The verdict: Few sport sedans are as well-rounded as the 2019 Genesis G70, the latest prodigy from Hyundai’s budding Genesis luxury brand.
Versus the competiton: The G70 holds its own on the driving front — a significant feat in a class engineered for fun behind the wheel. But its greatest assets are the practicality and value many rivals hold in short supply.
Yet again, Genesis gives brand-unconscious luxury shoppers the last laugh. It did as much with the G80 and G90, two larger sedans introduced two model years back (or reintroduced under the Genesis name). The G70 packs the winning formula in a smaller package — it’s about a foot shorter and around $7,000 less expensive than the G80 — with compelling results.
On sale now, the sedan offers two turbocharged engines: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a 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 all the 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). Back at Cars.com’s Chicago headquarters, we also drove two G70 sedans, one with each engine.
How It Drives
The track portion of my first drive involved an autocross course that Genesis set up at New Hampshire’s Club Motorsports racetrack, followed by laps on 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, then 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. Otherwise, though, it’s balanced. The nose exhibits mild understeer as you turn the wheel hard 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 its hardware. (Kia is a Hyundai subsidiary, but the Stinger is about 100 pounds heavier and 6 inches longer than its corporate sibling.) 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 drivers may find 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 with them. Fellow Cars.com editors praised the all-wheel-drive system in a G70 we tested later. The system has a clear rear bias; it resists understeer to easily set the tail as you accelerate out of a turn.
Both engines offered in the G70 are strong. The turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder, with 252 horsepower and 260 pounds-feet of torque, makes progressive, linear power from 2,500 rpm on up. Even with two adults aboard, it tackled uphill climbs and passing situations with aplomb, though several Cars.com editors objected to a bit of turbo lag when accelerating from a stop. Still, 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, there are more bad ones than good 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, lag-free power. I added steady speed charging up two-lane hills at 1,800 rpm with a passenger and multimedia gear onboard. Pedal to the metal, the 3.3-liter G70 will clear 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds, Genesis says. That makes it the brand’s quickest car yet, and it competes with times for the rival Audi S4, BMW 340i and Mercedes-AMG C43.
Perhaps due to the responsive transmission, EPA-estimated gas mileage trails leading competitors’ 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 also 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 in conjunction with an upgraded exhaust system that adds another 3 hp, 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.
Crowd-Pleasing, Outside and In
Styling is Infiniti Q50 up front meets BMW 2 Series in back — derivative, to be sure, but at least it’s derivative of fine-looking cars, so I can’t blame Genesis. Unlike the G80, a sedan on the larger side of its competitive set, the G70’s dimensions land smack-dab amid other small sports sedans. As such, it’s a considerable 12.1 inches shorter in length than the G80, so if you’ve eyed Genesis but never wanted something so large, well, your skiff has come in.
Inside, the G70 is a godsend. Take it from someone who harps on impractical interiors all the time: This is the commonsense sports sedan. Mercifully absent 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-equipped cars has enough storage space to fit a 16-ounce bottle. The doors have armrest-level pockets; the overhead console has a sunglasses 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. Genesis rights the ship.
It’s not the roomiest ship, however. The backseat and trunk are modest, even for this class, 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 instrument-panel screen 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. Genesis officials wouldn’t call it lane-centering, but I think they’re selling the feature short. It’s better than some systems that claim to center the car. (The full safety story remains unknown, as the G70 had yet to be crash-tested as of this writing.)
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 — places where some cheaper luxury cars still throw shinier, high-grain plastics. Leatherette (vinyl) seats are standard, and leather or upgraded Nappa leather is optional. The basic leather feels a bit rubbery; the Nappa cowhide is lush. We haven’t evaluated cars with leatherette.
The Dealership Question
Genesis is currently selling the G70 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 non-sedan in a luxury market that’s fast cooling on the body style. 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 and G90 through the first six months of 2018, a degree of sales popularity on par with the likes of the Lexus GS and LS sedans. 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 involves minimal dealerships once you drive off the lot. The G70 gets Hyundai’s excellent warranty, as well.
Pricing starts around $36,000 (including destination charges) and tops out — with options like navigation, wireless smartphone charging, Lexicon premium audio, and heated and cooled seats — around $50,000. That’s a bargain. 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 a nascent 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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