Hyundai entered the sport-coupe market in 1997 with its first-generation Tiburon. After sitting out the 2002 season, a new Tiburon returned as an early 2003 model.
Design enhancements for 2005 included a new grille, lower fascia, headlights and fog lamps. A new entry-level GS model became available. Continuously variable valve timing was added to the four-cylinder engine installed in the GS. GT and top-level SE models are also offered.
A new GT Limited trim has joined the Tiburon group for the 2006 model year. The GT Limited coupe features beige leather seating surfaces, side repeater lights, a power glass moonroof and a 440-watt Infinity audio system with an in-dash six-CD changer.
All 2006 Tiburons have fog lamps, and the GS can be equipped with a moonroof. A trip computer is installed on GT models for 2006.
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 short greenhouse, with a steeply raked windshield and back window. Tiburons are equipped with all-disc brakes, a fully independent suspension, and front and rear stabilizer bars.
Built on a 99.6-inch wheelbase, the Tiburon is 173 inches long overall. A deck-lid spoiler is mounted on the GT coupe, which has 17-inch alloy wheels. The SE model gets a high deck spoiler. The GS has standard 16-inch wheels, but 17-inch wheels are available.
Up to four people can fit inside the Tiburon. Air conditioning, keyless entry, a CD stereo, and power windows, locks and mirrors are standard in all Tiburons. Automatic temperature control and cloth upholstery with leather bolsters are installed in the GT model. The seats in the GT feature red stitching, which complements the leather-wrapped steering wheel. Leather seating surfaces are available in the GT. The SE coupe has aluminum pedals, metal-grain trim, a trio of auxiliary gauges and a Kenwood CD/MP3 audio system. Cargo volume totals 14.7 cubic feet.
Rated at an estimated 172 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, the 2.7-liter V-6 teams with either a four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission in GT models or a six-speed manual in the SE. The GS carries a 138-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder that mates with either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual.
Seat-mounted side-impact airbags and antilock brakes are standard.
The Tiburon’s shapely lines don’t quite translate to the sporty driving experience one might expect. In performance-oriented models, the ride is bouncy on rough pavement. 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. Stable on the highway, the Tiburon takes curves reasonably well, but it falls short of some rivals. Road and tire noise is prominent, but the engine — if anything — is too quiet for easy manual gear shifting. Hyundai’s six-speed gearbox is notchy and somewhat stiff, but the clutch engages smoothly.
The Tiburon’s seats are supportive. Legroom and elbow space are good, but headroom is meager.