2019 Genesis G70

On a recent Friday morning in Korea, two shots went off within hours of each other. The first, a Hwasong 12 from Pyongyang, soared 478 miles above terra firma and splashed into the ocean 2,300 miles later. Then the Genesis G70 was launched in a midmorning press conference at Hyundai Motor Group’s design center, aiming for the middle of the international luxe-sport market.

The first shot made stomachs churn in global capitals. Of course South Koreans fretted about Kim Jong Un’s ongoing snit as well, yet 15,000 concertgoers turned out that evening in Seoul for Gwen Stefani’s show tied to the G70’s debut.

Not failing in its moment, the G70—which completes the Genesis range of large, midsize, and scrunchy sedans—looks like a winner. The design is distinctive and correct, with a beautiful sweeping roofline and a touch of felinity in the front three-quarters view. Some may snipe about the troublesome chrome chevron on each front fender or the rear view’s suggestion of the Chrysler 200, but the G70 looks expensive and proclaims a broad appeal. Design chief SangYup Lee can’t exult in a big breakthrough, but the details are executed with passion.

This is a driver’s car and “well harmonized,” SangYup Lee had told us. We were eager to get onto the track, a wide and rolling circuit with one long straightaway and clusters of linked Kama Sutra turns. How about the electronically controlled suspension, 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires, and dual-piston Brembo brakes?

Turning the rotary knob on the center console, we changed the driving mode to Sport, number four of five settings, and caressed the paddle shifters. Then we stomped on it. The G70 took off with, ahem, mellow contentment. This is not an edgy car. Sorry, no crackling exhaust here. It wasn’t slow by any means—we hit 120 mph on the straight—and it carried a neutral attitude through the corners, but it rolled like a C-Class and was just generally more Prosecco than tequila.

The sedan’s launch comes at a portentous moment for Hyundai Motor, which has faced engine-related recall problems in the U.S. and supply chain problems in China, and for South Korea, Land of the Morning Calm, where anxiety is building about the PyeongChang Olympics in February. What stunt will spoiled Kim pull? Hadn’t anyone thought to give Scud Boy the biathlon events just to shut him up?

Yes, above all, the G70 is a well-targeted consumer product, a nutritious bar of automotive almonds, chia seeds, and flax. Even lacking a trace of bibimbap, it’s nevertheless tasty. Congratulations to the smart people at Namyang R&D on their accomplishment. Selling 15,000 units in the U.S. will be huge. If only missile-bound Pyongyang had something as good to offer instead of idiocy and destruction.