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11:46 PM

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2010 Hyundai Genesis coupe: another look with a real-world drive

Rafay Ansar

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OK, this isn’t really a first drive. Or even a second one. In fact, car people have been flogging the 2010 Hyundai Genesis coupe all over the world for awhile now. Korea, California--even Las Vegas have played host to intrepid journalists getting a look at the small sports car that's in many ways creating its own niche.

But if the Genesis coupe is on your shopping list of potential summer pick-ups--you probably can't get enough of this car. So here is yet another take. And it’s a realistic one. We drove the sporty two-door over winding rural roads in Michigan, in the open areas about 30 miles west of Detroit. And we spent some time on real, ordinary roads in mid-sized communities, driving normally.

So no track time. But this experience was actually pretty close to how you will drive this car, should you choose it to grace your driveway. It’s definitely a peppy option. The all-aluminum turbo four-cylinder is rated at 210 hp and 223 lb-ft of torque, and when paired with the Hyundai-crafted six-speed manual, offers fun, affordable transportation with plenty of style and interaction.

Our four-banger had the track pack; that means 19-inch wheels, summer tires, bright red Brembos and a stiffer chassis, among other goodies. You will notice the difference. The track adds an edge that the V6 touring model we later tried simply didn’t have. Yes, that V6 was an automatic--but the track pack's flair is omnipresent. The turbo is a solid motor, and reaching 60 mph takes little effort under normal circumstances.

Our V6 was comfortably appointed and still plenty of fun with the six-speed ZF automatic transmission. Shifts are quick, and enthusiasts can play Schumacher with the quirky paddles or bump through the gears with the center shifter. With the nice interior finishings, pleasing materials and solid layout, this is probably the closest comparison that can be drawn to the big-brother (and Car of the Year) Genesis sedan. Indeed, they share the same 3.8-liter V6, but the coupe gets a slight power boast to 306 hp (vs. the four-door's 290 hp).




But beyond a few underpinning swaps, and of course the name, these siblings are very much different in their drive character. The V6's bolstered output really shines through in the coupe, and it's a lot of power for a smaller car. Punch off the traction control, and you'll see that firsthand.

The V6's power also was evident when teamed with the manual transmission, which is a very enjoyable pairing. Building the revs on the expressway and whipping through the gears is flat-out fun.

All of the models we tested handled the winding route well. They were civilized, maintained composure through turns and absorbed the occasional bumps well. The stiffer track pack offered some chatters on a couple of rough spots, but that's to be expected.

Some have said the Genesis coupe could join the pony-car stable. But it's really not in that category--for good or bad. The lithe Mustang offers some parallels in terms of handling, but the Camaro and Challenger are far brawnier road-goers. Some will want that. And the styling of the Hyundai, with its "Z" beltline and wedge headlights is much different than the eye-catching retro looks of the Detroiters.

Speaking of Zs, Nissan's 370 is a decent comparison, but like the American coupes, it has its own rich tradition. The Mazda RX-8 is more athletic than the Genesis, but is also a suitable measuring stick.



Overall, the Genesis coupe looks like a solid commuter car for those looking to spice up their daily drives. It's enjoyable, but usable. You can park it. You can maneuver it. There's room to put (some) stuff in it. And for a starting price of $22,750 with freight, this is within reach for a lot of people. Spruce it up and you pay $31,750 for a fully-loaded model, but it's still a decent value.

Hyundai execs have said they considered making the Genesis its own line, but ultimately decided against it. The sedan, and now the coupe are much different from the rest of the company's offerings. They may not stand on their own--yet. But with two potential winners in a year, Genesis is clearly the beginning of something special for Hyundai.

11:06 PM

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Former Duracell chief to head new Chrysler as chairman

Rafay Ansar

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Business consultant Robert Kidder is set to become the new chairman of Chrysler Group when it emerges from bankruptcy. Kidder, 64, will replace Bob Nardelli, who was hired in 2007 after Daimler sold Chrysler to private equity group Cerberus.

A new board of directors, to be formed after bankruptcy, will hire a new CEO for Chrysler. But that position is expected to be filled by Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat.

Kidder's résumé includes a stint as CEO of Duracell. He currently is a lead director at investment firm Morgan Stanley and CEO of 3Stone Advisors of Columbus, Ohio, which manages a private equity fund focused on investing in water-quality testing.

7:32 AM

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New Mercedes-Benz E-class picks up panache and gadgetry galore

Rafay Ansar

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Until now, the only way to experience the kind of technology featured in the Mercedes-Benz S-class was to buy a Mercedes-Benz S-class. Not anymore. Under the distinctive new sheetmetal of the 2010 E-class, Mercedes engineers have loaded nearly all of the technological wizardry found in the top-of-the-line luxury S-class sedan, and then some. With night vision with pedestrian-recognition ability, lane-departure warning, drowsy-driver detection, adaptive cruise control and intelligent lighting, the new E-class harbors a CIA warehouse's worth of special electronics designed to keep the car safe and on the straight and narrow.

"Beauty is nothing without brains," said Thomas Weber, Mercedes-Benz director, extolling the car's high-tech features at its un-veiling at the Geneva motor show in March.

Those "brains" include this standard and optional equipment:

-- Distronic adaptive cruise control teamed with Mercedes' Pre-Safe braking system, with the addition of Attention Assist. The system monitors driver awareness, using steering sensors to determine whether a driver is beginning to doze. If drowsiness is detected, audible and visual warnings alert the driver.

-- The lane-departure-warning system uses cameras to detect lane markings and recognize unintentional drifts, prompting driver correction via a game-controller-like steering-wheel vibration that mimics rumble strips. The system does not activate when the driver uses a turn signal or when lane changes are clear and decisive.

-- Adaptive Highbeam Assist uses the same cameras to adjust the variable high-beam headlights when it detects oncoming vehicles or the taillights of cars ahead.

-- Blind Spot Assist uses radar to detect cars in side blind spots and provides visual and audible cues to the driver when a turn signal is activated and a car is in the blind spot.

-- Night View Assist is carried over from the S-class but adds a pedestrian-detection camera. The night vision is spectacular in its ability to highlight hidden hazards, and pedestrian detection makes it invaluable. The only negative is that the view is displayed on a central stack screen (rather than on the instrument panel as in the S-class), requiring the driver to look away from the road to check the monitor.

New, more efficient gasoline-engine technology offered in European models won't come to the U.S. market, at least in the short term. While European E-classes run all-new V6 and V8 direct-injection gasoline engines, in the States, the E-class will soldier on with the E350 and its 3.5-liter, 268-hp, 258-lb-ft V6 and the E550 packing a 5.5-liter, 382-hp, 391-lb-ft V8. Mercedes says improvements in U.S. fuel quality are needed before the Euro engines can come stateside.

Inside, Mercedes trims the seats in padded piping, but the most noticeable improvement is that the shift lever moves to a column-mounted stalk, freeing up real estate in the center console for the all-new, do-everything Comand-system controller knob.

The 2010 E-class sedan goes on sale in July (rear-drive E350 and E550), following the coupe, which hits the market in June. All-wheel-drive 4Matic models go on sale in September, followed in November by the 2010 E63 AMG. In early 2010, the E350 Bluetec diesel arrives, followed late next year by the E-class wagon, both as 2011 models.



2010 MERCEDES-BENZ E350

ON SALE: July

BASE PRICE: $53,000 (est)

DRIVETRAIN: 3.5-liter, 268-hp, 258-lb-ft V6; RWD, seven-speed automatic

CURB WEIGHT: 3,891 lb (est)

0-60 MPH: 6.5 sec (est)

FUEL ECONOMY (EPA): 20 mpg (est)

11:54 PM

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Bankruptcy will delay Chrysler's 2010 model launches, exec says

Rafay Ansar

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Chrysler LLC will be late getting its 2010 vehicles to market because of the automaker's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, Chrysler manufacturing chief Frank Ewasyshyn testified today.

The current shutdown of plants and stresses on suppliers also threaten to delay the 2011 models next year, Ewasyshyn said.

The changeover to 2010 models is delayed while Chrysler tries to emerge from bankruptcy within the next 30 to 60 days, he said.

Once Chrysler returns to production, planned as an alliance with Fiat S.p.A., the new company will have to finish assembling the many vehicles, engines and parts now partially built in Chrysler factories, Ewasyshyn said.

That and readying for the new models will delay 2010 launches. Those typically take place shortly after a July shutdown to change tooling for the new vehicles.

Ewasyshyn said the smooth launch of 2011 models also is jeopardized.

Some suppliers are balking at sending the tooling and parts that need to be validated now in order to build the 2011 models. He was testifying in support of the bankruptcy court allowing Chrysler to pay suppliers for the nearly $1.71 billion that Chrysler owes them for parts already shipped.

7:44 AM

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Fiat CEO confirms he wants alliance with Opel

Rafay Ansar

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Fiat S.p.A.'s boss has confirmed that the automaker wants to form an alliance with General Motors' German subsidiary Opel.

"Now we have to concentrate on Opel. They are our perfect partner," CEO Sergio Marchionne told Fiat-owned newspaper La Stampa in a story published Friday.

On Thursday, Fiat closed a deal with Chrysler LLC that gives it an initial 20 percent stake in the U.S. automaker, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

On April 17, Automotive News Europe was first to report that Fiat was considering forming an alliance with GM's struggling European unit.

Italian and German unions oppose to the deal because they fear it will lead to massive job cuts. Fiat also has competition for Opel from Austrian-Canadian supplier Magna International.