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Dan Neil: Genesis coupe is more primitive than prim

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http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-neil...,7695116.column

Hyundai Genesis coupe is more primitive than prim

The sports car certainly has some asphalt chops and a solid rear-wheel drive. That said, there's room for improvement. Let's start with its unattractive look, shall we?

Dan Neil

July 3, 2009

In the beginning, there was Hyundai, and it was without form, and darkness was upon the face of the brand.

And it's still pretty dark.

Yes, we're all very impressed with Hyundai's robust sales numbers, the company's monster 10-year warranty and the new Hyundai Genesis sedan, which was voted 2009 North American Car of the Year by a group of powerful and influential automotive journalists who were found sleeping under a bridge.

But what does the brand mean? If anything, the cursive H stands only for a kind of predatory cheapness that undercuts Honda/Acura and Toyota/Lexus. As cars like the Azera and Sonata demonstrate, in a coldly calculated dollar-for-value comparison, you just can't beat a Hyundai.

So what. No one ever wrote a misty-eyed heavy metal ballad to the glory of the bargain equation. No one ever serenaded with a mariachi band beneath the window of extended warranties. Hyundai is a brand utterly devoid of romance, poetry or inspiration. The very word affects me like a jeroboam of ether.

That's why, above and beyond the particulars of cornering grip and acceleration, the new Hyundai Genesis coupe is a good idea. This company can spread all the high-tech marmalade it likes over its cars, but until it starts fashioning an emotional back story, a cool image, a creation myth of its own, the brand will never embody anything more than likable appliances.

The formula for generating passion in a car brand is eternally performance, and preferably motor sports -- big, smoky, loud and stupid motor sports. Enter famed performance driver Rhys Millen, who will race a Genesis Coupe this year in various "drifting" competitions.

Drifting is kind of like figure skating with cars, with the drivers pitching the cars sideways and spinning the tires so that they slide around the course trailing clouds of choking tire smoke (much to the dismay of local birds).

As a thinking man's sport, drifting has an I.Q. of about 40; but it does handily illustrate the salient feature of the Genesis coupe: its rear-wheel drive, which is something of a rarity in this price category. The Genesis coupe finds itself in the rowdy, budget-minded ranks of the Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro, Nissan 370Z and Dodge Challenger.

It remains to be seen how the young males/early hominids in the drifting demographic will respond to the Genesis coupe, but the car certainly has some asphalt chops.

The car comes with four trim levels (base, Premium, Grand Touring and Track) and two engine options: a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (210 hp) and a highly evolved 3.8-liter V-6 putting out a sweet 306 hp.

Transmission options include a five-speed automatic and six-speed manual for the four-cylinder and a six-speed automatic with the six-cylinder car.

Our test car was a 3.8-liter Track package car, as red as a baboon's butt, impressively equipped with 19-inch performance wheels and tires, monobloc Brembo brakes, cinched-down sport suspension, trunk spoiler and a limited-slip differential. For a car costing $30,250, that's a lot of kit.

I know where the cost-savings came from: the interior, which is rendered in varying textures of "ick" and "oh-my-God," a smorgasbord of paint-coated plastic and injection-molded tackiness that represents a huge backward step for the usually tactilely obsessed Hyundai.

This is the placeholder interior, right? Guys? The other letdown is that the top-o'-line car isn't available with navigation. On the positive side, this is a big car, with large, comfortable seats, excellent outward visibility and reasonably usable rear seats that fold down to create an enormous cargo hold. If usability ranks high with you, the Genesis coupe will easily outpoint the Camaro and 370Z in your cross shopping.

Push the start button and you'll hear -- well, a distinctly flatulent engine note, the sound of a zillion Asian import V-6s distilled into a liquor of lameness. But listen closer and you can hear the distant notes of menace. Squeeze the throttle and the V-6 wakes up with a nice, hardened anger. That's a pleasant surprise.

Out on the road, the car's ride feels a bit trembly and over-stirred -- that's the Track package suspension for you -- but it's certainly comfortable to drive. And it's got a big, whopping kick to it. Romp the throttle and the engine valves align just so, as does the variable-geometry intake, and suddenly all 266 pound-feet come online.

Zero to 60 mph is about 6 seconds, which is not blindingly fast in this segment, but respectable. The coupe feels ornery and aggressive and impatient when its humming along in the revs. That's good.

Steering feel is good and response to inputs quite precise; however, even the Track package car has a bit more body roll in a corner than I might have expected. On the summer tires the coupe has loads of lateral grip and excellent overall balance, yielding only to nose-plowing understeer right at the end of the tether. The Brembo brakes are tremendous.

As for its looks, well, it's a bit of a Halloween fright. With the headlights pulled back weirdly over the fenders and the grille aperture pulled at the corners like a mouth that can't close, the Genesis coupe appears to have suffered the world's worst face-lift. Meanwhile, there are these strange diagonal force lines across the fuselage, as well as the oddly contoured rear glass. This car has obviously passed through the entrails of corporate group think a few times and it shows every sign of being fussed over.

Of course, styling is a matter of taste. If you have any, you won't care for this.

Is it a match for my favorite car in this segment, the Ford Mustang GT? Oh no. No, no, no. Heavens no. But the Genesis coupe is low-slung, fast, a bit cantankerous and a wee bit racy, and so it's exactly the car Hyundai needs. Let there be light.

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Well written and entertaining, with many amusing passages and lines---the interior description, engine note description, and the styling description in particular.

Even made me look up a word I'd never seen before--'jeroboam'.

Edited by Cubical-aka-Moltar
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It is a step in the right direction...but were I to be buying a RWD car for 30K I can think of others (370Z, Camaro, Mustang, Challenger, et al) that are still much better.

Well done review, though.

Chris

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i did like the writeup.

the thing i have always maintained is that the genesiscoupe has no visual appeal of its own. sorta what he is saying, too.

Of course, styling is a matter of taste. If you have any, you won't care for this.

LMAO! he coulda used that line on many cars today but he saved it.....for this car....he obviously felt strongly about that.

i do like the notion of this car having decent cargo hold and rear seat space though.

Edited by regfootball
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the sound of a zillion Asian import V-6s distilled into a liquor of lameness

:spin:

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The point at the end being how he believes Hyundai needs this car to help inject some visual appeal into the brand to make it more exciting to be worth looking at. I'm not so sure that is such a hold-back for too many consumers; however, it'll help? There's little doubt this coupe is known to be a good car for what it actually is intended to go up against. I highly doubt the target market is the same as those looking at the domestic bunch o' rides.

This will annoy me every time:

The other letdown is that the top-o'-line car isn't available with navigation.

Why is it that every journalist assumes every car's checklist must include navigation next to things as typical as a windshield? I just don't see the point of it being a 'must have' that all manufacturers should include.

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The point at the end being how he believes Hyundai needs this car to help inject some visual appeal into the brand to make it more exciting to be worth looking at. I'm not so sure that is such a hold-back for too many consumers; however, it'll help? There's little doubt this coupe is known to be a good car for what it actually is intended to go up against. I highly doubt the target market is the same as those looking at the domestic bunch o' rides.

This will annoy me every time:

Why is it that every journalist assumes every car's checklist must include navigation next to things as typical as a windshield? I just don't see the point of it being a 'must have' that all manufacturers should include.

It's one of those things that should be there as an option, though. The Mustang and others offer it. Cabin tech is as important in today's market as what's under the hood.

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Like it or not as much as it does not make economical, ergonomic, or business sense, consumers want navigation systems built-in the car. Possibly because GPS units are #1 stolen vehicle accessory, and many people are lazy to remove from the windshield. More than that an in-built one is theft free.

I have heard many people complain about the Malibu and Camaro lacking GPS screens.

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This is one of those articles where the writer tries to be clever and comes off as an ass. If we replaced the Genesis with the Camaro we'd have have about 4 pages of bitching and calling it a poor article.

Oh and remember you can't get a Nav in the Camaro.

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The Camaro weighs about 400 pounds more than the Genesis Coupe, thats like one entire cheese-chugging Wisconsinite.

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Oh an remember you can't get a Nav in the Camaro.

That's just because GM is being cheap....both the Challenger and Mustang offer NAV, as do countless other, cheaper smaller cars.

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I'll never understand the demand for integrated GPS, given that 3rd party models are much cheaper, offer a similar feature set, and can be upgraded easily. Then again, I guess it makes the cabin sorta look like it's out of something from Star Trek.

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I'll never understand the demand for integrated GPS, given that 3rd party models are much cheaper, offer a similar feature set, and can be upgraded easily. Then again, I guess it makes the cabin sorta look like it's out of something from Star Trek.

Integrated looks a lot better in the car than a tacked-on 3rd party one. I've never had a car w/ nav, probably wouldn't order one, but if it were there, I'd consider it. I still have never found myself needing one, I can read maps and always print out a Google map if going somewhere unfamiliar.

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Integrated looks a lot better in the car than a tacked-on 3rd party one.

But there's the kicker - cars that have dashes built for Navigation can look horrible when the person doesn't equip it, or you get a useless screen that reminds you that you were supposedly too 'cheap' to plunk down $1200 for a device that gives you $300 worth in features.

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This is one of those articles where the writer tries to be clever and comes off as an ass.
That was my feeling as well.
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But there's the kicker - cars that have dashes built for Navigation can look horrible when the person doesn't equip it, or you get a useless screen that reminds you that you were supposedly too 'cheap' to plunk down $1200 for a device that gives you $300 worth in features.

Great point.

I love the look of integrated Navigation systems but the idea of paying double triple, or even more than what it would cost for a 3rd party Nav is nuts.

I borrowed a friend's Mio Nav so I could get out of Boston after taking him to Logan Airport last week...it was invaluable. I dunno how I would have gotten out of there without getting lost without it.

Plus it redirected me so I could avoid the tolls, which was nice.

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Integrated units dont clutter the dash, dont fall off the windshield and dont get stolen. The only advantage to aftermarket ones is that they can be used while the car is moving.

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Well, dash clutter is one of the drawbacks, but then again, it depends on how much value you place on the unit, and the look of a 'clean' dash. For me, and likely plenty of others, the 'clean dash' isn't worth the huge price premium. Besides, a lot of commuting is pretty local, or is in familiar surroundings, so it's not as if the GPS needs to be mounted all the time.

As for being stolen, that's more common sense than anything. If you leave anything valuable and visible in a vehicle these days, you're asking for it.

GPS units are great. I got my Dad a Garmin Zumo for his Beemer before he went cross-country, and he'll never travel without it again, either on the bike or motorhome.

Edited by Kix
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Oh an remember you can't get a Nav in the Camaro.

What?!

OFF my planet!

I'd rather have a portable navigation unit for cycling or simple street walking. It would likely get more use in one of the company trucks for when I'm out finding my way to a client's place for a project assessment; however, I'd rather take it with me so I could go in any one of the vehicles, from the old 2000 Dodge to the new 1-Ton. Aside from that, they're handy, but hardly necessary for the average Joe to get around their own town.

To me, a NAV system and LCD is only useful if it performs other functions. An in-dash DVD system with expandability for rear viewing is the only reason I would consider the option, since our 21 month-old absolutely loves his kidlet flix on trips. (Not to mention how it helps our sanity)

Edited by ShadowDog
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This GPS my friend has can load and play MP#s via an SD card, which is nice...n need to buy a new mp3 player if i can have both.

GPS is pretty useless around town, but for big cities and trips its invaluable I find.

Since my car is older, I can get the in-dash RB1 unit for around $300 if I so desire, which is much closer to what most mid-grade portable units run.

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This GPS my friend has can load and play MP#s via an SD card, which is nice...n need to buy a new mp3 player if i can have both.

GPS is pretty useless around town, but for big cities and trips its invaluable I find.

Since my car is older, I can get the in-dash RB1 unit for around $300 if I so desire, which is much closer to what most mid-grade portable units run.

Sprint Navigation Rocks. Get out of the car and start walking and it will take you places too. And the phones come with 16GB MicroSD, and plus the phone. No need of being worried the car will get broken into for putting the portable unit on the windshield.

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I would never leave the unit on the windshield...that's just asking for it.

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I have heard many people complain about the Malibu and Camaro lacking GPS screens.

Then there are models like the VUE where it is offered, but they have probably built all of two of them so equipped becuase of the $2200 (IIRC) pricetag. :banghead:

The biggest cabin tech want I could think of was fixed in the Camaro. Finally an OEM non-navigation radio with XM has the full Channel/Artist/Title display all at once like my cheapie Delphi portable does.

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Haven't seen one yet....

Consider yourself lucky. Call me biased, but it's fugly.

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