HYUNDAI’S LUXURY ARM TAKES AIM AT BMW’S LEGENDARY SEDAN
2019 Genesis G70 Hyundai’s luxury arm takes aim at BMW’S legendary sedan.
Rumor has it that the traditional four-door sedan is in the throes of a prolonged death spiral, squeezed into irrelevance by crossovers on one end and EVS on the other. But apparently Genesis hasn’t gotten the memo. Although its own SUV offerings are right around the corner, the 2019 G70 comes ready to stake a claim in the still-breathing compact sport luxury sedan market on its own terms.
It’s a risky yet necessary gamble on the part of Genesis, which launched about three years ago as a stand-alone luxury brand for parent company Hyundai. With the G70, Genesis is aiming straight for the middle of a crowded pool filled with German and Japanese competition.
The G70 looks to stand out by straddling the lines between athleticism, refinement, and elegance. As if that weren’t enough, the Genesis also tries to deliver an authentic character. So in reality, it’s less of a straight line and more the challenge of a classic Venn diagram. Is it possible to achieve all four qualities without compromise?
Visually, the G70 looks the part, especially out back. The sedan sidesteps the ongoing trend of a horizontal taillight treatment that, at a glance, seems interchangeable from one car to the next. Instead, the G70 sports shapely clusters reminiscent of the Rock of Gibraltar, enhanced by horseshoe-shaped LED bars at the edges. From the rear and sides, the G70 exudes a confident, muscular stance.
The front end is less successful, bowing to the very themes it studiously avoids elsewhere. Despite the angry angles and
sporty stance, I can’t help but think I’ve seen all of these design cues before. All that seems to vary is the shape and size of the grille from one make to the next.
At least the interior follows through on the promise of purposeful simplicity. Three large, round knobs provide dedicated control over the dual-zone climate control, with seat heating and ventilation buttons nestled between them in logical fashion. Just above that are eight buttons tied to the infotainment system, bracketed by volume and tuning dials on either side. Clean, simple, easy. But although the 8.0-inch screen is responsive to touch (even while wearing gloves), it could benefit from some kind of redundant input. My hand tends to fall to the circular Drive Mode controller, where I instinctively twist it to select a menu only to adjust throttle and steering programs instead.
But despite the presence of the drive modes, Genesis is opting for an overall less-is-more approach with the G70. Albert Biermann, head of vehicle performance at Genesis, avoided the temptation to pile on a litany of tech to achieve basic handling and performance goals. Instead, his team’s focus was to nail the fundamentals. Biermann insists that all the “fancy options” competitors offer
tend to go largely unused
and unnoticed by most customers— even if having those features implies an enhanced level of performance. “Maybe it is a bit more of a challenging route,” Biermann concedes, “[but] we have a different strategy.”
That strategy pays off. The G70 has impeccable road manners and no tactile sign of a trade-off, even on the base model. On some of Maine’s more neglected roads outside of Portland, I find myself pointing the G70 toward visible imperfections just to see if I can unsettle the suspension. The G70 absorbs and dispatches bumps with little drama. There’s just the right amount of feedback through the wheel, neither too jittery nor too isolating. Refinement and elegance: achieved.
Athleticism arrives in the form of a 365-hp 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6, with 376 lb-ft of torque coming online as early as 1,300 rpm and sticking around until 4,500 rpm to generate robust midrange punch. Even a slight prod of the throttle summons a suitable swell of power on demand, providing more than enough speed. Genesis estimates a 0–60 time of 4.5 seconds. Standard 13.8-inch Brembo discs up front and 13.4-inch vented rears feel firm and confident, even after repeated stabs to the pedal at high speeds.
Stepping down to the 2.0-liter turbofour is a compromise, but not in refinement or character. Its numbers are noticeably lower, with 252 hp achieved at a lofty 6,200 rpm and 260 lb-ft found from 1,400 to 4,000 rpm, but keep the revs up, and it’s a willing partner. Have some patience from a start, however, as the G70 doesn’t have the same off-theline punch as, say, the 2.0-liter fours found in Audi’s A4 or our 2018 Car of the Year Alfa Romeo Giulia. There’s a pronounced, agonizing lag before the turbo finds its spin and breathes life into the cylinders.
Both engines are mated to an eightspeed automatic, which delivers shifts without drama, and there’s even a mechanical limited-slip differential (standard on 3.3T and 2.0T manual, optional on 2.0T RWD). All-wheel drive can be had on either engine. Feeling a bit rebellious? Engage Drift mode on either drive system, and light up the rear wheels in a cloud of rubber vapor.
Of course, the true charmer is the 2.0-liter G70 Sport model, which comes standard with the aforementioned Brembos (at all four corners) with upgraded pads, plus an enhanced exhaust system. Oh, and—get this—a stubby lever in the middle of the console, connected to an honest-to-goodness six-speed manual transmission. Throws are light and direct, and the transmission helps make the most of the 255 horses under the hood—3 hp more than you get with the automatic.
As welcome as this powertrain combo is, it also begs the question: Why devote a significant chunk of development dollars to an option with so few takers? If the
four-door sedan is truly on its way out, it’s the manual-equipped one leading the charge toward an inevitable demise.
In a word: authenticity. The decision to develop a stick wasn’t based on sales numbers; it is entirely about attracting bona fide enthusiasts to the brand. Genesis identifies true enthusiasts as the ones most likely to own and modify their cars, which makes things like the standard suspension and turbo-four ripe for factory and aftermarket upgrades.
Get the adaptive suspension if you must on automatic models, but it’s not necessary to hustle the G70 with potent alacrity around corners. On models without the adaptive suspension, Drive Mode adjusts parameters such as throttle and steering response as well as the sound enhancement profile. And sound enhancement can be turned off. I’m going to file that glorious choice under authenticity, as well.
As good as the G70 is right out of the gate, it doesn’t live in a vacuum. BMW launches a redesign of its legendary 3 Series early next year. The Audi A4 continues to be one of the best cars in its class. And there’s no beating the handling and panache of the Alfa Romeo Giulia. But Genesis is coming loaded for Bayer with service perks such as complimentary maintenance and annual map updates for the first three years of ownership.
Is there room for improvement? Sure. The manual version has a weird dip in power at the end of clutch engagement during first-gear starts. Genesis claims it’s a feature, not a bug, promoting smooth starts. This goes against the enthusiast philosophy; hopefully it will be defeatable in future versions. The quilted seats could benefit from extendable upper thigh supports, and I’d welcome a true manual mode on automatic versions without having to turn off the traction control.
Given the importance of the segment (and the fierce competition), Genesis has one chance to make its impact felt. And we’re happy to say that, for the most part, it succeeded. If Hyundai’s luxury arm can nail this whole luxury/image thing, the G70 will be instrumental in establishing a premium brand with a distinct identity. n
A MODEL OF SIMPLICITY The center console offers a clean, logical setup. Buyers who choose the six-speed manual in the 2.0T are also rewarded with a rarity: a real hand brake.