Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2019 Genesis G70

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
  • Safety

No doubt the executives at Hyundai knew the immense challenge they faced in launching the Genesis brand. From brand awareness and perception to pricing and sales strategy – to the amount of wiggle in each button and dial – every move and product would be under the microscope, from media and consumers to competing companies ready to respond to another threat to their market share and profit margins.

If Genesis can get people into showrooms and into the cabin, their odds of sealing the deal will soar.

The brand launched in two high-tier, low-volume segments with the large G90 and mid-size G80, more curiosities than products to make waves or hit sales targets. After that practice run, Genesis is moving on to a more sizeable market, but this 2019 Genesis G70, despite everything it has going for it, is still just a warm-up. These days, the main attraction is the crossover market, and that is one that Genesis can carve out a niche for itself and perhaps draw on the same people who’ve flocked to the mainstream Tucson and Santa Fe crossovers.

On the other hand, trying to muscle in on the compact luxury sport sedan segment means facing off with the sales juggernaut Mercedes-Benz C-Class, legendary sporting BMW 3 Series, and trending Audi A4, not to mention coupe and smaller sedan offerings in those showrooms to allow shoppers almost endless variations on the theme when picking their next modestly priced luxury car. Uphill battle does not begin to describe that challenge, as even established brands like Cadillac, Acura, and Volvo barely make a dent.

Standing Out

For Genesis to capture some sales in this segment, the G70 has to be good, really good, matching the big three for luxury, technology, and driving dynamics, while offering something unique to make it stand out. The best way to stand out has always been styling, and in this area it could go either way.

The G70 is certainly handsome, but to my eyes, it seems too generic, like a mishmash of Mercedes-Benz proportions, BMW body creases and a derivative of Audi’s grille. It’s incredibly hard to be original and good-looking at the same time these days because of crash regulations and cost effectiveness, and unfortunately I’d say the looks are something most drivers will continue to say “What’s that?” for years to come, rather than “Oh hey, is that the new Genesis?” The Genesis brand needs the Essentia Concept to arrive in dramatic fashion and make waves in order to stick in people’s minds.

I’ll give them one thing, though, that badge is incredibly cool, and translates really well into an image projected on to the ground at night in the car’s welcome puddle lights when you open the door.

If Genesis can get people into showrooms and into the cabin, their odds of sealing the deal will soar. The seats and door trim in particular catch the eye, dressed up in diamond-pattern quilted leather in our fully loaded 3.3T Sport tester. The leather itself is top-notch and together with the suede-like headliner, send some serious luxury sport signals, and wouldn’t look out of place next to the Audi S4 with which this trim competes. The red stitching and piping further reinforce the sporty character of this trim; and the adjustable-bolster seats and cabin as a whole wrap around you as a driver, the centre stack cleverly contained in a way that defines it as the driver’s territory – hands off, passengers, you can request a song, but don’t touch the dial!

Rear passengers aren’t forgotten, with deep buckets that should hold them in place during spirited driving, though they don’t get along terribly well with booster seats. Another ergonomic oddity was how hard the door handles were to reach once settled into the deeply bolstered front seats. My wife also commented that shorter drivers might be left in the lurch without enough range of adjustment to bring the seat into adequate reach of the pedals and steering wheel. #shortpeopleproblems

While the red stitching and satin metallic accents break up the monotony of this black and grey interior, functionality rules over style, so it’s a bit boring for the sake of being dead easy to operate the entertainment and temperature functions. Like the exterior, handsome but generic, but in the interior it’s more of a positive since people don’t necessarily want to be challenged by design when they just want to change the radio station, and a familiar layout goes a long way to making people feel comfortable. The home screen on the display is split to show a map preview, current audio and icons of your choice in the favourites section, with hard buttons below the vents for the most common functions and a favourite button that you can set.

While some might critique the gauge cluster for just a small info screen sandwiched between analog gauges, the G70 has a bit of a chronometer-watch-style look that works, and the head-up display puts all the meaningful and crucial info right in front of your eyes. Too bad that polarized sunglasses completely wipe it out, and for long stretches of the sunny week in which I drove it I completely forgot it even had a HUD. At night, it is vivid, colourful, and hugely helpful.

Keeping Up – Powertrain and Driving Technology

Y’know what else is helpful? 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque.

Genesis certainly didn’t want to leave the G70 behind in the arms race, so they’ve added displacement and an extra turbo over their German competitors at 3.3 litres with twin-turbos, outgunning the Audi S4 and BMW 340i in horsepower and torque. Only the Mercedes-AMG C43 AMG was prepared for this opening salvo from Genesis with a close 354 hp and beating it on torque with 384 lb-ft. Despite the power advantage, it only matches the official 0–100 km/h acceleration of the S4 and C43 at 4.7 seconds, perhaps because it is saddled with 1,816 kg, its competitors much lighter.

Although it fails to earn the armchair racer’s favourite bragging rights, there is no disappointment planting your foot to the firewall when taking off from a standstill. Peak torque is on tap from 1,300 to 4,500 rpm, and the eight-speed automatic is suitably sporty, swapping gears quickly and smoothly, with the requisite Sport drive mode changing shift patterns to hold gears to tap into more of the horsepower that builds until 6,500 rpm. While the all-wheel drive and big, meaty Michelin Pilot Sport rubber get power down to the ground effectively, it wasn’t the most pleasing engine note to my ears when pushed aggressively, with notes of groan accompanying the roar of combustion and exhaust.

While its sporting character is well served by the transmission’s shift paddles allowing manual control and a sport mode, luxury hasn’t fallen by the wayside, with more sedate modes offering smooth, seamless shifts without hesitation or confusion despite eight gears to choose from. However, there’s a price to pay at the pumps for the big engine and driving aggressively. The G70 3.3T is rated at 13.3 L/100 km in city driving, 9.5 on the highway and 11.6 combined by Natural Resources Canada, but we did no better than 12.9 L/100 km with plenty of highway driving in that mix. Those looking for a more efficient experience can opt for the 2.0T with 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft, which delivers 11.5/8.7/10.3 L/100 km in city/highway/combined. For purists who choose the manual-transmission, rear-wheel-drive 2.0T Sport, it splits the difference, at 12.8/8.5/10.9 L/100 km.

Another aspect of the G70 that proves capable of both sport and comfort is the suspension. The basic architecture is MacPherson struts in front with five-link rear, and 3.3T Sport models gain adaptive damping, meaning you can take the edge off the firm ride for subtly more comfort, though it’s never unduly harsh. It handles deftly in long sweeping turns or tight changes in direction with suitable eagerness.

The steering is fair for controlling it with good precision and weight but nothing dramatically exciting in terms of feedback. Sport models also feature a mechanical limited-slip differential on the rear axle to further assist with power delivery in traction-challenged situations, rounding out the sport sedan arsenal that allows the G70 to deliver an excellent all-round sporty experience without being crude or harsh.

The G70 is just as competent in more mundane driving situations as well, the ride supple as mentioned, unfazed by rough potholes and typically garbage city streets. On highways, it’s quiet and smooth, with little steering effort required to hold it on centre. Of course, in our fully loaded model, adaptive cruise even made traffic jams easy to cope with, adjusting speed smoothly and picking up slower vehicles early to avoid any jerky slowing and accelerating. Supporting the adaptive cruise is lane-keep assistance with blind-spot warning and assistance, and forward collision alert and braking with pedestrian detection.

Getting in and out of parking spots is as easy as it gets with 360-degree cameras, proximity sensors front and back, and rear cross-traffic alert.

Getting Ahead

If it’s not clear yet, the Genesis G70 does manage to compete respectably with Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz on the road and in the features race, and although it will take years to develop their design identity and brand, they’re going about it the right way, without rushing things. One area where Genesis has elevated its game and might disrupt the industry is closing the deal. Pricing undercuts its German rivals significantly with comparable features, and the G70 is available in six trims, four with the base 252 hp 2.0L turbo, and two with the 3.3L twin-turbo we tested, and none of the mix-and-match packages or standalone options drive pricing through the roof. The fully loaded 3.3T Sport we tested sells for $57,500, which includes destination charges (what a novelty!). Competing models from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz only start at that price, with thousands and thousands more required to match the G70 feature for feature.

And for those that are averse not just to haggling but to the dealership experience itself, buying a Genesis in Canada can be done in a variety of different ways, notably online. You can even skip the dealership for the test drive, as Genesis will send a car to your home or office for a test drive, and for the purchase and delivery as well. The concierge service continues into ownership, where a Genesis rep will pick up the car and leave you with a loaner while it is being serviced, also likely at no extra charge for the complimentary scheduled maintenance or any work covered by the five-year/100,000 km comprehensive warranty.

While the compact luxury car segment is no longer the main attraction in the luxury market, it’s still an intensely competitive field. Genesis has completed its sedan lineup with the 2019 G70, a thoroughly entertaining sport sedan with driving dynamics, quality, and technology to go toe-to toe with the best, and new ideas on how to sell luxury cars. It will still take time and a full lineup before the sales roll in, but it’s a brand with merit that is worth taking a long look at alongside traditional favourites in the segment.

Engine Displacement 3.3L
Engine Cylinders V6
Peak Horsepower 365 hp
Peak Torque 376 lb-ft
Fuel Economy 13.3/9.5/11.6 L/100 km city/hwy/comb
Cargo Space 297 L
Model Tested 2019 Genesis G70 3.3T Sport
Base Price $57,500
A/C Tax Included
Destination Fee Included
Price as Tested $57,500
Optional Equipment