We know the end to this story and it’s the Genesis G70, but it’s interesting to know what other vehicles I considered. These finalists could not be more different, in part because my TL was such a good car. It significantly raised my expectations and made it very difficult to compromise. Here we go.
Lexus IS 350
I looked at the previous generation Lexus IS 350 the last time around, but only on paper because they are so difficult to find on the used market. The 4 cylinder IS 250 is much more common, but I didn’t bother driving one because it didn’t have the performance I wanted. The 350 was back in the running but is still difficult to find. It uses a similar engine to my TL – non-turbo V6 with 311 hp – but turns out slightly faster acceleration and may have better handling because it isn’t as large. I really like the exterior view of the IS with its aggressive creases and giant grille; it looks sporty and fast.
The interior looks really nice as well but apparently the controls are haphazardly thrown about into odd places. It met my needs for safety features (if I could find the right combination of option packages) and has a reputation for reliability. It wasn’t really any more powerful than my TL and didn’t have some of the more esoteric features I wanted like a heated steering wheel, automatic high beams, or rain sensing windshield wipers, and of course, no Car Play in the used market. I’ve also read that the back seat is tight, which wouldn’t work out well for the kiddos.
If I could find one nearby I planned to drive it but it was never a front-runner. For a second time in a row, I never drove an IS 350.
In 2018 Kia released a new sport sedan called the Stinger. It is a four door sedan with sporty styling offered with a turbo 4 cylinder or a twin-turbo V6. The V6 makes 365 hp and 376 ft-lb of torque, giving it a 0-60 time of around 4.7 seconds. It is built on a rear wheel drive platform but is offered with all wheel drive as an option. It includes the full suite of modern driver assistance features including lane-keeping assist, traffic-alert, automatic cruise-control, blind spot monitoring and parking sensors. It has a surround view camera, Car Play, ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, automatic high beams, and a powerful stereo, power folding mirrors, rain sensing windshield wipers, a heads up display, a heated steering wheel, and wireless charging. From a feature perspective it is exactly what I’m looking for.
The outside is really sharp; it’s a real head-turner that looks like something exotic. It’s a hatchback design that provides a whopping 23 cubic feet of cargo space (nearly double my TL) and similar rear leg room. It’s designed to handle like the BMW 3 Series and does so to a degree; much more so than my TL.
The interior is nice as well, with a simple, European design. The materials are all high quality and soft touch and the infotainment screen is fast and responsive. It has a 720 watt 15 speaker audio system and looks like a nice place to spend time in.
This was definitely worth a test drive.
If the Stinger wasn’t right for me somehow, there was another option that also has a 365 hp twin turbo V6, AWD, the same slew of technology and convenience features, was voted the 2019 Motor Trend Car of the Year, and has beaten the 3 Series in several head-to-head competitions. This car is the Genesis G70, the Stinger’s cousin from Hyundai’s young luxury brand.
Depending on who you ask, the G70 isn’t as sporty as the Stinger or is more sporty than the Stinger; either way it is a very handsome car. It has a traditional sedan shape (no hatch) and is a bit shorter than the Stinger. The interior is a bit nicer, but the trunk is smaller and there is less rear leg room. It comes with the same 5 year bumper-to-bumper and 10 year powertrain warranty as the Kia, but also includes 3 years of complimentary service, 3 years of connected services, 3 years of map updates, and 3 years of concierge service pickup and dropoff service. With similar bones and a burgeoning luxury reputation, the top-trim G70 costs nearly the same $53k as the Stinger. The trim level I was targeting was one step below and cost about $1500 less for similar features in the Stinger.
Both the Stinger and the Genesis were the cars that I’ve been watching for years and both of them met my needs on paper so they were definitely cars I was going to drive.
The RDX has also been on my radar since a redesigned model went on sale in late 2018, initially because of how it looked. Some people disagree but I think Acura finally overcame bland styling with their diamond grill and put it to phenomenal use on the RDX. It’s not just the grill, it’s the entire car. The 2019 RDX was so much sportier looking than any other Acura at the time with aggressive shapes in the front and creases throughout. It has an athletic stance and I absolutely love it.
The design continues into the interior which looks totally different from any current Acura. Other models like the TLX received some exterior upgrades last year that brought them in line with the RDX’s design style but none have the interior. Gone are the dual screens and flat dashes, replaced with curves, mixed materials, nice buttons, cool storage, and Acura’s new touchpad interface.
From a feature perspective the RDX offers all of the active driving features I’m looking for as well as an awesome stereo, multi camera system, rain sensing windshield wipers, etc; all in a nice package. The only negative is that it has a 272 hp turbo four cylinder with only 280 ft-lb of torque, a 33 hp deficit compared to my TL and only 5 more ft-lb to make up for it. I’ve read that it is an OK accelerator but it’s not awesome. It costs about the same as a Stinger or G70 brand new and I wouldn’t pay that much for a car that didn’t have the performance I wanted. I planned to drive a few used ones though because they were closer to the $40k mark. I’d consider compromising on performance to save some money.
A late addition to my list and one that quickly rose to the top was the Mazda CX-5. Mazda has been quietly doing something amazing in the past few years: moving up-market. It started with the CX-9 in 2016 and continued into the Mazda 5, CX-5, and now the Mazda 3. High class interiors with soft touch finishes and high-end materials provide a comfortable place to use upmarket conveniences like heads up displays, ventilated seats, and powerful audio systems.
“But there are plenty of vehicles that have those features and you eliminated them!”, you say. That’s true, but the CX-5 has something else: performance. Like the RDX it is powered by a turbo four cylinder engine and it actually has less horsepower, 250 vs 272. But it has significantly more torque: 320 ft-lb! This gives it enough power to match my TL for acceleration. It gets extremely high marks for its acceleration, handling, feature set, and interior quality. It looks nice and costs $38k brand new with all options. Pretty enticing.
Those are the finalists; now it’s time for test drives!