"Testdrive a Hyundai? Um, no thanks, I think I'm busy learning how to build wall cabinets that weekend." That was my initial response when Nads asked me to go on the Hyundai long lead. In all honesty, I just really didn't want to drive a Hyundai. Someday I'll realize that it's not all about me, just not yet.
Now before my inbox overflows with hate mail from the Hyundai fan clubs of the world, please let me explain. I'm not saying that the Hyundai Excel and Accent were total flops. Come on, guys like Naderi need a way to get around just like everyone else. Without a doubt, Hyundai does make good cars, but I've just never perceived them as super-fast sports cars or baller luxury cruisers. They're more like something in between, which doesn't exactly grab my attention. If you've taken a marketing class, you might be familiar with the lukewarm-tea example. If you haven't, you probably think I'm a raving lunatic.
I still didn't want to go, but good thing there is a portion of my cranium that houses an open mind-that's what sent me on my fantastic voyage to the Tiburon long lead. That and the fact that Nads said I had no choice.
Despite my usual strip search, I actually managed to make it on and off the plane safely. So there I was in Sin City, also known as Las Vegas, rolling up to the Four Seasons hotel like a pimp in the Hyundai-provided limo. I figured the trip might not be so bad even though I don't gamble, I wouldn't know any of the old automotive journalists who'd be there, and all I could remember from the last time I was in Vegas was some garden for the Olympics that Nads made me go to every night.
By 7 a.m., all the journalists were at the Las Vegas Raceway getting instructions for each road course. It was way too early in the morning for anyone to comprehend what the Skip Barber instructors were telling us. I decided to do what I usually do: Jump my ass in the car and drive the hell out of it. Maybe I would break it and could then go find some hot girls or a buffet.
My thoughts of Hyundai slowly started to change as I lowered my body into the Tiburon. Everything in the interior was designed like a cockpit, and the seats weren't so flat that they hurt my firm apple of a hiney. With a 350-watt Infinity audio system blasting Olivelawn, things were starting to look better by the second. But the true test would be how this car performed. Would it have enough power to climb hills bigger than Roseanne Barr's ass? Would the GT suspension be stiff enough to take curves tighter than those on Carmen Electra's body? If it could, I'd find out.
After tearing up the road course with the 181hp 2.7L V-6 motor, I was wearing a huge smile on my face. I knew I wouldn't be hoochie-searching for the rest of the day because I was going to drive this Tiburon as much as time allowed.
A two-hour canyon trip was next on the agenda. Keeping up to speed was not a problem, especially with the close ratios in the new six-speed tranny. Oops, did I say six-speed tranny? Good, because that's what I meant to say. The only thoughts floating in my head from start to finish were that this car did not look, feel, or perform the way I had been expecting. In fact, this car took my expectations to a level I would never have possibly imagined. Word is that Hyundai is working with several aftermarket manufacturers to deliver even more performance. I'd tell you more, but I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise.
Car: '03 Hyundai Tiburon GT
Owne:r Hyundai North America
Under the Hood: DOHC 24-valve 2.7L V-6 with 181 hp and 177 lb-ft
Transmission: Four-speed automatic with Shiftronic or six-speed manual
Stiff stuff: Four-wheel independent suspension; gas-filled MacPherson struts; and front and rear stabilizers
Inside: Premium Infinity audio system with 8-inch subwoofer and external 360-watt amplifier
Rollers: 17-inch alloys
Stoppers: Four-wheel disc brakes with optional ABS