Driven: Australia’s newest luxury brand

TEETHING  troubles. That's the best way to describe the Genesis brand's Australian launch of its prestige G70 and G80 sedans.

Panic not. The Apollo space missions and The Beatles also had shaky starts, and they turned out all right.

Launch date delays and the loss of Genesis' general manager just two months before lift-off have proved bumps in the road for Hyundai's luxury sub-brand, but this month, finally, there's good news to report.

Firstly, the cars themselves are good - in some ways excellent - particularly the BMW 3-Series-challenging G70.

The G70 is a rival to BMW’s 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz’s C Class. Picture: Supplied.
The G70 is a rival to BMW’s 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz’s C Class. Picture: Supplied.

Secondly, the brand's flagship studio in Sydney's Pitt St Mall (see breakout) is open for business, and the Genesis buying and ownership experience is a bold and intriguing initiative that may strike a chord in our time-poor modern world.

No dealers, haggle-free fixed pricing, a five-year warranty and free annual services with concierge pick-up are interesting points of difference that perhaps only a box-fresh brand could initiate.

Well, kind of box-fresh brand. The BMW 5-Series-sized Hyundai Genesis has been with us since late 2014, but it's now better-equipped and been rebadged simply Genesis G80 - Hyundai's "H" badge now gone from its boot-lid.

The G70 delivers more power than similarly-priced German rivals. Picture: Supplied.
The G70 delivers more power than similarly-priced German rivals. Picture: Supplied.

While the chauffeur-special G80 may be semi-familiar, Genesis' G70 small executive sedan is all-new to our shores.

It looks a compelling alternative to established heavyweights Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3-Series and Audi A4.

The rear end resembles a widened BMW 2-Series, and side-on from a distance you'd swear it was a Benz. Stylistically, these are no bad things.

The drive experience shouldn't disappoint either. Choices are a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder with 179kW or a 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 with 272kW. The latter, borrowed from Kia's Stinger, launches the G70 to 100km/h in just 4.7 seconds: rivalling the soon-to-arrive BMW M340i and Merc-AMG C43 sedans.

The profile has hints of BMW about it. Picture: Supplied.
The profile has hints of BMW about it. Picture: Supplied.

G70s are all eight-speed autos with rear-wheel-drive, with the range, starting from $59,300, coming in basic, Sport and Ultimate trims.

Included are 18-inch alloys, LED lights, five drive modes, power heated leather seats, 8-inch screen with satnav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate and a lengthy list of active safety kit. Generous spec, giving the Germans something to think about at the price.

Sport models offer no extra power but better performance kit such as 19-inch alloys shod in grippy Michelin tyres, Brembo brakes and sportier body and cabin styling, including red leather if desired.

Luxury shoppers can choose an Ultimate with Nappa leather, quilted door trim, ventilated seats, panorama sunroof, better audio and safety kit plus the same wheel and brake package as the Sport.

The cabin is well appointed. Picture: Supplied.
The cabin is well appointed. Picture: Supplied.

Option the stonking V6 and you get adaptive control suspension, torque vectoring control and enhanced steering rack to better exploit the engine's performance.

The V6 versions aren't expected to be volume sellers, but it's a tempting performance weapon for less than $80k fully loaded.

ON THE ROAD

Power delivery is smooth rather than seat-pinning, but you haul along at scintillating speeds, the boosted V6 loving life in the fun-filled higher rev range.

Balance through the corners is reassuringly good too, aided by Genesis' Australia-specific chassis and steering tune. The G70 never felt flustered during performance driving making it easy to drive fast, but its outright competence robs it of some fun. It could use a bit more rawness and noise in the Mercedes-AMG mould, but maybe Genesis prefers the more refined approach.

A punchy V6 twin-turbo is available for the sporty minded. Picture: Supplied.
A punchy V6 twin-turbo is available for the sporty minded. Picture: Supplied.

The 2.0-litre G70 is no poor cousin. Its 0-100km/h time of 5.9 seconds makes it no slouch, and in Sport trim for $63,300 looks the value pick for all-round performance, kit and styling.

The G70's cabin and boot don't feel as large as, say, a BMW 3 Series, and road noise didn't feel "Germany good", while there are reminders of its roots with Hyundai-esque monitor and lettering for buttons. The leather seats feel high quality, but a few too many hard plastics and no digital dashboard (staples in Benz/BMW/Audi now) remove some polish.

The larger G80 is expected to snare only 20 per cent of Genesis sales, but the brand's hoping it will appeal to private buyers as well as fleets and chauffeurs.

The larger G80 will target the limousine market. Picture: Supplied.
The larger G80 will target the limousine market. Picture: Supplied.

This BMW 5-Series/Benz E-Class sized sedan rivals the Germans for inclusions and safety at a cheaper entry price ($68,900 to $92,900), but the thirsty 3.8-litre petrol V6 will hit the wallet. A BMW 530d, for instance, uses half as much diesel.

The drive experience is pleasant, refined and quiet and that V6 shows some guts. Again, leather seating feels plush, but elements of the dashboard feel too much like a Hyundai, meaning the best experience is to be had in the spacious and cosseting rear seats.

Verdict 3.5/5

Beautiful-looking, great to drive and well equipped, the G70 in particular gives the established Germans plenty to think about.

Genesis G70 vitals

Price: $59,300 to $79,950 plus on-roads

Warranty/servicing: 5 years/unltd km; complimentary 5 years/50,000km service

Engines: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo petrol, 179kW/353Nm; 3.3-litre V6 twin-turbo petrol, 272kW/510Nm

Safety: 5 stars, 7 airbags, AEB, blind-spot warning, driver attention warning, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, radar cruise control

Thirst: 8.7-10.2L/100km

Boot: 330 litres

Spare: Space saver


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