Hyundai's Genesis luxury sedan was the 2009 North American Car of the Year and may be the Korean automaker's biggest achievement. Recently, Hyundai rolled out the 2010 Genesis coupe. Don't be fooled — the coupe shares little with its namesake. This car, like a Camaro or Mustang, is rear-wheel drive. Pony car? Sports car? It's a little of both.
Appearance: The Hyundai Genesis 3.8 Track has a muscular design with sharp body creases and a grille that looks like it was lifted from the Hyundai parts bin. It's not unattractive, just kind of Nissan Lite — although the Lime Rock Green paint was a head-turner with the Fast & Furious demographic. Lyra thought the front looked mischievous: The triangular headlights follow the lines of the hood into a broad grin, as if to say, "I dare you." We drove the 3.8-liter track-tuned version, whose spoiler and modern Xenon headlights help the overall look.
Performance: If you expect the engine to come to life with a rumble when you push the ignition button, you'll be disappointed. The 306-horsepower V-6 does manage some nice exhaust pops when you rev it, but Lyra thought the exhaust tone sounded too fabricated. There's not much grunt off the line, but acceleration was smooth in part to the limited-slip differential. Shifting the close-ratio six-speed manual transmission was effortless, and we got good feedback from the clutch. But the Genesis Coupe performed best at highway speeds. Peter liked the way it nimbly navigated interstate traffic. With the track-tuned suspension, the cornering is tight, but you feel every bump in the seat of your pants. Lyra liked how the seat bolsters hold you in when turning. We have no doubt that the cost-cutting in the interior was so Hyundai could offer the Brembo brakes, 19-inch tires and other performance goodies.
Interior: It's spare and plasticky. Navigation is not available, and the LCD console display is small and hard to read, especially at night, because of the background color. The steering wheel can make for a tight fit if you have to move the driver's seat up. There's not a lot of trunk room, and like the cars it will compete with for buyers — think Camaro and Mustang — the back buckets aren't really kind to adults.
Our 3 favorites
Fun factor: Despite its faults, this car is fun to drive.
Right track: Kudos to Hyundai for building a rear-wheel drive car that appeals to the boy racer and the not-so-boyish in us.
Regular gas: Not every car in this class sips regular octane. This one does.
Color selections: Bright colors available for the Look At Me crowd. I'll take the more subdued Nordschleife Gray.
Under foot: Clutch is firm, responsive.
Fan of the fan:The blower has a variable control dial (instead of the 1- to 4-click knobs) to get just the right amount of air on you.
The bottom line: Sure, the Genesis has shortcomings in style and interior. The track-tuned 3.8-liter V-6 is pure fun. But the relatively high sticker price might make it a tough sell compared with the other pony cars on the market.
Clarification: In last week's column, we meant to say that the Civic has carried the hybrid banner for Honda until the recent introduction of the new Insight. Thank you, Alan Petrillo of St. Petersburg, for pointing that out.