DETROIT – When I first got my hands on Hyundai's 2008 Tiburon, I envisioned a lead paragraph that started with fuel-efficient fun.
But once I looked at the sticker of my test car and saw that the fuel mileage on the Korean 2+2 sport coupe was 16 mpg in the city and 24 mpg, on the highway, that idea went out the window because that sort of mileage is not that great.
Still, at $23,835, the Tiburon is not a bad buy. Its all-aluminum 2.7-liter V6 made 172 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 181 lbs.-ft. of torque at a reasonably low 3,800 rpm. It was mated to a six speed manual transmission. The low maximum torque was good for acceleration from a standstill as well as merging onto the expressway or passing.
A 2.0-liter, 138 horsepower four-cylinder engine with 136 pounds-feet of torque is also available. Alternate gearboxes include a five-speed manual and a four speed automatic.
The Tiburon handled well. It had a MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear suspension. This setup translated into a pretty firm ride. But it wasn't as harsh as a true sport suspension and it wasn't as soft as a sedan. I found the Tiburon quite comfortable.
However, there was a bit of disconnect between the steering wheel and the front wheels. In other words, I really didn't feel like I was connected to the road. It was difficult to feel what the car was doing from its interaction with the pavement.
But the Tiburon looked good. It had the proportions of a small coupe. A long hood, muscular fenders, side gills along with projector headlights and an aggressive front bumper gave it a muscular look.
The dual exhaust conveyed speed. While the curving roofline made the car appear as though it was cutting through the wind, or moving while standing still. Given the Tiburon's relatively sleek design, it was easy to think that it cost thousands of dollars more than it did.
With its cross-drilled front brake rotors, high spoiler and wheel design, the Tiburon SE, which was the model I had, evoked performance. But the Tiburon was not the sort of car that you want to challenge somebody coming off the line. Though it had a six-speed manual transmission, the engine just didn't produce enough power.
But it was still a very nice car. The cockpit wasn't bad. Fit and finish were acceptable. But just like in most 2+2s the back seats were suited for groceries not grownups. It was just about impossible to get anybody but a toddler in the back seat of a Tiburon.
The cockpit features were ergonomically designed for ease of operation, from the driver's controls to the HVAC and audio system layout in the center stack, the latter highlighted with a gunmetal trim finish. An ambient temperature display, cup holders, and center console storage completed the interior amenities.
The analog gauges included a large speedometer and tachometer positioned so the driver could immediately access that critical driving information. The instrument cluster featured Hyundai's signature blue gauge backlighting. The three-spoke steering wheel on the Tiburon GS has a high-quality urethane covering; the Tiburon GT, GT Limited and SE steering wheel was leather-wrapped.
For 2008, Hyundai has added satellite radio and a 220-watt audio system with MP3 capability to the Tiburon's list of standard equipment. The Hyundai Tiburon SE V6 may not have been all that fuel-efficient but it certainly was cost efficient fun.
Frank S. Washington is managing partner/editor of www.AboutThatCar.com.
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