Friday, February 27, 2009

Hyundai means "watch out"

Though the normal German vehicles will continue to dominate this blog, I initially thought this Hyundai Genesis coupe was a Mercedes:

You have to admit, this car looks pretty cool - but how did it drive? Per Road & Track:

What's Hot:
  • Looks as good as it handles
  • Affordable, more fuel-efficient 4-cylinder turbo model
  • Feels well built

What's Not:

  • V-6 lacks midrange torque
  • Interior not nearly as plush as Genesis sedan's
  • Child-size-only rear seat head room


Hyundai appears to have made a car that handles well on a RWD platform (wake up already, Honda, and stop killing the cars that people love - like the S2000). They badged it as a Genesis coupe, though it seems like there's plenty of distinction between the coupe and sedan - unlike, say, the Mercedes E-class and CLK-class, or the Honda Accord coupe vs. sedan.

For nearly $30K, it'll probably be right up there with some of the other hot coupes in its segment - the Infiniti G37 is one that the Genesis is likely targeting.

The problem is that the G37 has a new 3.7 liter engine giving more horsepower - and the G35 was more than capable; it was exciting. The Infiniti G is also established at this point, as one of the best cars for its price (BMW 3-series coupes are a bit more expensive, similarly-equipped - and yes, of course I feel it's worth the extra dough). The point Road & Track makes about the V6 lacking mid-range torque worries me, as does the idea that maybe the initial quality won't hold up over time like a Mercedes or an Infiniti. Based on the "cons" we see in the list above from Road & Track, it seems like this will be a bit smaller, less powerful, and less luxurious than some of its competitors.

But this is Hyundai we're talking about. The Sonata wowed people when it was redesigned, though it did steal the Accord's taillights. The Santa Fe continues to sell fairly well and Hyundai is a brand people identify with, because they're coming out with new and exciting vehicles - and in some cases, engines.

In terms of sales, I'm sure this car will do fine, and just as the excitement starts to wear off, I'm sure Hyundai will introduce a mid-model cycle change to upgrade the interior and engine. I'm also impressed that Hyundai went RWD - why Honda can't seem to bring itself to make an Acura coupe when its competitors seem to be eating Honda alive; I just have no explanation for that (the now-defunct RSX doesn't count; it was a glorified Civic). They never even tried to fight the Infiniti G35 coupe, and the new TL has a questionable design, even if it does handle well with its SH-AWD system.

Hyundai appears to be doing the right thing for the average car buyer: the person who doesn't care what brand it is, as long as it looks cool and handles reasonably well. They will continue to eat at precious market share currently enjoyed by Honda & Toyota, until we might finally see those companies put out an exciting product or two.

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