The 2018 Genesis G70 is the Korean newcomer in the luxury car segment. Has it got what it takes to tackle the best in the class?
In some ways it’s hard to give you an accurate idea of what the 2018 Genesis G70 mid-size luxury sedan will be like when it arrives in Australia – and that’s after spending a good few hours in the car at its international launch in Korea.
The problem is that the all-new Genesis G70 on test wasn’t really representative of what we'll get when the newest model – and the Genesis brand as a standalone entity – launches in Australia in the first quarter of 2018. Here's what Australian Genesis G70 customers can expect.
First off, the car was left-hand drive, which ours obviously won't be. It had all-wheel drive, and ours won't – it'll be exclusively offered in rear-wheel drive, and as you can imagine, the AWD system adds weight to the car and changes the behaviour of how it drives.
And a third factor was the cars on test in Korea had the local suspension and steering tune, which Genesis performance chief Albert Bierman (formerly of BMW M division) said was a bit soft.
“You might notice the body control is a little loose, but Koreans love this type of tuning because they deal with speed bumps every day,” Bierman said.
He also stated that, even though we’d just rolled into the impressive Inje Speedium racing circuit, the car is “not a high-performance car – this is a sporty luxury sedan”. In fact, he said it twice.
Rest assured, though, Hyundai Australia’s local tuning team has already been working on the right suspension and steering setup to suit our needs, and that’s a good thing, because – as Bierman said – the suspension setup is a little wobbly, particularly over mid-corner bumps, and it can feel a little fidgety when you think it should be a tad more settled.
All that’ll be solved, hopefully, by the local tune – and, given the team’s recent form on cars like the Hyundai i30, there’s every chance it’ll be very well sorted in terms of the ride comfort, body control and steering accuracy.
The Korean steering tune of the test vehicles still offered decent responsiveness and accuracy, but after a few laps on the track – in both an all-wheel-drive version with the same tune, and a rear-drive prototype with a US-specific setup – there’s not a heap of feel to be had through the steering wheel, and the reactiveness can be a little hard to judge at times. The AWD model exhibited a bit of understeer, too, and on this suspension setup there was a fair bit of roll to the body.
Still, though, it lived up to Bierman’s assertion that it is a sporty luxury sedan, not a performance car. And that's despite the fact a very limited stint in the rear-drive model exhibited the sort of character Aussie buyers will find appealing – it had a bit more bite, more aggro to it. It made me want to see just what the Aussie tuners will be able to do with the thing...
At this point you may think it was redundant for me to attend this launch, given the stuff that doesn’t match up to the incoming Aussie model. Thankfully, you’re wrong.
One of the big talking points was available to test – the stonking 3.3-litre bi-turbo V6 engine under the bonnet.
With a huge 272kW of power and 510Nm of torque, it’s expected the highest-spec version of the Genesis G70, which should be on the market in a price range below $75,000 plus on-road costs, will be outgunning German rivals for grunt. A $90k-plus BMW 340i, for instance, has 240kW/450Nm. You can do the maths.
Further highlighting the fact this is no European luxury wannabe, there are no downsized one-point-something-litre engines here – the smallest petrol is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo with a chunky 190kW and 353Nm, but we didn’t get to drive that one.
Both engines come mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, and in the V6 model it makes for a very competent highway cruiser, though sadly Australia (and all other markets) will seemingly miss out on the excellent highway driving assist system that can accelerate, brake and steer the car better than most competitor tech systems, not to mention slow down for speed cameras to stop you from getting pinged on the run. It was great, and didn’t require steering intervention for a full five minutes, while it piloted us along a busy freeway without a single ‘quick, grab the wheel!’
The engine pulls with intensity, accelerating away from traffic lights briskly and with a pleasant noise, boosted by a synchronised note pumped into the cabin. It a really nice linearity to the way it builds pace, and there’s no doubt this type of engine will have a lot of appeal to buyers who may be looking for something to replace their old V8.
In 90 per cent of situations the transmission is smooth and clever, but it is a bit of pain when you’re trying to drive it hard – there’s no proper manual mode, meaning you can attempt to take over with the paddle-shifters, but the car will take over. It’ll also deny you downshifts when you know you need them. But, wait – it’s not a performance car…
There’s a selection of drive modes to choose from, including eco, comfort, sport, smart and custom, the latter to tailor to your tastes. A particularly nice touch in one of the cars I drove was that the sport mode, when dialled up, adjusted the side bolstering on the seats.
Those seats are very comfortable and offer decent adjustment, but a few Aussie media colleagues found it difficult to find a comfortable driving position. And as a passenger I struggled, too – the rake of the firewall is very steep, making it difficult to find a good spot for your feet to rest if you’ve got someone in the back as we did.
He was a tall someone, too, and it’s fair to say that neither he nor I were loving life as we battled traffic coming out of Seoul. The big complaints in the second row are toe-room, which is really tight, and there’s a big transmission tunnel intrusion as well. Headroom is fine for anyone up to about 185cm, and knee-room is adequate with a driver’s seat set for someone of that height too.
The cabin looks the part for a luxury sedan of this volition. The models on test had a lovely quilted leather finish on the seats and the door panels, as well as some attractive aluminium surfacing here and there, and a big glass roof to let some light in. The soft-touch plastics on the dash and doors further the G70’s intentions, and there’ll be plenty of kit inside – our car had front seat heating and cooling, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel, for example, as well as wireless phone charging and a few USB charge points.
But there are other parts that just don’t feel as primo as some competitors, like the climate control knobs that are quite plasticky and, dare we say it, Hyundai-ish. And the knobs on the stereo don’t feel like they should be on anything above $40k. The drive mode selector isn’t that special to the touch, either, and there’s a fair bit of blank silvery plastic between the seats, too.
The media system – a tablet-style 8.0-inch screen – is par for the course, and while it offers Apple CarPlay/Android Auto phone mirroring and decent usability, it isn’t as crisp or high-tech feeling as you’ll find elsewhere. There’s no rotary controller, either, but the hard buttons below the screen do help when you’re trying to make changes while driving. We didn’t sample the voice control system.
As we’ve come to expect from Hyundai Motor Corporation products, the practicality is en pointe, with good storage options up front and in the back, and a boot that is competitive for the class, easily large enough for a few overnight suitcases.
There’s no denying the Genesis G70 offers something different in the segment, and while there are bit-players such as the Jaguar XE, Lexus IS and Infiniti Q50, the fact of the matter is this Korean newcomer will be measured against the big three: the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series and Audi A4.
Based on my first drive of the 2018 Genesis G70 – even in the wrong spec, wrong tune and on the wrong side of the road, I’d say it certainly has enough unique selling points to offer a tasty alternative to all of those models. In fact, I’d have this over the Lexus, Jaguar or Infiniti.
Whether it can offer any challenge on the sales charts in Australia is something that’ll be determined by the pricing and specification, and just how good that local tune is. I can’t wait to see how it shapes up in 2018.
Click on the Gallery tab for more images of the 2018 Genesis G70.