In our constant race to stay atop of current auto news, we’d be mistaken if we didn’t share the fact that certain thought-pieces can sometimes feel like an attempt to cash in on a headline. In many cases you end up doing your best to take a limited amount of information and make your take on it feel more insightful and thought-provoking than that of the similarly clickbait article that you’re competing against for Google rankings. One could make similar indictments against news, in general. That said, the automotive industry doesn’t carry with it the kind of time-sensitivity that traditional media outlets are burdened by. Sure, there are some headlines that we get to be on top of, but there are others that allow us to breathe a little. And with that opportunity for a brief respite comes the chance to process things…especially when it’s a topic that might have caught us off-guard.
An example: MotorTrend’s declaration that the Hyundai Genesis G70 is their pick for 2019 Car of the Year. Wow. Just…wow.
First off, allow us to clarify that our collective surprise had nothing to do with the G70 itself, its strengths or any perceived shortcomings. Truth be told, we kind of love it. The surprise comes from the forced acceptance of just how far Hyundai has come since the Korean automaker made their first play for American car-buying dollars. At the risk of being overly critical of American stereotypes, Hyundai made for a puzzling addition to the import automakers who were competing for our attention. I recall confusion over pronunciation of the brand name, which then went on to be a tongue-in-cheek component of their marketing strategies. I even recall certain people who considered ‘Hyundai’ too similar to ‘Honda’, proving the relative level of cultural enlightenment that we’ve achieved across three decades.
But setting aside the anecdotal novelty, Hyundai presented themselves as a worthwhile competitor in the ever-growing market of practical and economical small sedans and coupes. As the years passed, they would provide worthwhile (if somewhat uninspired) alternatives to the likes of Toyota, Honda and Nissan while doing little to stray from the predictable. That is, of course, until two years ago, when Hyundai released Genesis to the world.
The G90 was a game-changer and one whose impact would have been hard to appreciate beforehand. Kept partially hidden by well-choreographed reveals and tight-lips, the full-size luxury sedan established itself as a viable threat to such mainstays as the Lexus LS, and even the celebrated BMW 7 Series. The midsize G80 made an appreciable debut as well, although it failed to garner the same level of excitement. That said, both offerings represented ambitious, and (dare we say) aggressive efforts which, previously, Hyundai may have felt incapable of. Now, we flash forward a couple of years, and the G70 arrives to mix up the entry-level sport sedan segment by earning MotorTrend’s top pick.
That said, it feels more-than-a-little reminiscent of last year, when the Alfa Romeo returned from the void to serve up the re-envisioned Giulia, and gain MotorTrend’s favor. While we wouldn’t normally pair off the Giulia (let alone its highly-celebrated Quadrifoglio trim) with the comparatively more affordable G70, it’s always refreshing to see an upset. Well, almost always (as a New Englander, I could have done without the Super Bowl LII loss). But, in a world where accessibly-priced automakers seem intent to kill sedans, pushing conformity via crossover-focused design, it’s hard not to appreciate a compelling offering that goes against the grain.
Claiming to have built ‘a legitimate BMW 3 Series competitor’ Hyundai/Genesis seem content to make lofty claims. Then again, realization of the G70 comes with thanks to iconic contributors like BMW’s conceptual mastermind Albert Biermann as well as talents from Bentley, Mercedes and Bugatti. This alone makes it hard to do anything but applaud the pomposity of their claims, and dig eagerly deeper for more information on the car that MotorTrend has called “exceptional”.
Described by Ford’s Chris Theodore as “smooth, quiet, fast, upscale, nimble, good-looking, and a great value” the G70 seems to have hit Genesis’ intended target for a well-balanced mix of sleek design, sport-minded performance and superior cabin experience. The result is the proof in the proverbial pudding: Genesis’ verification that they have, indeed, built a new rival to the 3 Series’ near-universal appeal. Confirmed by road-testers as being better than off-the-line, the G70 also offers the kind of unapologetic edge that is all but absent in the refined design language of most leading performance sedan-makers. But let’s dig deeper.
The 2019 Genesis G70 is priced-to-start around $34,900 (USD) MSRP making it considerably more accessible in its pricing than the majority of the vehicles which it was designed to compete with. That’s right. Before we even touch on design, engineering or comfort the distinction of pricing is what first qualifies the G70 for game-changer status.
Available in either rear or all-wheel drive, the G70 is served up in three trim levels: the (base) 2.0T, it’s manual variant and the 3.3T line-topper. The first two are powered by a 2.0-liter Turbocharged inline four-cylinder, paired with either an 8-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission. Both are channeling a confident 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. In terms of fuel economy, the automatic rates 30 highway mpg (22 city) while the manual places more modestly at 20 highway (18 city). But atop the line, a 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged v6 engine is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. The 365 hp 376 lb-ft torque ratings represent a sizable jump, with a starting price jump of less than $10K. Once again, it’s comparatively hard to criticize the G70’s price-points.
Shifting attention to the cosmetic, the G70 is simply a good looking car. While it feels redundant to mention the blend of luxury and performance, its the best way to summarize the design language employed here. Its overrated front fascia and sleek lines are evocative of luxury design sensibilities, while the wide stance and unapologetic use of angles carries hints of the resurrected American muscle car. Looking like it could make a quick snack of the 3 Series, it appeals to those of us who prefer that refinement never compromises character.
To quote MotorTrend themselves, who summarized the G70 as hitting “all the right notes: Punchy powertrains and an agile chassis that’s a ton of fun, sporty exterior styling with strong graphics, and a well-appointed interior,” adding the warning, “Look out, BMW. It’s the real deal.”
In some ways, the Genesis G70 feels like a well-stacked team; champions simply because they were willing to buy the right players, but it’s pointless to take credit away from where it’s due. For a Hyundai-adjacent product to be described as “Mercedes-like” and having “the fit and finish some automakers would dream of”, it has certainly managed to throw our expectations on their heads. And it’s hard not to cheer on an underdog. Hyundai has had a lot of wins in the last few model years, yielding freshly-iconic and evolving products (the Veloster, for example). They’ve managed to infuse their trademark practicality with a sense of sport and imaginative design language. That sort of initiative is what makes the Genesis lineup, and the G70 (as a result) feel so organic. It’s a legitimate contender within the mainstream luxury class. Why were we so surprised? Who else BUT Hyundai could have done this?
What do you think of the 2019 Genesis G70? Does it deserve the COTY pick from MotorTrend? We want to know.