Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: September 20, 2018
It still feels a bit odd to say “Genesis” without a Hyundai prefix. Yet, that’s the direction the company has moved towards. Launched in 2015, the standalone Genesis brand serves customers who appreciate luxury, performance, quality, and most importantly, value. After establishing a foothold in the segment with the G80 and G90, Genesis is aiming to make their most ambitious move yet: setting their sights on the German-dominated compact luxury sport sedan market. The South Korean silver bullet? Enter the G70.
The story begins with the same basic underpinnings of Kia’s grand tourer - the Stinger. And like its counterpart, prospective G70 owners have two motors to choose from: a base 2.0L turbo, and a twin-turbo 3.3L V6 bruiser. The differences begin with transmission choice. Paired with the base 2.0L turbo is an optional, purist-approved, 6-speed manual. All other powertrains receive the default 8-speed automatic that is developed in-house. Power is routed to the rear axle for those who row their own gears while all others are matched with a rear-biased AWD system.
I was keen to sample the 2.0L after spending time with the more powerful V6 Stinger. Equipped with the 8-speed automatic, first impressions were smiles aplenty. Dolling out a healthy 252-hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, the inline-four pulls hard enough to make you second guess whether you need the extra 113 hp found in the V6. Mat the throttle and the transmission feels responsive, dropping gears and letting the tach reach for the redline.
After some seat time I noticed the transmission had a tendency to search for gears - particularly at half throttle efforts. For instance, squeeze the gas for a quick pass on the highway and the G70 would drop a gear, then take an agonizing moment to realize it’s a sub-optimal one, then drop to another gear. This behaviour throughout my entire test week quickly became annoying, and I resorted to reaching for the paddles instead of trusting the car to make the right choice. This management was exacerbated in Eco and Comfort driving modes, and was least pronounced in Sport. Though, its existence in all three modes was still infuriating because the G70 actually manages to talk the talk in the handling department.
Hit a sweeping corner too hot and the G70 effortlessly shuffles its weight, controlling body roll quickly. Once settled it sticks to its line like Demi Lovato does hers. Genesis’ HTRAC AWD system dishes out torque to reign in front-end push as the tires squeal under cornering G’s, aided of course by the stiffer sport-tuned suspension. Though the result is livelier handling characteristics, the G70 felt easily perturbed when carving through choppier asphalt, and though this is the Prestige (read: top) trim level for the 2.0 turbo, Genesis’ Adaptive Suspension Control system is not an available option, a reservation exclusively for the 3.3T Prestige.
Being a Genesis product and general underdog in the segment, impressive driving dynamics are only part of the equation and in this department, the cabin sees a drastic departure in fit and finish from its Kia cousin. Though the odd chintzy silver plastic that’s reminiscent of my old Sony MD-player still persists, its quantity has decreased dramatically. Like in certain German rivals like BMW, the entire centre console is clocked towards the driver.
The layout does away with hi-tech wizardry and instead utilizes a simple and intuitive design. The rest of the cabin follows a similar ethos. For example, extended leather covers almost every inch of the dashboard. Quilted leather and contrast stitching adds depth and texture to the environment. Meanwhile, knurled detailing on frequent touch points add to the premium feel. In this climate, the biggest let down came from the Hyundai-sourced infotainment system. Completely adequate in its own right but not when trying to separate yourself as a standalone luxury brand. The touchscreen system felt eclipsed by giant bezels on either side, and was also positioned too far from the driver to reach comfortably while operating the vehicle. Moreover, its icons felt too cartoony for the upscale Genesis.
And upscale is the position this Genesis aims for. One look at the competition gamut and it’s clear what the G70 aspires to be. Audi’s top-trim A4 starts at $51,800, BMW’s venerable 3-Series and king of the segment starts at $52,900, and both run up the ladder once a couple of standard (for G70) features are added. Finally, a similarly equipped Mercedes-Benz C 300 sits at $54,675. All the while, this Genesis comes in with all the bells and whistles you’d expect from its German rivals for $52,000.
This includes a full bevy of safety equipment (traffic enabled stop and go cruise, radar cruise, collision warning, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist and more), 19-inch wheels, sticky Michelin PS4S rubber, head-up display, and the list goes on. Certainly, the G70 presents an exceptional case for itself, delivering performance, quality, luxury and value in spades. While the G70 may not best Germany’s trifecta, let’s not forget that this G70 does it all without the decades worth of product refinement that the Germans have. Only time will tell where the Genesis brand lands but if the new G70 is any indication of where they are headed, then the future is bright.