Southern California's Pacific Coast Highway is a study in contrasts. From hilly and open Malibu, where houses cling to either the cliffs or the coast, to the industrialized farming and naval operations at Point Mugu and in Oxnard, each mile of the PCH brings some stark change in scenery.
It was here that we tested the 2022 Genesis GV70, a vehicle that possesses the same startling contrasts. The latest and arguably most important product from one of the industry's most fascinating brands, the compact GV70 crossover pairs Genesis' trademark design elegance, smart technology, and comprehensive focus on safety and luxury with a mismatched approach to performance that feels out of place.
We should note straight away that our issue with the GV70 is one that may only exist with the vehicles offered to us at the media drive, rather than with the GV70 line as a whole. Genesis was only able to secure fully loaded examples with the larger twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine (models with the base four-cylinder are at the port and we hope to have a review on this higher volume spec next month).
Packing power to compete with cars like the BMW X3 M40i, Mercedes-AMG GLC 43, Audi SQ5, and even the Porsche Macan S – vehicles that company reps actually noted as competitors for our Sport Prestige testers – the GV70 is somewhat out of its element thanks in large part to Genesis' stalwart dedication to luxury. You won't notice any deficits in straight-line speed, though, where the twin-turbo V6 deploys 375 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque at a moment's notice.
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Limited lag and hammer-like power delivery let the GV70 surf forward on a wave of torque that'd make the beach bums off PCH jealous. Peak twist starts at just 1,300 rpm and sticks around until 4,500, giving drivers a hugely accessible curve to exploit. But as the needle climbs, the angry hiss of the two turbochargers easily drowns out the smooth sounds of the 3.5-liter engine. Accelerating in this car is a decidedly un-Genesis-like experience.
Every example of the GV70, whether four- or six-cylinder, will carry an eight-speed automatic transmission with a shift-by-wire knob on the center console. With the M40i and GLC 43 in the back of our mind, we selected manual mode and worked the GV70’s wheel-mounted paddle shifters for our first acceleration blasts and found a gearbox that tolerates DIY shifts without entirely embracing them. The two sporty driving modes, Sport and Sport Plus, offer sharper performance that still fails to match the competition. On the upside, activating either of these drive modes locks out automatic upshifts, which is nice.
Limited lag and hammer-like power delivery let the GV70 surf forward on a wave of torque that'd make the beach bums off PCH jealous.
The company hasn't issued a zero-to-60 time for this crossover yet, but we'd suspect the V6-powered GV70 does the deed a touch slower than the BMW X3 M40i, which snaps to 60 in 4.5 seconds. A launch control system is standard and may make for more respectable performance, but SoCal's crowded roads meant we never had a safe opportunity to test it. But even without computer assistance, the GV70 V6's acceleration is perfectly respectable and not really the source of our issues.
Instead, it was off the PCH and on the inland hills, through Topanga Canyon and along Mulholland Drive, where the GV70's dynamics failed to impress. On paper, this crossover should wow – it shares the C2 platform with the G70 sedan and carries a multi-link suspension layout at all four corners, in addition to our Sport Prestige tester's standard all-wheel drive and torque-vectoring limited-slip rear differential. But along the twisties, the GV70 left us cold no matter which mode we chose.
Its mild-mannered handling character provides adequate control of roll, squat, and dive but little actual verve in corners. You can rocket out of a bend, as the all-wheel-drive system can shuffle up to 100 percent of the torque to the rear axle, and, once there, the LSD can overdrive one side or the other. But if you want assertive handling or an impressive level of lateral grip, it's hard to recommend this 4,453-pound crossover. That combo of weight and a comfort-oriented suspension are anathema to fun driving.
But along the twisties, the GV70 left us cold no matter which mode we chose.
Likewise, we'd recommend the GLC 43 or X3 M40i for those who value confidence-inspiring behavior through bends. While competent, the GV70's light, numb steering and lack of feedback through the chassis are in contrast to Germany's performance-focused models.
There's also something to be said for how being behind the wheel of the GV70 makes you feel. In short, we felt out of place and somewhat uncomfortable trying to hustle through the hills. The front seats have a satisfactory level of back bolstering, but the bottom cushion is flat as a pancake, so you'll miss the leg support that helps keep you in place. Not even the Sport-specific steering wheel and real metal paddle shifters are enough to make the GV70 feel genuinely sporty or enthusiastic.
After escaping from the hills and grabbing a spot of lunch in Malibu, the next task before us was a simple one: 75 miles along PCH, passing Point Mugu and cutting through Oxnard, Ventura, and Mussel Shoals on our way to Santa Barbara. As if somehow reinvigorated by the pleasant breeze off the Pacific, the GV70 felt like a different vehicle in this environment.
It's still plenty quick, but settle into a 60-mile-per-hour cruise and the engine becomes whisper quiet. The GV70's double-pane insulating glass (standard up front but limited to the 3.5-liter Sport Prestige on the back) and what must be a metric ton of sound deadening erase even strong wind gusts and quell road noise.
Every 3.5-liter model comes standard with an electronically controlled suspension that uses a forward-looking camera to monitor the road surface and make minute adjustments to hide potholes and other imperfections. The result is a class-leading ride that, along with the excellent sound control, isolates the cabin from the outside world. The ride is highly stable too, shrugging off mid-corner bumps well.
And without canyon roads to contend with, it's easier to appreciate the GV70's excellent interior. The high-quality materials and interesting shapes are appealing on their own, but Genesis once again shows it's an industry leader for interior trim and color schemes. In addition to the usual array of black, beige, and tan upholsteries, non-Sport models are available with a green-and-navy combo or a rich burgundy that we can't wait to see in person.
Our Sport tester carried striking Ultramarine Blue upholstery – the rich navy shade contrasts neatly with red piping and accenting. They don't make up for the poor butt cushion, but our test unit's standard Alcantara seat inserts and Nappa leather bolsters look fantastic. High-quality leatherette covers the dash and doors, but the Sport Prestige's standard carbon-fiber trim looks a bit too racy for such a luxurious cabin. Lesser Sport models will carry a backlit finish that we're eager to see firsthand.
As usual, Genesis nails the detailing with different textures, accent stitching, and other small touches. Designers repeated the beautiful knurling of the gear selector and infotainment dial – both of which the company did in real metal – on the adjusters for the mirrors and vents, the temperature dials, and on the starter button. Attention to detail is what separates a true luxury car from the mainstream, and in that regard, the GV70 is a superstar.
As usual, Genesis nails the detailing with different textures, accent stitching, and other small touches.
Genesis has also proven its mettle on the tech front. The GV70 retains the brand's highly attractive infotainment system, along with an ultra-wide 14.5-inch display. But while we've written ad nauseam about this system, the GV70 introduces a few new pieces of technology to the broader interior environment. One of the most intriguing is a new digital key and fingerprint reader system that allows drivers to leave their key fobs at home.
Simply tap a compatible smartphone – Android only, but Genesis promises iPhone compatibility is around the corner – on the door handle to unlock, then hop behind the wheel and hold your finger against the dash-mounted reader to start the engine. The GV70 will also use the biometric data to select the right profile. And in a neat and super-convenient twist, drivers can also use the fingerprint reader to activate valet mode. This is an admittedly minor feature, but it also smacks of “why didn't I think of that?”
The four-cylinder GV70 starts at $42,045 (including a $1,045 destination charge), slotting it squarely into the middle of the segment. You'll find the Lincoln Corsair, Acura RDX, and outgoing Lexus NX for less (they all start at around $38,000, give or take a grand), but the German trio comes in at around $43,000 to start.
Unlike all but the RDX and NX, though, the GV70 comes standard with an attractive active safety suite, which includes the acclaimed Highway Driving Assist (HDA). Option up, though, and you'll find the GV70 is one of the smartest cars on the road. Our tester carried the next-generation of HDA, unimaginatively named HDA 2, which adds automatic lane changes, along with navigation-based active cruise control that uses machine learning to better match the owner's driving style. Drivers can even adjust how much assistance HDA 2 applies, how hard it accelerates, and how quickly it reacts.
As a pure luxury vehicle, this is another successful product from Genesis.
As for the V6, you'll be spending at least $53,645. Our top-of-the-line test model, meanwhile, starts at $63,545, which is quite dear compared to the Acura, Lexus, and Lincoln, although all three are down considerably on performance. Even relative to the Germans, though, the GV70 Sport Prestige is a pricey thing – when similarly equipped, the Audi SQ5 and BMW X3 M40i cost about the same amount, and the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 isn't too much more. More worrying for customers who want real performance is the presence of the X3 M and GLC 63, barely $10,000 away. The good news is that a lack of options keeps that price from inflating too much.
While we can't recommend the GV70 as an alternative to any of its high-performance rivals, as a pure luxury vehicle, this is another successful product from Genesis. A class-leading ride and interior, advanced technology, and comprehensive active safety mark it as the new luxury leader in this segment. Why are we not surprised?
GV70 Sport Competitor Reviews:
Gallery: 2022 Genesis GV70: First Drive
2022 Genesis GV70 Sport Prestige 3.5T