HWASEONG, South Korea — Genesis says its first compact sport sedan will catapult the fledgling luxury brand onto shopping lists by directly challenging German rivals on every level.
The newly minted G70, unveiled here last week, barges into a crowded segment fiercely defended by such venerable stalwarts as the BMW 3 series and Mercedes-Benz C class.
The car, which launches next year as a 2019 model, will be the first real test of whether the Hyundai Motor Group's spun-off luxury marque can build momentum behind a growing but still meager lineup.
Following the flagship G90 and midsize G80 sedans, the entry-level G70 model fleshes out the sedan portfolio and targets volume sales at a lower price point. It also foreshadows a new styling language.
Genesis has yet to introduce any crossovers, despite red-hot demand in that segment. But executives say it was more important to establish the new brand's performance chops through a sport sedan. The top-grade G70 gets a 3.3-liter turbocharged V-6 engine that generates around 365 hp and does 0 to 62 mph in 4.7 seconds, before topping out at 167 mph.
"To get substance into your brand, you need to demonstrate the breadth of the band," global Genesis boss Manfred Fitzgerald said here at the Hyundai Motor Group's r&d center and proving ground near Seoul. "We still have a lack of awareness."
Getting noticed won't be easy.
Genesis was cleaved from the mass-market Hyundai brand in late 2015. Executives plan to expand the lineup to six nameplates by 2020. But to date, there are just three, including the G70. Genesis has no stand-alone showrooms, and U.S. volume this year is lower than Fiat's.
Available in rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, the G70 comes with either a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-banger or a 3.3-liter turbo V-6 for the U.S. market.
The G70's mission is to build street cred.
To that end, Genesis enlisted master tuner Albert Biermann to supervise its final stages. A former head of BMW's M performance unit, Biermann was lured away in 2015 to inject a touch of German automotive DNA into Hyundai Motor Group. He promises the G70 will rival the Germans on all fronts — vehicle dynamics, handling, noise, interior luxury and performance.
"The G70 3.3-liter can easily be there with those guys," the German engineer said. "I think we can be competitive in all those levels."
Work on the G70 began before Biermann arrived. But he jumped to work, infusing the car with attitude by fine-tuning the chassis, steering and shift patterns.
"We gave the car a soul," Biermann said.
The G70 also debuts several new Genesis design cues.
Among them is a new shield-shaped grille with a pointed bottom. Another is the G70's quad headlights, thin slivers of LEDs that meld into the main light.
Inside, the car eschews wood trim for brushed aluminum. Designers said wood will be reserved for the more upmarket G80, while the sportier G70 needed a more high-tech feel.
Quilted leather door panels and Nappa leather seats lend a premium aura. Meanwhile, an 8-inch touch screen display supports MirrorLink, Apple CarPlay and Android Audio.
"Our mission is to target the German 3," said Lee SangYup, vice president for Genesis design. "We want to aim at the German 3 with sophistication and a touch of luxury."