Rumor has it that the traditional four-door sedan is in the throes of a prolonged death spiral, squeezed into irrelevance by crossovers on one end and EVs on the other. But apparently Genesis hasn’t gotten the memo. Although its own SUVs are right around the corner, the 2019 G70 comes ready to stake a claim in the still-breathing entry sport luxury sedan market on its own terms.
It’s a risky yet necessary gamble on the part of Genesis, which launched about three years ago as a standalone luxury brand above parent company Hyundai. With the G70, Genesis is aiming straight for the middle of a crowded pool filled with German and Japanese competition.
The G70 looks to stand out by straddling a line between athleticism, refinement, and elegance. As if that weren’t enough, the Genesis tries to deliver an authentic character, as well. So in reality, it’s less of a straight line and more the challenge of a classic Venn diagram. Is it possible to achieve all four qualities without compromise?
Visually, the G70 certainly looks the part, especially out back. The sedan neatly sidesteps the ongoing trend of a horizontal taillight treatment that, at a glance, seems interchangeable from one car to the next. Instead, the G70 sports shapely clusters reminiscent of the Rock of Gibraltar, enhanced by horseshoe-shaped LED bars at the edges. From the rear and sides, the G70 exudes a confident, muscular stance. More like this, please.
The front end is less successful, bowing to the very themes it studiously avoids elsewhere. Despite the angry angles and sporty stance, I can’t help but think I’ve seen all of these design cues before. All that seems to vary is the shape and size of the grille from one make to the next.
At least the interior follows through on the promise of purposeful simplicity. Three large, round knobs provide dedicated control over the dual-zone climate control, with seat heating and ventilation buttons nestled between each one in logical fashion. Just above that are eight buttons tied to the infotainment system, bracketed by volume and tuning dials on either side. Clean, simple, easy. But although the 8.0-inch screen is responsive to touch (even while wearing gloves), it could benefit from some kind of redundant input. My hand tends to fall to the circular Drive Mode controller where I instinctively twist it to select a menu, only to adjust throttle and steering programs instead.
But despite the presence of the drive modes, Genesis is opting for an overall less-is-more approach with the G70. Albert Biermann, head of vehicle performance at Genesis, avoided the temptation to pile on a litany of tech to achieve basic handling and performance goals. Instead, his team’s focus was to nail the fundamentals. Biermann insists that all the “fancy options” competitors offer tend to go largely unused and unnoticed by most customers, even if having those features implies an enhanced level of performance. “Maybe it is a bit more of a challenging route,” Biermann concedes, “[but] we have a different strategy.”
That strategy pays off. The G70 has impeccable road manners and no tactile sign of a tradeoff, even on the base model. On some of Maine’s more neglected roads outside of Portland, I find myself pointing the G70 toward visible imperfections just to see if I can unsettle the suspension. The G70 absorbs and dispatches bumps with little drama. There’s just the right amount of feedback through the wheel, neither too jittery nor too isolating. Refinement and elegance: achieved.
Athleticism arrives in the form of a 365-hp 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6, with 376 lb-ft of torque coming online as early as 1,300 rpm and sticking around until 4,500 rpm, generating robust midrange punch. Even a slight prod of the throttle summons a suitable swell of power on demand, generating more than enough speed. Genesis estimates a 0–60 time of 4.5 seconds. Standard 13.8-inch Brembo discs up front and 13.4-inch vented rears feel firm and confident, even after repeated stabs to the pedal at high speeds.
Stepping down to the 2.0-liter turbo-four is a bit of a compromise, but not in terms of refinement or character. Its numbers are noticeably lower, with 252 hp achieved at a lofty 6,200 rpm and 260 lb-ft found from 1,400 to 4,000 rpm; but keep the revs up, and it’s a willing partner. Have some patience from a start, however, as the G70 doesn’t have the same off-the-line punch as, say, the 2.0-liter fours found in Audi’s A4 or the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. There’s a pronounced, agonizing lag before the turbo finds its spin and breathes life into the cylinders.
Both engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic, which delivers shifts without drama, and there’s even a mechanical limited-slip differential (standard on 3.3T and 2.0T manual, optional on 2.0T RWD). All-wheel drive can be had on either engine. Feeling a bit rebellious? Engage Drift mode on either drive system and light up the rear wheels in a cloud of rubber vapor.
Of course, the true ace in the hole can be found in the 2.0-liter G70 Sport model, which comes standard with the aforementioned Brembos (but at all four corners) with upgraded pads, and an enhanced exhaust system. Oh, and—get this—a stubby lever in the middle of the console, connected to an honest-to-goodness six-speed manual transmission. Throws are light and direct, and the transmission helps to make the most of the 255 horsepower under the hood—3 hp more than you get with the automatic.
As welcome as this powertrain combo is, it also begs the question: Why devote a significant chunk of development dollars to an option with so few takers? If the four-door sedan is truly on its way out, it’s the manual-equipped one that is certainly leading the charge toward an inevitable demise.
In a word: authenticity. The decision to develop a stick wasn’t based solely on sales numbers, but also on attracting bona fide enthusiasts to the brand. Genesis identifies true enthusiasts as the ones most likely to own and modify their cars, which makes things like the standard suspension and turbo-four ripe for factory and aftermarket upgrades. One can only hope that Genesis carries this spirit of authenticity down to the dealer level, where its support will be needed most.
Despite Biermann’s shade, there are fancy options to play around with. Get the adaptive suspension option if you must on automatic-equipped models, but it’s really not necessary to hustle the G70 with potent alacrity around corners. On models without the adaptive suspension, Drive mode adjusts parameters such as throttle and steering response as well as adjusting the sound enhancement profile. And here’s the great thing: Sound enhancement can be turned totally off. I’m going to file that glorious choice under authenticity, as well.
As good as the G70 is right out of the gate, it doesn’t live in a vacuum. The Audi A4 continues to be one of the best cars in its class, and BMW is readying a new 3 Series for next year. There’s also the Alfa Romeo Giulia, our 2018 Car of the Year. But Genesis is also coming loaded for bear with service perks that includes complimentary maintenance and annual map updates for the first three years of ownership.
Is there room for improvement? Sure. The manual version has a weird dip in power at the end of clutch engagement during first-gear starts. Genesis claims it’s a feature, not a bug, promoting smooth starts. This goes against the enthusiast philosophy, and hopefully it will be defeatable in future versions. The nice quilted seats could benefit from extendable upper thigh supports, and I’d welcome a true manual mode on automatic-equipped versions without having to turn off the traction control completely.
A few variables still hang in the balance, such as when the G70 is going on sale here and how much it will cost. Expect to pay around $35,000 USD for a base 2.0T, and more than $50,000 USD for a fully loaded 3.3T AWD model.
Given the importance of the segment (and the fierce competition), Genesis has one chance to make its impact felt. And we’re happy to say that for the most part, it’s succeeded. If Hyundai’s luxury arm can nail this whole image thing—and given the talent involved, there’s a good chance it will—the G70 will be instrumental in establishing Genesis as a luxury brand with a distinct identity.