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About half the population of South Korea lives in the capital of Seoul, which is why I’m departing the Signiel Hotel in the magnificent 123-story, sail-shaped Lotte World Tower at 7 a.m. on a Saturday to beat the traffic. I’m behind the wheel of the new Korean-made 2018 Genesis G70 Sport for a drive through the Central Highlands north of the city, just a few miles south of the demilitarized zone with North Korea.
Given that Seoul is a humongous city with a population of 25.6 million packed into a sea of residential towers, the idea that I might get ahead of traffic was overly optimistic. It wasn’t until 70 minutes later when I passed the popular Gapyeong Service Area 31 miles to the northeast that traffic thinned. (It is worth the trip.)
The Central Highlands is comprised of rugged, heavily forested mountains separated by valleys narrow enough to walk across. A remarkable network of very long tunnels connects one place to another and it doesn’t take a military genius to realize that closing just a few effectively makes the region impassable to vehicles. The road signs include English translations that I find to be tongue-twisters nonetheless, and I’m grateful for the navigation system’s help with pronunciation. But I learn that Yangyang is up the yingyang when it comes to enjoyable driving roads.
The G70 Sport, though, doesn’t get lost in translation as it scoots easily from one tunnel to the next. The G70 Sport is equipped with a six-cylinder turbocharged engine managed by an eight-speed automatic transmission that accelerates to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. With a top speed of 168 mph, I’m struggling to observe local speed limits. The handling is deft and a very responsive steering and suspension system lets the G70 Sport glide in and out of corners. The ride is generally a quiet one, although an “Active Sound Design” system provides some aural feedback via the car speakers that changes according to the drive mode selected and how the engine is performing. It’s a bit like being in a simulator even when you’re not. The U.S. version will be louder due to absence of stringent noise pollution regulations found elsewhere in the world.
The G70 Sport interior reflects the emphasis on performance. The seats have been adjusted to lower the center of gravity. The black interior of the model I’m driving gets a color boost from fiery red stitching. I’m torn by the 8-inch, wedge-shaped touch screen which is mounted high on the center console for good sight lines but seems to aesthetically interrupt the overall dashboard line. An array of safety features includes a radar/camera/sensor package sensitive enough to brake automatically when it detects bicycles.
My destination is the Inje Speedium, which is a large, remote motorsports resort mix of a 2.4-mile race track shaped like a sea horse, luxury hotel, and condos surrounded by mountains. Some local drivers are introducing me to “foxhunting.” Cones are placed to form a large circle and two cars, starting from equidistant points, chase each other for one minute, trying to close the gap between them. It’s not clear to me who the fox is, but I’m game. Perhaps by the time the G70 Sport arrives in the U.S. in the spring of 2018, I’ll be good at it. Price to be determined. genesis.com