Road Tests

First Drive: 2019 Genesis G70

From its launchpad in South Korea, a carefully concocted sport-luxury sedan points for an important target

NAMYANG, South Korea—On a recent Friday morning in Korea, two shots went off within hours of each other. The first, a Hwasong 12 from Pyongyang, soared 478 miles above terra firma and splashed into the ocean 2,300 miles later. Then the Genesis G70 was launched in a midmorning press conference at Hyundai Motor Group’s design center, aiming for the middle of the international luxe-sport market.

The first shot made stomachs churn in global capitals. Of course South Koreans fretted about Kim Jong Un’s ongoing snit as well, yet 15,000 concertgoers turned out that evening in Seoul for Gwen Stefani’s show tied to the G70’s debut.

Not failing in its moment, the G70—which completes the Genesis range of large, midsize, and scrunchy sedans—looks like a winner. The design is distinctive and correct, with a beautiful sweeping roofline and a touch of felinity in the front three-quarters view. Some may snipe about the troublesome chrome chevron on each front fender or the rear view’s suggestion of the Chrysler 200, but the G70 looks expensive and proclaims a broad appeal. Design chief SangYup Lee can’t exult in a big breakthrough, but the details are executed with passion.

After the blowout celebration, Saturday was driving day. From the hotel in the 123-story Lotte World Tower, we set out for Inje Speedium, the 2.4-mile circuit in the northeastern mountains. Genesis offered us the G70 Sport, the turbocharged 3.3-liter V-6 model with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Benefiting from 370 hp, it will go from 0 to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds in rear-wheel-drive configuration. Our car had all-wheel drive, and Hyundai hasn’t published 0-60 times for any but the rear-drive model, so we’ll have to wait until we can test it for ourselves to find out. There will also be a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder model making 252 hp, and the possibility of a six-speed manual transmission is on many lips. A 2.2-liter turbodiesel goes to other markets.

To make a bold statement, the G70 has a large grille of meshing diamonds. An adventurous pair of front-corner air intakes also arrests the eye. Recognizability is a must, and the G70 scores above the 90th percentile on this aspect. There’s no confusing it for an Acura or a BMW. And it has some swagger. We were told it’s the widest car in the segment. It measures 184.4 inches long, 72.8 inches wide, and 55.1 inches tall. Wheelbase is 111.6 inches.

Four daytime running lights, the new Genesis signature, winked at us in the early dimness, as if advising us of the three-hour drive ahead. After running hands over the flared hood and creased sides, we climbed into the driver’s seat. Like the body design, the interior is conventional but well executed. The 8-inch touchscreen dominates from its perch atop the dash. Grasping the wheel and moving the stubby shifter into Drive, we crossed Jamsil Bridge over Hangang River and left town on an expressway. Genesis is making much ado about its Active Sound Design creating “an aural character that reflects the engine load and driving mode settings.” Departing the city in Comfort mode, we felt isolated from Seoul’s 20 million people. This is a quiet car.

“First of all, it’s a very stiff, substantial platform,” said Albert Biermann, formerly of BMW, who leads the chassis development program. Our urge for spirited driving was kept in check, though, as the expressway jammed up with people going to their ancestral homes to observe seongmyo, the tradition of tidying up the graves of departed loved ones before Chuseok, the early October harvest festival.

Our G70’s cabin was comfortable and posh with quilted leather upholstery and beautiful aluminum trim. There were no tricks to learn on the control panel. When the preset route guidance seemed to be sending us into Kim’s welcoming arms, we easily reset it for the desired waypoint at Gwangchiryeong. While relaxing there, it should be mentioned, we tried out the backseat but found entry and egress to be tortuous. A Mercedes-Benz C-class sedan seemed like a limo by comparison. It was also a long reach to close any open door, no matter where we sat. And another of the G70s quirks: the 12-volt battery lurks below the cargo floor (and the extended mobility kit) in the trunk.

This is a driver’s car and “well harmonized,” SangYup Lee had told us. We were eager to get onto the track, a wide and rolling circuit with one long straightaway and clusters of linked Kama Sutra turns. How about the electronically controlled suspension, 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires, and dual-piston Brembo brakes?

Turning the rotary knob on the center console, we changed the driving mode to Sport, number four of five settings, and caressed the paddle shifters. Then we stomped on it. The G70 took off with, ahem, mellow contentment. This is not an edgy car. Sorry, no crackling exhaust here. It wasn’t slow by any means—we hit 120 mph on the straight—and it carried a neutral attitude through the corners, but it rolled like a C-Class and was just generally more Prosecco than tequila.

A Dynamic Edition is coming to the U.S. at model introduction. We did a lap in one example and can suggest this G70 will appeal to the street-performance veteran moving up from a Honda Civic. It has Pilot Sport 4 S rubber, torque vectoring, and a limited-slip differential. We wish we could have driven the 2.0-liter four-cylinder G70, but it wasn’t available. Final specifications for United States-bound models will be announced early next year. Pricing will probably be determined by November, in time for the Los Angeles Auto Show. The G70 reaches the United States next spring but is on sale now in South Korea for 3.75 million won—about $33,300.

The sedan’s launch comes at a portentous moment for Hyundai Motor, which has faced engine-related recall problems in the U.S. and supply chain problems in China, and for South Korea, Land of the Morning Calm, where anxiety is building about the PyeongChang Olympics in February. What stunt will spoiled Kim pull? Hadn’t anyone thought to give Scud Boy the biathlon events just to shut him up?

Yes, above all, the G70 is a well-targeted consumer product, a nutritious bar of automotive almonds, chia seeds, and flax. Even lacking a trace of bibimbap, it’s nevertheless tasty. Congratulations to the smart people at Namyang R&D on their accomplishment. Selling 15,000 units in the U.S. will be huge. If only missile-bound Pyongyang had something as good to offer instead of idiocy and destruction.

2019 Genesis G70 Specifications

ON SALE April 2018
PRICE $33,300 (est)
ENGINE Direct-injection 2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder 252 hp @ N/A rpm ­­­260 lb-ft @ N/A rpm; direct-injection 3.3-liter turbocharged DOHC 24-valve V-6, 370 hp @ 6,000 rpm 376 lb-ft @ 1,300 rpm (est.)
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD and AWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE N/A
L x W x H 184.4 x 72.8 x 55.1 in
WHEELBASE 111.6 in
WEIGHT N/A
0-60 MPH 4.7 sec (RWD, 3.3T)
TOP SPEED 167 mph

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