If you were putting together a fantasy team of auto executives, it might look something like this: an engineering head from BMW, a head of design from Bugatti, and a senior vice president from Lamborghini. Based on these credentials alone, Genesis has the skill level and fortitude to stand tall in this ultra-competitive luxury space from the jump. But it won't be easy trekking.
While the brand’s larger G80 and G90 sedans are both outlier options in their respective classes, the G70 is the brand's first true mainstream model. It will act as the centerpiece as Genesis sprawls out to showrooms across the country, and will come in at under $35,000 to start. But it has a laundry list of competitors to get by first. The BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, Lexus IS, Alfa Romeo Giulia, and Infiniti Q50 are among them. The good news is, the G70 isn't wasting any time showing up some of the established crop.
The top-tier model is motivated by a turbocharged 3.3-liter V6 that pumps out a hearty 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque. There's also a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder option, but most of my time was in the former. Paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission (a manual is available on the 2.0-liter), and either a rear- or all-wheel-drive configuration, the G70 lives up to its reputation as the most aggressive offering in the Genesis range. Hell, it might be one of the most aggressive offerings in its segment.
At times, the G70 feels like a wild animal trapped in a too-small cage. A touch of the throttle and the sedan lurches forward dramatically, even in Comfort mode. Genesis touts it as the quickest Hyundai Group product ever, and that's easy to notice. A sprint to 60 miles per hour takes just 4.5 seconds, all 376 pound-feet of torque arriving at just 1,300 RPM, and turbo lag is a non-issue.
A stiff, responsive chassis – worked over by former BMW M boss Albert Biermann – makes the G70 really entertaining in the corners, too. The car stays planted at speed, and with the aid of a heavy steering rack and a standard limited slip differential (on the 3.3T model), it's able to carve up corners without too many dramatics. Since it shares its bones with the Kia Stinger, those performance credentials aren’t all that shocking.
But if you really want to unleash its wild side, turn off all the electronic safety aids. Genesis execs actually encouraged it. With no nannies, the all-wheel-drive model sends up to 90-percent of its power to the rear wheels, compared to the 40/60 split that comes standard. Biermann jokingly called it a "drift mode,” but the G70 is more eager to controllably slide all four wheels than burn rubber in an all-out rear drift. Semi-sideways fun can be had in both all- and rear-wheel-drive configurations, theoretically, but the latter option is more eager to kick its butt out when you mash the throttle.
A few hundred miles on the road, a twisty autocross course, and a quick lead-follow on the track gave me a quality look at the G70's characteristics. I found myself really admiring its naturally aggressive cues – it makes the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class feel too soft, comparatively – but it's easy to see where some average consumers might be turned off by these traits.
The G70 makes the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class feel too soft.
Even in Comfort mode, the suspension is stiff and the steering is heavy. The eight-speed automatic can be sluggish at times, and Sport mode renders a pretty uncomfortable ride on regular roads. Maybe that's why Genesis encouraged its use mostly on the track. But the G70 has more than a few really attractive elements that help save face.
For one, it’s damn good looking. I'd say it's second only to the Alfa Romeo Giulia in terms of styling. Sure, if you squint hard enough you might get inklings of some competitors in its DNA, but the Genesis still stands out as unique. It's lower than anything in its class, standing at just 55.1 inches tall, and wider too, at 72.8 inches. Its cabin sits further back on the rear wheels, and coupled with short overhangs and sharp angles, it successfully accomplishes the stocky, athletic look Genesis’ European designers were initially shooting for.
The front fascia is family friendly – for better or worse. It borrows the same “Crest Grille” from its larger G80 and G90 siblings, similar sleek headlight fixtures (this time with a tiered lighting structure), and chrome accents. Sport models make do with “smoked” chrome elements instead and unique wheels that help set the look off even further. The only knock to the G70's otherwise attractive design is an unfortunately placed plastic sensor in the grille. It's an eyesore, but a necessary one.
The cabin is posh and extremely quiet. Don’t be surprised if the G70 has the lowest levels of noise, vibration, and harshness in the segment. It’s almost as if designers ripped the quilted seats, high-quality surfaces, and noise deadening materials off a six-figure luxury vehicle and shoved it into a Korean sedan. It's really good.
The cabin is posh and extremely quiet.
The interior’s design is neither too busy nor outdated either, there's no tacky lacquered wood trim or too much piano black plastic. Soft black leather and real aluminum fixtures (not some fake plastic) give the styling a clean, modern look. Only the silver plastic dials for the climate controls (borrowed from the Stinger) take away from the otherwise lavish cabin.
A standard eight-inch, tablet-style touchscreen juts up from atop the dash. It's the same setup found on the Stinger but feels like a more premium product in this application. It's superior to its luxury counterparts in both execution, responsiveness, and general styling. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, and Qi wireless charging is available as an option.
Remembering that the Genesis still shares a few components with its Hyundai Group siblings, the G70 actually has a decent starting price. The 2.0-liter model starts at just $34,900 – cheaper than both the BMW 3 Series and the Alfa Romeo Giulia. Genesis didn't give out pricing info for a fully loaded 3.3T model, but says it will be somewhere around the mid-$50,000 mark.
Bottom line, the Genesis G70 is a really solid luxury sedan that's extremely fun to drive – maybe even too much. It hasn't reinvented the segment, but it definitely has what it takes to keep up with the rest of the vehicles in this hyper-competitive class. Its posh cabin, devilish good looks, sporty characteristics, and optional manual transmission should help sway some buyers into giving this new Genesis a chance over one of its German counterparts.
Gallery: 2019 Genesis G70: First Drive
2019 Genesis G70 3.3T