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2009

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Hyundai Genesis Sedan V8: Power, Luxury & Style

In August, reviewing the Genesis Coupe, I mentioned that Hyundai’s new deluxe Genesis sedan had been named the North American Car of the Year for 2009; and fortunately the Coupe wasn’t available then or it might have deadlocked the jury. Which one to pick? A better question might be, how can these two cars even be related? The two-door is a hooligan’s delight; the four-door not only looks completely different, inside and out, it has a different powertrain and mission specialty. (But it too can satisfy the inner bad boy. Person.)

At less than $40,000, this Genesis could almost pass as the body double for a certain German sedan that costs twice as much. Within limits—see paragraph #4, below—that’s how it behaves, too. This is a super-cruiser that ate up a two-day, 800-mile blast across northern New England (coastal Maine through the White Mountains, the Green Mountains and into upstate New York and back) and begged for more. This 4.6 model, named for its V-8 engine, packs a 375hp wallop, but it delivered 24 mpg at an average speed of 53 mph. With a creamy-smooth six-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive, merely the pressure of one’s big toe is enough to catapult the 4,000-pound Genesis around the motor homes and packs of Harleys that clog the foliage routes at this season. Winding secondary roads, even pitted with potholes, don’t upset the car. And on divided-lane highways, Genesis doesn’t just run with the big dogs, it’s one of them—quiet and stable at speed and in crosswinds, and with tremendous brakes for those oops moments.

Genesis

The cabin is a lovely place in which to spend a few hours—full of fine materials, shown off in tasteful hues and elegantly highlighted here and there with touches of chrome or glossy wood. As befits a sedan, there is ample room for four adults, five if necessary, and a trunk deep enough to create an echo. The “stripper” 4.6—$37,250—has about every mod con one could expect, from rain-sensing wipers and dual-zone automatic heating/cooling to a power rear sunshade and tire-pressure monitors. It lacks only features such as swiveling headlamps, backup sensors and a rear-view camera, GPS and so on, which are of course available for not much more. The entry-level 3.8 model, with a 290hp V-6, is kitted out the same way but is a couple of ticks slower to 60 mph and starts at just $32,250.

There must be a flaw in this brilliant car, and it finally surfaced: At high speed in high cornering angles, the steering begins to fight back and the wheel wants to move in the hands. Not enough to throw the car off-line, but there it is. At normal velocities, the Genesis steering is predictable and precise, if numb. OK, I feel better now.

Hyundai says its Genesis received the highest score among midsize premium cars in the J.D. Power 2009 Automotive Performance Execution and Layout Study. As the maker avers on the car’s Monroney, its window sticker: “Genesis offers an unprecedented combination of performance, luxury, and fuel efficiency.” To which we would add only, “at an unbeatable price.”

Road Test: 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP

It’s the car that proves General Motors is making a huge mistake closing the Pontiac brand. We’re behind the wheel of the turbocharged 260-horsepower Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP.

Don’t forget to check out our Road Test Photo Gallery of the Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP

Specifications as-tested

Model: 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP
Engine: 260-horsepower 2.0L Turbocharged Four-Cylinder EcoTec
Base MSRP: $30,375
As driven MSRP: $34,020
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Equipped Options: Premium Package [Leather seats, leather steering wheel, bluetooth, steering wheel controls], 5-speed automatic transmission, air conditioning, high performance audio system, USB port for audio system

AutoInsane Road Test: 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP

Conclusion

The most agile and balanced vehicle to ever come out of General Motors (in our opinion).  Paired with exotic looks and an engine that’s packed with neck-whipping power; we didn’t want to give it back.

Strengths

  • Just as nimble at low speeds and more stable on the highway than a Mazda MX-5
  • Unique coupe styling draws the attention of all that pass-by
  • Drives with balance not usually found outside of a Porsche
  • The turbo 2.0L 260-horsepower engine is tuner ready

Weaknesses

  • You can take the top off but you can’t take it with you (unless you get the optional soft-top)
  • The 5-speed automatic acts as a serious detriment to an engine that excels with a manual
  • Interior plastics are not up to par considering the price tag

Driving Dynamics & Performance

AutoInsane Road Test: 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP

You’ve most likely seen a Pontiac Solstice or three going the other way on the road during the past few years. They’re small, stylish, and fun  cars. They’ve also been exclusively a convertible- until now.  Starting and ending with the 2009 model year, GM is building out a small handful of hard-top coupe Solstices.  Even fewer of those will be GXP editions, but luckly we got our hands on one.

Powered by a turbocharged 2.0L EcoTec four-cylinder engine producing 260-horsepower, the Solstice Coupe GXP is a wonderful example of a lot of muscle stuffed in a small package.  Having first tried out this engine a few years back on a convertible Solstice GXP, the most surprising aspect of the turbocharged EcoTec is how little it feels like a four-cylinder.  Turbo lag isn’t gone completely but the abundance of low end torque gives the impression of a small displacement V6. The throttle response is linear and doesn’t have the usual top end punch you would expect from a turbo engine.

Designed first as a drop-top, the convertible Solstice always felt solid and free of cowl shake. Sporting additional bracing and structure the coupe drives rock solid even with the targa top removed.  Sure, the car is a little bigger and slightly heavier feeling than a Mazda MX-5 but the extra grunt and stability more than make up for the loss of toss-ability at slow speed. On the highway the Solstice is more akin to driving a downsized Corvette, tracking straight and making easy work of even the most aggressive lane changes.

Where the Solstice Coupe GXP really shines is on country back roads. Twists and turns are so easily carved you just may forget you’ve passed through a set of curves at all.

Undoubtedly the Solstice Coupe GXP has a predisposition for speed. So well balanced – it’s easy to chug along well over the speed limit and be none the wiser without a look down at the speedometer. However, for those looking for an even bigger rush- GM Performance Parts sells a fully factory backed stage 2 upgrade kit- “boosting” the engine’s output to 290-horsepower.

Design Execution, Appearance, Fit & Finish

AutoInsane Road Test: 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP

We knew we loved the fast back styling the minute we laid eyes on it. What we didn’t expect was how much others would love it. Anytime we drove into town the stares from fellow drivers and people on the sidewalks just wouldn’t quit. Maybe it’s the hint of Lotus Elise in the front end or perhaps the Viper-like rear canopy. It could also just be that no-one had ever seen a Solstice Coupe before.  Either way the attention was measurable.

Side by side with it’s convertible counterpart, the Coupe has a much more exotic look about it.  The relatively large 18-inch polished aluminum wheels fit the body with a concept car like look.

Audio, Electronics, & Technology

AutoInsane Road Test: 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP

GM hasn’t forgotten about the other small touches that make a car pleasurable to drive.  The optional Monsoon stereo system our Coupe GXP came equipped with had the also optional USB interface. We found no troubles plugging in an iPod, however audio quality from a USB thumb-disk was clipped and filled with sound artifacts. The system recognizes MP3 CD-Rs, has an aux port, and features XM Radio.  Overall sound quality from the “high performance” system was indeed very good.

A typical GM driver information center can be found in the gauge cluster and displays a volume of information. Odometers, trip-odometers, coolant temperature, stopwatch, tire-pressures and other standard fare readouts that didn’t make it into a dedicated needle gauge are all there. We particularly liked the boost readout (as seen above).

Comfort & Ergonomics

AutoInsane Road Test: 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP

As you could probably guess- comfort and ergonomics are not the Solstice’s strong suits. Our standard complaints, knee and shoulder room, storage space, and seating position are all par for the course in this segment. It’s not to say you couldn’t make a daily driver out of the Coupe GXP but you wouldn’t see us doing it.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the whole car is one of it’s best attributes- the targa top. Just like with a Corvette, the whole center roof section is removable for open air motoring. Driving around with the top off on a cool evening was the most enjoyable part of our whole week with the GXP. The unfortunate omission of a space to store the top in-vehicle also made it the most frustrating. Any chance of rain meant we had to leave the top in place, lest we be caught in a downpour with our only protection sitting in the garage. Pontiac makes a temporary cloth top for those exact situations but our tester didn’t have it.

In coupe form we would have expected a modest rear storage improvement over the convertible but we were wrong. Only the rear glass raises for access to the small storage floor. However with all this said- the Solstice Coupe GXP is meant to be driven and not taken for a trip so it would be petty to hold these small inconveniences against the car.

Final thoughts

Our time behind the wheel of the Solstice Coupe GXP was heartbreaking in so many ways.  Heartbreaking because it would most likely be the last new Pontiac we’d ever drive. Heartbreaking because we loved it so much and because we had to give it back. Heartbreaking because we knew so few people would be able to drive a car that embodies the essence of the Pontiac brand like no other car before it.

Good-bye Pontiac- at least the best was saved for last.

Check out our Solstice Coupe GXP photo gallery

2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP Photo Gallery

Road Test Gallery: 2009 Solstice Coupe GXP

It’s the end of an era as the Pontiac brand shutters its doors for the final time. It’s fitting then that perhaps the most exciting car to ever wear the Pontiac dart logo is among the very last. We drive the super-limited Solstice Coupe GXP and here’s the photo gallery from our Road Test.

AutoInsane Road Test: 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP

Specifications as tested & photographed

Model: 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP
Engine: 260-horsepower 2.0L Turbocharged Four-Cylinder EcoTec
Base MSRP: $30,375
As driven MSRP: $34,020
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Equipped Options: Premium Package [Leather seats, leather steering wheel, bluetooth, steering wheel controls], 5-speed automatic transmission, air conditioning, high performance audio system, USB port for audio system

Check out our full Road Test of the 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe GXP

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Photographer: Zane Merva

Road Test Gallery: Audi TTS Roadster

Packing a high-tech turbocharged 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine delivering 265-horsepower, the Audi TTS Roadster drives like it’s on rails and looks downright sexy.  It looks so good in face, we wanted to share before we had the time to compile our full review. Enjoy the early Road Test Gallery and look for our Road Test soon.

2009 Audi TTS Roadster
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder
Power output: 265-horsepower @ 6,000rpm – 258 lb-ft torque @ 2,500rpm-5,000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch gearbox w/sequential shift control & paddle shifters
Powertrain: Audi’s Quattro AWD, including a Haldex electronic center differential & Hypoid gear front/rear differentials
0-60mph: 5.1-seconds
Curb weight: 3,373 lbs

Photographer: Zane Merva

Road Test Gallery: Dodge Challenger SRT-8

A classic is reborn.  The 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT-8, with 425-horsepower and 6.1-liters of fury, punishes pavement with raw muscle and tempts the eye with gorgeous styling. We’ve taken one for a spin and here’s 60 photos from our coming Road Test.

2009 Dodge Challenger SRT-8 Road Test Photo Gallery

Photographer: Zane Merva
Copyright 2009 AutoInsane.com

2009 Infiniti G37 Convertible: A little bit of pain mixed with a lot of pleasure

There’s one primary thing a convertible needs to do – look good. If it doesn’t look good, it’s not going to make you look good and what’s the point? After all, deep down, nobody buys a convertible because they are introverted yet worship the sun. Drop the top on a convertible and it’s the picture of Dorian Gray: you’re 20 lbs. lighter, 10 years younger and 30 percent more optimistic about life in general.

The 2009 Infiniti G37 does supremely well from that perspective. This hardtop convertible excels at drawing attention to you in the form of unsolicited praise for its beauty (even from a cop walking the beat). Plus, this “magic car” plastered an ear-to-ear smile on my four-year-old daughter as we went for a top-down cruise on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

2009 Infiniti G37 Convertible

Her happiness almost made me overcome my complaints about this car in terms of its major design flaw: it wasn’t built as a convertible. Basically, Infiniti put a hardtop convertible on its brilliant G37 coupe and called it a day.

It’s a beautiful thing to watch the three-piece roof close quickly as it tucks away into the trunk. That is until you try to use the trunk and discover it has less storage space than the glove compartment. The G37 comes with an optional wind deflector. If you decide not to use it, there’s no room for it in the trunk. So, you’re stuck with it in the backseat, which is the G37’s true trunk.

Now, other hard-top convertibles have compromised space in their trunks, but not as badly as the G37. It’s a deal breaker if you’re in the market for a convertible that can actually seat three or four for a weekend getaway. However, if you’re an Empty Nester with neither kids nor college payments to worry about, get thee to an Infiniti dealer and check out this all-new G37.

It’s a great coupe on a whole bunch of levels. As mentioned, it’s eye candy, which is always nice. No price is available on this model yet, because it doesn’t go on sale until June. (The model loaned to me for a week by Infiniti was a pre-production G37 but I could detect no problems with it.) I would ballpark this convertible starting at around $40,000 before options are thrown in.

2009 Infiniti G37 Convertible

The interior is hard to beat and is first class all the way. The G convertible’s interior includes standard leather-appointed seating, an available Bose Open Air Sound System that dynamically changes equalization based on outside noise, top position and vehicle speed, an adaptive dual zone climate control system that adjusts fan speed in accordance to top position and vehicle speed, and available climate-controlled seats that provide both heating and cooling functions. (Trust me, you’ll love that cooling function on hot summer days.)

A power walk-in device with position memory provides easy access to the second row seats (the front seats move forward automatically at the touch of a button to allow passengers into the rear seats). An available rear wind deflector helps reduce wind turbulence when the top is down. Remember, though, only the tiniest of creatures can fit in the back and there’s no place to store that wind deflector when it’s not in use and the top is down.

Every 2009 G Convertible comes equipped with a standard 3.7-liter VQ-series V6 rated at 325 horsepower. The engine is mated to either an electronically controlled 7-speed automatic transmission with available magnesium paddle shifters or a responsive close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission. The G37S Convertible Sport 6MT adds sport-tuned steering and larger sport brakes, along with 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and W-rated performance tires.

2009 Infiniti G37 Convertible

The G37 I drove came with the six-speed manual transmission. Frankly, from what I’ve read, (and this could be considered heresy among automotive journalists) I think I would have enjoyed the automatic transmission more in the long run. The manual transmission is best left to enthusiastic drivers because it requires an emphatic stomp on the accelerator to get up and go. If you’re idea of fun is ambling along back roads, opt for the automatic.

According to Infiniti, the convertible, with the six-speed manual transmission, averages 16 mpg city and 24 mpg highway and runs on premium fuel (as will the convertible). But what’s a few more pennies at the pump when you look this good behind the wheel? Official EPA numbers have not been published on the government website yet.

(Questions and comments about this review and other automotive concerns can be e-mailed to [email protected] All queries are answered.)

2009 Infiniti G37 Convertible Specifications

Wheelbase: 112.2 inches
Length: 183.3 inches
Width: 72.9 inches
Height: 55.1 inches
Curb weight: 4101 lbs.
Engine: 3.7-liter, V6
Horsepower: 325 @ 7000 rpm
Torque: 267 @ 5200 rpm
EPA estimated mpg city/highway: 16/24
Base price: $43,900 (est.)
As-tested price: $48,190 (est.)
Also consider: (a comparative vehicle) Audi S4, BMW 3 series, Mercedes Benz CLK Class

2009 Infiniti G37 Convertible Photo Gallery