First Drive: 2019 Genesis G70 U.S. Spec
Sometimes, you get what you wanted
CAPE NEDDICK, MAINE—Attention, fellow car enthusiasts: It looks like the car we've been asking for has finally arrived.
It's a rear-wheel-drive performance sedan, with optional all-wheel-drive for your Rust Belters. It has a suspension designed to prioritize handling, the development of which was overseen by an ex-BMW staffer—and not just any ex-staffer, but the former head of the M division.
It's also a luxury car, mature enough that the world won't accuse you of having a mid-life crisis, lavish enough that your friends won't think you've hit the skids, and subtle enough not to threaten the delicate balance of office politics.
It's a sedan with a reasonably-sized back seat and trunk, so your significant other can't veto it on the basis of impracticality.
Most importantly, you can get it with a manual transmission. That's the thing for which we've all been clamoring, right?
This car is the 2019 Genesis G70, the new entry-level model for Hyundai Group's new luxury division. The G70 is a distant relative of the deservedly praised Kia Stinger; the base architecture is shared and the powertrains are pretty much identical, though the G70 is shorter in both length and wheelbase and slightly lighter. The Hyundai Group engineers on site at the press preview were reluctant to discuss the differences between the two (several told us they'd been instructed by the PR folks to only talk about Genesis), but I was able to glean that the G70 is meant to have a more performance-oriented tune than the Stinger (which surprised me—more on that in a bit).
The Genesis folks whisked us to the rocky seaside of Maine for the press preview, where they spent lots of time extolling the bonafides of both the Genesis brand's cachet and the G70's performance. I'll gloss over the former—lots of multi-million-dollar multi-media faff intended to build a reputation where none exists—and concentrate on the latter. To me, it was the drive that mattered, and what a drive it was, through the curvy back roads to the Club Motorsports track in Tamworth, NH.
For those unfamiliar, the Club Motorsports circuit is more of a roller coaster than a track. Built on the side of a hill by someone who clearly thought of racing drivers as expendable, it has steep grades that put strong demands on engines and brakes. The mix of sharp and broad curves rewards a good line and a steady rhythm, but blind crests and limit sightlines make it easy for the amateur (that would be me) to lose the line, the rhythm, and the car ahead of you. It's a deceptively challenging track, and the G70s we flogged acquitted themselves well.
We thrashed both rear- and all-wheel-drive versions of the G70, all powered by the 365-hp 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 we've come to know and love in the Kia Stinger GT. Genesis claims a 4.5 second 0-60 time for rear-drive models, and while the Club's steep hills taxed the V-6 to its max, it ran like its backside was on fire on the level front straightaway. The eight-speed automatic did a good job of picking gears, and I never felt the need to reach for the standard-fit paddle shifters.
The rear-drive cars featured the Sport package with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tires, and I was surprised at how early they started howling—seemingly as soon as I turned the wheel from straight ahead—but they did deliver good grip and linear, if not super-sharp, steering response. I was surprised at how much the body rolled, but once the car took a set in the corners, it seemed content to hold it. The brakes did an heroic job, no mean feat given the downhill path into many of the corners, and while the pedal was going soft in all of the cars I sampled, they all delivered smooth and consistent braking action.
The rear-drive G70 felt stable and neutral, though with some ham-fisting of the steering wheel and accelerator I was able to goad it into a little power-on oversteer. The AWD version felt remarkably similar, minus the power-on oversteer bit—but it also lacked the rear-driver's resistance to understeer, which surprised me as these cars had the limited-run Dynamic package with stiffer springs and better Pilot Sport 4S rubber. Genesis told us that with ESC fully off, AWD models will direct most of their power to the rear-wheels to allow proper drifting, though we were exhorted not try this out on the track.
While the track drive proved a point, it was out on the open road where the Genesis G70 proved itself. I started my day with a 3.3TT AWD model loaded up with Sport, Elite, and Prestige packages. I don't think I'll ever tire of Hyundai's twin-turbo V-6, which packs a meaty punch and makes nice noises (electronically enhanced in the Sport models; I was told the sounds broadcast through the speakers are based on a test mule with an exhaust that didn't meet mandated noise restrictions). Sport models have a launch mode that revs the engine to around 2,500 RPM, the speed at which the turbos start to do their thing. Launches were fun, but it was the broad torque curve that really impressed me.
V-6-powered Sport models have a stiffer suspension tune than other G70s, and the ride was a little too hard for my liking—not miserable, mind you, but firmer than I'd like for day-to-day driving. There was also quite a bit of thumping from the suspension, though I didn't hear this in other G70s I sampled.
Next, I switched to a rear-drive G70 with the 2.0-liter turbo-four engine and 8-speed automatic transmission. This car also had the luxury-oriented Elite and Prestige packages plus the Dynamic package, which has the Sport's Michelin summer tires and limited-slip diff combined with slightly softer springs and non-adjustable shocks. I liked this setup much better. The ride was firm and communicative but not as rough as the V-6 Sport, and I didn't miss the adaptive dampers. Four-cylinder cars get a different version of the rack-mounted steering box, and I preferred its lighter heft over the V-6's heavier steering feel.
What of the turbocharged four-cylinder engine? It's a little hard to come down from the rush of the twin-turbo six, but I still liked the four. Its 252 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque is on par with the competition, but the G70's reduced turbo lag and linear power delivery sets it apart. It reminded me of the new Honda Accord's 2.0T, the first such engine that I think truly works better than the V-6 it replaces. The G70's 2.0T is the second.
For the grand finale, I arranged to spend a few hours wandering the New England countryside with a manual-transmission-equipped G70. Hyundai doesn't offer a stick with their high-end luxury trims, but manual cars do get the Brembo brakes from the Sport package. This transmission is everything a stick-shift aficionado could want, with a medium-heft clutch, precise (if slightly stiff) shift throws, and well-spaced ratios, though the engine's flat torque delivery makes it hard to pick the wrong gear. I liked it so much that I seriously considered ditching my flight home and stealing the car.
I was a fan of the G70's driving dynamics, but what about the rest of the car? If you have any experience with other Genesis models (or their Hyundai-branded predecessors, the Genesis and Equus), you know what to expect. Genesis has invested heavily in getting the G70's image right, and its done a great job.
Styling is an important component for a luxury car, and I like the look of the G70: It's subtle, with some cues at the back that remind me of Acuras before they got really ugly. Memorable? Not really; despite spending the better part of two days with the G70, I couldn't draw one from memory. But neither is it offensive, and I think that's important.
The interior is executed well and exudes all of the ambiance I expect from a luxury car. I'm a big fan of the quilted leather on the doors and seats in high-end models but I was no less fond of the lower-spec manual-transmission G70 I drove. The shape and style of the dash bears little resemblance to the Stinger, though much of the switchgear is identical. My biggest complaint concerns the LCD screens on the instrument panel and infotainment systems: They use fonts and graphics identical to Hyundai and Kia models, which clashes with the elegance of the interior. Hyundai really ought to reskin the graphics and give the Genesis cars their own look.
Let's talk about the elephant in the room, which is the similarity between the G70 and the Kia Stinger, and the idea that the Stinger is supposed to be a grand tourer while the G70 is the more performance-oriented vehicle. To me, this makes no sense—if Genesis is a luxury brand, then the G70 should be the grand tourer with the roomier back seat, while the Stinger ought to offer the stiffer suspension and manual transmission. I like the G70 as it is, but if it rode and handled like the Stinger GT, I'd still be perfectly happy. Why they did what they did is a function of the corporate dysfunction that pervades the Hyundai Group, where brands are pitted against each other instead of being cohesively planned to complement each other.
Still, if corporate ineptitude is to blame for bringing us such an appealing car, then perhaps it's not the worst thing. Pricing had not been finalized at the press preview but we were promised a price range starting in the mid-30s and topping out at $50,000—a very reasonable price for all that the G70 delivers.
The Genesis G70 is bound to have a tough go of it in the marketplace. After all, luxury cars are all about brand cachet, and Genesis has none. While the brand is pedaling furiously to generate buzz, such things take time. It's been thirty years since Lexus, Infiniti and Acura were launched, and two of those brands are still struggling to get it right. And despite over a decade of solidly good cars, buyers still tend to regard the South Koreans as purveyors of bargain-bin transportation.
But all that is beside the point, because the 2019 Genesis G70 is the car we've been asking for. It's luxurious, affordable, reasonably practical, great to drive, aggressively priced—and you can get it with a manual trans. Every time I review a car, I ask myself if I would spend my own money to buy one. In the case of the Genesis G70, the answer is an unqualified yes.
2019 Genesis G70 Specifications
|ON SALE||August-September 2018|
|ENGINE||2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/252 hp @ 6,200 rpm, 260 lb-ft @ 1,400-4,000 rpm
3.3L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/365 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 376 lb-ft @ 1,300-4,500 rpm
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed manual, 8-speed automatic|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD/RWD sedan|
|EPA MILEAGE||18-22/25-30 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||184.4 x N/A x 55.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.5 sec (V-6, RWD)|