Could Hyundai's new Genesis luxury division replicate the magic from its G80 and G90 sedans in its least-expensive car to date, the G70? I took to southern Maine, a corner of New England that's rife with antique stores, cottage rentals and lobster bars, to find out. I have no antiques to show for it, and the lobster is but a memory now. The Genesis G70 first drive, fortunately, is not.
Maine is overrun this time of year by summer vacationers, many of them tooling around in the luxury cars Genesis hopes to compete against. And the G70 should compete mightily, at least to the extent any sedan can in a market gone SUV. The G70 holds its own on the driving front — no small task in a class of sedans engineered for fun behind the wheel — but its greatest assets are the practicality and value many rivals hold in short supply.
The G70 offers two turbocharged engines: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder or 3.3-liter V-6, with standard rear-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive. An eight-speed automatic transmission drives both, but you can also get the 2.0-liter with a six-speed manual. I drove both engines, transmissions and drivelines over three days on Maine's winding roads and at a private racetrack in New Hampshire as part of Genesis' national media introduction (per our ethics policy, Cars.com pays its own airfare and lodging to such automaker-funded events).
Sufficient Driving Fun
The track portion of the first drive involved an autocross course that Genesis set up at New Hampshire's Club Motorsports racetrack, then the track's main 2.5-mile, 15-corner loop, which boasts some 250 feet of elevation change. I piloted various editions around the autocross and a 3.3-liter G70 AWD on the big track. After all that, I can report the G70 is fun.
It's not buckets of fun like some of its best-handling competitors — the suspension allows a bit too much body roll even with sport-tuned hardware on the 3.3-liter car, and the steering ratio in all variants feels too slow for rapid direction changes — but it's otherwise balanced. The nose exhibits mild understeer as you near lock on the autocross or bomb into high-speed corners on the full track, but the chassis is reasonably neutral otherwise. With an optional limited-slip differential, steady gas application can slide the tail around a bit, and it doesn't move as erratically as the rear-drive Kia Stinger, which shares a lot of this hardware. (Kia is a Hyundai subsidiary.) The G70 is supremely planted on 100-mph straightaways and unfazed by rapid elevation changes. The optional Brembo brakes on our test cars handled 10 laps of hammering with little fade.
Back on public roads, ride quality shows a lot of polish with the base suspension, which is firm but comfortable. The sport-tuned setup is noticeably firmer; some may deem it too choppy, but it's controlled. Adaptive shock absorbers are optional with the latter suspension, but I didn't spend substantial time in a car thus equipped.
Get the Automatic — Yes, Really
Both Genesis G70 engines are strong. The turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder (252 horsepower and 260 pounds-feet of torque) makes progressive, linear power from 2,500 rpm on up with minimal accelerator lag starting out. Even with two adults aboard, it tackles uphill climbs and passing situations with aplomb. You really don't need more power than this, especially given the G70's responsive eight-speed automatic transmission. As transmissions with umpteen gears proliferate, more bad examples than good ones exist right now. Fortunately, Genesis' unit is excellent. Upshifts are smooth and often unnoticeable, and downshifts come immediately — even in the drivetrain's Eco- and Comfort-oriented driving modes, which in many vehicles dial up the laziness. A Sport mode holds lower gears longer, but it hardly feels necessary. The G70 doles out downshifts like candy at a parade.
It's more of a stampede if you get the 3.3-liter turbo (365 hp, 376 pounds-feet), which combines the excellent transmission with thunderous power. Even absent the rare downshift, I added steady speed charging up two-lane hills with another editor and multimedia gear at 1,800 rpm. Pedal to the metal, the 3.3-liter G70 will clear 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds, Genesis reckons. That makes it the brand's quickest car yet, and it competes with manufacturer-estimated times for the rival BMW 340i, Audi S4 and Mercedes-AMG C43.
Perhaps due to the responsive transmission, Genesis-estimated gas mileage trails leading competitors' EPA numbers by some 10 to 20 percent, depending on configuration. If that's the case, it's a trade I'll take, especially because both G70 engines merely recommend premium fuel to achieve full power. Genesis officials said both motors can run on the cheap stuff all day if you want, a nice provision many competitors don't provide.
Many competitors don't offer manual transmissions, and Genesis' decision to have one is worth celebrating. Alas, the execution is not. Available on the 2.0-liter G70, the manual has imprecise throws, widely spaced gates and a bulky, low-rent shifter. Good accelerator response helps with rev-matching, but that's about its only strength. What's more, manual cars get a different parking brake that requires a rejiggered center console with less storage space. Stick-shift purists will flay me for this on Twitter, but I say get the automatic.
What It Does Best
Still, the G70's appeal extends so far beyond drivability that the way it drives feels secondary. This is the commonsense sports sedan.
Take it from someone who harps on impractical interiors all the time: The G70's cabin is a godsend. Not found are capacitive-touch buttons, arcane menu structures and console-mounted knob or touchpad controllers — all maddening developments from too many luxury brands. Every G70 has large, physical dials for climate controls. Volume and tuning knobs above them flank shortcut buttons for a standard 8-inch touchscreen. A generous storage tray (by sports-sedan standards) sits ahead of the cupholders, and the armrest in automatic-transmission cars has enough storage space underneath to fit a 16-ounce bottle. The doors have armrest-level pockets; the overhead console has a sunglass holder. Our test cars had three USB ports apiece, beating the norm by one. Non-luxury cars have such sensibilities in spades, but too many luxury models do not. I'm glad Genesis rights the ship.
It's not the roomiest ship, however. The backseat and trunk are modest, even by class standards, and taller drivers may find insufficient knee space. But nobody should lack for features, even in the base car. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and HD Radio are standard, as is a secondary 7-inch gauge display and keyless access with push-button start. Also standard is a full complement of safety and self-driving technology, including automatic emergency braking at low and high speeds, blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control that works to a complete stop and a lane departure warning system with hands-on steering assist at higher speeds that does a pretty good job of centering the G70 in its lane. Officials wouldn't call it lane-centering, but they're selling the feature short. It's better than some systems that claim to center the car.
Expectedly, cabin materials are a step down from the G80 and G90, especially below arm level, but the high-traffic areas show attention to detail. Attractive vinyl wrapping with double stitching covers middle sections of the dashboard (it's standard, not part of an upgrade package) and the console even has low-gloss materials around the cupholders and storage tray — areas where some cheaper luxury cars still throw shinier, high-grain plastics. Vinyl (leatherette) seats are standard, with leather or upgraded Nappa leather optional. The basic leather feels a bit rubbery; the Nappa cowhide is a lush. Cars with leatherette were absent from the drive event.
Do I Still Have to Visit a Hyundai Dealership to Buy It?
The G70 goes on sale this quarter, and Genesis will initially sell it much like the G80 and G90: at select Hyundai dealerships. Officials told me the brand hopes to get a committed dealer network of several hundred retailers by the first quarter of 2019, but it'll still be a mix of stand-alone facilities and showrooms tucked into Hyundai dealerships, unique decor and staff notwithstanding. The latter setup, which Genesis has more or less employed until now, is less ideal, as it puts G80 and G90 shoppers a stone's throw from $19,000 Elantra sedans. Efforts to rally more stand-alone stores will require dealers to invest considerable money in a brand that promises three more models by 2021, including all-important SUVs, but has yet to sell a single vehicle that isn't a sedan in a luxury market that's fast cooling on sedans. And anything short of an independent Genesis dealership will rub off a bit of the G70's luster.
Still, the makeshift approach has spurred 7,262 sales of the G80 or G90 through the first six months of 2018, a degree of sales popularity on par with the likes of the Lexus GS and LS. With perks like three years of free maintenance paired with a complimentary service valet, which swaps your Genesis for a loaner car and brings it back when it's done, ownership and dealership are far removed once you drive off the lot. The G70 will get the same program as standard, with Hyundai's excellent warranty as well.
Genesis estimates pricing will start around $36,000 including destination charges and top out — with options like navigation, wireless smartphone charging, Lexicon premium audio and heated and cooled seats — around $50,000. We'll reserve our full review until we get a G70 back at Cars.com headquarters and detailed pricing becomes available, but Genesis' approach portends value: Many competitors skimp on the standard safety and multimedia gear at the bottom end and balloon well past 50 large at the top. That the G70 comes from an untested luxury brand lacking stand-alone dealerships could hamper its sales out of the gate. But if Hyundai can get Genesis' ducks in order, the G70 has a bright future.
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