If you were an upstart luxury brand, you would probably find it necessary to emulate other products to some degree, while establishing a unique edge that would increase consumer appeal. There is a vast catalog of success stories in the American automobile market, as numerous brands have inserted themselves into one of the more lucrative markets on the planet — brands like BMW, Audi, Lexus and Infiniti.
And, if you happen to push your design team to create an eye-catching style, wearing an emblem that closely mimics an even more revered brand, well, so be it. If buyers perceive that your car is the latter product, that is marketing success 101.
For a single car model that started out as a central-casting character in a hit 2009 TV series, Hyundai’s Genesis sedan has evolved into a separate luxury car brand that now features compact, midsize and full-size luxury sedans — G70, G80, G90, with a compact and midsize pair of premium crossovers named GV70 and GV80 heading to our market this summer and fall.
This branding strategy copies Lexus, for years the top-selling luxury lineup here, while that upscale emblem incites envy in drivers who think they are seeing the next Aston Martin. No shame in copying either of these successful marques.
The G70 comes in two flavors with assorted variations to fit any driver’s premium car budget. The 252-hp 2.0-T in rear-wheel drive begins at only $35,450, while optional AWD is another $2,000. You can row the gears yourself, or, opt for a slick eight-speed automatic, the transmission of choice in all other models.
The highlight of the series is the G70 3.3-T, with 365-twin-turbo supplied V-6 power. Fuel economy drops 5 mpg (22/30 vs. 17/25 mpg), but the car’s character improves measurably with a chassis that never stops pleasing. Pricing starts at $46,650 with AWD, rising to $53,275 for our well-equipped Sport edition.
In an age where the vast majority of new vehicles are subdued shades of gray, white and black, the Mallorca Blue G70 was utter eye candy. The sumptuous lines, the low-profile Michelins on traditional five-spoke sport wheels covering six-piston and four-piston Brembo brakes, plus the subtle bark of the dual-exhaust system, combine to give the G70 a street presence that is all too often vanilla-flavored. Many drivers snapped around for a second glance, as the G70 was certainly not a stealthy speedster.
Using a turbo-motor shared with other Korean car products, the G70 presents that powertrain in a refined package that impresses with its power delivery, shift refinement and overall tractability. For years, Hyundai and Kia struggled with the subtle details necessary to make their cars drive, ride and handle like the finer sedans in the world.
That riddle has been solved. The G70 is a polished performer, period. Steering feel, cornering agility, ride compliance — all of the dynamic pieces that sport/luxury sedans usually promise, but seldom deliver — can be found here. Even more impressive, the Genesis is thousands less than its rivals while delivering German-like competence, without the German-car price. Lexus, Acura, Infiniti, Lincoln have nothing like this.
Inside, the hits keep on coming. Sport trim ($5,600) brings ventilated and heated quilted leather seating, HID-display, power tilt/telescoping steering column, navigation/info screen with Apple/Android compatibility, plus selectable drive modes. The controls are simple, efficient, concise knobs, dials and buttons that only lack the tomfoolery of automatic stop/start and wandering mousepads.
The separate console button for “Park” (instead of on the lever) is the only concession to current-event electronics, and the backseat might be more personal that some rivals, yet there is clear value, as well as luxury, evident everywhere you touch.
For Maine drivers, there is one other negative. The closest dedicated Genesis dealer is in Manchester, N.H. With valet service and free loaners for scheduled service, Genesis is not going to nickel-and-dime its customers.
The North American Car of the Year in 2019, the number 1-ranked Compact Premium Car in Initial Quality by J.D. Power, plus the Top Safety Pick by the IIHS, the Genesis is changing perceptions and taking names. In reality, the G70 Sport proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable car with impressive manners.
That image should continue for the brand, as the crossovers roll out this year. The GV80 is a strikingly handsome three-row offering with prices ranging from $49,925 to $60,175. It arrives this summer and will move market-share for Genesis, just in case the G70 doesn’t fill your needs.