2021 Genesis G80 first drive review: Holy cow is this thing good
Genesis is determined to transform itself into a real luxury brand, finally able to compete with German supporters. The G80 is one of the first examples of the New Genesis, a sedan perfectly capable of confronting the Teutonic. Put another way, it’s the best Genesis product yet.
Elegant inside and out
The old G80 was a leftover from when a Genesis wore Hyundai badges and, therefore, its luxury was not fully realized. The 2021 model, however, is a clean approach and what one approach. In just a couple of years, Genesis has found its stylistic niche that separates it from the likes of the Mercedes E-Class or BMW 5 Series. Its fastback silhouette gives it a sportier look without requiring a hatchback or hatchback. doors complete, and the unique look of its running lights – and the way their lines continue backwards through the fender’s turn signals – gives the G80 a cohesion that turns heads on the road. Yes, sure, the grille might be a little big, but taken as a whole, I think the G80 looks phenomenal.
The attention to detail in the interior is equally impressive. In fact, I’d say the insides of the G80 are right up there with the likes of Audi and Mercedes-Benz – hell, I’d put the Korean newcomer ahead of BMW in that regard. The rising door trim meets the dashboard in several places, giving it a uniform look that doesn’t exaggerate in terms of competing angles. It is attractive in its simplicity; the full leather dashboard is elegant, while a tasteful limited amount of wood with a matte finish divides the dashboard and adorns the center console. Every place my hand goes encounters thick leather or carpet. Every command, whether it’s the knurled ends of the windshield wiper and the turn signal stems or the infotainment controller on the center console, feels better than the previous one. Even the massage front seats on mine Prestige the testers sport a unique design and are extremely comfortable.
The rear bench seat offers plenty of leg and head room for passengers, with a removable center armrest that contains additional controls for the infotainment system and seats. Even without being specifically for chauffeured owners, I would have no problem giving up controls and absorbing some leather-clad peace in the back seat. Venture even further aft and there’s a trunk with a commendable amount of space, enough for a couple of sets of golf clubs or a long journey.
Technological upgrades of a quantum leap
Some luxury carmakers – cough, Lexus, cough – are doing their vehicles a disservice by relying on old and hard to use technology. Genesis has always had a bit of an edge in this arena by sticking to Hyundai’s excellent infotainment software, but for this new generation of vehicles, the in-car tech looks just as flashy and new as the G80 itself.
The new infotainment system resides in a 14.5-inch screen that dominates the upper half of the dashboard, although a smaller 8-inch is standard on the lower trim. A reskinned version of Hyundai’s Blue Link this isn’t; the graphics are among the sharpest in the industry, and while the touchscreen is close at hand, there’s also a dial on the center console with integrated handwriting recognition for navigating through menus.
The system itself is quick to boot, quick to respond, and positively charged with clever tricks. The Sounds of Nature feature fills the cabin with the ambiance of a crackling fireplace or a stroll through a snowy village, complete with the satisfying creaking sound of feet pushing through fresh dust. Time and fuel prices come via the HD radio antenna, and if you prefer a simple aesthetic, you can hide all of that by swiping on a splash screen that shows a map, the weather, and what is currently playing through the Lexicon sound system. Aesthetics alone put MBUX, iDrive and every other system from luxury automakers to shame. Yup,is I agree to the ride, but for once you may want to stick with the supplies just to enjoy the view.
The Prestige trim level of the G80 also includes a digital instrument cluster. While it’s clear it can show me pretty much any information I need about the adjustable bit nestled between the virtual dials, the cluster packs a feature that no other car maker has: a depth effect. The indicators can be configured to be displayed in a layered three-dimensional appearance that places different parts of the cluster at seemingly different depths. Sure, it’s a parlor makeup makeup (one that can be turned off if it’s too much for your eyes), but damn hot, it’s the coolest makeup I’ve seen in a while.
My G80 is also equipped with a number of advanced driver aids. The Highway Driving Assistant suite combines standard adaptive cruise control with lane keeping assistance and active lane change assistance to reduce the boredom of highway driving. While I think lane centering is perhaps a little too aggressive in the way it applies torque to the wheel, the whole thing is silky smooth, preferring stability in its acceleration and deceleration over total hustle and bustle. When all systems are activated, the instrument cluster will show not only the G80 itself, but the curvature of the road and the position of each vehicle within range of the radar and cameras.
Soft and smooth on the road
My top-trim tester packs a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 that produces enough horsepower of 375 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque. It’s a powerful powerplant, which propels the G80 forward regardless of current speed or tachometer needle position. It also makes an interesting sound in the process, although I recommend turning off the built-in sound enhancement, as it can get a little annoying in any of its modes. There’s also a 2.5-liter turbocharged I4 offered across the G80 range; stay tuned soon for a review of that setup.
Sure, driving force matters, but what really helps the G80 stand out from the competition is how smooth the whole experience is. Every part of the driving experience is designed for comfort. Shifting from the eight-speed automatic transmission is quick and virtually unnoticeable. Leave the G80 in its default Comfort mode and the optional adaptive suspension does a great job of softening the road that I initially thought was air-based. Road and wind noise barely permeates the cabin, making for a rather serene experience.
Sure, there’s a Sport mode, and it does a good job of squeezing the reins and flattening the car’s standard nautical nature, but … why? Leave it alone and enjoy a ride quality that feels more comfortable than what BMW or Audi can put together with more expensive and complex arrangements. It’s so easy to drive the G80 smoothly that you’ll feel like a master driver in no time.
Up to brass tacks
I wouldn’t blame you for assuming this is an expensive car, but it really isn’t. The 2021 G80 starts at $ 48,725 including destination, coming in at $ 68,675 still sensible for my fully loaded 3.5T AWD Prestige setup.
The midsize executive luxury sedan segment is full of celebrities. Half a decade ago, you might think I was crazy for saying that the G80 (nee Hyundai Genesis) could mount a real offensive against backers like the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. But 2020 is a year of surprises and the Genesis G80 2021 offers a complete luxury experience that immediately launches it in the middle of a competitive set. It remains to be seen whether buyers will be willing to forgo the cachet that comes with, say, a three-pointed star on the hood, but if anyone won’t at least consider the Genesis against these rivals, they would be doing themselves a disservice.