In the Beginning: The Genesis G70

Jim Motavalli

Jim Motavalli | Jul 18, 2018

OGONQUIT, MAINE—The news from Genesis, Hyundai’s soon-to-be-stand-alone premium brand, is quite interesting.

The Genesis Essentia, a wild concept car unveiled at the New York auto show, could see production in modified form. (Jim Motavalli photo)

According to Kevin Smith, a senior group manager at Genesis Motor America, the otherworldly two-seat Essentia electric GT coupe—which caused a stir earlier this year when unveiled in New York—is actively being considered for production. Even if it doesn’t happen as an EV, electric cars are coming from Genesis, as well as two new SUVs—one based on the GV80 concept (90 percent of the exterior will be similar), the other smaller. 

Meanwhile, the brand’s spinoff from Hyundai is continuing. Dealers are being approached now to commit to the Genesis brand. That won’t mean building separate facilities right away, Smith said, but that has to be in the plans.

The Genesis G70 on parade in Maine. No, they weren't all black, white or gray. (Jim Motavalli photo)

A dealer network should be in place by next month, and that’s when Genesis will start shipping the G70 sedan, the entry-level car (with a chassis loosely based on the Kia Stinger’s) in a lineup that already includes the G80 and G90. Meanwhile, the G70 is a big deal on the Korean market, where Genesis has 70 percent of the premium luxury segment. The car was introduced there with a huge concert featuring Andra Day and Gwen Stefani.

The Genesis G70 interior, showing rare manual six-speed option. The "take rate" for those is going to be low, but it's a prestige thing. (Jim Motavalli photo)

I had the chance to drive the G70 in the rural Maine and New Hampshire countryside, and it was a blast. The car is the performance entrant for Genesis, and it will be up against the Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3-Series and Audi A4. But it will be cheaper than any of those (particularly when standard features are considered), priced between $30,000 and $50,000.

The G70's tail end sports an aggressive look, contrasting with Maine's timeless coastal towns. (Genesis photo)

The Genesis G70 buyer has the choice of two aluminum-block engines, a two-liter direct-injected four and a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6, coupled to either an eight-speed auto with paddle shifters or—wonder of wonders—a six-speed manual. If 252 horsepower is enough (and it is for me, given the fuel economy benefits), go with the four, but the V-6 makes a whopping 365 and offers an additional 100 foot pounds of torque. The two-liter offers 25 mpg combined fuel economy, the 3.3-liter 22. Both get docked a bit for AWD.

The G70 makes 365 with the 3.3-liter V-6. I'd opt for the smaller engine. (Jim Motavalli photo)

I talked to Luc Donckerwolke, Genesis’ head of design, who said the company has styling studios on three continents—in Germany, the U.S. and Korea—and that it was the European team that won the competition for the G70, with an interior completed in Korea. Apparently, the Korean aesthetic embraces “white space,” and the G70 embraces that with a fairly simple dash design.  

Donckerwolke had a lot of forward-looking thoughts on where the next generation of automobiles is headed. "Cars will be defined not by their aesthetics but by the ecosystem that they give customers access to,” he said. That’s certainly true of today’s young buyers, who get bored when you start talking about wheelbases and horsepower. Give them three USB ports (which, of course, the G70 has).

Local color in southern Maine. A barn find! I thought it was a Mercedes at first. (Jim Motavalli photo)

Part of the Genesis’ “ecosystem" is a concierge—buyers will get three years (or 36,000 miles) of free maintenance, and three years of valet pick-up and drop-offs for servicing. The goal is for Genesis to have its own service bays, but for now they can be handled by Hyundai dealers.

It won’t be long before companies like Genesis start producing cars that drive themselves, and Donckerwolke is already envisioning seats that incorporate the seatbelt and airbag so they can swivel to face the passenger seat, windows that turn into entertainment screens, and designing cars without headlights because autonomous vehicles won’t need to “see.” “The relationship in space will be different,” he said.

The G70 at speed in New Hampshire--with the traction control off. (Genesis photo)

 Sitting backwards raises the big question of motion sickness, and Donckerwolke says “we’re working on it. There won’t be a single, universal solution.” I only get a queasy stomach if I’m in the passenger seat, so I had no trouble throwing the car around on the private Club Motorsports track in Tamworth, New Hampshire. It’s a 2.5-mile road course with 250-foot elevation changes. I would have loved to try out the manual version, but there was only one and everyone wanted it.

The G70 heads for the track in New Hampshire. (Jim Motavalli photo)

The 3.3-liter model with rear-wheel drive and launch control can attain 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, which affirms its sporty credentials. It felt stable at speed—though the AWD model had more grip in the corners. On the track, they turned off the traction control—something I’d probably never do on my own. The Brembo brakes (an option) were strong.

The G70 felt like a good all-arounder. It has decent rear legroom, a large trunk (that uses a proximity sensor to open when your arms are loaded), an eight-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple Carplay, good access and visibility, and impeccable road manners. Buyers should definitely comparison shop against those European brands, and pay close attention to the spec sheets as to what’s included and what isn’t.

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