In April of 2015, Hyundai Motor lured German engineer and BMW veteran Albert Biermann to the Korean automaker in a move that was noticed, but also met with some degree of skepticism. Hyundai and high performance? No one in 2015 put those words in the same sentence.
Cheap and utilitarian, yes, but the joy of driving never entered the purchasing equation for any Hyundai buyer, nor for those of Hyundai’s sister brand, Kia.
Biermann was put there to fix the most glaring problem at Hyundai Motor – how the cars actually behaved on the road. He had been running BMW’s high-performance M division, one of the most prestigious jobs in the global auto industry. As such, he was an expert at making cars dance.
Biermann, we have since learned, was not happy at BMW. In an interview with BBC’s Top Gear, he said that he enjoys much more freedom at Hyundai Motor than at BMW, noting that “when I was there, I had to fight like crazy for every car. Here (at Hyundai) I am more than welcome to do whatever I think we need to do.”
Biermann’s charge at Hyundai was to accomplish the near-impossible: make the cars a pleasure to drive, especially for enthusiasts. Biermann was also there to underpin the performance bona fides of the Genesis luxury brand.
At the Frankfurt auto show in 2015, Biermann told reporters he was focusing on giving Hyundai cars “a little bit more of a driving character. We are really going for the established high-performance brands and want to compete with them.”
Here in 2018 we can see the fruits of his labour. These past three years, Hyundai’s engineers have zeroed in on improving and refining everything from the clutch peddle to the suspension to the steering and braking. Their goal has been to “change the character of the car,” as Biermann said in 2015.
If there is one car in the Hyundai universe that perfectly expresses what all this means in very real and utterly joyous terms, it’s the Genesis G70, a BMW 3-Series killer. I’ve driven every version, from the $42,000 base model (with standard all-wheel drive) to the incredible $57,500 3.3T Sport with a 3.3-litre V-6 twin-turbo (365 horsepower), AWD, a sharp-shifting eight-speed automatic and razor-sharp responses. Biermann has been doing his job.
The G70 Sport, in particular, trumps a comparably priced BMW’s 3-Series in driving responses and overall performance. As we know, BMW has turned its full attention to electric cars and SUVs (sport-utility vehicles), leaving the field wide open for a sports sedan with a chassis and powertrain as superbly finished at the G70. I know the Genesis brand doesn’t carry the weight of a BMW roundel, but the G70 is more responsive and more composed than a rival 3. Period.
The steering is wonderfully communicative. The chassis is solid though not punishingly stiff. (Note: Kia’s Stinger shares this chassis.) The suspension is an outstanding blend of firmness, compliance and balanced responses. That said, in the top-line G70, you can customize the chassis, steering and suspension using electronic wizardry.
Huh? Perhaps you want the Sport steering and chassis settings, but want the Comfort suspension setup. You can do that. Or you can set the electronics up in a different way.
I will say that if all you desire is a pure sport sedan, choose the rear-drive 2.0 Sport version with the six-speed manual ($45,000) and the 2.0-litre turbo four (252 horsepower). But be warned: this is more track car than everyday commuter.
You’ll want a G70 for the driving experience and if you can afford it, go right to the top, the 3.3 Sport. That said, the rest of the car is very good regardless of the price.
The exterior design is tidy and attractive. The cabin is also well done, though not entirely a revelation. The expected collection of touchscreen and redundant controls will be familiar to any Hyundai owner, which is to say that nothing is particularly special or ground-breaking.
The basic gear across the line is impressive and extensive even in the starter model. The seats are good, not great, and the cabin is not overly large. Rear seat room is, in fact, tight.
The story here is primarily about road manners. The G70 manages to do something I never dreamed possible: deliver what we used to call “German” handling and responses. Wow.
Engine: 3.3-litre V-6, twin turbocharged (365 horsepower/376 lb.-ft. of torque).
Transmission: eight-speed automatic.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 13.3 city/9.5 hwy using premium fuel.
Key features: Brembo® brakes; variable gear ratio (VGR) steering rack; dual exhaust; Sport appearance package (19-inch aluminum alloy wheels with 225/40R19 (F) + P255/35R19 (R) Michelin Pilot Sport PS4 high-performance summer tires); limited slip differential; Genesis Adaptive Control Suspension (GACS); dark chrome exterior accents and lower front bumper insert; dark-finish taillight lenses; sport-type quilted Nappa leather seating; red or grey interior contrast stitching; 16-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, including thigh extension and side bolsters; black suede headliner; alloy pedals.
Comparables: BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, Alfa Romeo Giulia.