Of the three current Genesis offerings, I was most excited for the 2019 Genesis G70. The smaller and more athletic one. The one with a manual. And rear-wheel drive. And a mechanical limited-slip differential and launch control. The sports sedan. It didn’t disappoint at all. If the Germans think they can keep sitting on laurels in this class, they’ve got another thing coming.
(Full disclosure: Genesis wanted us to drive the 2019 G70 so badly that it flew me up to Maine for a couple of days, put me up in a very nice hotel, fed me and let me hoon its cars on a racetrack.)
The G70 is the Korean answer to the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes C-Class: A sporty, mid-sized luxury sedan with more than a few bells and whistles on it to bring joy to a searching enthusiast heart.
Admittedly, it’s strange that a brand as young as Genesis (which launched in Korea in 2015 and whose cars are made on exclusive lines at the group’s facility in Ulsan, South Korea) is taking on the world by offering three sedans in times when SUVs reign supreme. But by that same token, it’s a refreshing breath of air to see a new luxury sport sedan hit the market. One that isn’t the same old Mercedes, BMW, Lexus or Audi.
Genesis’ take on the luxury sport sedan includes a powerful, top-end twin-turbocharged V6 model. But it’s also offering the G70 with a manual option, something that fewer and fewer automakers are doing presently.
There are two engine and drivetrain options you can get in a G70. The first is the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, good for a claimed 252 horsepower with the eight-speed automatic or 255 HP with the six-speed manual and 260 lb-ft of torque.
The second is the 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6, with 365 HP and 376 lb-ft of torque. The V6 does not have a manual option and only comes with the eight-speed auto.
Both engines are offered with either all-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive layouts, but if you opt for the manual 2.0-liter, you can only get it with rear-wheel drive. This is a very good thing.
Immediately upon getting in the G70, I could tell that it was a departure from the larger G80, which I had driven last year. The interior is still luxurious, with options like quilted and perforated leather and a nice sound system, but it’s clear that everything has been scaled down.
Rather than hopping in the back for a smooth limo ride, you’ll want to be up front. The back seats are tight, especially if someone tall is sitting in front of you. The dash is less vast than in the other Genesis and the entire car is just narrower, which helps you place it a lot better on the road.
And maybe because the G70 is smaller and lighter than the G80, or maybe because someone at Genesis finally fixed it, but the steering is no longer numb and vague. It is crisp and communicative, despite being electronically assisted, and excellent for telling where the front of the car is pointed.
The G70 rides hard over bumps, too. It has five different drive modes, one of which is Sport, but there’s little difference in suspension feel between Comfort and Sport. That stiffer ride is invigorating, too. Almost like the car telling you that you shouldn’t get too comfortable because duh! You’re in a sports sedan! Stay awake!
Genesis provided us with some track time at the Club Motorsports track in New Hampshire. It’s a wonderful course, filled with altitude changes, decreasing radius turns, sweeping corners and a big, main straight. The team gave us two runs of four laps each, first in the rear-wheel drive 365 HP G70 and then in the all-wheel drive version.
The RWD version was definitely the sportier of the two. The all-new C2 platform, which underpins the G70, feels tight and precise on track. There isn’t so much power that you’d go fishtailing all over the place, but enough that, with traction control switched off, you’d definitely be able to kick the ass out a good amount. Maybe even drift it. Which I wasn’t allowed to do but was privy to ride shotgun in order to witness.
That’s not to say that the AWD version wasn’t fun, either. It’s certainly more idiot-proof than the RWD G70. For someone like me, who was unfamiliar with the track, I found it extremely satisfying to nail the throttle out of a corner to feel the front wheels grab onto the pavement. Thundering down on the straight, I hit 115 mph easily. The G70 is by no means a slow car and 365 horsepower is nothing to turn your nose up at.
All versions of the G70 come with Brembos, which bit nice and hard to scrub off speed in the corners.
Down at the bottom of the hill, an autocrossing event had been set up with the RWD V6 G70 and the RWD 2.0-liter with the manual. That was the setup I was most eager to try. Unfortunately, the would be the only exposure I’d have to the manual, so I had to make it count.
The clutch engages high off the ground and the gates are nicely spaced apart. It’s a friendly feeling setup, forgiving enough so that beginners can learn on it and tactile enough that enthusiasts will smile at the feedback.
Before I got into the 2.0-liter version, I, along with many of you, complained that Genesis wouldn’t offer the manual in its more powerful engine configuration. But after I got to drive both RWD setups back-to-back, I discovered something remarkable: The 2.0-liter is actually more spirited than the V6. The subtraction of those two extra cylinders and a turbo seemed to reduce the nose weight of the G70 significantly.
That comes as little surprise when you consider exactly how much lighter the manual, RWD G70 is. According to Genesis, the curb weight of the manual G70 comes to 3,580 pounds. The RWD and AWD automatic versions weigh 3,516 and 3,673 pounds, respectively. And the RWD V6 with the automatic weighs 3,774 pounds, the AWD at 3,887 pounds. That comes out to about 200 pounds of weight savings.
The result was something agile and quick in the corners. Down on power, of course, but paired with that snappy six-speed, the manual 2.0-liter more than made up for the missing acceleration. Added with the fact that it has a mechanical LSD, tossing it around in tight corners was a true treat.
You’re hearing it here: You don’t need the twin-turbo V6 with the manual. The 2.0-liter four-banger is perfect.
Because the G70 shaves a few hundred pounds off of its larger G80 brethren, it doesn’t ride as quietly on the highway. My driving partner and I both remarked on the loudness of the wind noise as air rushed over the car while we cruised on the highway.
The ride quality, as mentioned above, is stiff. Even in Comfort mode. If you are someone who likes very discernible difference between modes, unfortunately it doesn’t seem like the G70 will offer you a softer ride.
And unless you have small friends or family, riding in the back seat of the G70 for extended periods of time will begin to feel cramped. Because of the car’s slanted rear window line, there isn’t much headroom back there.
Genesis hasn’t finalized the pricing on the G70 yet, but it did give us a range of about $35,000 to $50,000. That puts it squarely in C-Class and 3 Series territory. True, you can still get a 3 Series with rear-drive and a six-speed, but you’d look like everyone else on the road who’s in the market for a luxurious and sporty sedan.
It’s easy to walk into a BMW dealership and demand a 3 Series. You could be a little different and get something Korean and nobody would be able to fault you for it because the days of economy, Korean shitbox quality are over.
What’s emerged is a polished luxury brand that has the Europeans squarely in its crosshairs. Sure, it doesn’t have the brand snobbery, but does that affect how things drive? Not in the slightest.
Upon first impressions, the G70 is an overwhelmingly capable car, balancing regular, speed-limit abiding commutes with exciting spirited-drive capabilities. It always felt alert due to its harder ride, and the heavier and precise steering and lighter curb weight made it quick and agile.
It’s a handsome car with very athletic proportions, but still slightly anonymous with its Genesis corporate face. I’m not terribly worried about that, though. Recognition will come with time.
Keep an eye on this space for a longer and more in-depth review of the G70.