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Executive wheels: Beauty and the beast

Jeff Rundles //October 28, 2013//

Executive wheels: Beauty and the beast

Jeff Rundles //October 28, 2013//



I place these two cars together because they are very similarly priced, although after that, they are completely different. The Mazda 6 is a four-door, five-passenger family sedan, while the Hyundai Genesis is a two-door coupe. If the low- to mid-$30s is in your price range, and you have some flexibility in the type of car you drive, then both of these should at least be on the test-drive list.

The Mazda 6 is quite beautiful. This 2014 model is the third generation of the 6 model introduced in 2002 and up until this point the Mazda 6 was a well-made, but relatively pedestrian competitor to the Honda Accord, the Toyota Camry, Nissan Maxima, the Hyundai Sonata, and the Kia Optima – it even really looked like them, which is no accident (to some extent, everyone wants to look like a Toyota).  The company’s design team has come up with a winner here. Everywhere I went, people admired the car (which has never happened before in a Mazda) and asked what it was.

But after that, it’s another well-made but relatively pedestrian family sedan. Mazda, in 2011, introduced something on its vehicle called Skyactiv Technology, a technology for boosting gas mileage efficiency while maintaining some guts. They have achieved that here. This 6, equipped with a 2.5-liter I4 engine with some 184 horsepower, boasts a 28 mpg city/40 mpg highway mileage – just about the best in the class – and it maintains some get-up-and-go. It’s peppy in city driving and on the highway, even in the mountains. 

But after that, I wasn’t wowed. The interior is handsome and comfortable, there is plenty of room inside (and in the trunk), and I liked the operation of all the systems; climate, music, etc. I especially liked that they went with the old turn-dials for temperature and fan speed. This Mazda 6 is a nice package, and worthy of a look if this is the type of car you are after.

But there’s nothing here that would push me toward it.  I like it a little more than the Nissan Maxima and Altima, but it doesn’t approach what I might get with the Honda and Toyota – solid reputations, solid and reliable re-sale values – and both Kia and Hyundai in recent years offer a lot of car for the money with excellent warranties.

The other bright spot for the Mazda 6 is what you get for the money. There are five trims offered in the Mazda 6 line, the low end with a base price of $20,990, with the same engine, but on the Grand Touring edition which I drove they have packed it up with a lot of standards. A base price of $29,695 includes leather-trimmed power seats, 5.8” touch screen display, navigation, a Bose 11-speaker sound system (very nice) bi-xenon headlights, alarm system, ABS brakes – and all of the bells and whistles you’d expect on much fancier cars.


They added on a GT Technology package for $2,080, that includes radar cruise control, high beam control, forward obstruction warning, and a lane departure warning system, which is cool stuff. Add a couple of other little things, and a $795 destination charge, and the bottom line is $32,845. That’s competitive for all you get here – and the car should be on the shopping list if a midsized family sedan is in the offing – but I can’t help but think that if you drove all the competitors I mentioned, I still believe that this Mazda would be a minority choice. Nice vehicle – well-equipped, well-made, handsome – but not the above-and-beyond car that Mazda would need to steal market share.


The 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track M/T is another story. I don’t generally like coupes, and I have come to appreciate automatic transmission over a stick, but this is one great car, and I wouldn’t even entertain the notion of getting an automatic.

When they tell you you’re getting a Hyundai, you’re thinking it’ll be another relatively well-made, Asian automobile – some kind of Toyota knock-off – that comes with a great warranty. What you don’t expect is a beast.

Suited up with a 3.8-liter V6 with a whopping 348 horsepower (rated 18 city/27 highway), this Genesis Coupe can flat-out fly – and it’s a joy to drive. It is so powerful that it shocked me more than once. It is extremely quick off the line, unbelievably quick entering and on the highway, and it has handling characteristics that you’d expect is a sports car – a Porsche, even. Yup, I’m comparing it to a Porsche.

Tight clutch, 6-speed manual that is effortless, tight and responsive steering, everything about this car bellows and roars and asks you – begs you! – to let it out. That, if fact, was one of its problems – I had a hard time obeying speed limits. It roared and purred at the same time on the highway, as if thanking me for a chance to run wild. I felt 30 years younger behind the wheel.

Now, of course, there are limitations. Getting into the back seat, like in all coupes, is a challenge, and there isn’t much of a trunk here, and with rear-wheel drive it’s not going to be the best snow car. But it’s so fun to drive, you might just want one part-time to be able to tap into the fountain-of-youth aspect when the mood strikes.

There are eight trims in the Genesis Coupe lineup (there’s also a very nice Genesis sedan): $24,250 includes a 2.0-liter I4 engine with a mere (he said somewhat sarcastically) 274 horsepower. This 3.8 Track M/T model, carrying a base price of $33,000, had only an option for $105 of carpeted floor mats and $35 for an iPod cable – then they added $875 in destination charges for a bottom line of $34,015.

Included in the base price was pretty much all the bells and whistles you’d need – that 10-year Hyundai powertrain warranty, a 5-year/60k miles unlimited warranty, power driver’s seat, xenon headlights, fog lights, heated mirrors with turn signals embedded, 7” touchscreen nav system, satellite radio, 360-watt Infinity 10-speaker audio, Bluetooth, all the technology plug-ins, traction and stability control.

The cockpit is comfortable and user-friendly, and the seats are stiff in that European way that keeps you alert and that are great for a long haul. Trust me – you’ll appreciate that in that this car, as I said, begs to be driven, and you’ll be out for long drives somewhere where the local cops’ radar is on the blink.