AU­THEN­TIC­ITY, KOREAN-STYLE

HYUNDAI’S LUX­URY ARM TAKES AIM AT BMW’S LEG­ENDARY SEDAN

Motor Trend - - Contents - Derek Pow­ell

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.

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