- The Washington Times - Friday, March 22, 2002

When you're hot, you're hot and Hyundai is sizzling hot. The Korean automaker is the fastest-growing import in North America and the introduction of its all-new Tiburon should increase the heat on the competition.

The new Tiburon bears little resemblance either in appearance or mechanically to its predecessor.

Hyundai uses the same formula on the Tiburon that has made it successful. The sport coupe offers styling, performance and value. It is just now going on sale as a 2003 model. It is a direct descendent of the HCD-1 and HCD-II concept cars.

Styling of the Tiburon is aggressive. It is bold and clean featuring both straight and curved lines. The large, low-profile, high-performance tires on aluminum wheels provide an aggressive stance.

The high belt line and "chopped" greenhouse allows the car to appear in motion while parked. Both the windshield and backlight are steeply raked.

The new model is available in two versions: the Tiburon and Tiburon GT-V-6. For the first time there is a powerful, high-tech V-6 engine. It is the same all-aluminum dual-overhead camshaft, 2.7-liter V-6 used in the Sonata and hot-selling Santa Fe sport utility vehicle.

It provides 181 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 177 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm.

Another first time offering is a six-speed manual transmission that can be mated with the V-6 engine.

The engine provides more than enough power for acceleration during passing situations and for entering crowded freeways.

Hyundai has done its homework on the new six-speed manual transmission. It is a smoothie. A flick of the wrist is all that is necessary to shift up or down. It is among the best units I've used regardless of price.

I had the opportunity to drive the new Tiburon on the mountain roads surrounding Las Vegas and at the new Las Vegas racetrack. It proved to be an enjoyable car to drive in both venues. The drive proved that the Tiburon is a good handler.

Equipped with the bigger wheels and sports suspension package it handled every tough driving situation with ease. The steering is precise and provides excellent road feedback.

Fitted with an independent suspension front and rear, the Tiburon uses MacPherson struts with offset coil springs, gas-filled hydraulic shock absorbers and anti-roll bar.

The new model also features the anti-roll bar mounted directly to the strut for more efficient operation.

The rear is fitted with a strut-type multilink suspension, gas-fitted hydraulic shock absorbers and anti-roll-bar. The GT V-6 suspension layout is the same but spring rates are increased approximately 10 percent and the gas-charged shock absorbers have stiffer compression and rebound valving and the size of the anti-roll bar is increased both in the front and rear.

The base Tiburon is equipped with a proven 2-liter DOHC engine delivering 140 horsepower. It comes with a five-speed manual transmission, also standard on the V-6. Both models offer the four-speed automatic Shiftronic transmission.

It may not be a true sports car in the traditional sense, but it comes quite close and with a price tag of $19,997 for a fully loaded version, it should entice money-constrained enthusiasts.

It will also prove a shock to the competition who charge hundreds more for similarly equipped models. The $19,997 price includes the six-speed manual transmission, leather seating, 17-inch wheels and tires plus a power moon roof and anti-lock brake system.

The test drive proved to me that the Tiburon is a good handler.

Equipped with the bigger wheels and sports suspension it handled every driving situation with ease. The steering is precise and allows the driver to keep control under difficult circumstances.

The Tiburon's new platform provides a slightly longer wheelbase (99.6-inch vs. 97.4-inch) and is slight longer (173-inch vs. 170.9-inch) than its predecessor. Headroom, legroom and shoulder room have all been increased to improve driver and passenger comfort.

I found the seating position for the driver was easily adjusted and I completed the long ride without feeling cramped or tired.

There is plenty of support for enthusiastic driving. Entry and exit is easy and I didn't need to go through contortions to get in and out of the Tiburon.

An excellent seven-speaker Infinity AM/FM/CD/Cassette stereo is standard on the GT V-6.

Standard equipment lists for both the base and GT V-6 models offer many features not available on other sports coupes.

Air conditioning, keyless remote entry with alarm, cruise control, fog lamps, power windows and door locks, power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, four-wheel disc brakes and a tilt steering column are all standard.

The new Tiburon, which comes with Hyundai's limited 10-year warranty, is a bargain in its class.

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