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2019 Genesis G70 first drive review: A worthy sport sedan challenger

The G70 makes a case to be an alternative to the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series.

Jon Wong/Roadshow

When it comes to small, sporty luxury sedans, your mind immediately goes to Germany. After all, the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class have dominated the segment for years, though challengers from America (Cadillac CTS), Italy (Alfa Romeo Giulia) and Japan (Infiniti Q50, Lexus IS) have certainly put up a good fight. Genesis, the Hyundai spin-off from South Korea, is now prepared to join that battle.

The G70 is handsome, with a more aggressive design than Genesis' G80 and G90 sedans. I like the prominent crest grille, flowing character lines sprinkled along the body, tasteful slathering of chrome trim and available 19-inch wheels (18s are standard). Overall, the design exercises restraint and doesn't wear any over-the-top styling elements like Lexus' spindle grille. The resulting look is clean and sophisticated.

Handsome sheetmetal is just part of the G70's appeal.

Jon Wong/Roadshow

Slide into the cabin and you're greeted with an abundance of soft-touch surfaces, accent stitching, aluminum trim and comfortable and generously bolstered seats that snuggly hold passengers in place. Sound deadening efforts are also apparent -- the cabin is nicely isolated from wind or tire noise from the big 225/40R19 front and 255/35R19 rear Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber on my test car.

The quiet interior setting is perfect to enjoy the sweet-sounding 15-speaker Lexicon audio setup that's controlled via an intuitive and responsive 8-inch central touchscreen infotainment system. Other infotainment features include standard Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and three USB ports to power up phones, while navigation with real-time traffic updates and a wireless charging pad are optional.

There's no shortage of safety technology, either, with blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, lane keep assist and rear cross-traffic alert equipped on all G70s. To further raise its safety game, a color head-up display, 360-degree backup camera and parking sensors are available.

An 8-inch infotainment system is standard, offering both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities.

Jon Wong/Roadshow

At launch, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 252 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque will be the base engine, mated to a standard eight-speed automatic transmission and available with a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive. Genesis will also offer a six-speed manual gearbox, exclusively in RWD 2.0T configuration. At its best, the 2.0T should return fuel economy figures of 22 miles per gallon city and 30 mpg highway with rear-wheel drive and the automatic transmission. Lower those numbers to 21/28 if you're going AWD, and lower them further to 18/28 if you want the manual.

Want more power? Genesis will offer the G70 with a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 -- the one from the Kia Stinger GT -- with 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque. Like its Kia kin, an eight-speed automatic is the only transmission available with this engine, though buyers can choose between rear- and all-wheel drive. Fuel-economy for the V6 model is rated at 18 mpg city and 26 mpg highway with rear-wheel drive. AWD lowers that highway number to 25.

The G70's optional twin-turbo V6 makes 365 horsepower. 

Jon Wong/Roadshow

To my fellow enthusiasts, I'm happy to report that the 2.0T/manual combination is seriously entertaining. Turbo lag is never an issue, but briskly hiking the 3,580-pound car up to speed definitely requires you to wind up the engine. The light clutch pedal is easy to work with a mid-stroke bite point, the shifter fluidly slides into gates and pedal placement is stellar for heel-and-toe rev-matching. My only request is snappier throttle response.

The manual G70 is at its best on the backroads of my drive route through Maine and New Hampshire. Through the variety of bends and transitions, the passive suspension gives way to minimal body roll and handles transitions with aplomb. Steering in Sport mode offers immediate response to inputs and a pleasing amount of weight tuned into the wheel. Thankfully, over rough stretches of pavement, the suspension still provides a well-damped ride, even on these low-profile 19-inch tires.

An optional Sport Package adds an adaptive suspension, and its Comfort setting smooths out any and all road imperfections. Of course, this is on near-pristine roads -- I'll be curious to see if it works just as well back home in Detroit.

Proper dynamic testing takes place at Club Motorsports in Tamworth, New Hampshire. A 0.4-mile kart track serves as an autocross, showing off the G70's neutral balance. With traction and stability controls fully off, rotating the rear end around the extremely tight corners is easy using the throttle and short drifts are executed in a controlled manner.

Time on the 2.5-mile road course serves as a more thorough exercise of the G70's capabilities with slow and high-speed corners, 250 feet worth of elevation change and a couple of long straights.

The V6's extra grunt is immediately noticeable here, accelerating out of the pits and running out of corners with peak torque at your service from just 1,300 rpm. Automatic transmission tuning is on point, with well-timed gear changes in full auto and quick responses to manual shift commands using the steering wheel-mounted paddles with downshift rev-matching.

A race track lets the G70's balanced chassis and potent V6 shine.

Jon Wong/Roadshow

The track drive is a lead-follow format run at a relatively conservative pace, but the experience is fast enough to get a good feel of the car. Down the front straight, I see speeds in the 120s before asking the fade-free Brembo brakes to slow things for Turn 1. Turn-in again happens immediately, and hitting your marks are a simple point-and-shoot affair with the help of the sticky Michelin tires and limited-slip differential. In the really tight areas, the G70 is communicative, letting you know when the front tires are reaching their limits, allowing you to make adjustments accordingly and extract max capabilities.

In the all-wheel drive, V6-powered car, there's some initial push when you dive into a turn, but Sport mode can send as much as 80 percent of the engine's torque to the rear wheels, to right the front end's wrongs. Corner grip is still impressively high and acceleration remains strong, even despite the 113-pound weight penalty of the all-wheel drive system.

The G70 wouldn't be a bad alternative to the usual suspect German sport sedans.

Jon Wong/Roadshow

So, the new 2019 Genesis G70 checks all the major luxury sport sedan boxes with attractive styling, a well-trimmed cabin filled with tech and extremely capable performance chops. But the question remains: Will it matter?

To those who hold brand prestige in high regard, it likely won't, because nothing will be able to rip them away from the Audi rings, BMW roundel or Mercedes three-pointed star. But for those looking to break from the crowd and want a genuinely competitive alternative, the G70 -- which goes on sale in August with prices starting around $35,000 -- is certainly worth your consideration.

Editors' note: Roadshow accepts multiday vehicle loans from manufacturers in order to provide scored editorial reviews. All scored vehicle reviews are completed on our turf and on our terms. However, for this feature, the manufacturer covered travel costs. This is common in the auto industry, as it's far more economical to ship journalists to cars than to ship cars to journalists.

The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's editorial team are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.