The premium mid-size sedan segment is a raging battlefield, with all comers from all corners of the world looking to secure a slice of the lucrative market. So, a challenger brand looking to enter the fray had better have an arsenal worthy of consideration.
Enter Genesis, the luxury arm of Korean brand Hyundai, which is looking to take on the establishment with the car we have on test here, the top-of-the-range 2020 Genesis G70 Ultimate Sport.
Genesis relaunched in Australia in 2019 with an interesting sales model. No dealerships, just a CBD-located showroom in Sydney and a ‘concierge service’ where interested parties can ask for a car and salesperson to bring the car to them. And no negotiating on price. What it says on the sticker is what you pay. It’s certainly an interesting strategy in an arena where haggling with dealerships and scoring a bargain is almost a sport.
The jury is out on whether it’s worked or not. So far in 2020, Genesis has sold a total of 73 G70s, an increase of 70 per cent over the same period last year, although admittedly off a low base.
Bear in mind, there’s a heavily facelifted G70 lobbing on our shores in early 2021, so Genesis is looking to shift current stock, offering heavy discounts until the end of October – discounts it described on its website as “an amount equivalent to the GST”. So around 10-ish per cent then.
And that would represent a saving of around $7200 on the top dog in the G70 pack, the Ultimate Sport we have here that usually asks for $79,950 plus on-road costs.
There’s also competition from Italy in the Alfa Romeo Giulia, Japan and its twin Lexus IS models, the IS300 and IS350, while the UK throws the Jaguar XE into the mix and Sweden the Volvo S60. A heavily fortified front, then, on which to do battle.
It should be noted, too, that any of its rivals in that circa-$80K price range won’t have the same weaponry at their disposal, fighting with variations of four-cylinder engines (Lexus is the one hold-out with an atmo V6 in the IS350) against the Genesis’s turbo V6 in this specification.
Also, unlike its rivals, there are no options to be had, with even a choice of 10 colours available at no added cost.
Standing outside the G70, it certainly looks the part. Its styling is redolent of Europe, and there’s a road presence not seen in offerings from the familial Hyundai brand.
Sitting on 19-inch alloys, with sleek lines and contours, the G70 looks every bit the sports sedan it purports to be.
And make no mistake, it is a sports sedan. Maybe not one with the same cachet as, say, a BMW M3 or Merc C63, but with its 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 with respectable outputs of 272kW (at 6000rpm) and 510Nm (between 1300–4500rpm), the G70 Ultimate Sport certainly delivers on its performance promise. Think BMW M340i, Mercedes-AMG C43 or Audi S4 outputs, but without the six-figure price tag.
And inside, it certainly delivers on its premium promise with a well-resolved cabin loaded with comfort and convenience befitting the segment the G70 plays in.
As the top-spec G70, there’s premium Nappa leather-quilted upholstery contrasted by red stitching to underscore its sporty vibe. The electrically adjustable seats are heated and cooled with electrically adjustable lumbar support, too. Additionally, throw the drive setting into Sport mode, and the driver’s seat will automatically tighten the bolsters, snuggling you into the seat.
The list of standard equipment is befitting a range-topper. Key highlights include adaptive cruise control, wireless phone charging, dual-zone climate control, front and 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 and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, hands-free boot lid opening, and keyless entry and start.
Additionally, the Ultimate Sport also scores conveniences like an electrically adjustable steering wheel, a 360-degree camera, head-up display, and Lexicon by Harman 15-speaker premium sound system.
While the interior looks and feels premium, it’s let down by one key area, the 8.0-inch touchscreen running the infotainment straight out of any Hyundai, right down to the user interface. It looks – and feels – like the same set-up as found in the cheapest Hyundai i30. Which it is. That’s not to say it isn’t functional, it is, but its premium rivals have upped the ante in recent years in terms of aesthetics and presentation. Let’s hope the facelifted G70 brings some good news on this front.
There’s no disappointment from the drivetrain, though. That stonking 3.3-litre V6 has all the trappings of a proper performance engine. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission sending drive to the rear wheels, and when hooked up can propel the Ultimate Sport from 0–100km/h in just 4.7 seconds. That’s properly quick, by any measure.
It’s a responsive engine, too, with peak torque on tap from just above idle at 1300rpm, meaning quick getaways and overtakes are assured.
Tootling around town and in traffic highlights the G70’s drivetrain, which remains composed and refined. The transmission works away seamlessly and intuitively, swapping cogs as required. It’s happy to let the G70 run off its leash, too, should you be engaged in some more spirited driving. Alternatively, swapping your own ratios via paddle-shifters can be equally rewarding.
Stopping power comes courtesy of ventilated discs all ’round, 350mm at front and 340mm at the rear, fitted with Brembo calipers. There’s a meaty reassurance to the brake package, which retards speed in a linear and predictable manner, even when harder braking is required. Confidence-building, in other words.
The locally tuned suspension and steering – long a hallmark of both Hyundai and Kia – translate to an engaging and comfortable ride. Dial up Sport mode and the dampers firm up, allowing the tautness of the chassis to sparkle.
Tip the G70 into some corners and there’s a composure befitting its brief as a sporting sedan. The ride does firm up in Sport, but not to the point of discomfort. The steering, too, has some added heft to it, although it feels artificially heavy. It’s best left in Comfort, which can be done by selecting Custom drive mode, dialling up the drivetrain to Sport while leaving steering in its default Comfort position.
Still, it’s not enough to dilute what is an enjoyable and involving drive experience, certainly when the situation warrants some spirited fun.
Similarly, when faced with the daily traffic grind we are all accustomed to, the G70 Ultimate Sport tackles the city streets with little fuss, all while keeping you cocooned in comfort.
Second-row passengers need not feel left out either, although space is on the tight side, not uncomfortably so, however. The seats are supportive and cushioning, while the ambience remains light thanks to the standard-fit panoramic sunroof.
There are air vents back there, although no separate climate controls, while a single USB point can keep devices topped up. For those with kidlets, there are ISOFIX mounts on the outboard seats and three top-tether anchor points.
The rear seats fold in 60:40 fashion to free up some cargo space, although Genesis doesn’t provide a maximum capacity number. With the rear seats in use, there’s a somewhat meagre 330L of boot space. Most G70 rivals have around 450-480L.
ANCAP awarded the Genesis G70 range five stars on 2018 criteria, with a full suite of airbags complemented by an extensive list of safety technology: autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, driver-attention alert, lane-keeping assist with steering assist, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, high-beam assist, adaptive cruise control, and a 360-degree camera all standard.
Genesis claims a somewhat circumspect 10.2L/100km fuel figure on the combined cycle. Why circumspect? Because after our week with the Ultimate Sport, spending time in traffic, out on the freeway and also putting its performance credentials to a spirited test, we saw an indicated 8.7L/100km. Not often we return a figure lower than the manufacturer claim. Bear in mind, the G70 needs to drink 95RON premium unleaded as a minimum.
Ownership is another area where the G70 scores some goals over its rivals. For those willing to take the plunge on the challenger brand, there’s a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with five years of complimentary roadside assistance. Additionally, service intervals are every 12 months or 10,000km, whichever comes first, and will set you back exactly $0. That’s right, get your bum in a new G70 and the first five years or 50,000km (whichever comes first) of scheduled servicing are free, including a pick up and return service within 70km of metro Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. That’s how to challenge the establishment, right there.
It will take time, of course, to make a dent into the premium mid-size segment, where a plethora of choice and brand cachet steeped in history greet potential buyers. But what the Genesis G70 lacks in cachet, it makes up for with a well designed, well built and, importantly, engaging car.
Sure, there are quibbles that let it down just a little, but as an overall package, the Genesis G70 Ultimate Sport deserves its place on the premium battlefield.