic slushbox.  I know that seems harsh but the shifting paddles felt cheap and sounded cheap, the shifts were relatively slow, the shift points in auto mode felt high (likely to mask the engine's narrow power band), and the car managed to chirp the rear tires quite loudly during a downshift from 3rd to 2nd under light braking while approaching a turn.  The standard [non-Brembo] brakes were another point of annoyance because they had a heavy pedal feel compared to the German cars I'm used to and had very little initial bite--you have to really press down on the brake pedal to get anything to happen.  It was after assessing the brakes that I concluded the engineers must have gotten the brake and accelerator pedals mixed up at some point because the electronically controlled throttle felt excessively punchy in the first 25% of travel or soIs it really necessary for manufactures to tweak their throttle mapping in an attempt to make cars feel sportier?  Granted, I don't like BMW's more recent 'limousine start' mapping either.  Just give us our linear throttle response back (or, perhaps, the ability to select different throttle response profiles on the fly in place of a radio... I really don't care about the radio).

The Genesis Coupe's 2.0L turbocharged engine is an interesting engine to try and describe... Acceleration is smooth but you really don't feel the torque down in the low rev-range like you do with Volkswagen's 2.0L turbo engine of similar specs (currently used in the GTI, GLI, and Wolfsburg Jetta to name a few) and the Hyundai 2.0T seemed to quickly run out of puff as you approach the top of the rev-range.  It is by no means a bad engine, just one that I would have to experiment with some more to figure out exactly how it likes to be driven.  Once tuners start tinkering with the Hyundai 2.0T, I think that it will really start to shine (300rwhp, anyone?).

Unfortunately, there isn't much I can say about the car's overall handling and steering characteristics since the example I was driving had either a wheel balance or alignment problem which was resulting in substantial steering wheel oscillation that increased in amplitude with speed.  The car's steering wheel attempting to turn my arms into Jell-O throughout the entire drive proved to be immensely distracting and dashed all hopes of assessing road feel, turn-in, and responsiveness.  I can say, though, that the Genesis Coupe did not exhibit excessive body roll and felt fairly well planted (the extent of which can only be probed so far when test driving on regular city streets).

I want to like this car and be able to offer it as a sound recommendation to people because there are so few sporty cars in the GC 2.0T's price range that do so many things right--it's good looking, well priced, comfortable, well equipped, covered by a substantial warranty (5 year/60k mile limited new car coverage and 10 year/100k mile powertrain coverage as standard), and has a lot of aftermarket performance enhancement potential down the road.  However, without being able to get some more seat time on decent roads with the manual version of the 2.0T, I'm not totally convinced that I can.  After all, if someone asks me for a recommendation for a sporty car with four seats that's in the $20k-$26k price range, why shouldn't I just suggest the E46 M3? ;-)