A new model trying to beat established players at their own game isn’t anything new. No manufacturer in recent history would have done that more successfully than Toyota did with its 1989 Lexus LS400. Born as a result of the Chairman Eiji Toyoda’s desire to “build a car better than the best in the world,” the Lexus brand and its first model turned the luxury saloon market upside down and forced every player from Mercedes-Benz and BMW to Audi and Cadillac to up their game. Auto giant Hyundai’s dream of taking on past masters of the premium automobile market can be likened to the Lexus saga, although replicating the Japanese brand’s game-changing feat on a similar scale is going to be near impossible. Whether it is able to successfully shoulder the massive weight of expectations set by itself or not, there’s no denying that the latest model, the G70, is the most significant to wear the bewinged badge. While the larger G80 and G90 are really good ambassadors for the brand, they are technically successors of the Hyundai Genesis and the Centennial respectively. So technically, the G70 is the first ground-up new model under the Genesis brand.

It’s quite an ambitious task to try and tackle the likes of BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4, and Lexus IS with a completely new model. Especially so as the current iterations of all these cars are arguably at the top of their game more than ever before. Realising this, Genesis has done its groundwork exhaustively well. It lured some of the big names from the automotive design, engineering and marketing fields to Seoul to make sure its new models are up to the task at hand. These include Albert Biermann, the former head of BMW M division, former Lamborghini director Manfred Fitzgerald and design gurus Luc Donckerwokle, Sangyup Lee and Sasha Selipanov, who will all work with Peter Schreyer, who is president and chief design officer of Hyundai Motor Group.

 

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Photos: Stefan Lindeque

While following the general styling cues seen in the G80, the G70’s lines preview the future design direction of the brand. Reflecting its positioning as a sportier model, the G70’s front fascia is suitably more aggressive than those of its bigger brothers. The hexagonal mesh grille, large air intakes, lower nose, creased bonnet, and short front overhang all suggest spirited performance. Overall, it looks more intense and distinctive than its European rivals with their relatively more generic styling.

The same cannot be said about the cabin though. While boasting impressive build quality and first-rate craftsmanship, the interior layout appears to have been inspired by BMW and Audi designs. Although not unique in its styling, the cabin offers excellent ergonomics with intuitively placed switchgear and controls, comfortable, supportive quilted seats and soft-touch materials all around.

In the Middle East, the G70 offers two powertrains — a 3.3-litre turbocharged V6 and a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo. Our tester comes equipped with the V6 that’s good for 370 horsepower and 510Nm of torque, which keeps power and performance credentials on a par
with its rivals. Paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, it’s capable of despatching the 0 to 100kph sprint in 4.7 seconds, and can hit a top speed of 270kph. Throttle response is immediate with power and torque on tap over a broad rev band. Of the five driving modes, Smart, Eco, Comfort and Custom weren’t much distinct from each other with no perceptible difference in handling or performance between them. However, selecting Sport elicits clearly noticeable changes in the car’s character. The steering becomes reassuringly heavy and more direct, the exhaust note becomes gruffer, and the seat bolsters hug you tighter. In Sport, the Genesis G70 is as poised, nimble and lively as any other car in this segment. Equally impressive is the noise and vibration insulation that the engineers have managed to achieve. The cabin is remarkably devoid of road or wind noise, and the suspension, especially when it’s not in Sport mode, makes light work of any road imperfection.

 

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Photos: Stefan Lindeque

Safety has also been given priority, with seven airbags and a suite of driver assist systems like Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Blind spot Collision Warning and Driver Awareness Warning working towards keeping occupants safe.

With the G70, Genesis has taken the same formula and platform used by Kia in the Singer GT and put them to even better use. Building on the great foundation set by the G90 and the G80, it takes the Genesis story to its next logical level. It’s the best driving car to have emerged from Korea. It might not be as sharp in its handling as a 3 Series or as plush and elegant as a C-Class. But it strikes a happy medium. And with prices starting at Dh148,000 for the base model, and going up to Dh194,000 for the fully-specced version, it makes quite an alluring proposition.