Monthly Archives: April 2009

2010 Chevrolet Camaro V-6 vs 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track

Six Shooters: We Find the King of the Affordable V-6 Coupes

From virtually every angle, the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro is a gorgeous car. Its C-pillar, in coke-bottle profile, looks even more rakish than that of the 1969 Camaro, which served as its designers’ inspiration. Its deep grille is like a fierce smile and the rear-view accents huge rear quarter-panels and extreme tumblehome — the way those quarter panels flare out from the greenhouse. It’s more than a retro reference to the original Camaro. It’s an homage to the Bill Mitchell era of exuberant styling, when General Motors divisions needn’t be bothered with outside competition. They competed with each other to dominate the North American market.

Subjectively, the 2010 Camaro is the best-looking new model of this old breed of pony/musclecar. And in V-8 form, it beat the updated Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger in our June cover story comparison.

Taking the more economical V-6 is no penalty. The 3.6-liter gas direct-injection DOHC engine makes just 11 fewer ponies than the Mustang GT’s aging 24-valve, 4.6-liter V-8, though the Camaro carries the burden of a couple hundred extra pounds. Considering the ill timing of launching a new, large coupe as its maker is on the ropes for more government loan guarantees, and as consumers pay more attention to emissions, fuel-price swings and their pocketbooks, the Camaro V-6 stands a better chance of becoming a sales success than does its more powerful and more expensive SS V-8 sibling. Ford traditionally sells a lot of V-6 Mustangs based on style and image rather than on performance. The six-cylinder Camaro, available well equipped for under $30K (higher, with the RS package) should rival the V-6 Mustang in popularity.

Enter the spoiler. In the 1970s, the four-cylinder, rear-drive Toyota Celica forced its way into the Mustang/Camaro/Firebird/Challenger/Cuda sandbox just as insurance companies, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries choked our V-8s below 200 horsepower.

Today’s spoiler comes from South Korea, not Japan. The 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe, with rear drive and turbo-four or V-6 power, is about eight inches shorter than the Camaro, or half a foot shorter than the Mustang. Although it shares components with the Genesis sedan, it’s been designed specifically to be too small to take the sedan’s optional 4.6-liter Tau V-8 in its engine bay. Like the Celica of a generation back, the Genesis Coupe is meant to dazzle musclecar fans with fancy footwork its bigger, heavier competitors can’t match.

Nevertheless, Camaro and Genesis Coupe appeal to similar buyers, those who value style and the ability to drive stylishly fast over a useful back seat or trunk space, with gas mileage that won’t embarrass those owners. The Genesis V-6 with six-speed manual gets a manufacturer’s estimated 17/26 mpg, while the Camaro V-6/six-speed manual combo manages 17/29 mpg.

Asking for V-6/manuals landed us a Track Package version of the Genesis Coupe and a preproduction, non-RS Camaro with the 2LT package, shod with 19-inch all-season performance tires. The Camaro came with the Inferno Orange interior package, handsome polished five-spoke wheels, and a sticker a couple of grand off the Hyundai’s.

Even on metro Detroit’s war-zonelike roads, the Hyundai’s track package suspension wasn’t overly stiff. It’s busy on expansion-strip pavement, but doesn’t crash over bumps and potholes like some extreme sports cars. The two cars scored similar numbers for our track testing, but achieved them in very different ways.

“The Camaro feels way heavier,” tester Markus writes. “It reached a higher top speed on the figure-eight, but clocked a slower overall time, thanks to the Genesis’s slightly better transition cornering and the Camaro’s stronger acceleration. Its 7000-rpm redline and taller gearing means no 2-3 upshift, or 3-2 downshift was necessary.”

On the highway, the Genesis Coupe’s way shorter top gear ratio translated into higher revs at cruising speeds, helping explain lower highway fuel mileage.

Reality bit the Camaro in acceleration testing at Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Grounds. It kept up with the Genesis to 50 mph, then needed an extra tenth of a second to make 60 mph. By the quarter mile, the heavy Chevy was 0.2 second off at a trap speed of 98.3 mph, versus 99.8 mph for the Hyundai. The Camaro’s mushy-feeling, single-piston caliper disc brakes surprised us, too. In the 60-to-0-mph test, its 107-foot stop beat the Genesis by seven feet. Markus remarked that, on Chelsea’s road handling course, “both cars are fun to drive, easy to slide around in the tightest twisty turns. But the Hyundai bites harder on initial turn in and rotates a bit more eagerly.”

The dynamic subtleties amplify in real-world driving, where runoffs consist of curbs, ditches, trees, and hills. The gearbox in our bright-yellow Genesis coupe feels fairly slick and positive, although every near-redline upshift in the acceleration testing was attended by a big belt squeak, the type an air conditioning compressor often triggers, even with the A/C off.

The Camaro’s shifter feels clunkier, with too vague a detent for reverse. Both tackle the “oops, that’s reverse, not first” problem, with the Camaro’s digital message center registering a big “R” and the Genesis letting out a beep. Chevy equips the Camaro with a proper handbrake, a rare thing in a GM car these days, but the handle is long and you have to pull it up, hard, to engage the parking brake. It may seem picky, but a shorter, better-feeling handbrake is one of the refinements Ford boasts about with its 2010 Mustang. And the Camaro’s dead pedal is poorly positioned in relation to the working pedals. The Genesis’s dead pedal has a good spatial relationship to the clutch pedal, and the pedals are easier to heel-and-toe than in the Camaro’s.

Finally, the Camaro’s bucket seats are too wide between bolsters. Anyone under 250 pounds will find his back sliding across the seatback in esses. (Does Chevy know its customers too well?) The Camaro offers a much more entertaining view from the driver’s seat, though. The Hyundai is all function over form, with a bland, but well-built black interior featuring decent midlevel materials and good fit and finish. Unlike in the Camaro, you won’t slide around in the seat while cornering fast. And you can easily see the road ahead from its sloping hoodline, whereas the Camaro has acres of long, flat bi-level hood in the view ahead.

On our road test loop in Ohio’s Hocking Hills, both the Camaro and Genesis were fun to drive. “Surprisingly confident for such a big car on all-season tires,” Markus says of the Camaro. Drive the Genesis second and it’s like discovering smaller, foreign-car handling in the ’70s after driving late-’60s musclecars.

“Feels much more geared to the road,” Markus says of the Hyundai. “Lighter steering feel, crisper turn-in, great power.”

The Genesis has poor on-center steering feel, which drains confidence a bit in left-right-left transitions. You’ll forgive that if you drive the Camaro afterward. Steering is far too numb lock to lock, as if engineers chose the 1969 Camaro as its model for that component, too — the last thing you want when you’re trying to hustle a 3800-pound coupe this large around a two-lane with trees in the “runoff.”

While the Camaro doesn’t have excessive understeer, it’s the kind of car that seems to be waiting for a break in the curves so it can be run up through the gears on a long straight. The Genesis wants to play. Even with electronic stability control on, you can feel the rear tires on the Hyundai give up some lateral grip to the throttle. It’s rewarding when you reach past its limits, where the Camaro can feel a bit scary.

The Coupe’s big half brother, the Genesis sedan, came to North America last year with compromised chassis tuning to try and overcome its home market’s predilection for soft, cushy sedans. This made us wonder whether Hyundai had it in itself to make a real, enthusiast’s car. Wonder no longer: The Genesis Coupe — at least with the Track Package — while not perfect, proves Hyundai can do it.

Your humble Detroit bureau’s predilection was to give the new Chevy Camaro the benefit of the doubt. It has far more visual appeal than the Hyundai Genesis, and that’s why people buy sport coupes. Meanwhile, GM has downsized itself into underdog status. The Camaro’s sibling, the Pontiac G8, ends production this year. That makes the Camaro GM’s only North American-market Zeta-platform car. It’s a pre-reorganization present to baby-boomers who’ve been waiting seven years since the demise of the F-Body. After a five- or six-year run, GM’s rear-drive business likely will revert to Cadillac and Corvette.

The Hyundai Genesis, sedan and coupe, look ready to thrive, if only in low volume in light of fuel economy and emissions regulations. While the Camaro scored slightly higher real-world fuel economy than the Genesis, Hyundai’s numbers will get better when it adds such technology as gas direct-injection. The 2010 Chevy Camaro is a beautiful tribute to our automotive past. If there is a future for rear-drive sport coupes, it’s in a car like the Hyundai Genesis.

FIRST PLACE: Hyundai Genesis Coupe
Best viewed from behind the wheel, where it handles entertaining roads more like a sports car than a pony- or musclecar.

SECOND PLACE: Chevrolet Camaro
Powerful, refined V-6 and enough style to lend some to Hyundai, its weight and size make it less entertaining on second- and third-gear roads.

By Todd Lassa

From Hyundai, an Unexpected Turn in the Road

A decade ago, I wrote several columns urging readers to take seriously Hyundai Motor, Korea’s largest automobile manufacturer.

I was impressed by the willingness of the company to adapt, and by the speed with which it shifted gears to meet the changing realities of the marketplace.

It is a story now turned cliche: The Hyundai that entered the United States with motorized junk in 1985 — the Excel subcompact — is now a bona fide competitor in the global automobile industry.

Even high-end companies, such as Germany’s BMW, are looking in their rear-view mirrors, checking the Korean manufacturer’s rapid progress with models such as the high-quality, high-performance Hyundai Genesis sedan and coupe.

But the Genesis models don’t pose the biggest threat to Hyundai’s rivals. That, instead, comes in the bread-and-butter segment, the market for compact and midsize sedans and wagons. It comes with models such as this week’s subject vehicle, the 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring.

Hyundai’s strategy in the family car category is as simple as it is complicated: The Korean company wants to beat all of its top Japanese rivals — Honda, Nissan and Toyota — by offering better products at a lower price.

“Better,” as illustrated by the Elantra Touring, means giving people much more car than they expect for the money.

The subject vehicle, for example, is a five-door compact hatchback wagon. You expect a certain amount of utility in that kind of vehicle. But you don’t expect cargo space — a maximum 65 cubic feet with the rear seats folded — that matches the room found in many midsize sport-utility models.

You expect a manual transmission as standard equipment. But you don’t expect a short-throw, five-speed manual gearbox that shifts with the precision of something found in a vehicle set up for weekend track racing. You certainly don’t expect a car that is loads of fun to drive. But that is what you get in the Elantra Touring, a car that offers so much for the money, it makes you suspicious.

You start trying to figure out where Hyundai has cut corners, what cheapskate magic has been worked to give you so much for so little.

I thought I had found it in the suspension work, which did not seem to fare terribly well over potholed and pock-marked city streets. But now I’m not so sure.

I drove two versions of the Elantra Touring — one with manual transmission and 16-inch radial tires and the other with automatic transmission and 17-inch radials. The model with the bigger tires felt more stable over roads bad and good. It was absent the sometimes irritating choppiness I felt in the car with the smaller tires.

Check out standard equipment. Hyundai offers four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front/solid rear), antilock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution (which automatically increases brake force to the wheels that need it most), and electronic stability and traction control. Also included are side and head air bags — all in a car with a base price well south of $20,000. That’s a real bargain!

Interior materials weren’t the best in the world — a bountiful helping of bargain-priced vinyl there. But everything appeared stitched and assembled perfectly, as good if not better than anything found in a Honda, Nissan or Toyota — in this case, for several hundred to a couple of thousand of dollars less.

With an in-line four-cylinder, 138-horsepower engine, there’s more than adequate power for most commuter transportation needs. Fuel economy — using recommended regular unleaded gasoline — is good at 23 miles per gallon in the city and 31 miles per gallon on the highway.

On top of it all, Hyundai has managed to give car sales a slight boost in a dreadfully dismal market with its Hyundai Assurance Plus program, designed to relieve consumer anxiety by promising to take over car payments within the first year of a vehicle purchase for buyers who lose jobs through no fault of their own.

That program has been successful enough to be copied in various forms by Ford and General Motors. Could it be that Hyundai, once the laughingstock of the car world, will be the company that leads the automobile industry out of recession?

By Warren Brown
Washington Post

Hyundai moves from one Genesis to the next

Forget for a moment that the Hyundai Genesis is an affordable luxury sedan that won the North American Car of the Year Award in January.

The 2010 Hyundai Genesis that’s already in dealerships is a different animal — a fun, four-person, sporty coupe that starts at just $22,750.

Don’t worry. The first and impressive Genesis — the leather-trimmed sedan that debuted for the 2009 model year with a $33,000 starting price and won numerous awards — hasn’t disappeared. It’s being sold alongside the new, two-door Genesis.

It turns out the Genesis name is simply how Hyundai officials label both of their rear-wheel drive cars. Never mind that the Genesis Coupe is definitely not a two-door version of the Genesis sedan.

Indeed, the Coupe even looks different from the sedan — some might say its exterior is similar to that of the 2009 Infiniti G37 Coupe. The Genesis Coupe also uses only certain parts — rear suspension, rear subframe and automatic transmission — from the Genesis sedan.

Best of all, the Genesis Coupe’s starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including destination charge, makes it the second lowest-priced, rear-drive coupe on the U.S. market. Only the Ford Mustang Coupe has a lower starting price — $21,845 for a 2010 model.

Other rear-drive coupes, such as the 2009 Infiniti G37 Coupe that starts at $36,765 and the 2009 Mazda RX-8 that starts at $27,105 are higher priced. Even Chevrolet’s upcoming 2010 Camaro starts higher, at $23,040.

The new Genesis Coupe looks best from the side, where a sporty, tight body looks ready to spring into motion. Only the rear styling of the Genesis Coupe cheapens the initial impression. There’s something in the rear that’s reminiscent of Hyundai’s previous coupe, the front-wheel drive Tiburon. But the Tiburon similarity ends there, thank goodness.

The new car comes with either a turbocharged, 2-liter, inline four cylinder that produces a commendable 210 horsepower and 223 foot-pounds of torque at a low 2,000 rpm or a 3.8-liter V-6 producing 306 horses and 266 foot-pounds of torque at 4,700 rpm.

The test car moved quickly but not abruptly or in a scary way in its acceleration into traffic. The power was well-managed overall.

Both engines require only regular fuel. Hyundai officials say the turbo, which comes from Japanese automaker Mitsubishi, provides up to 15 pounds per square inch of boost and is set for the lower octane level or regular gasoline, so there’s no need for pricey premium.

And both engines are available with six-speed manual transmission as well as smooth-shifting automatics. The test car, a Premium trim model with automatic and turbo four cylinder and regular tires, not the summer performance rubber, rode so comfortably and with minimal noise that a passenger took a short snooze. Even wind noise was at a minimum.

The Genesis Coupe held its line confidently in twists and turns, only plowing around corners when I pushed too hard. The car felt well-balanced and easy to maneuver. The steering gave a bit too much feedback from the road but was certainly responsive. And engine sounds were fine.

Inside the silver-painted Genesis Coupe, the black-and-gray cloth upholstery and black curved dashboard with nice plastic textures provided a pleasant environment.

There was a good amount of height adjustment for the driver’s seat, so I could position myself comfortably for optimal views. But I still sat lower than people in sport utility vehicles and trucks. A 6-foot-plus front passenger also found the power sunroof cut into his head space but he was still able to adjust seat height for comfort. The tilt/slide sunroof is standard equipment on the Genesis Coupe in Premium trim.

Other standard amenities include leather-trimmed steering wheel and shifter lever, Infinity 10-speaker audio system with XM satellite radio, no-hands entry and push-button engine start as well as automatic headlights and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity.

As in all Hyundais, all Genesis Coupe models come with all safety features standard, including electronic stability control, antilock brakes and curtain air bags.

The car’s back seat is for two people only, and the rear parcel shelf in the test car was covered by an old-style furry material.

Other money-saving touches: No pulldown spot for fingers inside the liftback, a less-than-ritzy-looking cargo cover and two front-console cupholders that didn’t have any sliding door or cover.

Note that early 2010 Genesis Coupes don’t offer a built-in navigation system, but one will be available this summer.

There is a sizable rear-seat hump in the floor and back-seat passengers had best be short in stature because the seat cushion back there is higher than that for front-seat passengers, resulting in headroom of 34.6 inches. This is about the same amount of headroom as in the back seat of the G37 Coupe. The Genesis Coupe’s 30.3 inches of rear-seat legroom also is near the 29.8 inches in the back seat of the G37.

At 15.2 feet long, bumper to bumper, the Genesis Coupe is about the same length as the Infiniti G37. The Genesis is just a tad shorter in height at 54.5 inches.

Cargo space is limited to flatter items, not ones that need some height to stand up. In total, cargo volume is 10 cubic feet.


First Test: 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring

Economy Plus: How to Travel — With Room and Class — On the Cheap

Traveling business or first class is like having a private cabana at a crowded YMCA swimming pool — it may be crammed and noisy around you yet nothing but space, comfort, and relaxation are filling your world. But c’mon, unless it’s on the company dime, sitting up front in the Airbus and eating with real silverware aren’t really worth the sky-high premiums. Of course, there’s always economy class, which pleases the pocket book but not much else — namely, the feet, knees, shoulders, elbows, well, you get the picture.

Then there’s economy plus — still easy on the wallet but actually roomy enough to prompt a smile after buckling up. In the field of compact hatchbacks, the 2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring, with its $18,495 base price and 125 cubic feet of interior volume, symbolizes the economy-plus ticket.

Our tester, which was equipped with a $1500 Premium Sport Package (sunroof, heated seats, 17-inch wheels with 215/45 Kumho Solus KH16 rubber), $95 floor mats, a $30 iPod cable, and $325 Bluetooth hands-free system, came in at $20,445, or around $1400 less than a comparably equipped Toyota Matrix S. Compared to the Hyundai, the Matrix offers less front and rear legroom, less rear headroom, and less cargo room whether the back seat is up or down. Granted, the Toyota delivers more oomph, thanks to a larger 2.4L 158-horsepower four-banger in light of the Elantra Touring’s 2.0L 138-horse engine. But the Hyundai’s fuel-economy advantage (23/31 mpg city/hwy versus 21/28 for the Matrix) arguably offsets the Toyota’s performance edge — 0-60 in 7.3 seconds compared to 8.1 for the Elantra.

Further, the Elantra, wearing the low-pro Kumhos, produced a curt 60-0 braking distance of 122 feet, eight feet shorter than that of the Matrix. Unfortunately, we were unable to conduct our usual battery of handling tests, but we’re confident the Hyundai would deliver numbers on par with the Toyota’s — lateral acceleration of 0.81 g and figure eight of 28.4 seconds at 0.58 g. Despite its rather humble powerplant, the 3000-pound Elantra is a lively, fun-to-drive hatch. Power is perfectly adequate. Handling dynamics are generally crisp. And the ride is comforting without being too stiff. The only nits to pick are very light, somewhat numb steering and a loosely gated gearshift.

As we’ve come to expect from Hyundai, the Elantra Touring comes standard with stability and traction control, six airbags, satellite radio, front-seat active head restraints, and a tire-pressure monitoring system. Moreover, the cabin is attractive, well laid out, and boasts high-quality materials.

Based on Hyundai’s European i30, the U.S.-badged Elantra Touring is a cavernous, competitively priced hatchback that not only undercuts the price tags on offerings from Mazda, Pontiac, and Toyota, but also delivers noticeably more interior space. Further, both its straight-line and handling numbers, not to mention its gas mileage, are solid. For around 20 large, a well-equipped Elantra Touring is an economy-plus ride that represents first-class travel.

2009 Hyundai Elantra Touring
Base price $18,495
Price as tested $20,445
Vehicle layout Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback
Engine 2.0L/138-hp/137-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4
Transmission 5-speed manual
Curb weight 3000 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase 106.3 in
Length x width x height 176.2 x 69.5 x 59.8 in
0-60 mph 8.1 sec
Quarter mile 16.3 sec @ 84.3 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 122 ft
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 23 / 31 mpg
CO2 emissions 0.75 lb/mile

By Ron Kiino

The Heart and Seoul of Hyundai

What does it tell you that Hyundai/Kia is the only major carmaker to post a profit this year? Sure, it was small (less then six percent in January), but the Korean company is actually in the black at a time when American manufacturers are struggling for survival, and major Japanese and German brands are deep in the red. Even Nissan may disappear if they don’t watch themselves more carefully.

Hyundai seems to be the only player to be positioning themselves positively in the midst of an otherwise global economic nightmare. How are they doing it? Well, the answer is not really that complicated. They are working overtime to build a reputation of quality and affordability. Quality that is up to par with stalwarts like Honda and Toyota. And affordability like, well… like what Hyundai is already known for. Quality. Affordability. A proverbial one-two punch.

Add to the equation the industry’s best warranty of 10 years/100,000 miles. And, to boot, a genius marketing strategy that offers a buy-back to prospective consumers, so they don’t have to be worried about getting laid off and then not being able to make their new car payments. It basically gives people the confidence to make a major purchase.

Now, back to the cars themselves. Let’s take a quick look at some of the highlights in the Hyundai/Kia line-up:

First, there’s the Hyundai Genesis. This is a luxury caliber sports sedan on par with BMW and Audi, but sells for $12,000 to $20,000 less.

Then there’s the Hyundai Veracruz, a very well put together crossover SUV that is almost identical to the Lexus RX300. Except, again, several thousand dollars less.

Kia’s new Soul is every bit as stylish and refined as the Scion xB, but starts at a thrifty $14,000.

And the compact Kia Rondo has smarter packaging than anything in the Toyota or Honda line, and grants more interior cargo room then virtually every other vehicle in its class. And the class above it.

Not only is Hyundai improving its overall public perception as a quality carmaker, it is actually positioning itself to have an upscale luxury presence in the market. If someone would have told you this 10 years ago, you would have laughed them out of the room. I know I would have.

Quick Drive: 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Automatic

Hyundai’s new rear-drive Genesis Coupe opens a new market segment for the Korean automaker, one filled with young enthusiasts, tuners, and customizers looking to pull every last ounce of performance out of the sports coupe.

It might surprise the tuner crowd that when we tested variants of the Genesis Coupe earlier this month, we got our overall best acceleration times with the Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track with an automatic transmission. The automatic 3.8 Track tied its manual-equipped counterpart with a 5.5-sec 0-to-60-mph sprint and bested it in the quarter mile by two-tenths of a second to bring home a 14.0-sec run at 101.0 mph. Seems that in addition to being fractionally lighter (by 4 lb) than the manual coupe, the ZF 6HP19 six-speed automatic in the auto car has a slightly more aggressive 3.73 axle ratio, allowing for slightly better numbers at the dragstrip. Incidentally, this gearbox is the same one used in the V-8-equipped Genesis Sedan which produces 375 hp.

We got more track and autocross time with all Genesis Coupe variants this week at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Nevada, allowing us a closer look at the auto-equipped 3.8L car. We hopped in an automatic Grand Touring 3.8 for our 50-odd-mile journey from our temporary home base in Las Vegas, out to the track in Pahrump. On the wide-open desert highways, the combination of the torquey 306-hp 3.8 V-6 and smooth-shifting six-speed automatic made for a satisfying combination. Left in the Drive position, the gearbox executed seamless shifts -up and down – and responded well when asked to downshift with a shove on the accelerator.

Throw the lever in manual mode and gears are selected via steering-wheel-mounted paddles. We found upshifts in manual mode reasonably quick – not dual-clutch fast, mind you, but reasonable for a manumatic – and shifts were made automatically at redline. Downshifts, especially in lower gears, were similarly quick, but could result in a bit of hesitation and jerkiness as the ZF gearbox does not offer rev-matched downshifts. The paddles are of the traditional left-down, right-up configuration, and their shape is longer at the top, short and wide at the bottom. We liked this shape as it was easier to differentiate paddles when the steering wheel was rotated beyond 180 degrees. One minor inconvenience is that manual shifts aren’t possible with the lever in the Drive position.

When we reached Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch, we switched to a 3.8 Track model with beefier Brembo brakes, stiffer suspension, and a Torsen-type limited-slip differential, but retaining the ZF automatic. We were less impressed with the automatic on the racetrack. The automatic denied many third-to-second shifts into the track’s tighter corners, requiring multiple pulls on the left paddle before being allowed a downshift. Apparently, like many other non-rev-matching manumatics, the transmission is programmed to deny aggressive downshifts as a self-preservation mechanism. Unfortunately, the result was driver distraction and a slower, somewhat frustrating lapping experience. If you plan on tracking your Genesis Coupe, you’d be well-advised to stick to the manual gearbox.

That said, the auto-equipped 3.8 consistently gave marginally better times on the all autocross course – a short, twisty, pylon-defined track. The fastest times required the car be thrown in manual mode, allowed to shift automatically at redline in first, then kept in second for the remainder of the low-speed circuit.

Hyundai believes the market spread is huge for the Genesis Coupe, bringing in buyers from many different demographics. Company reps figure a variant of Genesis Coupe could be ideal for everyone from the 17-year-old high school girl, who wants a sporty ride to show off to friends, all the way to the value-oriented 55-year-old enthusiast, who wants a fast sport coupe right out of the box, but doesn’t want to splash out for a premium offering. Should the latter choose to purchase a Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track with an automatic gearbox, he could end up with a real sleeper of a sport coupe.

By Rory Jurnecka

2009 Veracruz a worthy competitor

Hyundai, the first South Korean automaker to enter the U.S. market, has come a long way since it rolled out its initial product here in 1985, the subcompact Excel hatchback.

Although it built its reputation on mostly small, affordable and fuel-efficient vehicles, Hyundai has become much more than that now, with a full line of cars, SUVs and a minivan.

For 2009, the company introduced its first true luxury sedan, the Genesis, and a coupe version of it is on the way to market.

The Genesis was so good that it won the North American Car of the Year award at this past January’s Detroit auto show.

Hyundai also now has a premium SUV as well. For 2007, the company brought the midsize Veracruz crossover to the United States. For 2009, it comes with a base price range of $27,145 (plus $750 freight) for the entry-level GLS front-drive model to $35,995 for the top-of-the-line Limited model with all-wheel drive.

We tested the Limited front-drive model (base price $34,295 plus freight).

With options and freight, our tester’s price rang up at $38,295, but that included the Navigation Package ($1,750), which also brought the uplevel Logic 7 surround-sound 605-watt audio system; and the Rear Seat Entertainment Package ($1,500), which comes with a roof-mounted 8-inch LCD screen and two wireless headphones.

It’s not necessary to pay this much to get a nicely equipped Veracruz, however. The GLS model with its under-$28,000 price is a good buy if you can live without all the fancy extras and gadgets.

The marvelous thing about the Veracruz is that it seems a lot more expensive than it is, with the look and feel of a luxury model such as the Lexus RX 350, against which the Veracruz was benchmarked. The RX 350 begins at just under $38,000.

All models come with the same 3.8-liter V-6 engine with dual exhaust, rated at 260 horsepower and 257 foot-pounds of torque.

The engine is connected to a six-speed automatic transmission, another feature distinguishing the Veracruz from its competitors. Most of them have five-speed automatics, including the competing Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander.

Standard on even the base Veracruz are such amenities as electronic stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, front seat-mounted side air bags, roof-mounted side-curtain air bags for all rows, 17-inch alloy wheels, six-speaker compact-disc audio system with iPod connection, power/heated outside mirrors with approach lights and turn-signal lights, cruise control with steering wheel controls, power windows/mirrors/door locks with remote and much more.

That means that even at the starting price, with very few (if any) options tacked on to the sticker, the Veracruz comes across as a bargain.

Adding such options that were either standard or included on our Veracruz Limited model, including leather interior and the rear-seat entertainment system, sunroof, backup warning system and 18-inch alloy wheels — among other things — would push the RX 350’s price into the upper $40,000s.

Keep in mind, though, that the Veracruz is not a Lexus, and the Hyundai name is not the attention-getter that Lexus is. But with prices starting $11,000 less than those of the RX 350, and with a similarly equipped Veracruz running about $8,000 less than the base RX, Hyundai surely wins the value race.

Granted, those who would buy a Lexus and those who would buy a Hyundai are entirely different customers. But the point is that anyone who chooses the Veracruz can feel good about the purchase. This is a lot of vehicle for the money, and even without a name like Lexus, it’s quite elegant.

The Hyundai also stacks up well against popular crossovers that Veracruz shoppers also might consider — the Pilot and Highlander, as well as the Nissan Murano and Ford Edge.

And while Hyundai might have a hard time taking customers away from Honda, Toyota and Nissan, it can offer a great crossover with lots of standard equipment to those who can’t quite afford one of those Japanese brands. The Veracruz really is on the same level, but with a lower price.

This is the third SUV in the Hyundai lineup. It joined the entry compact Tucson and midsize Santa Fe. The Veracruz is built on a stretched and widened Santa Fe chassis to allow for a roomy third row of seating, giving it a maximum capacity of seven. (The RX 350 has room for only five.)

There is more cargo volume — 86.8 cubic feet with the second and third seats folded — than in all of the Veracruz’s direct competitors except for the Pilot (87.6 cubic feet).

Fuel-economy ratings are quite decent for a roomy seven-passenger SUV. The Veracruz is rated at 16 miles per gallon in the city and 23 on the highway vs. 17/23 for the Pilot, 18/24 for the V-6 Highlander and 18/23 for the Murano (all with two-wheel drive).

Inside, the Veracruz is quieter than the Pilot, with levels of noise and vibration that nearly match those of the Lexus RX.

The Veracruz has achieved the top five-star crash-test ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in frontal- and side-impact testing for all front and rear passengers. It scored four stars in the rollover rating, which is the highest any of the crossovers have received.

In designing the Veracruz, Hyundai went with an exterior similar to that of several of the newer crossovers, including the RX 350, Edge and Acura MDX, which is an upscale version of the Pilot. The styling was a product of Hyundai’s California studio and was tailored for American tastes.

Luxury abounds inside the Veracruz. There is nothing cheap or cheesy looking. The leather seats are optional on the base model, but standard on the Limited. Our vehicle also had wood-grain interior trim that gave it a premium look.

Standard on our Limited model were several items that usually are found only on premium models, and then sometimes only as options. Among them were a power rear liftgate, automatic climate control and a backup warning system.

Base models come with a single-disc CD player that is MP3-capable, and XM satellite radio is standard.

Our Limited model came with the uplevel Infinity audio system with a six-disc CD changer. Other standard features included power adjustable pedals, power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, 115-volt power outlet and a keyless entry/start system. The key can be left in the pocket, and the doors unlock as the person with the key fob approaches the vehicle.

All-wheel drive is a $1,700 option on either trim level. Most Sun Belt buyers choose the two-wheel drive models, but all-wheel drive system is of value even outside snowy climates and is a bargain at this price.

It can direct up to half of the torque to the rear wheels, and there is a lock switch on the dash that can force it into the 50/50 mode. The Veracruz has 8.1 inches of ground clearance, which makes it suitable for some light off-road use, but as with most crossovers, this vehicle is not designed for rugged off-road use.

Ride quality is quite Lexus-like in the Veracruz, which also helps give it a luxury feel.

The engine offers decent acceleration, even on uphill freeway ramps; although as with most vehicles in this class, it can feel a little sluggish when fully loaded with people and their stuff.

The Veracruz, which is based on the architecture of the Sonata midsize sedan, handled quite well on some fun twisty country roads. It’s not a sports car, of course, but for an SUV, it holds the road quite well and the steering is predictable.

G. Chambers Williams III

Man squeaks by with his life in Hollywood-style smash-up

HOPEWELL TWP. — A lucky motorist escaped with his head — and his life — yesterday when his little Hyundai ran under a tanker truck on Route 31 and was scrunched to a crippling halt.

Ernest Tkac, a retired engineering drafting salesman who lives in Bucks County, Pa., confounded alarmed witnesses when he stepped out of the car unscathed, a smile on his face.

Police shook his hand, a news photog snapped pictures of the miracle in progress, and a reporter told him it was good to still have him around.

“Sometimes we get lucky,” said township Police Chief George Meyer.

Both vehicles had been heading north on Pennington Road (Route 31) here near Crest Avenue at about 3:20 p.m. The huge tanker, apparently loaded with municipal waste and operated by Gary W. Gray Trucking of Delaware, N.J., was in the passing lane, while Tkac’s Hyundai was in the right-hand slow lane.

For some reason, Tkac apparently made a left turn and disappeared under the tanker! The belly of the truck was actually tall enough in the middle for the Hyundai Elantra to get under it. But the back wheels of the truck began wedging the car, and denting it, dragging it under there for perhaps 30 feet.

“It got wedged underneath, that’s all,” said a police officer who gave Tkac a ride to Colonial Cadillac/Hyundai afterwards. “He walked right out. I drove the car right out from under the truck.” And the undamaged truck drove off.

Tkac was ticketed for failure to keep right. He was last seen at a desk in the dealership talking to his auto insurance carrier — apparently preparing to buy another Hyundai to replace his totaled car.

“Good car,” he said. “One of the best cars in the world.”

To a customer eyeing the new Genesis coupe, Ernie exclaimed, “Buy two of them, one for you, one for your son!”

By Trentonian Staff

2010 Genesis coupe offers drivers power, smooth ride

Las Vegas — When Hyundai Motor Co. arrived at the car casino of America 23 years ago, the odds were not in its favor. Much like my own blackjack career, Hyundai took a beating. But who says the house always wins?

The little Korean car company kept doubling down, hand after hand. Quality problems? Offer a 10-year warranty. Scoff at its luxury aspirations? Win the North American Car of the Year award. Bad economy? Offer a ground-breaking program that will help people pay if they lose their jobs. It’s not altruistic; it’s good business. Now, the house is copying Hyundai.

The 2010 Hyundai Genesis coupe was another gamble. Following the critical success of the luxury Genesis sedan, the coupe could have arrived as a two-door version of the sedan. It’s nothing like the sedan but it’s just as impressive.

Hyundai created a sporty little rear-wheel drive racer that will appeal to grown-up tuners, their kids and anyone who wants a sports car but doesn’t want to toss down $35,000 at a dealership. Hey, we all remember that kid in high school whose parents bought him a 240Z — at least I do. This year, there’s going to be some senior cruising in a Genesis coupe — and someone will see him through jealousy’s green eyes.

The two versions of this coupe come out aces. The base model 2.0T creates 210 horsepower with its 2-liter four-cylinder turbocharged aluminum engine and provides an upgradable platform for a true tuner, a piece-by-piece enthusiast who has already circled a larger intercooler in a catalogue.

The turbocharged engine, which includes dual variable valve timing, offers a breadth of expandable parts to push the power on this model. Additionally, Hyundai will offer a track-tuned R Spec version, created for the gearhead who wants to win a few weekend races.

The base suspension includes MacPherson strut dual link in the front and a five-link rear. The track tuning adds stiffer spring rates and unique shock valving. In both cases, the ride was extremely smooth and never felt too stiff for daily driving.

Weighing 3,300 pounds, the 2.0T feels light and agile on the open road and on the track; it’s faster. The hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering is precise and well-weighted. The back end kicks around just right when coming out of sharp turns at high speeds. There was only the slightest of lag at the end of the turn, but this was due to my bad driving, which caused the standard electronic stability control to kick on and limit the throttle. As soon as the car detected I was balanced again, it was full power.

The only gripe I had was the six-speed manual transmission, which would catch the reverse gate on hard shifts from first to second. It was a slight pause that would hurt you out the gate.

However, when driving the six-speed automatic, I found the shifting even faster and smoother, especially on the V-6 model.

It felt more refined and powerful. The 3.8 liter V-6 produces 306 horsepower of rumbling power.

On the track, the V-6 felt a little more sure-footed and would push itself out of turns. On the highway, it was surprisingly quiet and offered smooth riding on either the standard 18-inch wheels or the optional performance 19-inch tires.

Either model is bound to throw a typical tuner for a loop because of the rear-wheel drive platform Hyundai has developed. The difference between front- and rear-wheel drive is like moving from Parcheesi to No Limit Texas Hold ’em.

Typical tuner performance cars (imported performance machines) such as the MazdaSpeed 3, Honda Civic Si and Volkswagen GTI all use their front wheels for power. That inevitably leads to two problems. Torque steer and weight distribution.

A front-wheel-drive car tends to have a poor weight difference between the front of the car and the back — and this can lead to handling problems. Additionally, as more power shudders through the transmission and axle, there’s a tendency for the car’s front end to pull to one side during hard acceleration.

The Genesis coupe has zero torque steer — the car is pushed, not pulled. This makes it much easier to flog around a track.

The performance numbers on either model are also impressive. The 2.0T has a top speed of 137 mph, and the V-6 model can hit 149 mph.
Fast, but still a looker

No matter what trim level you pick, the Genesis coupe offers superb styling inside and out.

The exterior shines with its long hood and sloping roof. The front end sweeps back and the elongated headlamps seem to stretch the 182.3-inch car. It’s well proportioned and has a taut wedge-like stance. The spoiler on the back adds to its racy looks. However, it’s not posing; it looks like a race car and acts like one too. Parking lot beauty only holds up if a car performs on the road.

Inside, the Genesis coupes are comfortable and well appointed.

The dash flows nicely from the driver’s side with a single piece of soft plastic. The blue instrument cluster is easy to read and there are loads of features that you’d expect in a much more expensive car. Hyundai includes an optional 360-watt Infinity stereo system and a keyless remote so you can use a push-button start. Even the center stack is simple and well laid out.

The manual shifter seemed pushed a little too far back for my liking, especially on the track, where it felt like I had to reach more to my side than in front of me. But when cruising on the highway, when I tend to sit farther back in the seat, it felt well placed.

Additionally the seats were comfortable and well bolstered to hold you in place on hard turns. The front row was well laid out and offered lots of room. The two-passenger second row was more of a holding place for a brief case or bag of groceries. I managed to squeeze myself back there for a few minutes. I suppose it could hold small children, but even they might think sitting back there was some sort of punishment.

Perhaps the biggest risk Hyundai took with this coupe was giving it a starting price of $22,000. The V-6 version starts at $25,000 and both versions feel like a steal.

This is a true performance daily driver that will make whoever is behind the wheel feel like a winner.

Hyundai may have gambled with this coupe, but it looks like it’s holding a winner.

The Detroit News

Genesis hits a home run for Hyundai

In any given year, I drive between 75 and 100 different vehicles. And we’re talking about everything from the Chevrolet Aveo to the Lamborghini Gallardo. So it is with complete sincerity and a fair bit of knowledge that I say this: You will not find a better car for the money than the all-new 2009 Hyundai Genesis.


I mean, here we have a handsome vehicle that — at a base level — has standard features such as leather seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, side-curtain airbags, iPod and auxiliary input jacks, a proximity key with bush-button start, Bluetooth phone system, heated front seats and traction control. Then you have the fact that it looks like a Lexus or a Mercedes. Plus, you could add in the rear-wheel drive platform and the base V-6 engine that delivers 290 horsepower.

Take a good look at the picture of the Genesis and forget that we’re talking about a Hyundai for a minute. With the way this car looks and the amenities that are included, what price tag would you give it? Have you got that number in your head? How does it compare to $33,000? If you gave an honest answer, it probably wasn’t even close.

Hyundai has been doing amazing things over the last couple years, but it has truly hit a home run with the launch of the Genesis.

The test vehicle came equipped with the base 3.8-liter V-6 engine, and it was absolutely brilliant. After my spirited but short trek to work on that first day of the test period, I actually had to double-check the sticker sheet on the car because I had a hard time believing there was simply a V-6 under the hood. It was responsive and fast and had all the power I could possibly want from a large luxury sedan.

You can certainly tell a difference between the V-6 and the up-level 4.6-liter V-8 when you drive them back to back, but unless you truly crave the extra 85 horsepower, I think you’ll be more than satisfied with the V-6 — especially when you look at the fuel economy numbers. The Environmental Protection Agency city/highway numbers ring in at 18/27 mpg for the V-6 and 17/25 mpg for the V-8.

The one thing you won’t find in the Genesis is a sporty ride, which is fine by me. This sedan is all about soft, luxurious comfort. The steering is a bit looser than you might find in a sports sedan, and it has the smooth ride of a touring sedan that, luckily, glides over all those Chicago potholes.

Fit and finish on the Genesis is on par with a luxury vehicle, and I was impressed by the interior quietness. Very little exterior noise makes its way into the cabin, and any engine and tire noise you might hear is negligible. There are zero squeaks and rattles.

While I would call the exterior of the Genesis handsome, the interior more closely resembles elegant. The simple center stack, the wood paneling and the brushed silver accents are easy on the eyes, and the clearly labeled gauges, buttons and dials are easy to use. I especially liked the glowing blue night lighting, which is a pleasant change from the typical red.

I liked the iPod integration in the test vehicle and thought the system navigation was relatively intuitive. However, I would like to point out that if you have a lot of songs and artists on your iPod, it does take a while to scroll through them all if you’re looking for something at the bottom.

While we’re on the topic of audio, I have to give a huge shout out to the optional Lexicon 14-speaker surround-sound system that was on the test vehicle. While I’m not an audiophile, my boyfriend is. On one of our suburban treks, he plugged in his iPod and cranked up various songs from Madonna to Metallica, and it was great. Well, maybe the Metallica wasn’t great, but the sound quality was.

In addition to an attractive price with an attractive car, Hyundai has done something else really well with this car: options bundling. It doesn’t nickel and dime you for every shiny bit on the car. Instead, you basically have three package options for the V-6 model: premium package ($2,000), premium package plus ($3,000) or technology package ($4,000). While the premium and premium plus packages are one or the other, the technology package requires the premium plus package.

Even so, your options will top out at $7,000, and you’ll have a car that includes everything from 18-inch wheels to a premium Lexicon 17-speaker surround-sound audio system to navigation to parking sensors to, well, almost everything else you could possibly want. Except seat massagers (hint, hint). And the final MSRP will top out at $40,000.

The test vehicle added the premium plus package, which included the 18-inch wheels, the Lexicon 14-speaker surround-sound system, sunroof and rain sensing wipers. The as-tested price of the car was $36,000.

The base price for the up-level V-8 model is $38,000. In addition to the extra horsepower, you’ll add standard features such as front seat and steering column memory, power rear sunshade, telescoping steering wheel, 18-inch wheels, Lexicon surround-sound audio system, power sunroof and automatic headlights, just to name a few. Since this model is so well equipped at its base, there is only one package option available: the technology package. So, again, even with the vroom, vroom power of the V-8, you have a vehicle that tops out at $42,000.

To say that this vehicle impresses me would be an understatement. The pricing, the option bundles, the appearance, the everything was well thought out and well done.

Plus, with the launch of the Genesis, Hyundai proves that even in this economic downturn you really can have it all.