Stunner: the Genesis G70
I climbed into the new Genesis G70 with no expectations and I climbed out with no doubts: This is a lot of car, not just a lot of car for the money—though it is that, too. There are surprises at every turn in terms of the standard and available technologies, the solid driving experience and the thoughtfulness one can tell went into the vehicle. But then of course surprises and careful thinking would have been required: Genesis is a relatively new marque (albeit one backed by quite a long history) and it wasn’t exactly jumping into the shallow end by entering the luxury sedan market. The decision shows no small amount of self confidence from Genesis, and if I had to base my opinion on a week spent in its G70, I’d say the confidence is justified
To those who have followed the Genesis story closely, forgive me for being late to the party. It’s not that I specifically avoided the brand, it’s simply that I never came into contact with it beyond the odd rental, and those were Hyundais or Kias—capable but hardly inspiring me to imagine the car I’ve driven this week. Hyundai-Kia is Genesis’ parent company, of course, and when the first example of the new marque was announced in 2007 as a “progressive interpretation of the modern rear-wheel drive sports sedan,” there were skeptics. This is a space long occupied by the Germans, after all, and specifically by BMW’s 3, 5 and 7 Series. Add Japan and Jaguar to the conversation, Cadillac, and the prodigal Italian with its recent Giulia, and suddenly the room feels crowded—and it is. But then consider who Genesis brought to the party: Peter Schreyer, the man credited with the original Audi TT, headed the Genesis concept. Bentley design chief Luc Donckerwolke came aboard, then Manfred Fitzgerald from Lamborghini. Albert Biermann—former head of BMW’s venerated “M” program—was named head of R&D for the entire Hyundai Motor Group, and two other BMW M engineers followed: Fayez Abdul Rahman and Thomas Schemera. There’s former Bugatti designer Alexander “Sasha” Selipanov, as well, plus a deep bench of Hyundai talent, and so it’s no wonder that Genesis is doing great work, most recently evident in the G70 being named 2019 North American Car of the Year.
The G70 I was given was the 3.3T Prestige, an almost fully optioned version of the model that debuted in fall of 2017. For anyone who’s driven a rear-wheel luxury sedan (AWD is also available), the G70 is reassuringly familiar in many ways: good driver ergonomics and customizable fit, an intelligent instrument and dash layout, and adequate headroom, passenger space and storage. To my eyes the G70 is also attractive, finding its place on the line between “sport” and “executive” like so many others in its class. The seats in particular are worth mentioning: well built, sporty and comfortable. Ours were quilted Nappa leather and the tailoring was tight, mirroring the quilted door panels. We also had heated/ventilated fronts and heated rears, with the driver getting 16-way power adjustability and 4-way power lumbar. Likewise, the steering wheel is very good, leather wrapped, shaped for performance and nicely sized for my hands (I take an “L” golf glove).
Audio is fine, handled by Lexicon, a Harman company perhaps better known for home audio solutions, and the climate control system is what you’d expect, as is the “smart” cruise control with stop-and-go ability, and the blind-spot/collision warning system. We had a wide sunroof; proper aluminum interior trim; crisp heads-up display; sharp 8” touchscreen for navigation and audio/tech controls; surround-view monitor with a “bird’s-eye view” of the car when in reverse; heated mirrors and other bits.
The wireless charging pad for phones is good—just toss the phone in the console tray like in any car, but no messing about with cables; it just sits there and charges. There’s both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, setting the G70 apart from some of its competitors (which offer only one of those) and the hands-free Bluetooth phone system works fine. USB ports are here if you need them: two up front and one in the rear, and controls and such all feel appropriately high quality.
Outside there are elegant lines; good paint (our deep “Havana Red” had a pleasing metallic shimmer to it); an aggressive air vent cut into the side which some will love and others not, I suspect; quality 19” wheels revealing large Brembo brakes… As the options added up I began to question if the car was going to be any good to drive. At roughly $50k as tested (base near $35,450)—markedly less than its competition—it’s fair to wonder what was left to spend under the hood. But then one remembers the names Biermann and Schreyer and so perhaps it shouldn’t have surprised me that the G70 is quite a vehicle.
Our test version was powered by a 3.3L twin-turbo V6 that makes 365hp and a satisfying 376 lb-ft of torque. That accounts for the fact that, in any of the four available driving modes (there’s also a programmable custom mode), acceleration was spritely, hitting 0-60 in an estimated 4.5 seconds in “Sport” mode. Around town, drivers will want “Comfort” or “Eco” modes, and even here acceleration is good, and particularly good compared to some other cars.
Sport mode is where the G70 shines, with power coming on quickly, lateral bolsters inflating to support the driver (this is programmable), dampers stiffening and steering tightening. Lower gears in the 8-speed transmission get more love in Sport as well, with longer hold times before transitions. There are paddle shifters if you need them.
At speed the car is well planted on the road, benefitting from an excellent chassis and good software in the drive control systems, and a transmission that was good about not upshifting when we were cornering. Around town the car was also enjoyable, neatly darting through traffic while providing a comfortable ride. I’m guessing the G70 would prove a worthy companion on a long road trip as well, though here I’m curious to try its larger siblings, the G80 and G90—or the Genesis GV80 and GV70 SUVs on which the company is working. As poised and capable as it is fast and fun (I smiled at the “Batman”–style shadow cast on the ground when the car is unlocked), the G70 might have been my first go in a Genesis, but it most definitely will not be my last. Here’s to new beginnings.