Hyundai’s cars are a long, long way from the punchline they used to be. Everyone knows that. But with Genesis, its new luxury nameplate, the company’s ambitions have never been higher. It’s a measure of how far the company has come that the G70, its challenger to the BMW 3 Series and the rest, is as good or better than anything produced by the Germans.
Like the Kia Stinger it shares a platform and engine with, it’s the real deal. And good enough that it should put Genesis on everybody’s radar.
(Full Disclosure: Genesis kindly lent me a 2019 G70 while I was on a reporting trip in South Carolina earlier this month. The company gave it to me with a full tank of gas and no official remit, meaning I was free to do with it as I pleased.)
The G70 is the smaller, rear- and all-wheel drive luxury challenger to cars like the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4, Lexus IS, Jaguar XE and Alfa Romeo Giulia, just to name a few. The G70's base price of $34,900 is, in fact, the exact same base price as the 3 Series, which should be as good a hint as any as to what the ambitions of Hyundai’s luxury division are.
The fact that Hyundai is doing this at all is kind of remarkable, as the U.S. sedan market is shrinking and the aforementioned cars already have the luxury sports sedan segment pretty well flooded. (The SUVs from Genesis, we are told, are coming.)
But the company’s pluck has more than paid off, as the G70 is simply outstanding, comfortable and quick, with more than enough bells and whistles to convince you you’re driving something made by a company who’s been at the luxury game a lot longer than Hyundai.
My tester had the turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder makes a claimed 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, which was good because that’s the model I suspect most buyers will end up with.
The upper-end model has the twin-turbocharged V6 makes a claimed 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque. The bigger engine will cost you around $9,000 more, and also can’t be had with a manual transmission like the four-banger, coming only with the eight-speed automatic that comes standard on both cars.
It’s the manual you’ll want though, a six-speed gearbox that I unfortunately did not get to test this time. In this way the G70 has a nice leg up on the Stinger, which does not offer a manual gearbox, period.
How do I know you’ll want the manual? First, I know you people. Second, manual gearboxes feel like they’re on the way out on cars like this—BMW doesn’t even bother on the new 3 Series, which is still almost unthinkable–so vote with your dollars if you wanna Save the Manuals.
Finally, while the eight-speed auto was fine in the way that every automatic is fine these days, its shifting could on rare occasions be on the less-than-smooth side. Surely, you can do better. The manual also comes with mechanical limited-slip differential and launch control, and is a nice olive branch to enthusiasts, since it signals that Hyundai knows who it needs to please if it’s really serious about taking on the Germans.
Further, all of this power still comes with decent fuel economy, or 30 mpg on the highway for the four-cylinder and 26 mpg for the V6, according to EPA estimates. The all-wheel drive versions of both fare slightly worse.
The acceleration, which on paper is not tremendously quick—zero to 60 in six seconds on the slowest version of the car, according to Car and Driver, and 4.3 seconds in the fastest—certainly feels faster than that, especially from zero to 40 mph. On the highway the G70 is excellent, effortlessly shooting up to and handling speed when asked.
Inside, while the car is hurtling forward at speeds that will snap you back in your seat, you might otherwise not know it, since the cabin stays quiet (unless you ask it not to) and going 70 mph feels like basically nothing. The car’s base package includes a dizzying array of features that designed to make it comfortable, like a driver’s seat that moves 12 ways and a steering wheel wrapped in leather.
The car I had was also decked out with all of the G70's options, ballooning the price by over $10,000 but adding features like a well-designed heads-up display, nineteen-inch wheels, heated seats, and a sunroof. This was all nicely integrated with tons of leather everywhere, stitched attractively in red.
Some other things I loved: the ability to pipe in “enhanced” engine noise into the cabin, which did make things louder, though “loud” in the context of a luxury sports sedan actually means “fairly quiet and pleasant,” as you had to floor the gas to really hear the engine roar. In addition, the stop-start was well-designed, and didn’t make me hate the feature as I have on other cars, as it started quickly enough to not give me stop-light anxiety related to not having instant access to the car’s power.
I also loved the built-in lap timer. A lot of cars have them these days, but for some reason I wasn’t expecting the G70 to, so when I was scrolling through dashboard menus and it popped up I became delighted. I have no idea how many owners are going to take their G70 to the track, though I suspect the answer will be “not enough.”
This front radar emitter isn’t great:
Let’s also have a view from a little further out.
Yep, still there, right in the middle of what is otherwise a likable face. That reflective cover is hiding the radar system that makes adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking systems possible, which: great! It’s definitely a good thing that adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking comes standard in the G70, I just wish the design into the grille was a little more seamless.
Granted, Genesis isn’t the sole offender in this. Plenty of modern cars have that front plate, and they all look bad, but I need to single it out on this one. This is a small complaint, because the rest of the car is a pure stunner.
The car’s infotainment system, like almost every car infotainment system I’ve tested, also has a learning curve, though once I got the hang of it it was mostly fine, if a bit slow. The navigation, however, was plainly bad, as, on long-distance trips, it kept taking me on routes that were less-than-optimal, even after I set it to not avoid highways. In town, this was less of an issue, but when I was in a rush to get to the Charlotte airport lest, it forced me to do what I usually do inside cars, navigation system or not: I used Google Maps on my phone.
More automakers should just put Google Maps in their navigation systems, since Google’s dominance of the mapping space seems permanent, or at least has been since people were still getting by on Mapquest.
This was also a shame because the voice control feature worked flawlessly in my experience, meaning that I had an easy and safe way of telling the G70 where to go on a screen that was big enough to show me.
The space in the back for passengers also isn’t great, especially behind the driver’s seat, if you have the driver’s seat sitting low and to the rear, as I did, since I’m tall and the lower I went the more I felt like a race car driver. Genesis might have been able to find a way to engineer more space, much like like how a good hatchback feels about 10 times bigger than it should, but I also think that if you want more space you should just get a bigger car, like, say, the G80 or G90. If you’re spending $40,000 on a car, you can afford it.
I’ve spent a lot of time here talking about the car’s interior and exterior, which was intentional because a luxury sedan should have a nice interior and exterior, though I don’t mean to neglect the drive experience, which was good in any of the car’s drive modes. The car defaults to “comfort” mode, though if you want to save fuel there’s an eco mode, and if you want to stiffen the suspension and keep the revs high there’s a sport mode as well, as you’d expect.
In any mode, the car will give you pep, but it also hugs the pavement around turns with steering that felt firm and stopping power, provided by Brembo, was more than I expected, giving the car a nimbleness and the driver confidence. I felt like the G70 could handle anything I threw at it, and the acceleration was such that where I drove it—North and South Carolina, land of American muscle cars—I never felt that it couldn’t go toe-to-toe with almost anything on the street.
As I mentioned, I didn’t get to test the V6 version, but my colleague Kristen Lee has. She actually found that she liked the four-cylinder better, since the V6, in her mind, only made the car feel heavier (probably because it in reality was).
Like I said, the base price of the G70 is the exact same base price as the BMW 3 Series, but the G70 beats the 3 Series right off the bat with a manual option and, until the newest 3 Series goes on sale next year, more power.
The G70 also comes standard with features like Forward Collision Avoidance, which detects things in front alerts you if you get too close, even with pedestrians, Genesis says. There’s also Genesis’s version of adaptive cruise control, which the base BMW has, but the G70's can do a bit more, taking control of the car in stop-and-go situations. (The fact that this feature exists at all in cars is a sad acknowledgement that both [a] our transportation system is inherently flawed and probably will be for forever and [b] we all spend way too much time sitting in traffic, but that’s a blog for another day.)
Going beyond that, the V6 G70 is lighter than the Kia Stinger, quicker than the outgoing 340i, and cheaper than the BMW as well, but not as cheap as the 400 HP Infiniti Q50.
Is the G70 a better value than those cars, though? On paper, of course it is, but I suspect a lot of buyers will be put off by the fact that instead of driving a BMW they will be driving a Genesis. To these people, I say drive whatever you want, of course, though the Ultimate Driving Machine is just marketing, remember.
People wondered if the Genesis G70 would belong with the group of cars it’s compared to, and I’m happy to report that it does and, in some ways, outclasses the others. I’m only worried that the market is oversaturated with a style of car that Americans are buying fewer and fewer of.
I want the G70 to last though, and the Germans deserve the competition. Do yourself a favor and give the G70 a long look if you’re in the market. You won’t regret it.
(Correction: The cheapest V6 G70 is not cheaper than the least expensive V6 Kia Stinger. I regret the error and have corrected the story.)