Not rocket science, is it? Genesis intends to grab some turf now occupied by compact sport sedans from the German 3 and sundry other luxury brands in one of the most competitive slots in the car biz.
The 2019 Genesis G70 will join the full-size G90 and middle-child G80 as Genesis’s smallest, most driver-focused sedan. It debuts with solid credentials, including more power than competitors like the Audi S4, BMW 340i and Mercedes-Benz C300. The G70 completes Genesis’s sedan lineup, and while the fledgling luxury brand still has some significant holes to fill, a successful compact could take it a long way.
Genesis unveiled the G70 at its spanking new Design Center inside parent Hyundai’s Namyang R&D Center southeast of Seoul, presumably for two reasons: To demonstrate that Hyundai is lavishing billions on the Genesis brand, and to demonstrate the importance of design in the Genesis hierarchy. Genesis employs 170 designers, including international superstars like Luc Donckervolke, the former design director at Bentley, Lamborghini and Audi. The Hyundai automotive brand employs just 380. In its first 12 calendar months, Genesis sold about 150,000 cars worldwide. Hyundai sold some 4.8 million over the same period. That works out to 1 designer per 882 sales for Genesis, and 1 per 12,632 sales for Hyundai.
What’s Genesis getting for the effort? Donckervolke says the G70 is the result of a competition between Genesis studios in Germany, Korea, and the United States. The German studio won, and delivered a sedan that follows what Genesis calls its “Athletic Elegance” canon. Where the big G90 leans toward the elegance, and the G80 is a near 50-50 split, the G70 falls on the athletic side, according to Donckervolke. It also establishes themes that will define Genesis going forward.
For now we’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, and simply point out some of those forward-reaching themes identified by Donckervolke. In front, they include the G70’s big, sturdy mesh, crest-style grille and quad headlights, with thin LED commas that flow into the primary projector beam. In profile, it’s a single parabolic line that defines the length of the car, and in back it’s the white LED taillight lines mimicking those in front.
At 184.5 inches in length, on a wheelbase of 111.6 inches, the G70 comes within an inch or two of the A4, 3 Series, C-Class, Lexus IS, ad infinitum. Yet the Genesis is roughly an inch wider than other cars in the set, and at least an inch lower, and Genesis says those dimension contribute to the lowest center of gravity in the class.
The G70 is also six inches shorter than the soon-to-launch Kia Stinger, on a wheelbase three inches shorter, and proportioned a bit differently. This goes here because Genesis acknowledges that G70 and Stinger start on a common rear-drive platform, but that’s where the acknowledgement ends. We’re fairly sure, given proportions, dimensions and appearances, that there are rigidity-enhancing, NVH-reducing structural bits and treatments in the G70 that aren’t present in the Stinger, but neither Genesis engineers, designers nor product planners would identify what those might be, or even if they exist. Genesis is either trying to avoid any association with a more pedestrian brand like Kia, or it prefers to let its car speak for itself. It’s up to potential buyers to make their own call.
The G70’s unibody is all steel with an aluminum hood, adopting new hot stamping methods and broad use of structural adhesives for “class leading” torsional rigidity. The engineers say every decision, from exhaust hangers to bushings to door seals to mirror shape, was made on the basis of minimizing NVH. The paint introduces a new two-layer process, adding aluminum particles to the base coat to maximize the luster of the top coat.
We’ve seen the G70’s engines before, including in the Stinger. One is Theta II—Hyundai’s 2.0-liter, gasoline direct injection turbo four. The other is the Lambda II 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 launched in the first Genesis sedans. Its turbochargers are integrated in the exhaust manifold castings and managed with electronic waste gates. Final U.S. output hasn’t been certified, but it isn’t likely to change much from the Stinger: 255 horsepower, 260 pound-feet for the 2.0T, and 365 hp, 376 lb-ft for the V6.
The base G70 engine will have as much as a 40 percent more horsepower and 30 percent more torque than that in some competitors (the BMW 320i, for example), and it’s surpassed only by the Cadillac ATS (272 hp, 295 lb-ft). The upgrade V6 surpasses everything, save factory-tuned hotrods like the Mercedes C63 AMG, with 14 percent more hp and torque than the BMW 340i.
All G70s get Active Sound Design—electronically enhanced engine sound broadcast through the audio speakers. Genesis developed a slightly different tone for each drive mode, from Eco to Comfort to Sport, and allows the driver to turn the processed engine noise up, down or (thankfully for some) off. The company also worked diligently on an appropriate tone for the G70’s warning chimes, and gave them their own speaker.
The great bulk of G70s will ship with an eight-speed torque converter automatic, but the four-cylinder will be offered with a manual, and it’s expected in the United States. Rear-drive cars come standard with a limited slip differential. The optional all-wheel drive operates to different parameters in different control modes. In Comfort it defaults to 60 percent rear-wheel torque. In sport it goes all rear, with maximum 30 percent torque to the front wheels. The AWD also applies torque-vectoring control through corners with the differentials and brakes.
Genesis says it spent more than 6,200 miles developing the G70’s suspension on the Nurburgring in Germany. It would seems that Albert Biermann, former VP of engineering at BMW’s M division and now head of performance development at Genesis, likes visiting the homeland. Biermann says his team spent a lot of time working on bushings for the right balance of isolation and precision. All G70s get electronically managed adaptive suspension and Brembo-supplied brakes. The V6 adds a variable-rate steering rack, and factory wheels measure 18 or 19 inches in diameter.
The G70 driver can select five different drive modes using a knurled aluminum nob on the console, with Eco, Comfort and Sport adjusting all control parameters — steering boost, suspension damping, transmission shift pattern, throttle mapping, stability control, engine sound character and AWD torque balance — at once. Smart mode leaves adjustment to the electronic brains, automatically based on driving circumstances, and Custom allows the driver to adjust most control options individually. Stability control can be switched all the way off.
The G70 offers any interior trim the buyer wants, as long as its aluminum. There’s “artificial leather” for vegans, plus standard cow hide and a Nappa upgrade. The leather extends up the door panels, with different quilting patterns for different effects, and there are lots of cost-intensive details often reserved for a luxury class above, including piping, double stitching, aluminum door releases and those knurled knobs.
All G70s will come with things that cost extra on the Germans, including server-based voice recognition, a 360-degree camera view and 15-speaker Lexicon audio for all. The standard safety suite includes nine airbags, forward collision-avoidance, blind-spot collision warning and driver awareness warning. Genesis’s most advanced autonomous operation mode won’t be offered in North America. Nor will an automatic pedestrian-protecting hood or a diesel engine, and maybe not dual exhaust for the 2.0T.
The G70 should reach North America by spring as a 2019 model, though product planners are still debating the exact mix. AWD may or may not be offered with the four-cylinder. If previous Genesis pricing patterns follow, MSRPs should undercut the Germans by 10-15 percent. A G70 Dynamic Edition—rear-drive 3.3 with more aggressive suspension turning, performance brake pads and Michelin Pilot Sport PS2s—will be available at launch. A coupe is in the pipeline, and Genesis has done a design study for a G70 wagon.
The market for compact luxury-brand sedans has been shrinking, to be sure, but it remains a very profitable space. Sales exceeded 500,000 as recently as 2015, but they fell 14 percent in ’16 and they’re off again this year as buyers continue to flow toward crossovers and SUVs. The top sellers remain 3 Series, C-Class, A4/S4 and Infiniti Q50, in that order, but there’s also the ATS, IS, Acura TLX, Volvo S60, the new Alfa Romeo Giulia and probably something we’ve forgotten. It’s a tough racket, and even if the G70 is a smash out of the box, it will only begin to assure Genesis’s future.
So far for Hyundai’s luxury brand, so good. In roughly a year, the G80 has passed the Audi A6 and Lexus GS for third among mid-size luxury sedans, and the G90 has cracked the top five in a class dominated by the Mercedes S-Class, constrained as much by supply as demand. Genesis ranked highest in initial quality among 13 luxury brands in J.D. Power’s 2017 survey, and that’s with buyers visiting the local Hyundai store to get one.
But that’s all there is for now. The G70 might help fund the stand-alone Genesis shops the brand has planned, but the first isn’t likely to open for years. The first of two planned Genesis SUVs is still two years away; meanwhile, luxury vehicle sales continue clicking upward past 50 percent SUVs. It could take longer for the first electrified Genesis, and hybrids are spouting like weeds on luxury car lots across the States, right down to the compact class. Stand-alone luxury car lots.
No matter how well the G70 is received, the clock is ticking on Korea’s luxury brand.
Genesis offered the G70 for a good road drive and a handful of queued laps around one of Korea’s rare racetracks, but in a single variant: the 3.3 V6 with all-wheel drive, in Korean-market tune. U.S. cars will generally be sprung more firmly, and that could have a subtle to significant effect on dynamic behavior.
The trip across the Pacific shouldn’t change the G70s appearance, and that’s okay, because it’s generally a good looking car. Rear and rear three-quarter views are best. The front may be weakest, though it’s not weak. The paint is deep, lustrous and good, and the dark, smoky chrome is fantastic. Yes, you’ve seen some of the G70’s styling tricks before, and a few seem to muck things up, but this is a brand still finding its legs. Genesis’ small sedan has presence, from a distance as it travels past and from the driver’s seat.
We’ve been generally impressed with the Lambda V6 in Genesis’s large G90, and the G70 weighs about 1000 pounds less. The company reports that, at 4.7 seconds to 100 km/h (62 mph), the G70 3.3 is the quickest Hyundai product ever offered to the public. Based on other manufacturers’ quoted acceleration times, that also puts the G70 near the very top of the class, not counting the factory-tuned hotrods.
Almost nothing suggests the V6 is turbocharged—not throttle response, legitimate lag or sounds inside the cabin–and its torque band is wide. If there’s any hesitation in the G70’s response to gas-pedal commands, it feels more like the AWD spooling up. The eight-speed automatic cooperates nicely.
Hard-throttle upshifts are crisp, but not jarring, and downshifts are quick—in two- or three-gear increments when you floor it. Rolling acceleration is nearly as strong as it is off the line. Under light throttle and during long coast downs, gear changes in both directions are nearly imperceptible.
The G70 is a hair soft in K spec for our tastes, but it’s competent and quite friendly. There’s some understeer tuned in, though no big deal. Slam the gas after an apex and the G70 neutrals up. The front end tucks in and you can just load in power. There’s more than enough to force small, throttle-induced fishtails at lower speeds in Sport mode, but nothing like real oversteer. The AWD G70 just tracks. Its steering is friendly, too–reasonably sharp, clean and not overly assisted. The force back through the column is a good indicator how heavily the front tires are loaded, and how much grip is left.
On the road the G70 feels solid, not heavy, and very smooth. It has almost no inclination to wander or pavement track, though that could change with stiffer springs and alignment for U.S. roads. Korean roads tend to be much newer, and they’re rarely crowned.
And it’s quiet inside. The G70 could have the best NVH management in the class, out of the box. It could also be the winner in interior finish or richness, as long as you don’t have a thing for wood trim. The switches and buttons are excellent, in placement, feel and presentation, and the overall interface is not overly complicated. In the normal course of business, the touch screen is rarely required. The backseat is roomy in this class, with one problem: There isn’t enough space below the front seats to slide shoed feet underneath, and it contributes to crunched legs.
Specific gripes aside (there aren’t many), the G70 is a strong car, and maybe more so when it’s considered as a first try against some of best, most engaging sedans in the world. As with its styling, the G70’s dynamic behavior amalgamates traits that define other luxury brand sedans. It balances characteristics and settles on compromises that will begin to identify what is uniquely Genesis, and that would seem to be the way brands are built.
We like this car. Whether this guy would buy it over many strong alternatives is far more difficult to say. That choice is less “good vs bad” and more a function of taste, preferred compromises, brand loyalty, even mood. This guy is more likely to choose the G70 at his maturing age than he would have been at 35 or 40, and that might be the kiss of death.
Better to settle this from Genesis’ perspective. The G70 is a strong player in a crowded, lucrative class, and we predict that it will climb the luxury compact sales chart as the G90 and G80 have done in their respective slots. It’s good for the brand, and it will help get Genesis over the hump until those SUVs finally roll in.
On Sale: Spring, 2018
Base Price: $33,000-$41,000 (projection)
Drivetrain: 2.0 turbocharged I4, 3.3-liter turbocharged V6, six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic, rear- or all-wheel drive
Output: 255 hp, 260 lb-ft (I4, est); 365 hp, 376 lb-ft (V6, est)
Curb Weight: 3400-3850 lbs (est)
0-60 MPH: 4.7 sec (V6 awd, manufacturer)
Fuel Economy: 27 mpg (2.0 rwd, converted from Korean govt rating); 23 mpg (3.3 awd)(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)
Pros: More horsepower than competitors in a well-finished compact sedan, more stuff for the money, fantastic warranty
Cons: The things that go with a fledgling luxury brand: lack of heritage, unproven resale value, evolving customer experience.
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