Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: September 3, 2018
Genesis, Hyundai’s upstart luxury brand, are taking on the kings in the lucrative sports sedan market, and they need to if they are to establish their winged badge as a competitive player in the battlefield. That means their new G70 better be up to snuff if they want to attract eyes away from the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3 Series. To stand out, it will need attractive sheetmetal, a quality cabin with excellent fit and finish, and a balanced powertrain that offers the duality of both comfort and performance expected in this high-calibre segment.
At first glance, it would seem that the G70 may have what it takes. The design is a mixing pot of other sedans on the market: one part Alfa Romeo Giulia, and another part Jaguar XE. That’s as good of a compliment as it gets, and the silhouette is inoffensive without appearing cookie-cutter. That lustrous Mallorca Blue paint on our test vehicle further accentuates the lines as well. I don’t believe it to be a revolutionary design, but it should age well into its next life cycle.
Genesis spent a great deal of time and money attending to cabin details, as the interior is one of the main selling points in this heated category. This top-spec G70 3.3t Sport is littered with upscale quality materials, knurled knobs, expensive feeling metal panels and door releases, and soft quilted leather seats - probably have my favourite part of the cabin. It’s definitely better put together in here than anything from Jaguar or Cadillac - an achievement on its own.
The touchscreen will be a familiar unit to anyone who has owned a recent Hyundai but in this instance, the screen is positioned way too far from the driver on the dashboard. I have long arms but even I have to actively get off the seat to hit the screen prompts. Yes there are controls on the steering wheel but these are limited to volume and tuning controls, and cannot adjust other features like the navigation screen. A rotary dial would make things much easier at this distance.
Tech wise, the 360-degree camera display is excellent and the 15-speaker Lexicon audio system delivers proper bass. One feature that did leave me disappointed was active cruise control, where it oddly left too much distance from the car in front of me when cruising at 100 km/h on the highway. Even on the closest car-to-car setting, it left three car lengths ahead, enough to warrant an eviction from the left lane.
The steering wheel telescopes and tilts a good amount, giving drivers excellent flexibility on tailoring their preferred seating position. That being said, rear seat legroom is atrocious. When sitting behind my six-foot self, I can’t even stick my leg into the footwell without it getting stuck, let alone sit down. Disappointingly, the rear seats are entirely unusable for my height, and will undoubtedly be a deal breaker for taller families.
The real test for the G70 is with its driving experience and whether or not it will blow us away with its powertrain prowess. There is a base 2.0-litre turbo-four available with either a six-speed manual or 8-speed automatic, but what we have on tap is the more powerful 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 that produces 365 hp and 376 lb-ft. Genesis goes so far as to call it the highest horsepower output in its segment, which is correct when paired directly against the Audi S4, BMW 340i, and Mercedes-AMG C 43, but they have seemingly forgotten about the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport, which I frankly believe to be its closest-matched competitor and boasts an ego-shattering kimchi-melting 400 hp. The G70 does produce more torque than the 340i and S4, but loses out by 8 lb-ft to the AMG.
No matter, single digit nuances become irrelevant in real world driving, and what’s important is how that power is being delivered. With the G70 and atypical of turbocharged motors, thrust is pushed out in a smooth and controlled manner rather than being abrupt and unpredictably explosive off the line. The powerband is wide and as advertised, the torque is relentless. You can tell the V6 is more of a smooth operator than performance reactor, but will still give drivers a proper wallop into the seatback as 0-100 km/h is reached in 4.7 seconds. It’s hard to believe there’s not much turbo lag either, as the V6 fires up to life in a heartbeat when in the right RPMs.
The weakest link is the 8-speed torque converter automatic, which can’t seem to make up its mind swapping cogs when left to its own devices. Good thing there are paddle shifters, and rowing them yourself will give you a better sense of control and willingness from the V6. Upshifts are generally smooth but downshifts are abrupt and don’t rev-match accurately for a gentle transition. The 8-speed ZF from the BMW is still the bar to beat, and what bothers me is the lack of a true “manual” shifting mode. Sure you can override the “D” mode with the paddles and shift yourself but anytime you come to a stop, the gearbox will automatically revert back to auto-shifting.
The G70 sits on the same rear-drive platform as the familial Kia Stinger, though shortened for compact sedan proportions. Even though it utilizes a steel unibody with an aluminum hood, the G70 manages to feel every bit as heavy as its 1,816 kg curb weight suggests. The G70 is not as lithe or as athletic as a BMW 340i, but it behaves neutrally when prodded to go fast around the bends. Furthermore, the AWD system can send up to 100% of torque to the rear wheels and makes use of brake-based torque vectoring. The Michelin PS4S tires that come standard on G70 Sport models are a doozy, gripping hard when pushed and supplying a great deal of confidence while still offering a playful amount of rear slip. There are five driving modes to choose from but I never found one I particularly enjoyed for spirited driving. They were all too lax and never turned up the dial up to the elevens.
Though the front-end grip and chassis balance is overwhelmingly positive, the electric steering and adaptive suspension are not, and seem to be too busy keeping the driver comfortable and in control, lacking that extra push or inspiration to take it up a notch. No matter the modes, the dampers always seem to be set to comfort, and never made me feel hunkered down and ready to play. The steering has good on-center feel but is way too over-reactive to the slightest of inputs. In most cases that’s not a bad thing but in this application it feels unnatural and too boosted to feel like an organic extension of your arms. The Brembo brakes offer decent stopping power but at the expense of a bouncy pedal and unpredictable feedback as you press down. As a result, the G70 feels less of a dancing partner, and more of a companion that casually hits the gym.
The exhaust noise does not fare much better either. The computers electronically enhance engine sounds by piping them through the speakers, and will change depending on the driving mode. Morally, this bugs me but it doesn’t sound that great anyways, missing any unique auditory signature like the silky smooth howl of BMW’s inline-six or the whine of AMG’s V6. Instead the G70 emits a lethargic gruff up to the redline and a sneeze on the way down the gears.
Though pundits and enthusiasts alike will constantly compare the G70 to the German trifecta, this baby Genesis instead reminds me of the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport. Both are comfortable on local roads, exhibit potent straight line propulsion, their exhausts actually sound quite similar, come with winter-ready four-wheel traction, and cost roughly the same with a similar features list. Both however lack that sporting panache we seek when purchasing a sports sedan. We want the luxury but the performance to back it up when summoned upon in top spec trim. Both fall short, and it’s disappointing when the G70 was touted to be vehicle to launch the audacious brand forward. Dynamically and aside from the typical German choices, I still prefer the Jaguar XE S with its characterful supercharged V6 engine. That or the solidly built Lexus IS 350 and its buttoned down chassis.
One of the real benefits of purchasing a Genesis however is the actual buying process, which has been streamlined to offer the least stressful experience possible, and you do have to give credit to Genesis for simplifying it down to the essentials. You can order your car online without having to step foot into a dealer, have your G70 delivered to your front door, and even have loaners swapped with your car when it needs servicing, all free of charge. Furthermore, all Genesis models include a comprehensive 5 year / 100,000 km warranty out of the box. That, and there are really no tack-on options to choose from other than the paint colour. Everything comes standard whereas the Germans will nickel and dime you for every creature comfort. “Want ventilated seats? You have to go for the $5,000 premium package.”
Where does the G70 sit exactly? Price-wise, the G70 lists a bit cheaper when you consider the options added in, but I don't think the price disparities are enough to make luxury-minded buyers think twice and dismiss the prestige that comes with purchasing a high-end item. Our top-spec G70 3.3t Sport starts at $57,000, compared to the Audi S4 ($58,000), BMW 340i xDrive ($56,800), and Mercedes-AMG C 43 4MATIC ($56,600) without any options added in.
Dynamically, the G70 does not fare much better than the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport ($52,695), which is uninspiring and lacks that man-to-machine connection. The G70 sports a clever chassis with a potent V6 engine, but it ultimately fails to deliver the same kind of driving pleasure, performance, or drama, that you would find in the top competitors in this field. There is enough substance but not enough soul, which is not easy when creating a luxury upstart brand from scratch. There are just too many other established players in this arena that outshine the G70 in many important factors, and it’s not like the Acura TLX or Cadillac ATS are faring any better. So what does the G70 have going for it? Not much really. It’s a solid compact sedan with enough luxury cabin amenities, a pleasant ride quality, and a lax-free purchasing process to make a select few customers happy, but it all ends there.
Model: 2019 Genesis G70 3.3t Sport AWD
Paint Type: Mallorca Blue
Base Price: $57,000
Price as Tested: $57,000
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,685 / 1,850 / 1,400
Curb weight (kg): 1,816
Engine: 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6
Horsepower: 365 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 376 lb-ft @ 1,300 - 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 13.3 / 9.5 / 11.6
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 12.5
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 4S; P225/40R19 Front; P255/35R19 Rear