The Korean Genesis G70 has finally arrived to take on the best from Germany, the BMW 330i, and the finest from Japan, the Lexus IS350.
The Genesis G70, Korea’s loaded salvo in the mid-sized premium executive sedan territory, has finally arrived. It’s time to step up. Against Germany’s current benchmark in the BMW 330i M Sport. And against Japan’s premier sport-luxury touchstone, the Lexus IS350.
I’ll spare you a long-winded history recap, the big-brother G80 limousine reboot, why the Genesis brand and its all-important G70 figurehead – that we first drove back in 2017 – took some time to lob locally, nor delve too much into the local arm's bullish sales strategy now it's here, all of which we’ve covered extensively to date elsewhere. It's time for the hardware to prove its worth.
Of the four variant tiers and two powertrains available, our maiden comparison for the G70 centres around the 3.3T Sport. It loads in the high-spec V6 powertrain, one-up-from-base Sport trim and equipment levels, and asks for $72,450 before on-roads.
Genesis specifically name-checks Germany as its key target and the recently released, all-new BMW 330i, at $70,900 list, not only lines up closely on price, but recently dispatched the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class in our own comparison testing. In M Sport form, it stands as our critical choice of Deutsch machinery at this circa-$70K pricepoint.
Yes, we know: we could’ve opted for the Genesis G70 2.0T more closely aligned with the BMW on turbo-four powertrain format and in flagship Ultimate trim that lists for $69,300. But we’re wagering here that the turbo-V6 Sport is perhaps a more attractive foot forward for power-hungry Aussie tastes. (Besides, we can save the four-pot stoush for another day.)
We can’t forget Lexus. The Japanese luxury brand doesn’t figure nearly as prominently as German marques in conversation with the Koreans, but let’s face it: Lexus has had three decades’ experience separating premium branding from its mainstream (Toyota) genealogy, as Genesis hopes to do with its Hyundai family which, on one level, is a fortuitous comparison to make.
Further still, Lexus has long adopted a 'low four' and 'high six' separation in the IS range now adopted by Genesis for the G70, so more synergy in model range structure than you'll find with BMW.
A generation face-lifted in late 2016, the somewhat ‘mature’ IS350 F Sport mirrors the G70 3.3T Sport with six-cylinder power – albeit naturally aspirated – with a mid-tier equipment suite. That said, at $72,880 list, it’s the most expensive of our trio sans options (if by a scant $350), which is the form we’ve tested here.
For completeness, our G70 fits a panoramic glass roof ($2500), while our 330i loads in the same ($2900) plus premium paint ($2000), ambient lighting ($700), and a faux leather instrument panel ($900).
So, it's M Sport versus T Sport and F Sport – how neatly convenient.
All three sedans feature the standard fitment of LED headlights and tail-lights, power-folding mirrors, electric seats, leather or leather-appointed trim, front seat heating, front and rear parking sensors, proprietary sat-nav, digital radio, AEB and radar cruise control.
Also common amongst the trio is a degree of sport styling enhancement inside and out, adaptive suspension, torque-vectoring smarts, and four-piston front sports brakes, with the BMW and Genesis on 19s against the Lexus’s 18-inch wheels. Each car fits some sort of variable ratio or assistance steering application.
There are differences in further details: the Lexus lacks the inductive phone charging of its rivals; the Genesis gets both Apple and Android phone mirroring, whereas BMW charges extra for Apple CarPlay only, albeit wireless; the Genesis is the sole offering with mostly analogue driver’s instrumentation to its rivals' fancier digital instrumentation; while the BMW is the only car fitting a 360-degree camera system, a head-up display, and expansive three-zone climate control against its competitors' (front only) dual-zone format.
Further, both the Lexus and BMW fit large 10.25-inch infotainment displays with console controllers, while the Genesis makes do with a smaller, touch-only 8.0-inch screen.
Both the G70 and 330i have over-speed warning displays, though the former uses internal (mapped) data, while the latter fits a camera recognition design, and the Genesis is the only car here with a standard mechanical limited-slip differential (optional on the BMW). The Lexus alone gets seat cooling.
Safety-wise, all three are five-star ANCAP rated. Each fits AEB, blind-zone monitoring, lane-departure warning and pre-collision protocols, though the BMW fits front and rear cross-traffic alert against its rear-only rivals, and the Japanese sedan omits active lane keeping offered on the German and Korean cars.
All here are well equipped, the BMW a little more generously within the group. But if outright gear count is a high priority, there are a few things to consider. There’s no choice (yet) for six power in the BMW – it's turbo four only in petrol – and adding goodies builds outlay.
In the Lexus, more equipment demands Luxury Sport trim, and pricing goes up whether you tick the ‘350’ V6 format or drop to ‘300’ turbo-four power.
But in the Genesis, you can choose the powertrain/equipment combination as tested here, or opt for the fully loaded Ultimate trim – which won’t lack against the 330i’s fulsome spec list – with smaller turbo-four power while enjoying around a three-grand saving in the process.
Design and interior
The G70’s design blends elements both fresh and familiar that culminate in a distinctive enough and suitably premium look that, in the flesh, appears a little longer than its BMW contemporary and seems to dwarf the comparatively diminutive Lexus. But looks can deceive: in terms of actual measurements, little separates the trio in external dimensions.
Interestingly, though, it’s not the Korean but the German that reveals itself as having the roomiest cabin space, at least by measure of four adults filling both rows of accommodation. It’s easy to spot in profile that the BMW has the longer cabin and shorter extremities and overhang at either end than the G70.
The Genesis cabin succeeds – rather than exceeds – in requisite premium presentation and luxury feel is genuine. It’s neat, upmarket in a good many of the right places, and broadly palatable if a little unadventurous in the flair stakes. It's most impressive in overall effect, anchored by the neat presentation of the seats and wheel.
That said, it's slim on showy features and eye-candy highlights typical of today’s luxury cabin designs, and in some areas such as the climate-control dials, driver instrumentation and infotainment, it's a little too close to regular Hyundai spec.
All three sedans have excellent front seating: the BMW the sportiest; the Lexus the more naturally form-fitting; the Genesis supremely comfortable and ideal for long-hauling. For suppleness of leather, the IS350 rules, the G70 is second, and the 330i is third, but they’re all easily a cut above the typical mainstream grade.
For row-two comfort, the deeply set Bimmer rules the roost and has the most comprehensive fit-out with proper third-zone climate control for rear passengers, as well as dual powered USB ports and a single 12V.
The G70 has more limited head, toe and knee room, and fits air vents only and a single USB, but it’s far more palatial than the constrictive IS350, which has the narrowest cabin of the trio and offers air vents only as its solitary feature.
The BMW’s newly simplified cabin design has more colour and fanfare than the Genesis, with more conspicuous brightwork and slicker treatment to the infotainment and fully digital driver’s instrumentation; the latter with a flashy like-it-lump-it graphical treatment.
From the drive-mode shortcut buttons on the console to the upmarket satin alloy trim inserts, the 330i feels the most evolved and trendy interior space of the field.
If anything, the Lexus is at once both the most over-the-top and the most incongruent design. Its angular and flamboyant styling aims towards futurism, but the choice of textures and lacklustre details, such as the buttons and switchgear, belie its age.
The IS350 is not nearly as dignified and classy as the G70 or as fresh and funky as the BMW, and exacerbated by Lexus's chronically terrible infotainment interface that, despite being flashier than the Genesis format, feels quite old hat.
We’ve reported that the Genesis's boot, at 330L, doesn’t have anything like the 480L volume of many segment rivals, including the IS and 3 Series breeds. But side by side, it’s worth noting the G70, with its higher floor, only seems to tangibly lose out in usable height: it’s certainly wide and deep enough to swallow a couple of large suitcases.
That said, the BMW’s rear seats fold the flattest for the most usable load-through space, but the trade-off is that the Munich machine doesn’t fit a space-saver spare like its Korean and Japanese rivals do.
Engine and performance
All three are rear-drive, fit eight-speed autos, and ply identical 225mm front and 255mm rear rubber to terra firma. But their methods of motivation couldn’t be more different within a petrol-powered realm and there’s a sizeable spread in performance, be it numeric or by the seat of the pants.
While the 330i offers a healthy 190kW/400Nm when measured against other 2.0-litre turbo-four German contemporaries, it’s quite down on power (by 43kW) against the 232kW 3.5-litre naturally-aspirated V6 in the IS350, with a more sizeable (82kW) deficit to the 272kW twin-turbocharged 3.3-litre V6 of the G70.
However, the BMW does trump the (380Nm) Lexus on torque, though neither challenger is nearly as fulsome as the 510Nm in the Genesis.
Their makers’ form guides claim the (V6 twin-turbo) G70 is, at 4.7sec, over a second quicker to 100km/h than the 330i’s advertised 5.8sec, with the IS350 further one-tenth shy. On the real-world black stuff, the pecking order maintains, though the relativity between them is somewhat different to what the stats suggest.
Both the Asian cars were a couple of tenths slower than the official numbers suggest, and much to our surprise, the BMW was a couple of tenths quicker than its claim. Result? The 330i is actually around sixth-tenths shy of the G70 and quicker than the Lexus by a similar measure.
We certainly expected the Lexus to feel as quick as the BMW, but it’s not. That's partly due to peak torque arriving at a lofty 4800rpm, leaving the V6 short on low-end shove, and partly because the auto is lazy to upshift even in the car’s quickest Sport Sharp setting.
Sure, the bent-six is smooth to rev and slightly characterful, but it’s technically an old-school approach for a segment now weaned on measurably more responsive forced induction and feels more lacking than willing in the experience.
In isolation, the 330i powertrain is a real gem: smooth and responsive power delivery, peak torque from a little off idle (1550rpm) with decent top-end poke, married to a crisp and clean-shifting auto that faithfully plucks the turbo four’s best in almost any situation. Both charming and refined, it’s a proven pick of the German crop.
But the BMW is nothing like as urgent, eager and effortless as the Genesis – its markedly more energetic nature paired to a polished auto that’s impressively behaved be it crawling, cruising or called to march.
In fact, sink the right foot anywhere in between the six’s torque (1300rpm) and power (6000rpm) peaks and there’s more energy than those 255mm Michelins can handle, the mechanical limited-slip differential most certainly earning its keep.
The G70 feels about as quick as the BMW’s best effort at just half-throttle, as perhaps it should. You’ll need six figures to find comparable six-cylinder performance with a luxury German badge, and even then the logical M340i trim is yet to be released in Oz in this current 3 Series generation.
Where the German four-pot machine’s powertrain impresses most is in smarts. It’s quick enough, immensely drivable, and frugal as well: neither of its rivals came anywhere close to its 8.0L/100km on-test consumption, the G70 and IS350 returned 11s and 12s respectively.
While we’re at it, all three have a minimum fuel recommendation of 95RON.
On the road
Performance is one thing – and in the G70’s case quite a big thing – but these days it’s certainly not the key attraction in volume-selling luxury mid-sized sedans (or at least those priced around the $70K mark).
Comfort, ride-handling balance, a bit of sportiness in their dynamic step, and the aforementioned economy and drivability all figure prominently as important measures of premium-grade goodness.
Consider, then, that the G70's six-pot performance advantage is a bonus, because the Genesis powertrain certainly impresses with the all-important polish and refinement stakes.
As one colleague opined, it’s like “a Stinger that’s gone to finishing school" – a comparison with a mainstream cousin that Genesis mightn’t be particularly fond of, but one that illustrates a crucial point between mere output and convincing luxury. (Of course, G70 versus Stinger is an enticing match-up for another day…)
Ride and handling-wise, Genesis really nailed the Aussie-spec G70 calibrations out of the box. At a cruise, it’s quiet, compliant and as refined as one might hope for; a convincing limousine character somewhat enhanced by the effortlessness and sweat-free dignity of that powertrain.
In ride quality, specifically, it splits its two rivals here neatly: a little more cushioning over bumps than the firmer-calibrated BMW, but measurably more composed and tied down than the Lexus that, at times, feels aloof and lacking in requisite body control.
The 330i’s ride errs on the firm-ish side in Comfort mode, but it's far from brittle and quite livable (for my tastes at least). And it doesn’t take very many kays under the tyres to become convinced that it’s a trade-off – and a mild trade-off at that – for a stronger focus on dynamics and sportiness.
But even before you do, there's a certain all-round resolve to this 3 Series generation’s driving experience that's proven to lead the German pack in reviews prior, and easily so. Smooth, quiet, user-friendly and evenly tempered everywhere, the 330i has really established itself as the Euro benchmark, but it's no small feat on the G70’s part for measuring up to the German so closely.
The IS350 has had a long time to polish its act, but it doesn’t steal the march anywhere for general driving. Aside from the lazy powertrain, it has a competent if detached driving character that's fine in isolation though lacking depth anywhere.
Its suspension damping is one-dimensional, steering is aloof, and it lolls about over bumps without feeling to have genuine connection with the road.
It also doesn’t measure up to its rivals for roadholding grip, and has a hyperactive stability-control system that stymies driving enjoyment once you decide to push on, when the powertrain gets noisy and starts to feel a bit stressed.
By contrast, the BMW and Genesis both relish a red-hot go. The G70 matches its formidable thrust with impressive grip and decent composure once you arrive at some corners.
It certainly feels the heaviest of the bunch, and in sportier drive modes the steering weight seems a little excessive and a touch artificial. But it’s a feisty chassis and a nice, predictable sting in its tail, and needs that LSD to keep its rear tyres in check as it digs in and drives hard exiting a corner.
The 330i, on the other hand, is more composed and innately balanced; a thing of fluidity that mightn’t match the G70 for sheer punch and grip, but more than makes up for it with heightened driver connection.
There’s a real synergy in the way the BMW drives: the sweetest steering, more accurate braking feel, the most communication through the seat of the pants and chassis's keen reaction to the ever-changing road surface. It’s no point-and-shoot M-car rocket ship – that’s not its remit – but a genuine depth of dynamic talent is there to summon if you decide to start fossicking for it.
The official line is that Genesis will not negotiate on price, but the first five years of servicing is ‘free’. It’s a shrewd tactic: the fledgling marque aims not to be viewed as some discount premium brand while swelling its value pitch with a nice ownership kicker.
Benefit to the hip pocket? Around $1500–$2000 (BMW capped at $1565, Lexus uncapped estimate), give or take.
Of course, the savvy shopper shouldn’t break a sweat narrowing, or eliminating, the value gap to the Genesis negotiating a sharper 3 Series or IS price in today’s motoring retail climate.
With its five-year/unlimited-kilometre surety, Genesis steps into the luxury space with the best warranty in class. Lexus, too, punches above the premium average with four years coverage, leaving the BMW’s three-year support looking very ordinary right now in 2019.
Genesis's unorthodox approach to the customer experience – one sole Genesis Studio in Sydney’s CBD to date, the home-delivery test drives – could well dissuade as many tyre-kicker shoppers as it might well attract.
Does the Genesis G70 truly measure up on critical merit to key rivals from Germany and Japan? As far as this scribe's introduction to a newcomer is concerned, the answer is a crystal-clear yes.
The Korean luxury sedan surprised us in how closely it pushed the 330i. Both cars are exceptional all-rounders, combining high levels of comfort and enjoyment expected of properly premium machinery.
As for the better luxury executive four-door? That really depends on whether you prefer the G70’s more muscular bent or the BMW’s sportier and techier approach – a choice that heavily hinges on individual buyer taste. But for the Genesis to make for a closer match to the recently revamped 3 Series than we’d anticipated straight out of the box is quite an accolade in itself.
The now six-year-old third-generation IS (and its much older powertrain DNA) is really starting to feel its age, is almost crying out for a major refresh, and struggles somewhat in this company. Given it's ample time for polished evolution from a maker that’s been targeting the Euros of the likes of BMW for three decades now, the Japanese sedan should impress more than it currently does.
Has Genesis arrived with a good enough ‘product’? Absolutely. Will that be enough to stir the hearts of Aussie buyers and steer them away from German and Japanese alternatives in enough droves? Well, that remains to be seen.
Brand cachet is of huge importance to buyers in the premium motoring space, and there’s no doubt that Genesis is as aware of this as anyone. The G70 has most certainly arrived. And it’ll be interesting to see how and where the machine and its marque travel from here.