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2021 Genesis G80 First Drive: Tortoise and the Hare…

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Auto123 gets in a first test drive of the 2021 Genesis G80.

Whenever I look at the short history of the Genesis brand and what it’s trying to do as it makes its way tenderly into the global luxury-vehicle marketplace, I somehow always end up thinking of a tortoise. And a hare. And thus it was when I got my first occasion to test-drive the new 2021 Genesis G80.

No, this car is not slow. In fact it has nothing to feel inferior about when compared to its German rivals. But it doesn’t yet enjoy the cache of those models. Still, hats off to Genesis for its dogged approach that it hopes will see the tortoise catch up to the hare over the long haul.

For 2021, the Korean automaker brings us an upgraded version of its G80 luxury mid-size sedan. If you’re able to set aside preconceived notions, you realize that this car has a lot to offer. But opening minds is really still only the first step for Genesis, which will have to demonstrate that it can do things right generation after generation if it wants to make it to the big leagues for good.

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2021 Genesis G80, profile
Photo: B.Charette
2021 Genesis G80, profile

A nice inside
In addition to the 10 standard airbags, a world first (and one of those is a central airbag located between the front occupants to mitigate the impact in the event of a side impact), the new G80 also comes with a very long list of standard equipment such as intelligent cruise control with automatic learning, an intelligent navigation technology based on artificial intelligence. You’ll also find all the drive-assist systems you’d expect in a luxury sedans, and all of it comes standard here, not on an endless list of options.

Space-wise, the G80 offers more head and legroom than the previous model. While the price point indicates that this middle-child Genesis sedan competes with luxury mid-size cars like Mercedes' E-Class and Audi's 6 Series, the amount of passenger space available is closer to those of larger models like BMW's 7-Class and Audi's A8. There's simply plenty of leg, head and shoulder room, and it's almost as roomy up front as it is in back. While the trunk loses a bit of volume due to the car's coupe-ish design, you still have 370 litres to play with.

There are a few anachronisms like the steering wheel, slightly odd-shaped, and the rotary shift knob isn't as intuitive as the manufacturer would have you believe, especially since it's placed near other confusingly circular controls.

2021 Genesis G80, interior
Photo: B.Charette
2021 Genesis G80, interior

State-of-the-art technology
Here’s where Genesis runs up the score in its favour. Now, yes, the base price is a not-cheap $66,000 (for the 4-cylinder version; the 3.5T goes for $10,000), but for that Genesis throws in everything but the kitchen sink. You get a ton of equipment with no lengthy options list to send the price skyrocketing; everything comes standard.

In our $76,000 Prestige version, our ears were treated to a 1,050-watt, 14-channel, 21-speaker Lexicon audio system with a 5-speaker "sound bar" in front and subwoofers under the front seats. You also get 16-way adjustable perforated Nappa leather seats with Smart Posture and Ergo Motion, as well as soft-closing doors with acoustic glass all around the car and privacy louvers in the rear.

In addition to the driver assistance systems that everyone else offers, Genesis provides a remote intelligent parking assistance system that allows you to parallel- or perpendicular-park while standing outside the car, as well as collision avoidance and braking warnings that cover blind spots and crosswalks and check for pedestrians and cyclists. Front and rear seats are more spacious than those of competitors.

The 3.5 T models also come with a 14-inch digital display in front of the driver and a 12.3-inch screen for the centre console with customizable menu, massaging driver seats, open-pore natural wood trim, electronically controlled suspension with road preview and 20-inch alloy wheels, not to mention Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and the big panoramic roof.

Genesis vehicles come standard with the following Genesis In-Home Services for 5 years/100,000 km: free regular maintenance, free valet service for pick-up and return, free courtesy vehicle, free navigation map updates (unlimited km), 24/7 roadside assistance (unlimited km) and subscription to Genesis Connected Services telematics services (unlimited km).

2021 Genesis G80  second-row seats
Photo: Genesis
2021 Genesis G80 second-row seats

On the road
Like many other players in the industry, Genesis has opted in recent years to reduce the displacement of its powertrain and now offers 4- and 6-cylinder turbocharged engines instead of a V6/V8 combination. The 4-cylinder is 2.5L and delivers 300 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque, while the 3.5L V6 is rated at 375 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. It will be possible to reach 100 km/h in just over 6 seconds with the 4-cylinder and half a second less with the V6. All models come standard with all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission.

After testing both models, we consider the 4-cylinder model to be more dynamic. It offers better mass balance and a lighter nose and delivers more overall driving pleasure. This is the model that you're going to love to throw into a curve at higher RPM. In fact, we did it more than once. The 3.5 T is more statuesque and will prefer long and linear to small and winding roads. The 2.5 T version is more maneuverable and more responsive, plus the 4-cylinder engine is quicker to react to the demands of the right foot on the gas pedal. In short, the entry-level model, while not truly that sporty, is more nervous and dynamic.

As with the previous edition, Genesis continues to focus on delivering a smooth ride. The 4-cylinder feels lighter on its feet than the V6 model, which adds weight to the front of the car. Still, while road imperfections are well-absorbed, it's difficult to compare the rest of the G80's personality with its German competitors. The suspension is tuned to put comfort up front, but you can forget about squeezing much sporty performance out of it on the road, although as mentioned the 2.5T version did better in this regard. It's best to keep the drive mode selector in Sport to take advantage of the best calibration and enjoy the beautifully solid chassis.

2021 Genesis G80, front
Photo: B.Charette
2021 Genesis G80, front

Better fuel consumption
Obviously one of the goals in switching bigger for smaller engines is to gain in terms of fuel economy, and so it is that the new G80 does better than the old. Genesis reports average fuel consumption of 10.8L/100 km city and 7.9L/100 km highway for a combined average of 9.5L/100 km with the 4-cylinder model. These figures increase to 12.9L/100 km city and 9.0L/100 km highway for an average of 11.2L/100 km for the 3.5 T V6.

This means that according to Natural Resources Canada, it will cost you an average of $2,660 per year to fill up with the 4-cylinder model and $3,136 with the V6. During our fall test day, we managed to reach these figures, which are very good considering the size of the car.

2021 Genesis G80, three-quarters rear
Photo: B.Charette
2021 Genesis G80, three-quarters rear

Conclusion
Those who give the G80 meaningful consideration will create room on their short-list for a rival to the better-known German and Japanese models, available at a fairly similar sticker price, but to which you won’t add anything in extra costs since everything’s included that you are likely to want. Imagine not plonking down another $15,000 or $20,000 on options. The Genesis G80 offers a ton of value for what the company’s asking for it.

It's clear that many buyers in the category value the prestige of the badge on the back of the car, whether it includes four rings, a silver star or other. But if you’re un-swayed by that siren call, and don’t value raw performance above all else, Genesis offers a really compelling alternative choice.

We like

Very complete equipment
Quiet interior
Quality finish
Excellent general comfort

We like less

Car a little heavy
Performance that lacks drive
Less variety in the product range than the competition

2021 Genesis G80, rear
Photo: B.Charette
2021 Genesis G80, rear

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Photos:B.Charette
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