The first car developed since the launch of the Genesis brand shows us what Hyundai's luxury arm can do.
Hyundai officially announced the creation of the Genesis brand in November 2015, launching its first two cars in the US a year later. Those two cars were the G90 and G80, updated versions of the Equus and Genesis large and midsize sedans previously sold as Hyundais. With those two largely ignored in a minuscule segment, it’s fair to say that only now, with the G70 sport sedan, is Genesis really entering the luxury market.
While it has a long way to go before it becomes a household name synonymous with luxury, the 2019 Genesis G90 is both a big deal, and an experiment for the brand before its crossovers arrive. It will be the crossovers, so popular at the moment, which will truly dictate the success of the business. But the G70 shows us what it can do as a brand to compete with long-established nameplates and some truly excellent vehicles in this segment.
On first impression, the design is handsome, with fetching details, but to be honest, it just didn’t do much for me. It certainly has all the right sport sedan cues, with gaping grille, slick LED lighting elements, red brake calipers peeking through big wheels, dual oval tailpipes, and the shade of blue on our tester was gorgeous. Yet nothing really stands out about it in retrospect, and I can only remember what it looks like when looking at pictures, and then it just fades into anonymity.
What does stand out in my mind is the interior, and the absolute wow factor of the diamond-quilted leather seats and trim, which don’t just look nice, but also feel like genuine, supple leather. The rest of the interior plays it pretty safe, which is a smart move so no one gets irritated with ergonomics on the test drive or during ownership, but Genesis needs something more distinctive to make the design more memorable in a crowded market with the likes of the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, Alfa Romeo Giulia, and so many more.
At least Hyundai got things right under the hood and inside the cabin. Base cars are powered by a typical 2.0-liter turbo, in the G70 making 252 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, paired with an eight-speed automatic and available in all-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive. Ordering your Genesis G70 as a 2.0 turbo rear-wheel drive also unlocks a bonus level: a manual transmission with sport package that includes limited slip differential, sport exhaust and Brembo brakes.
Then again, it’s not just about sport, and the the G70 can be ordered in various trims on top of the long, long list of standard equipment, with notable features like 18-inch wheels, proximity key with self-opening trunk, 12-way power driver’s seats, eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, back-up camera, adaptive cruise, lane keep assist, forward collision alert, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
While pricing has yet to be announced, Genesis claims it will be competitive, so expect it to start in the mid-30s, and climb up into the $50,000 range for fully loaded models. Features are bundled in with the five trims, from base Advanced and up through Elite, Prestige, Dynamic, and Sport, without all the standalone options and packages that lead to price bloat on the German models. Elite 2.0T models add LED headlight, memory seats, parking sensors, upgraded audio, leather seats, and sunroof. Notable perks of the Prestige 2.0T are additional seat adjustability, microfiber headliner, head-up display, Qi wireless charging, 360-degree parking cameras, Nappa leather and heated rear seats.
Dynamic, as the name suggests, pumps up the performance quotient with 19-inch alloys and limited slip differential on rear-wheel-drive cars, plus quilted Nappa leather with contrast stitching, dark chrome exterior trim, and alloy pedals. All-wheel drive can be optioned on any trim, and brings with it a heated steering wheel.
Of course, the engine you want is the 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 that jacks power up to 365 hp at 6,000 rpm and 376 lb-ft of torque. You can get it in any of the trims above, although even the Advanced 3.3T starts with the limited slip differential, Brembo brakes, sport suspension, LED headlights, upgraded audio, and leather seats with heating, cooling and memory settings, so it stands to be the bargain of the lineup.
The 3.3T models can also be had with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, but it only comes with the eight speed automatic transmission. We tested the top-spec 3.3T AWD Sport with seemingly every option in the book, and really loved the upgraded Lexicon audio, 15-speakers strong with excellent sound quality and decorative metal speaker covers in the front doors. Other things that we appreciated on every drive were the head-up display, adaptive cruise, those quilted Nappa leather seats with ventilation, and the adaptive suspension. As luxurious and high-tech as it was, it also lived up to the Sport in its name.
That torque comes on early at 1,300 rpm and stays around for several thousand more, working in tandem with the eight-speed auto and all-wheel drive to launch the 4,000-lb G70 from standstill to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. However, even if you don't drive like you’re at the drag strip, the wealth of torque is no less impressive when rolling off the line more mildly, although it’s not the quietest or smoothest V6 in the segment, emphasizing a growling exhaust over silky smoothness.
Mid-range acceleration is also easily accomplished, the transmission finding lower gears at the prod of throttle, though it becomes more eager to downshift in Sport mode. Sport mode also brings sharper throttle response and heavier steering, though I found the steering perfectly reasonable even in the normal setting.
The G70 continued to impress in all manner of driving situations. It is a fairly heavy car, so it felt nicely planted on the highway, and adaptive cruise and lane keep assist provide some helpful assists, with the systems working well when called upon. Its aerodynamic 0.28 Cd helps keep fuel consumption in check, though 25 mpg on the highway isn’t terribly impressive, nor is its 18 mpg city rating and 21 combined, and I managed an abysmal 14.6 mpg in my week of enthusiastic driving.
Off the highway, the Genesis struck a fair balance between sharp-handling sport and luxurious comfort, definitely closer to the sporty side, but never jarringly harsh, although sometimes the suspension made some ungainly noise while soaking up rough patches, even in the standard setting of the adaptive suspension. The payoff is when diving into corners and onramps, where the G70 3.3T Sport holds a line and relays a feeling of confidence and poise back to the driver, the steering staying taut and responding to inputs all the way through.
With Brembo brakes to scrub speed sharply, it is easy to keep pushing and pushing the G70 to greater limits, and public roads simply weren’t enough to discover how far it could ultimately go. It’s not a track car, per se, but I dare say it would hold its own and be quite fun to thrash around, the Michelin Pilot Sports (225/40R19 in front, P255/35R19 in back) doing an excellent job of maintaining grip in the hot, dry weather we had.
We mentioned the supremely comfortable and body hugging front seats, but the two main rear seats do almost as good a job, scooped out buckets that are also well contoured, with plenty of headroom although short on legroom.
Unfortunately, it comes at the expense of the middle seat, which is a high, awkward perch, with non-existent legroom thanks to driveline tunnel and ventilation. Another unfortunate side effect of the deeply cut rear seats is that they do not get along with child seats, my son’s booster not fitting within the sides, but also not spanning over them, so it sat tilted and needed some filler material underneath to get it level. While we’re talking practicality, the Genesis G70 manages a rather paltry 10.4 cubic feet of storage in the trunk, but at least the rear seats split 60/40 for major cargo runs.
Although somewhat flawed for practicality, running the suite of entertainment options in the car was a breeze. Apple CarPlay meant I had all my phone connections as soon as I plugged in, but the native functions were just as smart. The home screen is split into three zones, with a map preview, audio status, and an area for three icons that you can choose based on your habits and needs. The touchscreen responds quickly, but there are also buttons for the main functions and knobs for volume and tuning, and even if it doesn’t leap to the head of the pack design-wise, it’s easy to use, making time in the cabin more comfortable and less stressful.
The analogue gauges may seem behind the times, but I liked the subtle chronograph feel to them, with plenty of info in the small and also easy-to-use trip computer, and would happily take head-up display over digital gauges any day. Oh, except for the fact that this HUD is pretty much invisible with polarized sunglasses on, and in the sunny week I had it, I only realized it had HUD several days later.
As the first car designed with the Genesis brand already on the market, it’s natural to think that this is a make or break moment for the brand. However, with shrinking sedan sales and an incredibly saturated and competitive sport sedan field already fighting to hold onto every point of market share, the 2019 G70 needed to arrive with a big bang.
Perhaps that bang will be for the buck when pricing is announced, undercutting its rivals like the larger G80 and G90, but while the G70 is excellent, it is only better at some things, and not at others, so it will likely carve out only a modest niche, converting Hyundai Sonata and Azera owners and perhaps picking up a few conquests from German rivals on value and content. Despite all that, the G70 is an excellent piece of machinery that captures the spirit of the luxury sport sedan, able to hang with the best of the breed in dynamics and quality while delivering Hyundai’s traditional value proposition, and it’s a surefire bet to grow the brand and pave the way for the full lineup to follow.