2019 Genesis G70 First Drive: From Seoul With Soul


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Genesis threw a huge concert in its hometown of Seoul, Korea, as part of its launch campaign for the G70, the third member of sedan lineup. Gwen Stefani, Andra Day, and Korean pop star CL performed as part of the festivities, but there’s more to this than just a concert with celebrities. The G70 is a big deal because it is the brand’s first entry into the highly competitive compact luxury sport sedan segment, a crowd that includes stalwarts such as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3 Series. Genesis threw a massive party to celebrate its most important model to date and the first to show the automaker’s identity.

Born at Hyundai Motor Group’s Research and Development Center in Namyang, Korea, the 2019 Genesis G70 has its sights set on the segment’s key players, and it comes armed with a balance of expressive style, a fun driving experience, and a luxurious yet sporty interior. From the outside, the 2019 Genesis G70 has a smaller footprint than its platform mate, the Kia Stinger, thanks to a wheelbase that’s 2.8 inches shorter. In terms of dimensions, the 2019 G70 is 184.4 inches long, 72.8 inches wide, and 55.1 inches tall, putting right in the middle of its segment.

The front end features Genesis’ corporate grille, similar to the one found in the larger G80 and G90 sedans, and it’s flanked by a pair of LED strips inside the headlight cluster, which give the front fascia a bit more width. LED accent light strips that also double as turn signal indicators flank the G70’s lower front fascia along with functional air inlets next to them and give the car a more aggressive appearance. The rear end features a short decklid, two exhaust tips, and LED taillight clusters that blend together with the muscular rear haunches and fender flares.

After the official reveal at Hyundai Motor Group’s Namyang facility, journalists were able to take a close look at the G70 and its interior, particularly at the materials used. Stepping inside a car, you’ll notice a driver-centric layout with a center stack that’s ever so slightly turned toward the driver and accented by stitching that forms a C-shape to further hint at the G70’s performance-minded nature. Touch and feel the materials, and you’ll notice plenty of high quality leather, plastics, and even real metal accents on the doors and speaker grilles for the available Lexicon premium audio system.

Sitting inside, there are supportive front seats with extensive adjustability and plenty of support for enthusiastic driving without sacrificing long-distance comfort. However, those relegated to the rear seats might feel cramped because that sexy coupelike roofline cuts into rear headroom. The massive center hump in the second row also means the G70 is effectively a four-seat vehicle with extra room for a small adult passenger or a child. Kneeroom is also on the small side, meaning the rear seats on the G70 will likely be less usable for tall passengers.

The day after the official debut, we spent some time driving the G70 on the streets of Seoul, the highways and winding roads outside the city, and Inje Speedium racetrack to put the athlete of the Genesis family to the test. Driving through Seoul’s notorious traffic, the G70 proved a comfortable drive, with light and communicative steering and a supple yet well controlled ride in Comfort and Smart modes. The standard Michelin Pilot Sport 4 high performance tires that come standard with the V-6-powered G70s, however, produced a little more noise than expected and can get tiring.

As with many vehicles with an eco-minded setting, Eco mode dulled the car’s throttle response, which will force drivers to bury the accelerator to the floor every time they need power. There’s a Custom mode that allows you to set the engine, transmission, suspension, and steering calibrations between Comfort, Sport, or Eco modes. Genesis also has an active sound enhancer for the G70’s exhaust system with four settings: Off, Normal, Quiet, and Enhanced.

While sitting in Seoul’s congested streets, we tested the G70’s infotainment system, which features a freestanding tabletlike 8.0-inch touchscreen that was easy to use and responsive. The large multi-information display complements the main touchscreen and shows everything from lap time to fuel economy and drive info. Where the multimedia system in the G70 sets itself apart is its available Lexicon premium audio system. It features plenty of adjustability, crisp sounds, and rich tones. Not once did it get raspy or sound muddled, making it an excellent option for audiophiles.

Once out of the traffic, we were able to let the G70 loose on winding roads and open highways where we finally got to test out the powertrain. Our test vehicles were all-wheel-drive examples powered by the range-topping 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 with 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. In a car as small as the G70, this engine pulls with plenty of verve, and the prodigious amounts of torque make passing and merging a breeze.

The eight-speed automatic shifts quickly and smartly, and it rev matches its downshifts, giving the G70’s powertrain that extra layer of smoothness. However, when using the paddle shifters in Manual mode, our Korean-spec test cars automatically upshifted at redline, meaning it’s not a true Manual mode. Genesis USA boss Erwin Raphael, on the other hand, assured us that U.S.-spec G70s will have a way to put the transmission in full Manual mode so it won’t upshift for you.

During the final leg of the drive to Inje Speedium, we drove the G70 through some fun winding roads, and it is there where it revealed its rear-drive roots despite our test cars putting its power down through all four wheels. In Sport mode, all-wheel-drive-equipped G70s send more torque to the rear wheels (around 80 to 100 percent instead of 40 to 70 percent), giving it a similar feel to a rear-drive vehicle. In Sport mode, the electronically controlled suspension stiffens up quite a bit and feels more planted through the twisties, but that comes at the cost of ride comfort because it does get quite rough in its most aggressive setting. Body motions are well controlled with minimal roll and excellent transitions when you string corners. The electronic steering, on the other hand, adds more weight but could use more feel and feedback in Sport mode.

Although Genesis insists the G70 isn’t a full-blown performance model, they still had us drive a few laps at Inje Speedium. Stability remained a key trait on the all-wheel-drive-equipped G70, making it feel unflappable on the track, even with its rear-drive bias, and it explodes out of the corners effortlessly. There’s also less understeer in Sport mode because the all-wheel-drive system shifts more torque to the rear wheels, giving it a more balanced feel and enabling it to oversteer more.

We also got the chance to take a rear-drive G70 3.3T out for a single lap, and we immediately noticed how much more playful it is compared to the all-wheel-drive car. The rear-drive G70’s tail-happy nature is in full show. The prototype’s rear end was more willing to drift. All rear-drive G70s with the V-6 also come with a mechanical limited-slip differential as standard, allowing it to better put its power down to the wheels.

After some laps on the track, we made our way to an autocross course. We found that the G70 shrinks around its driver, making it drive smaller than it is. It was also there where we were able to test the car’s braking system to see how it copes with enthusiastic driving. The standard Brembo front brakes that come with V-6-powered models scrub speed effectively. They didn’t fade after a few laps on the track and the autocross course with a bunch of lead-footed auto journalists behind the wheel.

We’ve yet to drive it back to back with its competitors, but based on our time with the car in Korea, the 2019 Genesis G70 might just be one of the more compelling entries in the compact luxury sport sedan segment. There are sharper entries such as the Alfa Romeo Giulia and more luxurious ones such as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Where the 2019 Genesis G70 shines is in its balance. It provides excellent driving dynamics with its capable yet super playful chassis, but it doesn’t sacrifice much in terms of comfort.  The interior is luxurious, well-built, and driver-centric without being overly complicated and remaining user-friendly. Balance is the Genesis G70’s game harmonizing luxury, comfort, style, and sportiness in the same way Korean culture blends old traditions with modernity seamlessly.

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