Fresh styling for this sporty coupe
The 2005 Hyundai Tiburon sport coupe looks fresh with new front styling. It's a more attractive look, with a single large dark-meshed center opening in the grille flanked by fog lamp openings. Coupled with gill-like vents behind the front fender opening, the Tiburon has the look of a prowling shark, for which it is named.
The Tiburon GT is a sporty coupe with a brusque exhaust tone that makes the 172 horses from its V6 engine sound like Clydesdales. The 2.7-liter V6 is complemented with crisp handling that makes the GT fun to drive. The base Tiburon GS has a low-emission four-cylinder engine with adequate power for all traffic situations, and good handling that benefits from the sporty chassis design.
Compelling pricing makes the Tiburon an attractive proposition. The Tiburon starts at less than $16,000. A Tiburon GT V6 absolutely loaded with leather seats, sunroof, an Infinity audio system, and ABS, retails for $21,229, and the fully-loaded SE with six-speed transmission and Kenwood MP3 audio system lists for only $21,344. For comparison, the similarly equipped Mitsubishi Eclipse V6 and Toyota Celica GTS both list for over $24,000.
Hyundai has emerged as a low-cost producer of attractive cars with performance and panache. The quality of its products has improved tremendously in the past few years, according to the respected quality gurus at J.D. Power and Associates. Hyundai offers the best warranty in the business: 5 years/50,000 miles bumper-to-bumper and 10 years/100,000 miles for the powertrain.
Driving the Tiburon GT with its V6 engine is a satisfying experience. Though boasting only 172 horsepower, the V6 revs freely to 6000 rpm, giving it a sporty feeling. The engine has a pleasantly husky sound thanks to its free-flowing exhaust. Slam the power down and the front wheels scrabble for grip, at least until the 215/45R17 Michelin Pilot tires get to work and the car sprints forward.
Shift up through the five gears and you're cruising. If you get lazy and forget to downshift as you putter around town, it's no problem as the 181 pound-feet of torque are available at low rpm. We found it'll pull reasonably well in top gear from 35 mph. The low-end torque of the Tiburon makes for a different driving experience than that of cars like the Celica GTS and Civic Si that thrive on high revs.
If you prefer an automatic transmission, go for the GT V6 and you'll not give up much in performance. When you feel like working out, the Shiftronic manual control on the automatic allows more involvement in the driving fun.
The power rack-and-pinion steering feels fine. It's precise, with just enough feedback for fast driving. With the power of the V6, torque steer in this front-wheel-drive coupe is inevitable, but it's controllable and actually kind of fun when you're driving round town. (Torque steer is a common phenomenon with high-powered front-wheel-drive cars and is usually experienced as a slight tug on the steering wheel during hard acceleration.) On the highway it's barely noticeable.
Handling is good, with little body roll. Up front are MacPherson struts, with lower links isolated by a subframe. A multi-link suspension with Chapman struts holds up the rear. All models get anti-roll bars and gas-filled shock absorbers. The sport-tuned suspension on the GT V6 has 10-percent stiffer spring rates, stiffer compression in the gas-charged shocks and thicker anti roll bars front (23mm vs. 20mm) and rear (19mm vs. 18mm).
We found the Tiburon easy to throw around in an autocross circuit laid out in the infield of Las Vegas Speedway. Like all front-drive cars, with the engine weight over the driving wheels, it tended to understeer (the front wheels lose grip before the rear wheels). However, we could compensate pretty easily using the throttle, brakes, and steering wheel, and get the rear end to come around and help the car turn in for the tight corners. The four-wheel disc brakes worked well and stopped the car quickly.
Out on the highway, and on smooth roads, the Tiburon rides well. The sports suspension and low-profile tires tend to transmit excessive harshness into the cockpit on rough road surfaces, however.