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Wheels - Ladue News: Import

Wheels

Sporty Coupes

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Posted: Thursday, July 22, 2010 12:00 am

For those who do not need the practicality of a four-door sedan, a coupe can be a stylish, fun and sporty means of personal transport. One surprisingly attractive option is the Hyundai Genesis. The first thing you notice about the Genesis Coupe is its aggressive styling. An almost shark-like front end flows into a classic coupe roofline, then to a short rear with sculpted spoiler.

Once you settle into the cockpit, you’re welcomed by well-bolstered heated leather seats and nicely arranged controls. Simple to use automatic climate control and a boffo stereo with displays on a remote video screen provide passenger comfort and entertainment. The rear seat is a bit difficult to access and doesn’t offer a lot of space for adults, although kids would fit fine. The trunk is fairly large, but the opening is somewhat small due to the slope of the rear window. The rear seat folds down to increase cargo capacity.

What surprised me most about the Genesis Coupe was how much fun it is to drive. I never suspected that its sporty suspension and powerful engine would combine for such a fun ride. Fundamental to its sportiness is its 306 horsepower 3.8 liter V-6 engine, which drives the rear wheels through either a manual or automatic 6-speed transmission that can get you to 60 mph in fewer than 6 seconds. Gas mileage is 17 city, 27 highway with the automatic. A ‘track’ version is available with a stiffer suspension and a few other modifications, such as Brembo brakes for weekend warriors who like to wring their car out at a track. A 210 horsepower 2.0 liter four-cylinder turbo engine is also available.

Feedback through the small, leather-wrapped steering wheel is excellent, steering is nice and tight, and the handling is great thanks to a stiff suspension that may be a bit too stiff for nonenthusiasts. Brakes also perform well. Acceleration was surprisingly brisk; this car almost begs to be driven hard. Alhough the automatic transmission comes with paddle shifters, the real manual transmission would be a lot more fun.

According to Scott Varnum, Internet sales manager at Dean Team Hyundai in Ballwin, “The Genesis Coupe offers great performance and styling at a reasonable price; it’s the best bargain in the sports coupe market.” Prices start at about $23,000 for the 4-cylinder and $26,500 for the V-6.

Another appealing coupe option that fills an entirely different niche is the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Replacing the CLK in the M-B lineup, the E-Class Coupe offers fabulous styling and driving luxury.

The E-Class Coupe has an aggressive front end, deep character lines and a pronounced rear fender flare and large rear window. There is even a small third side window that almost makes it look like a sedan without the rear door. A panorama sunroof made of heat reflecting glass offers a great view of the sky. Front seats are well-bolstered and comfortable. Rear seats are best used by children, as the slope of the roof impinges on head room, and leg room is a bit tight. Access to the rear is aided by front seats that electrically glide forward when the seatback is pulled forward. The trunk is big and deep and the rear seat folds down, but the opening is small due to the rear styling. Ventilation controls are hard buttons and switches at the bottom of the center console and easy and effective to use. Interior noise is almost nonexistent, and the whole car has a solid, high-quality feel to it.

Luxury features include navigation, heated front seats, dual automatic climate control, electrically adjustable tilt/telescoping steering wheel, power rear sunshade, rearview camera, and burl walnut trim. No fewer than nine airbags cushion occupants in case of a crash.

Power in the E350 comes from a 3.5 liter V-6 good for 268 horsepower with power going to the rear wheels through a 7-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode. The E550 offers a 5.5 liter V-8 that churns out 382 horsepower. Gas mileage for the V-6 is 17 city, 26 highway. Power with the V-6 is plentiful and provides quick acceleration. The suspension is very comfortable and provides decent handling. Steering is slightly over-boosted. Brakes are also good, though a bit mushy.

Harl White, sales manager at Plaza Mercedes, has nothing but praise for the E-Class Coupe. “It handles well and is more agile and responsive than the coupe it replaces,” he says. “It’s a quick and nimble coupe with all the latest luxury and convenience features.” Prices start at $49,000 for the V-6 and about $55,500 for the V-8.

Robert Paster is an attorney in private practice.

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