At this point in its relatively young life, Genesis Motor America has but two models in its lineup: the G90 flagship sedan and only the slightly less indulgent G80. I’ve test-driven both, and can attest to outstanding value and refinement across the board. Genesis dealerships will grow when the new G70 luxury-sport model arrives later this spring, but until that vehicle arrives, I took an opportunity to sample a G80 variant I’d never driven before: the 3.3T Sport with all-wheel drive. In many ways, this one proved to be my favorite Genesis yet.
For one thing, the value here is really outstanding. Because Genesis equips its vehicles so well, my G80 AWD 3.3T Sport test car had no options: base price was $58,725, and the fully loaded price was $58,725. But check out what’s included: 365-horsepower twin-turbo V-6, eight-speed auto with paddle shifters, HTRAC all-wheel drive, carbon-fiber and aluminum interior trim, premium leather everywhere, heated and ventilated front seats, a 17-speaker Lexicon surround-sound audio system, full-color head-up display, and … well, you get the idea. The list goes on and on. The Sport also includes every imaginable active safety feature—from blind-spot detection to lane-keep assist—as standard. This is a Genesis hallmark: the G80 Sport lacks nothing in the features department. There’s a lot of great gear onboard for under $59K.
Almost a year ago I sampled a G90 with this same 3.3-liter twin-turbo six—and found a lot to like—but in the marginally smaller G80 the mill is even livelier. Tread heavily on the throttle and this big sedan surges ahead with a refined whoosh and smile-inducing pace. This isn’t sports-car stuff, but for a luxury four-door as lavishly equipped as this G80 is, the performance feels like a bonus. This is a big machine—almost 4,700 pounds—but it’s actually light on its feet. There’s no turbo lag to speak of, and, really, very little sense you’re driving a turbo at all. Instead, you enjoy smooth, quiet power that never seems lacking. And with 376 lb-ft of torque ready to rumble at just 1,300 rpm, you’ll never catch the Sport napping. On the highway, the car purrs along with the tach needle loafing well down on the dial, the cockpit well-isolated from both engine and wind noise.
If I have a complaint, it’s that a car so conspicuously labeled “Sport” should do more to earn the moniker. I get what Genesis is up to: this G80 is perkier and more nimble than the bigger G90, but to be a “Sport” it could do better than show up wearing 19-inch all-season tires. This isn’t a BMW or a Cadillac CTS Vsport, both of which slice and carve across interesting roads with more verve. Let the other Genesis models play the “posh above all” game; a Genesis Sport should be more overtly athletic.
That complaint aired, I also admit the G80 Sport was extremely pleasant to drive nonetheless. The adaptive suspension nicely tempers body movements while still delivering a supple ride—even over broken roads. Handling, grip, and braking performance may not live up to the best in this class, but the Sport doesn’t complain when you push it. Yes it’s big, yes it’s heavy, but it will play. The turbo six pulls strongly across its rev band, and the eight-speed automatic shifts quickly and decisively in manual mode. The all-wheel-drive system may add a tad of understeer, but mostly you don’t notice you’re driving an AWD machine (except, of course, when you launch away from stoplights with zero wheelspin). Which is to say: If you want to blow off a little steam at the wheel, the G80 Sport will certainly oblige.
But let’s be honest: At this point in the genesis of Genesis, buyers aren’t coming into the showroom looking for grin-inducing g forces. They’re after a comfortable, superbly executed, utterly refined driving experience at a compelling price. And this G80 delivers just that like a champ. The controls and instruments are the very definition of “accessible.” From the 9.2-inch high-res color touchscreen to the Audi-like central rotary controller to the delightfully simple primary analog gauges, everything works clearly and harmoniously. Nothing annoys—and in this age of increasingly befuddling human-machine interfaces, that says a lot. What’s more, the cockpit is beautifully detailed and presented, with lovely stitching in the leather, expensive-looking trim in the dash and the doors, and generous room in the rear seats.
What I noticed most after a week behind the wheel of this Genesis was just how relaxed I felt every time I stepped out of it. In busy Los Angeles, gridlock can wear you down (the Genesis handles the highway stop-and-go with stop/start-equipped Smart Cruise), the noise of the city can be rattling (the G80 is blessedly isolated from such irritations), and simply operating a complex machine can be annoying (the G80 Sport bends over backward to make your driving experience frustration-free). This isn’t luxury in the sense of shiny things or extravagant doo-dads; rather, this Genesis earns its stripes by delivering you wherever you’d like to go as capably, professionally, and calmly as a world-class chauffeur. Because “luxury” doesn’t have to mean “expensive.” In fact, luxury at its best means “a difficult thing done effortlessly.” And on that score, the G80 Sport shines.
2018 Genesis G80 AWD 3.3T Sport Specifications
|PRICE||$58,975/$58,975 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||3.3L DOHC 32-valve twin-turbo V-6/365 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 376 lb-ft @ 1,300 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan|
|EPA MILEAGE||17/24 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||196.5 x 74.4 x 58.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.1 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||155 mph (electronically limited)|