A few months ago, I had the opportunity to test-drive the Genesis G90, the all-new, full-size flagship from Hyundai — er, sorry, Genesis. Like Acura, Lexus, and Infiniti before it, the Genesis Division is Hyundai’s new premium marque, no unsightly residue of budget Accents and Elantras sharing the brand name. My take on the G90? The existing upscale makers I just mentioned — plus Mercedes, BMW, Lincoln, Cadillac, and more — are in for a fight. The G90 is that good, and it stickers for thousands (even tens of thousands) less than the established bluebloods.
Having sampled the top of the range, last week I added to my Genesis knowledge with a week behind the wheel of the division’s “mid-luxury” model, the 2017 Genesis G80. The first Genesis to hit dealerships, the G80 isn’t a new car; instead, it’s a modest update of Hyundai’s existing Genesis luxury sedan. (I know, I know: it’s confusing. The former “Hyundai Genesis” is no longer a Hyundai. Renamed the G80, it’s now one of two Genesis-branded models — with many more on the way.) The updates consist mainly of making previously optional features standard — and raising the price. That’s not necessarily a marketing ruse, though: the G80 is a premium-spec, lavishly equipped sedan boasting a sticker that will give rivals fits. It morphs from wearing the Hyundai nameplate to carrying upscale Genesis badges without apology — or, probably, most buyers being the wiser.
The first thing you notice after climbing behind the G80’s wheel is the pervasive air of quality. The cabin is airy and spacious; it’s roomier than such competitors as the Cadillac CTS, the Lexus GS, and the Mercedes E-Class. Fit and finish are top notch. The seats are covered in first-rate perforated leather with attractive contrasting piping. Handsome matte-finish grained wood adorns the dash.
What’s also readily apparent is the cornucopia of luxury conveniences. With the available 5.0-liter V-8 engine (base powerplant is a 3.8-liter V-6), the so-called “Ultimate” package is built-in. That is to say, just about every feature you could think of is included in the $55,500 base price. Among them: 17-speaker Meridian surround-sound system, 16-way power driver’s seat (both front seats are ventilated and heated), 9.2-inch high-definition color touchscreen with navigation, full-color head-up display, blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alerts, bi-Xenon HID headlights, lane-keep assist, and more. The only options on my test car: $170 worth of mud flaps and wheel locks.
As noted, my test car sported the optional V-8; it mates with an 8-speed automatic. The engine accelerates the G80 briskly and smoothly, delivering a far more luxurious driving experience than, say, the 2.0-liter turbo four in the Mercedes E300. It’s not particularly burly off the line (peak torque only comes on tap at 5000 rpm), but it revs sweetly enough that winding it out is a pleasure. The downside: at 4,550 pounds the G80 is no bantamweight, and all those big-cubic-inch revs do a number on fuel efficiency — just 15/23 city/highway mpg. For many buyers, though, V-8 power and polish trump all, and they’ll find what they’re looking for at the Genesis store. At Acura? Not so much.
Genesis has plans to unveil sporty models in the near future, but the G80 is nothing of the kind. It wasn’t built to hustle, it doesn’t like to hustle, and if you tried to push it really hard through a curvy road, and some point a robotic hand would likely pop out of the dash and smack you on the cheek. This is not a failure of the G80, though; it wasn’t designed to be a sporting sedan. Instead, it delivers fully on its luxury-transport mission, the suspension deftly erasing road imperfections, the ride cushy and relaxed, the control inputs — from steering to braking feel — all smooth and solid. Engine and 8-speed transmission work together fluidly, too. This is a hushed, comfortable, refined driving environment. Just don’t expect excitement.
Like its bigger G90 sibling, the G80 is a bargain bonanza. A four-cylinder Mercedes E-Class starts at $53,075 — nearly the same price as my fully loaded V-8 G80 tester. And the Benz’s sticker soars with options. If you’re not comfortable with a rear-drive car (say, you live in a wintery climate), the G80 is also available with a V-6/all-wheel drive combo (AWD is not offered with the V-8). The AWD system adds $2500 over the base V-6 car — and also loads on nearly 200 pounds, so you won’t want it unless snow and slush are part of your yearly driving fare. But Genesis deserves kudos for having AWD in the mix.
For what’s essentially a carry-over automobile, the G80 is an impressive premium front door for the new Genesis brand. It may not be as big and grand as the G90 flagship, but a similar DNA is there. It gets the essentials right, and then some. Add the Genesis 5-year/60,000 warranty and generous dealer features — such as free pickup and drop-off of your car for service — and the G80 makes a mighty strong case indeed.
Things are only going to get more interesting at Genesis in the next few years. With former Bentley and Lamborghini designer Luc Donckerwolke now on board to shape the next slew of Genesis models, look for “style” to join “luxury” and “value” as a Genesis hallmark. Down the road, those cars are sure to prove tempting upgrades for the many buyers the G80 and G90 have deservedly drawn to the Genesis fold.
2017 Genesis G80 RWD 5.0 Ultimate Specifications
|Engine:||5.0L DOHC 32-valve V-8/420 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 383 lb-ft @ 5,000|
|Layout:||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD sedan|
|EPA Mileage:||15/23 mpg city/highway|
|L x W x H:||196.5 x 74.4 x 58.3 in|
|0-60 MPH:||5.4 sec (est.)|
|Top Speed:||135 mph (est.)|