Hyundai entered the sport-coupe market in 1997 with the first-generation Tiburon, which joined the South Korean company’s line of value-priced sedans. A “harder-edge” design emerged for the 2000 model year.
After sitting out the 2002 model year, a new Tiburon returned as an early 2003 model. Changes to this year’s Tiburon are modest. The four-cylinder engine gains continuously variable valve timing, and the V-6 adds 2 horsepower. The interior trim has been revised and the option packages simplified. The current front-wheel-drive Tiburon is built on a unique platform with a front subframe.
Styled in South Korea, the Tiburon coupe blends straight and curved lines in what Hyundai calls an effort to “emphasize vitality and strength.” The body features a high belt line and a “chopped” greenhouse with a steeply raked windshield and back window. Large, low-profile, high-performance tires help to impart an aggressive stance. The Tiburon is equipped with all-disc brakes, a fully independent suspension, and front and rear stabilizer bars.
At 99.6 inches, the Tiburon’s wheelbase is 2.2 inches longer than in previous models. The car’s overall length has increased by 2.1 inches to an even 173 inches. Fog lamps are standard, and a power moonroof is optional.
When equipped with the V-6 engine and six-speed-manual gearbox, the GT V6 coupe gets a handling package that includes 17-inch tires and a tighter suspension. Alloy wheels hold 16-inch tires on the base model. A body-colored rear spoiler is installed on the GT.
The South Korean automaker says headroom, legroom and shoulder room are larger in the 2004 model than in prior Tiburons, and cargo volume totals 14.7 cubic feet. Leather seating surfaces are available in the GT V6 coupe. A six-speaker stereo with a CD player is standard in the base Tiburon. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, remote keyless entry, power windows and locks, and a tilt steering column. The GT gets aluminum pedals.
Under the Hood
Hyundai borrowed the GT V6’s 2.7-liter dual-overhead-cam V-6 engine from the Sonata sedan and Santa Fe sport utility vehicle. Rated at 172 hp, it works with one of three available transmissions: a four-speed Shiftronic automatic, a five-speed manual or a six-speed manual. The base Tiburon carries a 138-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that mates with either the four-speed or five-speed gearbox.
Side-impact airbags are standard, and antilock brakes are optional.
The Tiburon’s shapely lines don’t translate to the appealing driving experience that drivers expect. The GT’s ride is bouncy on rough pavement, but rebound is well controlled. Even though the car stays properly on course, it doesn’t impart a full sense of security.
Handling is good; the GT coupe steers easily and maneuvers with some nimbleness in corners. The Tiburon is stable on the highway and takes curves reasonably well, but it falls short of some rivals. Road and tire sounds are prominent, but the engine is, if anything, too quiet for easy manual gear shifting. The six-speed gearbox is notchy and somewhat stiff, but the clutch engages smoothly for easy takeoffs. The seats are supportive, legroom and elbowroom are good, but headroom is meager.