2019 Genesis G70 Slays Sports Sedan Status Quo
For all of the disadvantages that come from being the last one to the party, there's one very important benefit, too: the complete inability to rely on past glory to carry the day. Automakers seeking to crack into a segment that has thus far been the undisputed property of well-established rivals have to ensure that their first shot is also their best and most compelling if they have any hope of turning heads and stealing customers away from the tried-and-true.
The 2019 Genesis G70 is perhaps the perfect encapsulation of this philosophy. A Korean-born upstart sent overseas to shake up the sport sedan pecking order, it's a four-door entry-level luxury car that's actually fun to drive. Would that those words didn't sound so revolutionary in our current day, but Genesis didn't simply focus on something the Germans did well and try to do it better. Instead, it realized what BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz weren't bothering with at all anymore, and then made that the lynchpin of its entire development program. As a result, the G70 is less a slap in the face of established premium brand dogma and more a cannonball into the deep end launched from orbit.
Hungry, and It Shows
Let's get this out of the way: The current crop of luxury four-doors are soft. With the exception of Cadillac with its aging ATS platform and Alfa Romeo with the Giulia, the my-first-luxury-car market has slid inexorably towards the comfort-focused, feature-laden side of the sedan scale. Whether this is a good or a bad thing depends entirely on your perspective, but for the ruling Teutonic titans the shift away from the sport in sport sedan has lead to record sales and hefty profits nearly across the board.
Sensing opportunity, Genesis realized that it could gin up a near match for the Euro crowd in terms of leather and gadgets while lasering in on the kind of driving thrills that had increasingly become lip service-only. At its core, the car harkens back to what the BMW 3 Series used to be, before it the "ultimate driving machine" appellation was repurposed as a marketing tool rather than a design philosophy.
If this all sounds like so much shade-throwing, let me clarify. I don't personally think there's anything wrong with a company chasing a wider slice of the car-buying public. BMW et al's decision to dial things back dynamically doesn’t mean they're not still building excellent automobiles that have found a significant following. It does, however, open them up to being sniped by an automaker like Genesis that has nothing to lose and everything to gain by reminding luxury shoppers that fun can still be part of the four-door package.
Sharpening the Blade
Back to that whole "better make it count" thing. The 2019 Genesis G70 consists of several impressive puzzle pieces that, when assembled, reveal a stunning portrait of what can be achieved in a modern sport sedan.
It starts with the chassis, which is a shortened and lightened version of the same platform that underpins the Kia Stinger, a full-size grand touring corporate cousin that preceded the G70 to market. There are two damper choices available, a static sport setup and an adaptive design that can vary the stiffness of the sedan's boots to better tackle the terrain at hand. My tester was outfitted with the latter, and it proved more than adept at handling the broken Montreal pavement that curses nearly every commute through the city, as well as the smoother two-lane asphalt outside of its limits.
Does the car feel somewhat less pliable than the recently-redesigned BMW 3 Series on rougher roads? At times, yes, but the trade-off is impressive poise and control at the limit. On an undulating race track, the G70's suspension felt not just responsive but talkative underneath my seat, giving feedback in each corner with the kind of in-the-moment chatter that's so vital when trying to squeeze out a better lap time.
That sensation of nimble, balanced stability is buttressed by an incredible 3.3L twin-turbocharged V6 power plant. The 3.3T model that I tested throws down 365hp and 376 lb-ft of torque, numbers that feel a tad under-advertised given that rear-wheel drive versions of the G70 can sprint to 60 mph in a mere 4.7 seconds. The vehicle I drove came with a paddle-shifted, eight-speed automatic transmission (standard) and all-wheel drive (optional), with the latter adding only a tenth of a second when hammering it in a straight line.
It's eyebrow-raising performance that puts the top-tier Genesis G70 near the top of the luxury sport sedan pack. A more modest 255hp, 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine awaits in the base model (contributing 260 lb-ft of torque), and while it's not quite as quick as similarly-sized European turbo fours, it does offer the advantage of an six-speed manual gearbox—something not even BMW bothers to bring to the table anymore.
More Than Just a Good Time
If its rambunctious V6TT drivetrain and playful platform were the only shining lights of the Genesis G70 experience, there wouldn't be enough of a case to be made that this car has performed an elegantly-executed takedown of the current competitive sport sedan set.
Fortunately, there's more. A well-sculpted shape, combined with exceptional details in the front grille and lighting, help to cut a dashing profile for the G70 that feels every bit as premium as its peers. Inside, the car falters only in a few areas—largish buttons on the center console and an infotainment screen that is perfectly functional, but not quite "wow"—but also offers beautiful diamond-quilted leather seats and a generally well-presented feature set. Standard safety gear is also above-average, with a long list of active systems offered free-of-charge on auto-equipped cars in contrast to the pay-as-you-go model adopted by most other luxury brands.
Finally, there's the sticker price. You'll pay just under $35k for the entry-level G70, and just over $45k for a well-equipped turbo V6 model like the one I drove. Compare that to BMW or Mercedes-Benz, where you'll be expected to fork over an extra $5,000 to $10,000 for a comparable model. These are not insubstantial sums, and they provide a stark reminder of just how much brand equity goes along with choosing an established player.
Brave New World
Badge recognition is the one area where the Genesis simply can't compete with the sports sedan status quo. As a result, it doesn't even bother to try. This is a car that asks to be evaluated on its merits, rather than the reactions of neighbors and co-workers as they see you driving by.
Still, even by the latter measure the G70 is a head-turner, and while you will no doubt have to explain what, exactly, a Genesis is to anyone who asks you about your ride, it's a minor chore that pays off every single time you stab the ignition and decide to take the long way in to work in the morning—or play hooky on your favorite back road instead. It's hard to think of a better foundation for building a brand than an enormous smile on the face of satisfied owners.