Before I even picked up the keys to my 2018 Genesis G80 Sport tester, it had its work cut out for it in my eyes. Not in the way you might think, however; this wasn’t because it’s a brand-new model from a brand-new player in the luxury car game. Quite the opposite, in fact.
No, I felt like the G80 had its work cut out for it because I’d previously driven its G90 bigger brother as well as the Hyundai Genesis sedan and Equus models that preceded it, and they’ve all been very, very good. Indeed, the G80 has a lot to live up to, not because of outside pressure from the luxury car game, but to reach the standards set by its own siblings.
On looks alone…
It’s a winner, to put it simply. I can’t remember that many cars I’ve recently driven this side of the Lexus LC500 that turned as many heads as this Genesis. People asked if it was a new Audi because of the headlights, and were often most impressed when I told them it wasn’t. They asked me if it was a Bentley because of the grille and once again, the response was quite incredulous when I told them what it actually was. They weren’t incredulous because they’d never heard of Genesis; they were incredulous because they simply couldn’t believe how good it looked.
And why shouldn’t they be? Just look at it! Great proportions that equal or better most of the competition and fantastic detailing will do that. Detailing like quad exhaust outlets, jeweled LED DRLs matched with headlight bulb housings etched with Easter-egg like “Genesis” scripting, and my personal favourite, the copper wheel hub surrounds. That’s an aftermarket touch the aftermarket wishes it could do that well. Oh, and the wheels themselves are nice too, even though at 19 inches, they’re not the biggest in the segment. They do look the part however, what with a gorgeous Y-spoke design and smoked finish. Which is a good thing, since they’re your only option on the G80 Sport.
If I had to ask for a little more, it would be for Genesis to better differentiate the Sport model from other G80 trims – a contrasting trunk-lid spoiler, rocker panels, maybe a slightly more aggressive front splitter. And if they could find a way to better disguise the sensor system for the adaptive cruise while they’re at it – in its current adaptation, it looks like that great, proud grille is wearing a bib – I’d be much obliged.
Interior to match
What immediately catches your eye inside has to be the tuxedo-like two-tone nappa leather seating, especially scrumptious-looking on our tester thanks to the black and cream finish.
Nice as that look is, I would say that it leans a little more towards “luxury” than “sport”; that’s no big thing, but aside from some carbon-fibre trim bits, it’s a pretty buttoned-down affair overall. The interior does have its nice details, though: the analog clock on the centre stack is very Rolls-Royce, while the chrome accents it gets – on the wheel, the infotainment control knob bezel, gear lever, doors, speakers and dash – are well implemented.
Speaking of infotainment: it’s a nice set-up (and, at 9”, gets a bigger screen than standard), and I’m a fan of having a proper control wheel to use as opposed to an all-touch set-up. Reaching for a touchscreen all the time can be distracting; I would much rather have a wheel at my fingertips.
Which is especially important here since the cockpit is so roomy that the centre stack tends to fall that much further from your hands. Both up front and in back there’s legroom enough for the tallest of all of us. Back-seat passengers may want to reconsider that bowler hat, though, as it’s just a little snug when it comes to headroom. Then again, if you really want more room back there, the G90 is always available…
For drivers, other than the longish reach to get to the infotainment screen, the seating position is a good one, providing a clear view out and good support for the shoulders and thighs. It could use a little more side bolstering for when the curves get curvier – and, this being a Sport model, I’m sure some will go there – but other than that, this is one comfortable ride.
I think I would also like to see a few more options when it comes to interior colouring; as it stands right now, you get two: our two-tone scheme, and an all-black treatment that looks even more buttoned-down. If Genesis is really going to start pilfering sales from the establishment, then they’re probably going to have to offer more choices when it comes to interior colouring. Granted, there are more options if you forego the Sport trim, but in my eyes, there should be more across the board. I wonder if an Alcantara suede/leather treatment for the Sport might be a good choice. A little too sporty for a car that starts life as a luxury cruiser? Perhaps, but considering the wild hues of blue and red the Sport trim’s exterior is available in, I could see it working.
Of course, the bottom line is Genesis is a new company that needs to establish a foothold in the segment, which means keeping the interior choices slightly tamer for the time being in an effort to appeal to the broadest possible customer base. If that means the gator-skin trim will have to wait a year or two, then so be it.
The right combination
While there are technically three engine choices for the G80 – a 3.8L naturally-aspirated V6, a 3.3L twin-turbo V6 and a 5.0L V8 – Genesis mimics its parent company Hyundai in the way it keeps some engines restricted to certain trims only. As a result, the Sport only comes with the twin-turbo V6, and the Ultimate, for example, only comes with the V8.
Having said that, while the V8 may be the more powerful of the two, the turbo six is probably the best choice for the Sport. It’s lighter, for one, it still makes 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque, and these days it’s tough to have anything with a “sport” designation of any kind not have a turbo four- or six; Cadillac, BMW and Mercedes all do it for the performance trims of their basic sedans.
Plus, that power has no trouble getting the G80 up and going in quick fashion – Standard HTRAC AWD helps here, too. But what really got my juices flowing was just how good the in-gear acceleration is. That you can feel total confidence in the powertrain’s ability to get you out of almost any jam is a testament to Genesis engineers’ turbo-tuning skill. You’ll rarely miss an exit thanks to not being able to pass slow traffic in time, never worry about a pass on a two-lane highway and the like, so wide is the torque curve, with peak levels running from 1,300 RPM all the way to 4,500 RPM. When you’ve got eight gears to work with on top of all that, you can see how covering large expanses of highway is hardly a problem. The thing sounds good, too, even if there is a little electronic fakery in there.
Does it hold up to its “Sport” designation on more tumultuous terrain, though?
If we’re talking simply ride and chassis neutrality, then the G80 is all aces. It gets performance-tuned adaptive suspension that can get along with most any undulation or berm, then settle everything back down when it comes time for a smooth highway cruise. It provides a magnificently comfortable and confidence-inspiring ride – I have no quarrel with that.
The thing is, it doesn’t seem to really enjoy being put through the paces. Sure, there’s a Sport mode that adds weight to the steering and stiffens that adaptive suspension up, but there isn’t much feedback past all that, so you never really want to push things too far since you can’t really tell what’s going on through the seat of your pants. Body roll and all that still stay pleasingly neutral, but you never quite shake the feeling you’re driving a big, heavy luxury car.
Which probably won’t be too big of a problem for most buyers, who will likely be just fine with a car that whisks them from point to point smoothly while their favourite blues album gets pumped through the standard 900W, 17-speaker Lexicon audio system and their butts get cooled by three-stage ventilated seats. They may enjoy a spot of more enthusiastic driving, but a somewhat down-on-communication chassis likely won’t upset them all that much.
Especially when they consider the price. At $62,000, the G80 – fully-loaded, as seen here -- undercuts similarly-equipped competition by as much as seven grand. Even the top-spec, V8-powered Ultimate model starts at less than does the Mercedes E400, which is one up from base in that model line. It’s a similar story with the BMW 5 Series, though that does get a little closer to the ol’ Genny. Either way, this thing here’s a bargain, no two ways about it. Again, if Genesis wants to compete, this is how they’re going to do it, by keeping the buying process simpler and more affordable than the other guy’s.
Speaking of the buying process: “simple” is an understatement; one of the main attractions when it comes to Genesis is that they’ll deliver the car right to your door for a test drive, which remains free whether you end up buying one or not. Pretty wild stuff, eh?
It kind of plays in to the sense of occasion you get while piloting the G80. It’s well-constructed, it’s spacious, it’s well-equipped and even though it’s not the most exciting of drives, it nevertheless had me wanting to spend more time behind that chunky, leather-wrapped heated steering wheel. I would say the challenge I threw down at the beginning of this story was met by the G80, and with gumption to boot.
2018 Genesis G80 Sport