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Monday, June 30, 2008

Hyundai Genesis Coupe

We love surprises. So we were pretty delighted when, while attending the press launch for the Genesis sedan, Hyundai Motor America VP and product planning guru John Krafcik pulled up in a blue Genesis coupe and invited a few journos to hop on in. Four of us took him up on the offer, filling the attractive little car to the gills—and then some, since the rear is only intended to hold two folks.

The car we rode in was a base V-6–powered model, so there were no Brembo brakes or 19-inch wheels or firmed-up suspension, all of which will characterize the top-spec SE trim level when the car is released early next year. Even stuffed full of well-fed scribes, the car felt quick—310 horsepower can do that for you, and Hyundai predicts 0–60 gallops of under six seconds—and the exhaust note has just the right mix of aggression and refinement. The ride was relatively supple, considering we were riding on the bumpstops, and the car garnered a lot of attention as we cruised the streets of Santa Barbara. (Even from the ladies, who were, uh, amused to find five dudes in one tiny little sports coupe.)

The coupe’s long doors and easily actuated front seats made clambering in back a snap, and there’s a release lever right in the center of the seatback to make getting out easy, too. Once stuffed in our place behind the driver, we were pleasantly surprised to find the accommodations roomier than expected, with plenty of legroom behind Krafcik. Still, at 5 feet 8 inches, this writer’s head just cleared the rear glass, which made going over bumps an exercise in cranial preservation.

The car appears smaller in person that it looks in photographs, and preliminary weight figures have a V-6 model coming in at 3550 pounds and the 223-hp turbocharged four-cylinder version at 3440 pounds. Expect the four-banger to start around $24–$25K and a six-cylinder model to command $28K or so, prices that look awful attractive next to, say, the V-6-only Infiniti G37, which starts at $35,665. (For further reference, the Ford Mustang coupe ranges from $20,445 for a V-6 to $27,035 for a V-8.)

From our ride, the Genesis coupe looks very promising, and we can’t wait to get some real impressions as soon as we can.