Pacific Highway Road Trip: Genesis GV70 Shows Us That We're Missing Out

Text by James Wong; Photos by James Wong & Horizon Drivers' Club
2 Jul 2022
 

... a driving experience that allows accessible high luxury but with technology and flair.

The famous Pacific Coast Highway in California takes all of the attention, but on the other side of the ocean is another route by a similar name in Australia, the Pacific Highway (Highway 1), which stretches from Gold Coast in Queensland all the way to Sydney in New South Wales.

It’s around 800 km long, but in reality, there’s so much to see and do along the way that the journey spans much longer. I planned to stop at Yamba, Port Macquarie and Hunter Valley before ending the journey in Sydney, and exploring all of the areas around those nodes.

I could imagine few better cars than a luxury SUV to be doing the road trip in. Genesis kindly loaned me the GV70 for this epic drive and it seemed to just fit perfectly.

In the beginning, there was light
Genesis is a completely new brand to me. I have been in some high-end Korean cars before as a passenger (like the Kia K900 – in Cambodia of all places), but I have not driven any Genesis before. This road trip would be the perfect introduction to the brand, which at publication time hasn’t set up shop in Singapore, yet. It’s a different story in Australia, where Genesis is gaining good traction due to Hyundai/Kia ranking as the top 5 best-selling brands in the country, so there is already a keen interest in Korean cars. Also, in Australia every brand is given a ‘fair go’.

First impressions are good. The car looks stunning and is attention-grabbing wherever I went. I got used to people just walking up to the car and spending a few seconds staring at it, wondering what it was. I bemused that I’d probably get a similar response in Singapore.

There is an imposing crest-shaped matrixed grille in front, flanked by commanding four-point headlights laced with LED strips. The bonnet is large and long, while the A-pillar seems to be set back as far as it could. The side profile has an interesting C-pillar design feature and a ‘Parabolic’ shoulder line that slopes down, while the roofline sweeps down to the dramatic rear end that is both minimalist and classy. The dark grey 21” rims specified on the test car comes standard when one combines the Luxury Package and Sport Line Package, and are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before with its dimpled finish. The rear lights are finished in the same style as the front light stripes, while there are two giant exhaust pipes (also part of the Sport Line Package). It looks distinctive, impressive and with full of presence.

The interior is also rather wonderful. The doors open a little too lightly, but it reveals a largely leather-clad space that is pleasingly minimalist yet absolutely functional – Genesis calls it the ‘Beauty of White Space’. It is an exemplar exercise in moving ahead with design while maintaining ease of use. A 14.5-inch rectangular touchscreen sits atop the dashboard and has impressively well laid-out menus controlled via touch or an iDrive-like ‘Genesis Integrated Controller’ (GIC), although cosmetically the UX looks more utilitarian than it should. That said, the futuristic augmented reality navigation really helped pinpoint exactly where to turn (it’s not compatible with Google Maps or Waze, however).

Gears are selected shift-by-wire through a controller which unfortunately is placed just next to the GIC – more than once I accidentally used the GIC while trying to select gears. The instrument gauges are large and very legible, and even offer a 3D view function which is a first for me. But when on the road I found myself mostly using the massive 12-inch Head-Up Display which has all the information needed, really.

Fine quilted Nappa leather seats are wide as they are comfortable, with the front chairs offering heating/ventilation and massage on top of all manner of electric adjustments. The stitched leather panels on the dashboard and doors, as well as the Panorama roof with a Alcantara-clad roofliner oozes with luxury and would not feel out of place in a high-end, and, it must be emphasised, well-optioned German car.

Rear seat space is also commodious and offers a certain degree of recline. With sunblinds and its own two-zone climate control, it’s a really comfortable place to be. The roofline doesn’t impede into headroom much, if at all, a surprise given the coupe-like profile.

The same goes for the boot, which is well-shaped with minimal intrusions from the wheel wells. The sloping rear windscreen does eat into space a little, but it’s still possible to double stack luggage with relative ease.

Luxury through the night
Yamba was our first stop after picking up the car from Brisbane. Departing late at night after attempting to catch the SeaFire fireworks at Gold Coast, the GV70 instantly impressed with its adaptive LED headlights that aren’t only auto high-beam, but also clever enough to switch on/off partially so as to highlight or darken areas where appropriate. For example, it will flash at highway signboards but will switch off parts where there is oncoming traffic.

The interior ambient lighting is also worthy of mention. As part of the Luxury Package, there is lighting even within the door armrests, which is something I certainly haven’t seen before. It could be too much for some, but for me it is a refreshing way to uplift the night time mood. The 1050W Lexicon by Harman sound system (part of the Luxury Package) also helped belt out the tunes to keep me focused. I’ve been impressed by Harman systems in other cars and it’s no different here.

Driving through the night was far easier than I had expected, although it was the suffocating speed limits that ultimately was more tiring. We arrived at the Angourie Resort at Yamba with clear cloudless sky above us, and slept in a rather freezing chalet to rest for the busy day ahead.

Fish, Clogs & Beer at Coffs Harbour
The Pacific Highway is never too far away from the ocean and we always found ourself near to water. Coffs Harbour is unofficially recognised as the half-way point of the Pacific Highway and is famous for – surprise – bananas. It has a banana theme park but other than that I did not really understand why bananas grew there.

Instead, we went for a weekend market at Coffs Harbour which gave a wonderful selection of local produce and products. It was a great way to mingle with locals and get a true feel of the way of life in the town. Just a short hop away was lunch at the Fishermen’s Co-Op, which is essentially a wholesale market serving freshly caught seafood. There’s usually one at every fishing town and is generally worth checking out.

On the drive out of the main harbour and on the way back to the Pacific Highway, there is an unusual attraction worth going to called The Clog Barn. It is a slice of Dutch life in rural Australia and offers miniature creations of famous Dutch towns and scenes, complete with working water mills and trains. They also produce wooden clogs from scratch and have an intriguing demonstration that happens throughout the day. Definitely an interesting stop for something that doesn’t require an entrance fee! This is helpful when most Australian attractions require an entrance fee and is quite expensive.

For a relaxing wind-down to the day to live music, King Tide Brewing offers a great paddle of local beer that’s affordable and fun to sample. There is even a playground if you brought kids along, which seems to be a common feature in most of Australia.

For dinner, my wife cooked Hainanese chicken rice. Eating out is expensive in Australia, so it is advisable to buy the incredibly fresh groceries from Woolworths/Coles and cook at home. It’s the best way to enjoy the best produce Australia has to offer.

Farm stay in blissful isolation
The following days were spent near to Port Macquarie. To get there, the GV70 cruises effortlessly on the highway and its 2.5-litre turbo four offers plenty of power on tap (305 PS, 422 Nm). I only wish it had a more soulful sound and better fuel consumption. Although I understand it is a mid-sized SUV with all-wheel drive, I had expected better efficiency (average on trip: 8.5 L/100 km).

It can do away with large distances with ease, the suspension geared towards long-legged travel rather than rock-hard sportiness. Adaptive cruise control did most of the driving, too. I only ever needed to intervene when it was time for a rest stop. Noise levels are above average, but if it was a few decibels quieter it would really enhance the luxury experience further.

Some ~170 km later, we arrived at Port Macquarie and it was time to check in to the farm. All the wonderful reviews still did not prepare us for what to expect. The B-roads toward the farm are surfaced with light gravel, but recent record rainfall caused a lot of potholes to appear in quick succession. Therefore it wasn’t possible to go any faster than 40 km/h with these conditions, without wanting to risk any damage to the rims.

Still the GV70 took this in its stride, and never once did I feel like the car couldn’t get out of any situation. We went through brooks in deep forest logging routes and grassy knolls with the car not skipping a beat at all.

When we arrived at the farm, we had to manually open two gates (that prevented the resident animals from escaping or causing any nuisance) which revealed a wooden lodge with a lovely open fireplace that’s just the perfect place to enjoy the serene silence of the countryside beneath the tapestry of a million stars. The next morning, the farm animals came to greet us politely, as do well-fed animals of a recreational farm. It was a fine, fine time.

Shiver me timbers
Before leaving Port Macquarie, we visited a period theme park called Timbertown. An actual timber town from 1880 that’s been preserved, Timbertown offers an incredible time stepping back to the past. There is a steam train to ride on, paddle boats on a lake and lots of history to discover.

The scenery changed dramatically as we continued our way down south towards Hunter Valley. Here the GV70 continued to draw envious glances even amongst the fancier cars at Hunter that came down from Sydney. We stayed at a boutique vineyard called Tranquil Vale and here it was quite a bit less rural than where we’ve been to before. There were plenty of wineries to visit (I would recommend Audrey Wilkinson for views), but a real gem of this location is the Luskintyre Airfield which is open for a visit – if you ask nicely. Veterans and mavericks in there will bring you to a time where you could imagine was the inspiration for a show like Top Gun. Oh, don't miss the Italian food at Baume, too.

Sand duning, whale watching
There is a fascinating day trip one could take about an hour from Hunter Valley, at the Stockton Beach sand dunes. Only adrenaline junkies should apply – quad biking on banked sandy surfaces is no mean feat. I dropped my family off at the Toboggan Hill Park before going for this, so I maximised the time alone in the car as much as I could. I finally had the chance to activate Sport+ mode and drive the car more aggressively, as speed limits could allow.

As one may expect, the SUV is no sports car. While the seats will hug you reactively to the direction you turn, the steering is too numb to give any fast road confidence, while the comfort-biased suspension prefers to pamper than to give full driver pleasure. The gearbox is slurry than snappy, while the size and weight of the car could be felt acutely when cornering and braking. Look, the car could perform much more than you realise, but you wouldn’t want to go that far with it. Which is fine, really, as it suits the demeanour of the car as a relaxed, luxurious family SUV.

Arriving at the sand dunes in Toyota Land Cruisers, you are greeted by an otherworldly sight that looks like the Sahara rather than Australia. The access that the dirt bikes give are worth the price in itself. But it would be discounting the fact that driving the dirt bikes are thrilling as it is nerve-wrecking. Sand is an ever-changing surface and it is absolutely necessary to lean into corners, otherwise the quad bikes are infamous for rolling over. Gulp.

After the exhilarating experience it was time to wind things down a little with a whale watching session. It really did not disappoint as getting up close with these graceful leviathans of the ocean was very special.

We didn’t want to say goodbye
After some 2,300 km, it was time to return the GV70 back to Genesis. It was a fascinating insight into a world that we don’t even get access to in Singapore, and the road trip left me thinking that one should consider a Genesis seriously.

It felt more than just a value proposition versus its competitors, with a driving experience that allows accessible high luxury but with technology and flair. Also, the stunning exterior and interior design is already half the battle won.

But such is the marketplace for a new brand that it will have to excel even more than the best to find its footing in the marketplace. With time, I can see Genesis exceeding itself rather easily.

In Summary

We Like

Striking design, every feature you could possibly want, mostly top-shelf luxury.

We Don't

Some minor details betray the luxury car image. Powerful but anodyne and thirsty 2.5 turbo engine. 

Verdict

An emerging luxury car that should definitely be shortlisted on the radar.

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