Drivers looking for a compact luxury sports sedan rarely have had such a broad variety to choose among when seeking a dancing partner for back-road adventures. The German triumvirate—Audi A4, BMW 3-series, and Mercedes-Benz C-class—occupy center stage, but there’s no shortage of viable alternatives from Alfa Romeo, Cadillac, Jaguar, and Lexus. To that list, now add the Genesis G70, just the third nameplate from Hyundai’s saucy upstart luxury brand and the first to be wholly developed from the outset to wear its winged badge.
Genesis may be fairly new as a stand-alone brand, but the G70 arrives fully baked, a contender that cedes no ground to the established players. That makes it a suitable turning point to punctuate the marque’s transition that begins in August, moving away from the “sold at your Hyundai dealer” status that has prevailed since 2015 to the launch of Genesis’s own dedicated sales network. Those dealers may wait for the brand’s range of crossovers and SUVs before they build separate stores to support the “you’re special” ambience that courts luxury-segment customers, but they now have an excellent guidepost model that points to the future of Genesis.
Over mountain roads in New Hampshire on the way to and from the challenging 2.5-mile Club Motorsports circuit in Tamworth, the G70 proved itself a quiet and elegant means of taking in the sights among summer traffic but fully able to entertain when a nice stretch of hilly terrain opened up. What was more impressive was its behavior on the track, where we lapped hard on a variety of turns laid over the hills. We drove only V-6 cars there, in both rear- and all-wheel-drive configurations, and the only surprises they presented were the happy sort. All of these cars ran 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tires, which are widely available throughout the range. Turn-in response is quick without being twitchy, the brake dive and acceleration squat we felt in the prototypes we drove last summer has been quelled to insignificance, and the transmission behaves admirably whether left to itself or manually shifted via paddles.
The steering calibration on the production models now has the firm on-center feel we found lacking in the prototype, and the wheel delivers proportional responses and a good sense of load building in turns. The electrically assisted steering features a rack-mounted motor, which in our experience gives better feel than when located on the steering column. Sadly, like most of its competitors, the G70 lacks any real through-the-wheel feedback about road texture or even bumps. That said, the 2.0-liter Sport model, which we “autocrossed” on the facility’s go-kart track and drove much more on the open road, has a crisper, sportier steering feel, aided by the reduction of weight over the front axle.
These first impressions after only one day’s driving—split among the various drivetrain and equipment configurations—are of necessity brief. So intriguing is this newcomer to the dance, however, that you can rest assured we’ll be examining the G70 more closely in the coming months. The cars should be on sale starting in August, and while Genesis has not finalized prices, it says we can expect the G70 to range from about $35,000 for a rear-drive 2.0T to $50,000 for the top-tier V-6 with all-wheel drive.
The G70 joins the mid-size G80 and large G90 sedans, but unlike those models its roots can’t be traced directly to Hyundai-badged predecessors. Using a shortened version of the same rear-drive platform that underpins the Kia Stinger, it was designed and developed as a Genesis from day one, and we opined that it showed great promise after we drove the aforementioned prototypes in Korea. Now we’ve driven production models, and the G70 does indeed deliver. Lighter and nimbler than the Kia, it’s also more handsomely designed and better executed throughout. Its solid chassis, refined demeanor, and vice-free behavior when pressed hard all measure up to the high standards that prevail in this class. We’ll still need to get G70s to our test track and drive them more extensively before we can say exactly where it stands in this hotly contested segment, of course, but for now we can say it’s very good.
We detailed the exterior design’s origins in our earlier prototype-drive story. In its final form, the G70 is on the large end of the spectrum for this segment—although its back seat isn’t. The car is a little lower and wider than most, and it looks handsome without being a stunning departure from sports-sedan norms. Depending on where you’re standing, you might see elements that resemble the BMW 3-series, the Alfa Romeo Giulia, or the Jaguar XE. This is the first stage of a Genesis design language evolving under chief Luc Donckerwolke, which will be more fully expressed in future models, and it puts primary importance on proportion and stance. When we parked the cars at some upscale resorts along the Maine coast, it drew people to walk around it, taking it all in, some confessing they’d not heard of Genesis before.
We had expressed early doubts about the interior, which on the prototypes leaned toward the dark and conservative ambience of a BMW or Audi. The production cars were slightly more daring, with contrast stitching in gray or red on black leather and a few color combinations including burgundy shades on the upper doors and on the dashboard cover. The overall impression was of high-quality materials deployed liberally in a driver-centric cockpit. The G70’s cabin is neither as jaw-droppingly gorgeous as we’ve found in recent Volvos nor as disappointingly bland as the Jaguar XE’s.
There are two special launch editions. One is designated Design and executed with Black Forest Green paint (a very grayish green) over a beige interior, while the sportier one is dubbed Dynamic and has a red exterior and black quilted-leather upholstery highlighted with red seams. The latter appeals to the track-day driver by starting with the Sport package specification and adds more cooling capacity, specific suspension tuning, performance brake pads, Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires on 19-inch wheels, and your choice of rear- or all-wheel drive. Both launch-edition cars are V-6 models.