The NY Times finally gets around to reviewing the Genesis coupe (still the only major newspaper not to have reviewed the sedan).
In recent years, Japan’s carmakers have mostly quit the game. The Toyota Celica and Supra are long gone, as is the Honda Prelude, and coupes derived from front-drive mass-market sedans like the Honda Accord and Nissan Altima are more practical than passionate. The Eclipse, once a star, has become as soft-bellied and hard to justify as a 40-year-old designated hitter.
But out of left field, or at least to the left of Japan, a new player has emerged. Even as American car companies crank out a gumball assortment of pony-car revivals — Mustang, Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger — a warrior from Korea has entered the no-fire zone: the Hyundai Genesis Coupe, the kind of rear-drive, road-flogging, date-snaring car that makes young people want to take a second job, or at least plead with the parents.
Starting at $22,750 for the tepid 4-cylinder turbo model, or $25,750 for the more desirable 306-horsepower V-6 version, the Genesis is the only well-priced Asian coupe that won’t shrivel before the American pony-car onslaught. It’s also the only Asian coupe that should matter to people who can’t drum up $37,000 for the Infiniti G37.
That’s what makes the Genesis Coupe a groundbreaker for Hyundai. It’s not as fast as the Infiniti and not at all luxurious, though you’d have no right to expect riches for a price that undercuts the G37 by $11,000. But the Genesis may actually top the Infiniti in pure entertainment value: the Hyundai is younger, louder and more visceral, eager to shake its tail through power slides that the Infiniti would sniff at as immature behavior.
The Genesis is also a surprisingly deft handler, powered by a husky-voiced 3.8-liter V-6. In short, there’s a bona fide rear-drive performance car underneath that handsome body.
Because of the sloping roofline, any rear passenger who’s remotely tall will find his head polishing the rear glass. The trunk is more accommodating; despite a slender opening, it can accept weekend luggage or a cartload of groceries. But this isn’t a car for fetching a carton of eggs. Instead, the Hyundai’s errand is to nip at, reel in and otherwise pester drivers of more expensive cars — Infinitis, Nissan Zs, BMWs, you name it. At the underdog game, the Hyundai excels.
Compared with the vaguer sensations of the Detroiters, the Hyundai transmits sports-car feedback that lets you fling it into curves aggressively. For a rear-drive car, the Hyundai is still nose-heavy, carrying 55 percent of its weight up front. And the front wheels want to push wide in turns when the tires are near their traction limit.
Yet the Hyundai wants to go faster: once you have the Genesis set in a turn, its cornering attitude can be adjusted with a love tap on the brake or throttle. Switch off the stability control system and the Genesis can also be provoked into controllable drifts that will have drivers howling along with the tires.