What do you get when you cross a Kia Stinger platform with the expert hand of an M badge head engineer? Answer: a Korean compact sport sedan worthy of challenging the segment stalwart, the BMW 3-Series. Two years after spinning off from Hyundai, the automaker’s fledgling Genesis luxury division is now flexing its muscle with the 2019 Genesis G70.
Stakes are high for the G70, Genesis’ first nameplate built from scratch and the model that’s supposed to give the brand street cred with enthusiasts and entry-level luxury buyers. The luxury performance sedan clocks in at 255 horsepower and shares a platform with the all-new 2018 Kia Stinger GT. Yes, at the car’s official launch in Seoul last week, Genesis has shown it’s capable of producing more than demure large sedans.
That’s thanks in large part to a critical hire — Albert Biermann, former vice president of engineering for BMW’s high-performance M badge — who has injected Genesis with the Bavarian influence. The standard engine is a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 75 more ponies than the 3-Series’s base model. The G70 also offers a 365 horsepower, 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 that Genesis says can hit 62 mph in 4.7 seconds and reach a top speed of 168 mph. Both engines are paired with the G80’s eight-speed automatic.
Biermann’s impact was evident during a test drive near the company’s Seoul headquarters and on the racetrack at nearby Inje Speedium. At the track and on autocross, the beefed-up version displayed as much zip and verve as a 3-Series, especially when dialed to Sport mode. The suspension felt slightly spongy, as is customary for the Korean market, where buyers prefer a looser ride for weathering potholes, but that will be adjusted for its U.S. debut this spring. Standard launch control, a limited-slip differential, and a brake-based torque vectoring system support the cause, providing enough power, agility and traction for a good time.
Though it borrows the Stinger’s chassis, the G70 wears its own distinctive look from former Bentley design director Luc Donckerwolke, who now heads Genesis design. Framed by its oversized grille and the winged Genesis logo across its trunk lid, the car sits low and wide, sporting short overhangs, big wheels, and a long wheelbase. A single, “parabolic” line running alongside its body — “You see one line and only one line,” Donckerwolke emphasized at the launch, underscoring a “constant tension from front to rear.” Inside, it’s all leather and aluminum, as plush as an Audi A4 or Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Despite the favorable comparisons, Genesis’ engineering boss is unwilling to call out the competition by name, especially his former employer. “I don’t think performance or fun-to-drive is limited to Germany,” Biermann said when asked how the G70 stacks up against BMW’s bestseller. He even declined to discuss how the G70’s chassis compares to other cars in Hyundai’s portfolio like, say, the Stinger: “We don’t do this contest between two of our cars.”