There's no doubt in my mind that the most influential car of the last two decades has been the original Lexus LS 400, the car that shouted the Japanese could build luxury cars as well as the Germans -- for half the price and with twice the dependability.
But the problem with making benchmark cars has always been the same: How do you follow it up? Though the LS immediately put Lexus on the map as a top-tier automaker, Toyota's luxury division has never relentlessly pursued perfection quite as well since.
Hyundai faces the same predicament. In V-8 guise, its new Genesis sedan has truly rocked the established pecking order of grand touring automobiles. If not as monumental an achievement as the 1991 Lexus, then it is the luxury auto world's most significant development since, with many of the same attributes -- unquestioned luxury, loads of features and an undercutting list price -- as the first LS 400.
The problem is that all subsequent Hyundais will be benchmarked against the new luxury sedan, especially those, as in this case, carrying the same Genesis moniker. So, it's little wonder that against that backdrop the new Genesis Coupe suffers a little in comparison, not being the immediate game changer its V-8-powered sedan sibling is.
But, just as every Lexus subsequent to the LS could not in any way be considered a failure, this Genesis coupe version is likely to upset more than a few apple carts. Consider this: The Coupe, based on that exemplary Genesis framework, is as sexy as Gisele Bundchen in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and costs but $34,995 in its fully loaded GT trim, replete with big rubber and Brembo brakes. It doesn't take a huge imagination to realize it will draw an appreciative crowd.
For one thing, the new coupe is rear-driven like the sedan, a layout that virtually guarantees sports-car credentials. Equipped with the GT's 19-inch wheels, sticky Bridgestone Potenza rubber (P245/40VR19 in the rear and P225/40VR19 up front) and precisely metered rack-and-pinion steering, the Genesis is seriously sporty. Unlike some other hard-edged sports cars with such "track" settings, the Hyundai is quite suited to urban streets.
On the other hand, the Coupe also steers and handles with élan.
Will it corner with a Porsche Carrera 4S or even a fully kitted Nissan 370Z? Doubtful. Nonetheless, this is a bona fide sports coupe. Those looking to put a "but" on the aft end of their description of the Genesis's abilities in this regard are going to struggle mightily to come up with any tangible detractor.
Indeed, the only major improvement I could envisage would be a moderate Weight Watchers program since the coupe weighs in at 1,592 kilograms.
Part of the reason for its wrestler's bulk is that the Genesis is somewhat larger than some of its direct competition. About 116 mm shorter in wheelbase than the Genesis sedan, it is nonetheless 320 mm longer than the Nissan 370Z, which makes Infiniti's upscale G37 a more meaningful competitor.
This means, among other things, that the rear seat can accommodate adults, although it helps if they've had a few knee-limbering libations. As well, one can just fit a full adult-sized bicycle in the trunk thanks to the fold-down seats and a (slightly too small) pass-through opening in the cargo wall.
Fully optioned as my GT tester was, the Coupe is also semi-luxurious, with excellent leather, a well laid-out console and excellent fit and finish.
Again, only in comparison with the BMW-fighting hedonism of its sedan alter ego does the Coupe suffer any criticism.
In the engine compartment, the Genesis offers two choices -- the 3.8-litre V-6 that serves as the base engine in the sedan and a 2.0 L turbocharged four-cylinder, a first for Hyundai. Naturally, the 3.8 L forms the backbone of the GT version and its 306 horsepower are more than ample motivation -- the Coupe hits 100 kilometres an hour in less than six seconds.
The Genesis Coupe is another premier automobile from a company that is finally laying the Ghost of Ponys Past to rest. It is not quite the tour de force the Genesis V-8 sedan has morphed into, but its combination of performance, style and excellent value mean that Hyundai has once again forged into yet another market niche with a serious contender.
-- Canwest News Service