A Performance Coupe for a Low Price
Although Hyundai has had a few growing pains here and there, the company is on generally solid footing for the future, with very good products and clever marketing campaigns that highlight the value of the brand. Recently, for example, they announced a special “Gas for $1.49” promotion, and got a lot of attention for it.
One of Hyundai’s strongest models is their new Genesis sedan, introduced late last year. That premium luxury car offers amazing luxury and build quality but at a sticker price that undercuts competitive premium sedans.
Following up on the Genesis sedan, Hyundai has now rolled out the Genesis coupe, a svelte 2-door that further establishes the brand’s credentials as a maker of world-class automobiles. And, as with the sedan, you won’t be able to find the word “Hyundai” anywhere on the car. Perhaps part of Hyundai’s strategy for the upscale market is to not remind potential buyers of the brand’s economy car heritage.
Nevertheless, the Genesis coupe is a striking automobile, sitting low and wide with a look of strength and grace. If you didn’t know better (and that lack of brand badges could help with the mystery), you might think this is a new car from Infiniti or Lexus, which is probably just what Hyundai had in mind. It’s especially reminiscent of Infiniti’s G37 coupe, especially when viewed from the side.
Styling is one thing but the driving experience is also what sells cars in this category. People want performance, whether they actually use it or not, and like to be able to brag about specifications. For the Genesis coupe, there are two engine packages available. Base models get a turbocharged four cylinder engine with 210 horsepower but the top-of-the-line version comes with a large V6 producing more than 300.
The latter is the car that’s being compared to the aforementioned Infiniti G37, as well as BMW’s famed 3-series coupe. I’m not sure exactly how many people are going to put a Hyundai on their shopping list if they’ve always wanted a BMW but on paper, the numbers match up pretty well. Power, handling, comfort and features are all part of the package, and for a pretty reasonable sticker price.
The example I drove was the 3.8 (that’s the V6) with the optional Track Package. Its name would suggest weekends at Willow Springs Raceway tearing up the twisty road course but what it really means is “the performance model.” Selecting the Track Package, which is also available with the 2.0 liter four, gets you a stiffer suspension, larger wheels and tires, and gigantic Brembo disc brakes.
I was expecting a jarringly harsh chassis but was pleasantly surprised to find that the car’s highway ride is firm but still comfortable. Obviously Hyundai learned a lot when they were developing the Genesis sedan, and carried that suspension tuning knowledge over into their new coupe. As a daily driver, the new 2-door is certainly something most people could live with.
Power is excellent too. My test example had a 6-speed manual transmission (an automatic is optional), and the car seemed to have as much punch around town and on the freeway as its sporting competitors. I wasn’t able to do back-to-back comparisons or instrumented testing but several enthusiast magazines have already done just that. The numbers are pretty close, actually.
Base price for a Genesis coupe 2.0 is $22,000, which is a real bargain for a car like this. Stepping all the way up to the 3.8 Track, like my test example, will set you back just about $30,000. The optional automatic transmission adds another $1500. There is also a Grand Touring model for a little less, which skips the performance hardware of the Track in favor of a little more luxury.
You’d have to pay a lot more for an Infiniti G37 coupe ($35,900 base price) or a BMW 3-series coupe ($36,500 base price), especially if you start loading on the options. It’s not unusual to find many examples of both those cars on dealer lots for well over $40,000. The question is whether people are willing to forego brand prestige to save the money.
This is just the beginning of the Genesis coupe’s foray into the automotive world. Later this year, a special lean-and-mean performance version of the 2.0 called the R-Spec will join the line-up, and there may be other plans afoot. If Hyundai wanted to, it could squeeze the big V8 engine already offered in the sedan into the smaller coupe, for a take-no-prisoners performance car that would rival the new Chevy Camaro SS and Ford Mustang GT.
A lot will depend on how auto sales in general shape up in the coming months and years. When times are good, more buyers have discretionary money and “ultimate” models can have a niche in the marketplace. For now, stylish coupes with reasonable prices are probably just what Hyundai needs to enter the premium 2-door market.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7. He’s also a car enthusiast, and owns several classics. He can be reached at TVCarz@pacbell.net.