2018 Genesis G70: First Drive

The final and sportiest addition to the Genesis sedan lineup should be a very pleasant surprise to all. Well, all except the German and Japanese luxury manufacturers.

Máté Petrány / Road&Track

This doesn't happen too often. I could be talking about a Korean manufacturer launching a luxury car, but we've seen that on two occasions from Genesis recently, first with the G90, then the smaller G80. So, no. What I mean this time is how Genesis revealed the 2018 G70 on Friday, only to give its keys to a pack of journalists the next morning. Then, it included some track time to prove that Hyundai's chassis guru Albert Biermann—poached from BMW M back in 2014—has been a good teacher.

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Simply put, the G70 is the Korean answer to the BMW 3-Series, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the Audi A4. It's also the most important car for the Genesis brand to date, after which it will move on to building an SUV and developing a car with an alternative-fuel powertrain, expanding its lineup to six models by 2021.

The new sedan is based on Hyundai's new rear-drive platform introduced with the Kia Stinger, but it's lighter and shorter than that car, sitting on a 112-inch wheelbase and larger wheels.

The top of the range G70 Sport version features an all-aluminum turbocharged V6 good for 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque, an eight-speed automatic gearbox, all-wheel drive with torque vectoring, Brembo brakes, sticky Michelin tires, a panoramic power roof, and an interior full of nice touches. Literally. Think quilted leather and real aluminum.

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Of course two four-cylinder engines will also be available too, depending on the market. The 2.0-liter turbo gas motor produces 248 horsepower and 260 lb-ft, while a 2.2-liter diesel offers 325 lb-ft of torque to help out its 199 horses.

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Regardless of which engine is at the front, rear-wheel drive G70s come with a limited-slip differential. There's also going to be a Dynamic Edition with a tighter chassis, more aggressive tune and even softer tires. The G70 also gets launch control, a traction control system you can turn off, electronically adjustable shocks and variable-ratio steering rack.

If all that sounds good, it is because Genesis clearly isn't taking any chances with this car. As a latecomer to the scene, the G70 has to impress, being carefully designed to drive just as well as a BMW while feeling as posh inside as a Mercedes.

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Apart from those dynamic requirements, the short brief was that Genesis needed to create a "sexy Korean car," a Genesis product that's "desirable." This is perhaps a tall order in a world filled with badge snobs, but not an impossible one with the right tool. Especially knowing how open Asian markets are to new things.

With all this in mind, former VW Group design boss Luc Donckerwolke set to work with the brand's Korean, American and the European studios, showing clay models to Biermann along the way. The resulting four-door was revealed to the press at the recently finished Genesis Design Studio within Hyundai's super secret R&D facility, and it's probably Hyundai's best work to date.

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The G70 grabs attention with its strong RWD proportions, pleasantly short overhangs, a dominant charecter line on its side, and a mixture of concave and convex shapes all around, ending in a small integrated spoiler. And while our eagle-eyed readers will no doubt point out some familiar forms both front and rear, the overall look definitely feels different than the luxury status quo.

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Genesis also went the extra mile with color choices and interior layout, offering the G70 in ten shades, including a striking new red, two blues, a brown and a silver full of aluminum flakes that really shine when the sun is on their side. Inside, there are three levels of leather options in a lots of color combinations, surrounding a dashboard turned towards the driver, á la Bayerische Motoren Werke.

Máté Petrány / Road&Track
Máté Petrány / Road&Track
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Another pleasing detail is that the chrome on the G70 can be "smoked," which is liquid-metal effect finish somewhere between gold and gunmetal. Sleek, sporty, and it looks like a million bucks.

Inside, what may come as a surprise to many is how simple the controls are. Big, clearly marked physical buttons with a metallic PVD-coated surface, milled aluminum rotary switches and a Mercedes-style single touchscreen at the top for all of your infotainment needs. The gauges are analog too, but you get head-up display just in case that's not sufficient. This old-school approach may be surprising knowing how the competition is moving towards using more and more touch screens, but there's something very comforting about how straightforward the entire cabin is.

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Máté Petrány / Road&Track

On the highway, the G70 feels more like a luxury car than a sports sedan, mostly because it's quieter inside than a small cathedral. Plus, our Korean-spec test cars had softer suspension settings than the ones America and Europe will get next year. Genesis also designed the mirrors and the door seals with the aim of reducing road noise.

Additionally, there's a lot of sound isolation all around the passenger cell, which called for a similar Active Sound Design system similar to what's in the Kia Stinger. Basically, Genesis is pumping "real" engine noise through the speakers to give you the V6 turbo experience without any interference from lesser noises. Pretty much everybody does this nowadays due to the fact that you can't have both the grunt and refinement. If you don't like the idea, the good news is that the Genesis system is not only customizable depending on driving mode, but can also be switched off completely. Having said that, the system didn't bother me.

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Getting off the highway, the G70 comes definitely starts to feel more keen to play. In Sport mode, the 3.3-liter V6 has enough power to make it jump when you want it to, the eight-speed automatic will hold gears in manual mode, and Genesis' "rack-mounted, motor-driven power steering" really helps the G70 feel smaller than it is in reality. At 3.3 turns lock-to-lock, this steering rack isn't Giulia Quadrifoglio quick (2.3 turns lock-to-lock), but rapid enough to encourage some spirited driving.

The brakes take a beating well, and based on my brief encounter with a pre-production Dynamic Edition car, the rear-wheel drive G70 will drift too. The all-wheel drive G70 only sends a maximum of 20-percent of its torque torque to the front axle, and the car offers torque vectoring via braking for sharper turn-in.

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On track at South Korea's Inje Speedium, the G70 remained entertaining, but there's a reason why Biermann was so quick to point out that it wasn't really suited for track use, as its "not a high-performance car." With its Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires and multilink rear suspension, the most powerful, all-wheel drive G70 had enough grip to keep things tidy, and despite packing a vast amount of body roll in the name of comfort, it also remained nicely balanced through the corners with quick elevation changes.

Genesis is quite a few years from launching a full-on performance sub-brand, but until it gets there, the sportiest G70 leaves little to be desired as a road car, helped by its low seating position and a V6 pushed well to the back of the engine bay.

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The G70 will go on sale in the US next April, with a slightly stiffer suspension and louder exhaust than in Korea. Europeans will also get the G70 with performance brake pads that contain steel, because Genesis found that unlike the rest of the world, European customers don't mind a bit of brake dust on their wheels in exchange for more stopping power.

Prices will be announced at a later date too, but you know it's going to be cheaper the Germans. Looking at the styling, the engineering, the long list of standard safety features and the materials used in the cabin, it's hard to see why. But I guess that's all for the best.

Máté Petrány / Road&Track

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