2020 Genesis G70 review: Damn good
After taking the Genesis G70 for a quick spin, I fumbled through the glovebox and pulled out a copy of the window sticker. "It's less than 40 grand?!" I exclaimed with a chuckle after glancing at the bottom line. This South Korean upstart has built a damn-fine luxury sports sedan, and in this case, one that feels like it's worth far more than $39,525.
Perhaps this shouldn't impress me as much as it does. I mean, rivals like the venerable BMW 3 Series and Audi's ever-sophisticated A4 both start at roughly that same price. But somehow Genesis has managed to deliver a machine that feels like far more than the sum of its parts.
Above and beyond
At first glance, the G70 doesn't look that impressive. Its overall design seems derivative, with a few Infiniti styling cues here, some Acura there and if you squint, perhaps even a bit of Lincoln . That big, glittery grille is tough to miss. But the more I study this Genesis sedan, the more its styling grows on me. As a whole, it's a well-proportioned car and one that's quite attractive. The Genesis G70 exudes quality.
My 2.0T tester with the optional six-speed manual transmission features full-LED automatic headlamps. Heated side-view mirrors are included, as well. Stylish 19-inch wheels normally come fitted with grippy Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tires, however, given that Michigan is located in the Midwest and that it's still early spring, my G70 wisely rides on winter rubber: A set of aggressive-looking Pirelli Sottozeros that, oddly enough, don't seem to degrade handling or increase interior noise levels.
Speaking of the cabin, it's even nicer than this car's exterior. Genesis designers managed to create an inner sanctum that's both visually interesting and tasteful at the same time. When Lexus tries to do the same, it typically ends up with a busy mess that's also challenging to use. In the G70, there are no weird surfaces or excessive swoops. The dashboard layout is straightforward, the switches and controls are of high quality and the materials used are simply lovely, though real cow hides might be nice. You can only get leatherette seating surfaces in manual-equipped models.
My tester is fitted with aluminum trim, which helps brighten up an otherwise dark interior. It also features a 15-speaker Lexicon sound system and has heated and ventilated front chairs.
The climate-control system is simple to use. It consists of three large, knurled knobs and a smattering of other buttons. Above this is another row of switches used to operate parts of the infotainment system, which is similar to what you get in cars from Genesis' corporate siblings, Hyundai and Kia . This means the infotainment tech is both responsive and relatively easy to use, though the 8-inch touchscreen is, unfortunately, a bit on the small side these days. It's also quite a reach for the driver as it's perched high on the dashboard.
The G70's front buckets are appropriately cushy, if not quite throne-like in their comfort. There's plenty of space up front, but the back seat is tighter than the manufacturing tolerances of a new Starrett micrometer. I can barely squeeze in there when the driver's chair is adjusted to my liking. There's almost zero legroom to spare, which is unfortunate.
Despite looking generous, the G70's trunk is also pretty small. According to the spec sheet, it offers 10.5 cubic feet of volume, far less than the 17 or so provided by a similar 3 Series. Even a Honda Civic sedan beats it, providing around 15 cubic feet of junk-hauling capacity.
Technicalities and such
Keeping pace with other automakers, both mainstream and luxury brands, the G70 features all the driver-assistance tech you'd expect. My tester has forward-collision avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and more.
For the most part, all these advanced driver-assistance features work well. The automatic high beams are responsive, the blind-spot system keeps you abreast of other vehicles around you, but the lane-keeping feature could be improved. While still effective, it tends to saw at the steering wheel a little more than I'd like, making small adjustments left and right. Competing systems from Honda and Nissan are smoother.
Helping folks that are new to three-pedal driving or even veteran gear-jammers that want to save clutch wear, hill-start assist is standard equipment on models fitted with the manual transmission. It momentarily keeps the car from rolling backwards when you lift your foot off the brake pedal, giving you enough time to get on the accelerator and feather the clutch without excessive slippage. This feature is particularly useful on steep inclines.
2.0 liters of fury
All G70s fitted with the manual transmission are powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. This engine is more than up to the task of motivating a 3,581-pound sports sedan. Thanks to a freer-flowing exhaust system, it delivers 255 horsepower -- 3 more than in cars fitted with the available eight-speed automatic. As for torque, it's the same no matter the transmission, clocking in at 260 pound-feet.
Rifling through the gears, this car should return 18 miles per gallon in city driving and 28 mpg on highway drives. Expect around 22 mpg combined, at least according to the US EPA. Automatic-equipped models are appreciably more efficient, though they're still far behind a similar 3 Series, which should average 30 miles per gallon with a 2.0-liter turbo and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Even a 2020 Audi A4 with all-wheel drive is more economical than any version of the G70. This is one area that could be improved.
That base engine has ample midrange grunt and it's plenty smooth, but if you want more giddy-up throughout the rev range, a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 is also available. It delivers an impressive 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque, though, unfortunately, it's only paired with the automatic transmission. Hitching this refined engine to that manual gearbox would make one dynamite drivetrain, though that's unlikely to ever happen.
Instead, a 2.5-liter turbocharged engine could be coming to the G70. It's rumored this more muscular I4 will be made available in the coming years.
Enhancing its appeal, the G70 can be had with all-wheel drive. It's available with either engine, but locks you into the automatic transmission.
Putting it all in motion
Underway, the G70 is properly fun to drive. Its handling and steering feel are pretty darn good despite my test model's knobby winter rubber.
A quick steering ratio makes this car a joy to toss into corners. It feels very agile, if not quite telepathic. The Alfa Romeo Giulia may have an edge in this department, but the G70's steering is still one of the better setups in the industry today.
Not only is Genesis' four-cylinder engine smooth and quiet, it delivers plenty of punch, though it's happiest in the midrange where it has a thick slathering of torque. Even in sixth gear you can roll on the throttle and it moves the car with unexpected authority. Just off idle, however, the engine is a bit soft, which can require some clutch finagling, but is easy to adapt to.
As for the shifter, it reminds me a lot of an older BMW gear selector. It's light and precise but a tad bit rubbery. I wish it came with a lock-out ring or something similar to prevent you from carelessly overshooting the one-two gate, which could result in selecting reverse instead of first. But these are minor complaints. It's a very pleasant lever to operate, and the fact that Genesis even offers a manual gearbox is something worth celebrating. You can't get one in an Audi A4 or a 3 Series anymore.
When you need a burst of speed or to slow down for an upcoming corner, the G70 can feel a bit lazy. Rev-matching downshifts is challenging as the engine isn't particularly responsive. Punching the accelerator, even burying it for a second, often isn't enough to get the rpm up. You have to hold it down for an unexpectedly long period to properly rev-match a gear change. This is hardly a Genesis-exclusive issue, rather, it's a common gripe with electronic throttles, which aren't always as reactive as they should be.
When it's time to shed some speed, G70s equipped with that six-speed manual transmission feature Brembo brakes. With perfect pedal weighting and high-performance pads, they feel inexhaustible on the street. Doing hot laps on a track might reveal some weakness, but they're more than up to the challenge of everyday driving.
My tester checks out for a hair less than $40,000, but if you opt for the four-cylinder engine and the automatic transmission, you can grab one of these cars for less than $37,000. If you need all-wheel drive in your life, it's a $2,000 upcharge.
With its unique style, high-quality interior and surprisingly engaging dynamics, the 2020 Genesis G70 is a lovely luxury-sport sedan. The availability of a manual gearbox, at least for now, makes it even more appealing.