Genesis: It’s the first book in The Bible, the band that links Peter Gabriel to Phil Collins, the planet that brings Spock back to life in Star Trek III, and come 2017, it’s the name of Hyundai’s standalone luxury brand. Like Lexus over 25 years ago, Genesis is a name that sounds tasteful and refined even if it doesn’t have much of a history behind it. But unlike Toyota’s entry into the luxury market in 1989, Hyundai is going to great lengths to make sure it has a deep bullpen — and with good reason.
When Lexus hit the market, it had just the flagship LS400, and the ES250, a rebadged Toyota Camry. But the luxury market has come a long way in the past three decades, and Hyundai wants to make sure its flagship brand can compete on every level if it wants to be taken seriously. Hyundai plans on having six Genesis models for sale by 2020, but at the outset, it will have all-new versions of its Equus (the G90), Hyundai Genesis (now the G80), and a third model known as the G70. The G80 and 90 were on hand at last week’s New York International Auto Show, along with the good-looking Genesis New York Concept, a preview of what we can expect from the G70.
Underneath its show car exterior, the Concept is powered by the brand’s 2.0-liter inline-four mated to an electric motor, which is good for 242 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. That puts it neck-and-neck with its target competitor, the BMW 3 Series. And while every premium automaker tries to draw a bead on BMW’s standard-bearer, the Genesis might have a leg up for two simple reasons: It looks better than the Bimmer, and it’ll probably cost less.
While the 3 Series has spent most of its 41-year lifespan as the epitome of understated Teutonic style, it’s been in a bit of a “Fat Elvis” period for a few years. Genesis may not have the 100-year history that BMW does, but that means it doesn’t have to pay lip service to decades of design language either. As a result, the clean sheet design draws clear inspiration from contemporaries, but isn’t beholden to any of them.
The front end has a wide grille à la Audi or Lexus, but its handsome shape (previewed on last year’s Vision G concept) makes it stand out, and along with the G80 and 90, creates a simple yet strong brand identity. There’s some Audi A7 and Mercedes CLS in the roofline, and in ¾ rear view, it almost echoes last year’s Lincoln Continental concept, albeit with a smaller footprint. Excluding obvious show car features like the fender grilles, massive wheels, and odd beltline, there’s a good chance the G70 won’t look that much different when it hits Genesis dealerships in the next year or two. In a class dominated by sterile-looking German models, the G70 should prove to be one stylish standout.
It wasn’t that long ago that Hyundai was still struggling for legitimacy, and its recent Genesis and Equus models — despite being excellent luxury cars for the money — seemed to underperform at dealerships because of it. But remember, Toyota (and Honda and Nissan) weren’t considered luxury brands in the late ’80s either. With a standalone brand free from any associations, Hyundai could do some very big things with Genesis. From what we saw at the New York show, we hope it does.