First Drive: 2019 Genesis G70 resurrects ghosts of performance past to put spirit in sport sedan futures

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Companies lose their way. Missions change. Customers evolve. Drifting away from an automotive brand's heritage can happen so gradually that it can take years before public perception catches up with what's actually sitting on the showroom floor. This is especially true in the luxury world, where marketing as much as the actual metal keeps new buyers flowing through Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz dealership doors.

As long as the cash keeps coming in, it's rare for a manufacturer to correct the course too abruptly, preferring instead to let the winds of commerce steer the ship. It must be noted, however, that this hands-off-the-tiller approach leaves the door wide open for a hungrier - and more focused - rival to swoop in and deliver what was once promised, but can no longer be found under your own roof.

So it goes with the 2019 Genesis G70, a sport sedan that manages to combine premium comfort and persuasive performance in a balance that hasn't been seen from the triumvirate of German marques that dominate the entry-level luxury sedan segment in well over a decade.

That the latest challenger to Teutonic supremacy hails from Korea should be no surprise given the rising tide of quality, engineering prowess, and willingness to spend huge amounts of money on the part of parent company Hyundai. That the G70 succeeds so expertly where its erstwhile competitors have failed - or rather, ceased to try - is much more of a shock.



Passing the torch
I'd like to clarify that this isn't a hit piece on your favorite trans-Atlantic luxury brand. I don't personally have an issue with the strategies of the silver star, roundel, or linked rings in terms of how each has moved farther away from building a true driver's car in the entry-level sedan market. The 3 Series, the C-Class, and the A4/S4 are well-executed, comfortable automobiles with ferocious power on tap to those who want it, and contain a healthy amount of tech to distract you from the dullness of your daily commute.

This leaning back from the "sport" in "sport sedan" and instead impressing drivers with power and gadgets isn't an indictment of the business, but rather a reflection of its current reality. Each is selling what its customers want to buy now, rather than attempting to wedge them through a time machine and into a more engaging vehicle they may not find as appealing during the rush hour grind.

Still, the shift away from a genuinely fun experience behind the wheel towards a sort of unobtrusive all-around competence by each of these automakers has clearly left a cohort of would-be buyers behind. It's here that the 2019 Genesis G70 appears like a beacon, sending out a signal to free-thinkers untethered by the bonds of brand loyalty that hey, it's time to party in a tux on your favorite back road, and no, there won't be a hangover in the morning.

All in the family
The G70 rides on the Genesis version of the same platform used to underpin the also-recent Kia Stinger grand tourer. In G70-spec, though, it is shorter and substantially lighter (as much as 500 lbs. or so, depending on which trim is ordered). These are roots to be proud of, for even if its chassis hadn't undergone extensive massaging on the part of the Genesis engineering team, the Stinger's baked-in athleticism makes a fine starting point for any vehicle seeking to distill a little fun from the automotive ether.

Stylistically, there's no hint of its more pedestrian cousin to be found in the sedan's sheet metal, which borrows liberally from the larger Genesis G80 and G90, especially up front. It's not a particularly unique shape as compared to other premium four-doors but the G70 makes up for it in the details, with the elaborate crochet pattern in its grille and the bronzed chrome door handles available on certain models.

Inside, the vehicle's cabin offers competitive but not class-leading space - you'll be better coddled in the back seat of a BMW 3 Series. Still there's startling quality to be found in the materials used throughout the passenger compartment, particularly with the quilted Nappa leather seats of its range-topping trims.

Track star, but not a track suit
It's easy enough to build a whip-smart suspension and stick it underneath a pleasantly sculpted shape. The challenge is convincing luxury-seeking shoppers to drive something that typically rides as hard as nails on a daily basis. Fortunately, Genesis has sidestepped this issue completely because as sharp as the G70's suspension might be, it also manages to spare occupants from the slings and arrows of a less-than-compliant ride.

Both the standard sport suspension and the adaptive upgrade were impressively demure during my stints behind the wheels of two different G70 models, even over the rough-and-tumble pavement that snakes through the Laurentian mountain range north of Montreal, Quebec, where I spent a full day testing several versions of the car.

When set to "Comfort" drive mode rather than the throttle-sharpening, steering wheel-weighting "Sport" mode, the top-spec G70 3.3T Sport ate it and smiled, scarcely threatening to jostle my beverage let alone re-compact my spine. Even the less-fancy dampers on the 2.0T Sport revealed themselves to be remarkably composed when asked to silence a chattering road surface.

And yet, both Sport flavors also managed to make their mark on the racetrack, too, where each successive lap around the Circuit Mont Tremblant had me digging deeper into the G70's 50:50 weight balance and nimble on-rack electric power steering. It's rare to drive such a street-friendly sport sedan that actually intrigues on a road course anywhere other than within the engine bay, but the G70's platform kept me interested even when driving the more modest of its two engine options.

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