The Genesis G70 Is What the New Lexus IS Should Be

The 2021 IS’ updates, relatively minor as they are, are welcome. Lexus’ compact sports sedan has fallen behind the competition in some ways. And not just to its main rival, the BMW 3-Series. The Genesis G70 has been making a name for itself as a worthy 3-Series opponent. And arguably, the G70 is what the new Lexus IS needs to be.

2020 Genesis G70 vs. Lexus IS: specs

2019 Genesis G70 sedan drifting around a racetrack
2019 Genesis G70 | Genesis

The Genesis G70 is available with 2 different engines. The first is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, rated at 252 hp and 260 lb-ft. The second is a 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6, which produces 365 hp and 376 lb-ft. Both engines can be had in rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, but only the RWD 2.0T model can get a 6-speed manual. Otherwise, the Genesis G70 uses an 8-speed automatic.

Gray 2021 Lexus IS sedan
2021 Lexus IS | Lexus

Meanwhile, the 2021 Lexus IS’ powertrains are carried over from the 2020 model. The RWD IS 300 has a 241-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, while the AWD model has a 260-hp 3.5-liter V6. The IS 350 also uses that 3.5-liter V6, but in the 350 it makes 311 hp and 280 lb-ft. There’s no manual available. And, if you get the AWD models, you don’t even get the 8-speed automatic, but a 6-speed.

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Not only does the Genesis G70 make more power, but it’s also faster. In Car and Driver’s testing, the 3.3T GT went 0-60 in 4.4 seconds. The 2020 IS 350 AWD F Sport, meanwhile, did so in 5.5 seconds. In the more real-world-accurate 5-60 test, the G70 was still faster. The same goes for Car and Driver’s ¼-mile test.

But it’s not only on paper that the Genesis G70 has the edge on the Lexus IS, or indeed, some of the competition.

How does the Genesis G70 drive?

2019 Genesis G70 front seats, center console, and dashboard
2019 Genesis G70 interior | Genesis

In terms of features, the two sedans are fairly even. Both offer standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as 8” infotainment touchscreens. The 2021 Lexus IS’ standard driver-assistance features include adaptive cruise control and lane centering, both of which the Genesis G70 also has. But Motor Trend named the Genesis G70 its 2019 Car of the Year not just on features, but on interior quality and driving dynamics.

The G70’s interior isn’t perfect. The BMW 3-Series’ is a bit higher-quality, Car and Driver reports, and roomier. The Kia Stinger is also roomier in back, TFLCar reports. However, in the case of the BMW, that’s only the case in the higher-end M340i trims. Compared to the 330i, reports, the Genesis has better interior quality. MT called it “almost Mercedes-like.”

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But where the Genesis G70 really shows that it’s a sports sedan is in how it drives. It might be shorter than the Stinger, but that makes for better handling, MT reports. Its brakes are also better able to handle track duty, Car and Driver reports. And it’s noticeably sharper than the 2020 Lexus IS 350 F Sport, TFLCar reports. In addition, while the F Sport offers a limited-slip differential as an option, on the G70 3.3T, it’s standard.

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It handles almost as well as the M340i but rides more comfortably in normal commuting situations. Plus, the base M340i costs roughly $10,000 more than the 3.3T G70. To quote MT, Genesis “built a better 3 Series.”

Does the IS have any advantages?

The 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport's interior, showing the red upholstery and center console trim, touchscreen, touchpad, and digital instrument cluster
2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport interior | Lexus

To be fair, the driving comparisons are valid for the 2020 Lexus IS. The 2021 model does feature a few suspension updates, as well as a more rigid chassis. It’s possible the 2021 IS may make up some ground to the Genesis G70. However, considering it’s getting no additional power and no major platform updates, it’s difficult to gauge how much the new parts will help.

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And there are some areas where the Lexus IS does have some advantages over the G70. For one, after all the fees, the IS 350 F Sport is about $700 cheaper than the G70 3.3T. Secondly, the F Sport comes standard with adaptive suspension. On the Genesis, they’re part of an optional package.

But until the 2021 IS or Acura TLX Type S prove otherwise, for now, the Genesis G70 is the budget compact sports sedan to buy.

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