Friday, December 9, 2011

Review: 2011 Hyundai Genesis Coupe Drift Car

Photos by Ulysses Ang
A decade ago, it would have been hard to imagine Hyundai as remotely ‘pulse quickening’. Though they had a pretty solid line-up then, they’re not exactly the sharpest knife in the cupboard. Then, Hyundai turned around 180-degrees and as quickly as Popeye would gulp down a can of spinach, suddenly churned out world-beating cars that are sexy and fun-to-drive as they are solid and reliable. And leading the charge is the Hyundai Genesis Coupe.

Before jumping in, let’s clear up a bit of misconception: the Genesis Coupe simply isn’t the Genesis sedan with two of its doors cut off. While they both share the same basic architecture, they are two different vehicles altogether. The Genesis sedan is pretty much luxury-oriented with plush seating for five, while the Genesis Coupe is a performance-oriented 2+2. In fact, the Coupe’s wheelbase is shorter by 127 millimeters (five inches) and uses struts at the front as opposed to control arms in the sedan.

Now, having cleared the air, the question beckons: does the Genesis Coupe drive as good as it looks? In the least number of words: yet it does. Pressing the ‘Engine Start’ button, the 3.8-liter V6 engine rumbles to life. Immediately, you know there’s something special about this car thanks to its deep-voiced rumble. Bleeping the throttle, opens up a pure, unadulterated growl—something that can only be produced by the free-flowing dual exhausts. With 306 horsepower and 361 Nm of torque available, there’s little denying that the Genesis Coupe will satisfy any power junkie. You can opt for a 6-speed manual with the V6, but the German-sourced ZF 6HP26 automatic (used by BMW, Jaguar and Maserati among others) is the one to have thanks to its buttery-smoothness. It’s extremely predictable when left alone and highly-responsive when shifted manually with the paddles. It’s easy to fall madly in love with the Genesis Coupe solely for its straight-line performance, but this is just the start of the story.

The first tug of the steering wheel reveals a satisfying weight to it and as you move out of the parking lot, you quickly sense how communicative it is. As you build up to city-cruising speeds, the Genesis Coupe makes you feel its firm chassis. It’s a bit busy, but given its performance, there’s still enough room for compliance in there to remain comfortable on most surfaces. More or less, it impresses by being tight, rattle-free and surprisingly quiet. As you exit the streets of traffic-filled Manila or happen to come across an open piece of road, you’ll be immensely impressed with the Genesis Coupe’s well-balanced chassis. Toss it into a bend and its attitude can be modulated by a simple steering correction or sometimes by just modulating the throttle. It’s predictable and easy to control. The Genesis Coupe simply has one of the finest suspension calibrations in a car today.

Though Brembo brakes are a pricey option for the V6 Genesis Coupe, even the regular brakes are worthy of mention. The all-disc set-up clamps down with authority and can haul you down from any speed without any sense of drama. Sometimes you find yourself deliberately slamming the brakes in an attempt to bring out the demons…yet the evil deities never surface in fault or fade.

Though enthusiasts would only care about driving enjoyment, it’s also great news that the Genesis Coupe’s cockpit is a fantastically good effort. All the controls are in the right places with the wheel and the gated shifter wrapped in leather. The center console is attractively clean while still carrying a full complement of controls for the air conditioning and the comprehensive entertainment system. The metalized plastics provide tasteful accents in the interior, but they can be easily nicked, especially where the key fob docks. So an entire keychain resting on the lower left console for a couple of months is bound to leave a mark. That gripe aside, the Genesis Coupe’s interior is refined and well-finished. Only the snobbiest of snobs who poke and prod the dash would find something to critic—the rest of us will be too busy driving the car or drifting madly into a corner to notice.

The Coupe’s 2+2 cabin is belted for four passengers. Up front, there’s plenty of room for anyone. Shoulder and head room is generous and the sport seats are comfortable. Outward visibility is excellent thanks in part to a rear-window that drops down just aft of the B-pillar. While the front seats are commodious, adults won’t even consider riding at the back even for a short trip to the coffee shop. It is best left for children until they grow to teenage stature, where riding shotgun becomes the preferred passenger position. This small chink in practicality is made up for with a trunk that’s huge for a coupe and back seats that fold down in case you’re lugging even more stuff.

With its pricing between P 1,398,000 to P 1,990,000, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe sits pretty comfortably in an unoccupied market segment. It’s cleverly positioned to pull sales from people considering an executive sedan, an entry-level German rear-wheel drive car or a rally-inspired performance machine. In short, the Genesis Coupe is aggressively and perfectly positioned. The Genesis Coupe will not only wedge itself into this segment, but it will cement Hyundai into the hearts and minds of those who value excellent performance along with some dash of sexy style and affordability. Undoubtedly, the Genesis Coupe need not be sustained by perks like Hyundai’s five-year warranty to sell; they just need to get enthusiasts behind the wheel.

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