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Automobile Magazine put together an excellent article where they drove the G70 in South Korea. It does a great job not only talking about the G70 but understand Genesis as a company. There's also some fantastic photos.


"This is a legendary road." That can be said of many great routes, but in the case of the Daegwallyeong pass over Korea's eastern mountains, it is literal. Legend has it a famous Confucian philosopher, Yi I, traveled over it in the 1500s on his way from the East Sea to Seoul. Amazed at its steepness and curves, he ate a single pomegranate seed for each turn. At the end, he'd consumed 99 seeds. He called the road kubigubi, a phrase that translates, roughly, as "crazily curvy."

In fact, spiky, foliage-covered mountains make up some 70 percent of Korea's countryside. Although long the bane of tired travelers, today these roads are the great delight of a different kind of philosopher—those who tune chassis and suspensions. Former BMW M engineer Albert Biermann is justly famous as a chassis whisperer, and when he left BMW to take over R&D at Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis, he turned to Yi I's famous road to serve as his real-world testing grounds.
And sure enough, on a summer weekday, we pass a camouflaged Kia prototype screeching up the road as we hurtle downhill the opposite way in a Genesis G70. It is one of Biermann's boys, working hard. The road is steep but gifted with generous patches of excess asphalt in the switchbacks, and there is an extra uphill passing lane for the entire 11 miles. So we drive up and down and back up again, enjoying the G70's pliability, picking off slower drivers in the corners. The gearing is perfect for the road. After all, much of its driving character was born here.
But the G70 isn't what brought me to Korea. Rather it's the marque itself. Genesis Motors became a standalone brand within Hyundai Motor Group at the end of 2015. Last year it topped the J.D. Power initial-quality rankings. Siblings Kia and Hyundai rounded out the top three. So it bears asking: How did the Koreans best the Germans and Japanese at their own game in such a short time?

"There are many luxury brands, but being distinctly Korean is a place where nobody else can play," says Manfred Fitzgerald, a former Lamborghini executive who is now global head of Genesis. "We have to focus on our origins. This is our home and the place that everything stems from."

Fitzgerald is one of the all-star executives brought in by the family-owned Hyundai Motor Corp. He and renowned designer SangYup Lee are sitting inside a Genesis showroom in the Gangnam district, the upscale Seoul neighborhood made famous by the Psy's 2012 song "Gangnam Style." The store is sparse, emphasizing brushed concrete, raw steel, and the cars. Call it stylized serenity.

If Fitzgerald, 56 years old, is a perennial outsider, having worked around the globe, Lee, 49, is the prodigal son. After leaving Korea at age 20 and helping design everything from the modern Chevrolet Camaro to the latest Bentley Continental, he's returned. "This is a far different place than when I left," he says softly. "My parents' generation went through the Korean War, and they talk about how the city was nothing but ashes. In the decades that I've been gone, the city is certainly bigger, but it is also culturally richer. Korea is famous for technology brands like Samsung and LG. But it's also still deeply about tradition. There's K-pop, but there's also the tea ceremony. Old and new exist together. When we design the car, we play with this yin-yang character. The contrast creates tension."

Both executives point to Korea's superior levels of service as a differentiator when it comes to luxury. "Call up a Wi-Fi provider, and they'll arrive and install it within two hours. Always," Fitzgerald says. "Everything is fast. But that service is provided with great dignity. With graciousness. This culture is always striving for harmony. Those are the characteristics that we want to implement into the brand."

In the next year Genesis will introduce two new crossovers to the U.S. market, a segment where it desperately needs to be. It's hard to get excited about more crossovers, but I'm intrigued when Lee shows me the exterior and interior designs of the upcoming GV80 and GV70, and the eventual facelifted G70. These are the first cars the all-star international team, including chief design officer Luc Donckerwolke, will have full control over. These are the make-or-break models.
And they are stunning (in photos, anyway). The SUVs offer short front overhangs and long rear overhangs, with an obvious emphasis on getting proportion right. The sheetmetal is soft and flowing, almost a callback to sumptuous Italian designs of the 1960s. Each has four narrow, distinctive headlamps and a refashioned grille. They are not the generic pan-European designs found on earlier Hyundai efforts at upscale cars, such as its Equus sedan.
The interiors appear sparse to the point of being simplistic. "Luxury is not about adding things you don't need, but by being effortless," Lee says. "We are concentrating on the beauty of the white space. We don't want buttons all over the place. Rather, it should feel like sitting at home. There's high-tech functionality, but it only presents itself when you need it."

No brand can be entirely separated from the place where it was created and lives. Automobiles are particularly susceptible to local culture. The original muscle cars are as emblematic of a certain era in Detroit as the buildings themselves. Designs are influenced by the roads, the topography, the architecture, even food. All of it filters into a brand's soul.

Before arriving, I had little concept of Korea outside of the barbecue and kimchi, which, by the way, prove to be exceptional. The eating and drinking scene is worth a trip alone. Wagyu-worthy steaks are grilled tableside, there are massive fresh king crabs, and it's all washed down with "soju bombs," a mixture of beer and clear soju alcohol. It's a helluva good time.

Seoul is neither Tokyo nor Hanoi. Despite the crowds and love of fashion, it is without the digital gloss of Tokyo. Less neon and fewer LCD screens flashing from every building. Neither are there the buzzing scooters and overladen trucks coughing diesel exhaust found in many Asian countries. Orderliness and a sort of calm pervades, even when the streets are thronged. We bring the G70 on a crowded one-way lane in Gangnam one night to take photos. Drunken revelers stumble around the car, glance at our photographer, and move on. Cabbies squeeze by and don't bother honking. No one hassles us. It's a Zen bustle.

The roads are good and the cars occupying them overwhelmingly new. The number of Genesis sedans found on the road, especially the facelifted G90, shows a sense of civic pride. This luxury car is ours, they seem to say. Meanwhile, McLarens, Lamborghinis, and Range Rovers show the vast wealth of the place. Yet the country lacks a homegrown driving culture. There's only one racetrack and no truly famous race-car drivers. And most drivers forgo winding tarmac in favor of highway routes.

We take a road trip east, heading toward the sea and Biermann's road. The highways are fast, and the G70's exceptionally detailed navigation system is smart. There are a proliferation of speed cameras in the wild; the system counts down the meters until you arrive at each then gives a satisfied beep after you've safely passed and can open up the 3.3-liter V-6 again.

After spending a night at a resort on the East Sea, we head back to Seoul using the Dongsea Highway, a half-billion-dollar roadway that opened in 2017. It takes only 90 minutes to reach the capital as it burrows under the mountains using 35 tunnels—some 70 percent of the 47-mile route. The Inje Tunnel alone is 6.8 miles long. The tunnels are a marvel of engineering, and the experience is perhaps best explained as phantasmagoric.

We are deep inside one, moving fast, when a female voice shrieks out in Korean from a hidden loudspeaker. Red and blue lights begin flashing. Did we just get caught speeding? Is something wrong? Then we drive over a section of textured road and the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" reverberates from our tires. Then, ahead, a series of lights glow in rainbow colors. It turns out the virtual woman is saying, vehemently in Korean, "Don't fall asleep! Be careful! Wake up!" The point is to make sure drivers don't nod off inside a tunnel. Little chance of that.

Our Korean hosts suggest that we pause at a rest stop, which hardly seems necessary. Then we see a gorgeous, Gehry-esque steel structure cantilevered over the highway. The rest stop. The first thing you notice is a digital screen that shows which toilet stalls are available. There are 40 men's toilets in total (and, yes, they are spotlessly clean). Inside are some dozen eateries, from ice cream to sophisticated Korean. Many of the chairs are leather. Topiary plant fixtures are built into the walls. There are huge windows, and the ceiling features long strips of blond wood as a design element. Golden globes and a chandelier provide lighting. I'm reminded of something Lee said, which was to the effect of this: Old Korean homes are rarely grandiose, instead relying on wood and natural light to soothe. The mix of calming elements and high tech found at the rest stop is what Genesis wants to bring into its cars.

We're encouraged to try the local snacks, and someone brings us a selection, including a spicy broth, gnocchilike noodles called tteokbokki, and…corn dogs. The tteokbokki is delicious, and the corn dog is, well, okay. Turns out even the Koreans can't improve on some classics.

They call this one the Freedom Road. It, too, is legendary, if at first glance just a multilane highway heading north. Then the guard shacks and high fences with concertina wire appear, facing out toward the Han River. Of course, any basic understanding of Korea has to take into account the other Korea—the one without the car industry or high-tech screens. So we're headed to the Demilitarized Zone and the border with North Korea. It seems vaguely mysterious, dangerous, ominous. Will they even let us nearby?

We arrive at the DMZ to find a kids' amusement park. There's a swinging pirate ship and a carousel. The DMZ has become a tourist attraction. The carnival is cheek by jowl with war memorials. We find a bunch of eateries (including a Popeyes branch) and a beautifully designed glass cube, called Four B DMZ, selling first-rate gourmet coffee, built just inches away from a fence.

The juxtaposition is jarring. Why the carnival? "Families come up for weekends in the summer to get out of Seoul," says one of our guides, casually. A woman in her early 20s had told me earlier, "Look, the North Korean situation is normal for us. We don't think about it much." A man in his early 40s says his generation is still keen on reunification. "But anyone in their teens or even 20s, they don't understand why we'd do such a thing. They're happy to see it remain as it is."

So we get on a bus and take the tour, entering the no-man's land between the two borders. At one point we view the North through binoculars on a roof. We can see the North Korean flag fluttering in the breeze. Then it's on to another tunnel—one of a different kind. In the 1970s, long after treaties were signed, the North Koreans dug secret tunnels into South Korea hundreds of feet underground in preparation for invasion. Guess what? They sell tickets to that, too. But it's tight and claustrophobic, and we don't recommend it.

At the end of several hours, we escape the tourist bus and climb happily back into the Genesis. We've learned one last thing: The Koreans have a quiet, indomitable will and can turn any downside into an upside. Look at Seoul, once in ashes, now bustling and successful.

There are so many luxury carmakers that it seems unlikely a new brand could thrive. But don't count out Genesis. It seems as though it has discovered the recipe for what makes it special.
 
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