Hyundai cracked the mainstream market a long time ago, but can the South Korean brand make its mark in the luxury segment?
The range comprises six models divided into three trim grades and two engines. It starts from $59,300 for a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder. If you want V6 power, your options begin with the model we’re testing here, the $72,450 2019 Genesis G70 3.3T Sport.
If you’re already contemplating how many thousands you may be able to save with some negotiation, forget it. Genesis Australia has adopted a fixed-price-no-haggling approach, while you can also forget about turning up for a test drive. These have to be arranged via a concierge-style service, either by phone or by turning up to one of the brand’s ‘boutique studios’. For now, there’s only the flagship studio in Sydney, with Melbourne and Brisbane set to follow.
However, Genesis buyers are treated to the longest warranty in the luxury segment (pipping Lexus by 12 months with five years) and five years of complimentary servicing and roadside assistance.
There’s also a lengthy list of standard equipment for the 3.3T Sport. Key conveniences include adaptive cruise, dual-zone climate, wireless phone charger, front/rear parking sensors, lane-keep aid with steering assist, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, high-beam assist, heated front seats, hands-free boot lid opening, and keyless entry and start.
The Sport misses out on the Ultimate trim grade’s Nappa leather, electrically adjustable steering wheel, 360-degree camera, head-up display and Lexicon by Harman 15-speaker audio.
If those are of greater priority than performance, a turbocharged four-cylinder G70 Ultimate will even save you a few grand over a 3.3T Sport: $69,300.
The Sport’s leather-appointed seats also miss out on the power bolstering and cushion extensions of the Ultimate, though there’s 12-way electric adjustment, heating function, and they look posh with their ribbed quilting, with comfort to match.
The G70’s cabin presentation isn’t an execution of eye-catching design flair, yet it is a step up in style and quality from the Hyundai Genesis that was a precursor to the Genesis sub-brand (and a model now rebadged Genesis G80 in updated form).
Attempts to distance Genesis models from its humbler Hyundai stablemates would just be helped if the luxury brand used a bespoke touchscreen system, as well as greater differentiation in some of the dials. A digital rather than analogue driver display would also increase the size of that perception gap.
Taller rear passengers may also appreciate more distance between their knees and the front seatbacks, as well as slightly more generous head room, though the G70’s second-row accommodation isn’t the tightest in the segment.
Boot space of 330L is well below the class average, with most rivals offering closer to 500L. Height is the main issue – there’s sufficient width and length to fit several soft bags or a couple of large suitcases.
The G70 3.3T packs a big punch up front with a 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged V6 that is an anomaly at this pricepoint, where single-turbo four-cylinders dominate. You’ll need at least $100,000 for six-cylinder versions of the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series or Mercedes C-Class.
There’s no overpromising from its 272kW and 510Nm outputs, either – delivered, respectively, at 6000rpm and 1300–4500rpm. This is a V6 that feels crisply responsive at lower revs, urgent when demanded, and generally capable of delivering the effortless motoring experience desirable in a luxury car.
We couldn’t quite match the claimed 4.7 seconds for the 0–100km/h, recording a 4.9sec, but have no doubt this is a quick car.
Power is channelled effectively and smoothly to the G70’s rear wheels by an eight-speed auto that is well mannered at lower speeds, and up to the task of swapping gears quickly if the driver is going along at a faster clip.
Inevitably, with a big dollop of torque peaking from not far above idle, it’s possible to overwhelm the rear tyres with an excessively enthusiastic prod of the throttle pedal, when the mechanical limited-slip differential standard on Sport models can be called into action.
Rear-wheel drive is pretty much a necessity for any vehicle serious about taking on the car that has long defined the medium premium-sedan category – at least in terms of dynamics (sorry, Audi) – the 3 Series.
And if a previous Hyundai Genesis versus BMW 5 Series twin test revealed a chasm in engineering talent between Korea and Germany, the G70 strides across the divide with a dynamic swagger. (With thanks to some key Germans, however, after Hyundai bagged some senior personnel from the likes of BMW and Porsche.)
While ultimately not quite as involving to drive as a 330i that feels lighter through twists and turns, the G70 – with its suspension and steering tuned for local roads by Hyundai Australia’s dedicated engineering team – is highly attuned to a winding road.
With the vehicle mode set to Sport, the Genesis tightens the reins on its dampers and, with this ultra-disciplined body control and grippy Michelin Pilot Sport rubber, feels planted, incisive and highly enjoyable.
The front Brembo brakes are also part of the G70 Sport package, and ensure the driver also has confidence when it comes to scrubbing speed.
The primary dynamic letdown is steering that becomes overly, and artificially, heavy in Sport mode. It’s more natural in Comfort mode. Fortunately, there’s a Custom mode that allows drivers to have the steering in Comfort with suspension and engine in Sport.
While there’s a firmness to the way the G70 3.3T roams along on its 19-inch wheels, it provides excellent isolation from bumps to be among the best in class for ride comfort.
Mixed driving scenarios elicited an indicated average consumption of 11.0 litres (of premium fuel) per 100km, and not far above the official 10.2L/100km. It’s one of the trade-offs for that V6 power, as four-cylinder competitors are noticeably more economical.
Badges are more influential than efficiency in the prestige segment, of course, and the big question is how many luxury-car buyers will be wooed by the Genesis wing bereft of any meaningful heritage?
Lexus made its mark by trumping the Germans for quality, but Nissan’s failure with its Infiniti offshoot outside the US and China is testament to the daunting challenge of taking on the established brands.
Hyundai can’t fabricate a history for Genesis, but it can aim to manufacture a car worthy of mixing it with more established peers. And with the G70, at least in this 3.3T form, it undoubtedly has.