There's nothing exciting about the drive from Miami to Jacksonville, unless you count forest fires that shut down miles of highway as exciting (I don't.) The Florida Turnpike and Interstate 95 are two dreadful stretches of painfully straight road that require lots of patience and a comfortable, competent car able to combat back-breaking pavement and extreme boredom. The Genesis G80 is that car.
You probably don't need me to tell you that the G80 is a fantastic vehicle; last year I voted it the best car I drove in all of 2020. It looks great, it's unbelievably smooth, and the active safety equipment and technology are some of the best in the business. So I couldn't think of anything that would be better for the 600-mile trek to and from the 2021 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance because I was too stubborn to get on a plane.
From the moment they dropped it off in my driveway I was as enamored as I was the first time I saw it. The G80 wears the brand's new shield-shaped grille and split light fixtures better than anything else in the lineup currently. The fastback-like proportions, tapered rear, and Prestige package’s 20-inch wheels give the G80 damn near perfect proportions. This particular car looks even better finished in the $500 Tasman Blue paint.
As I slinked into the 16-way power-adjustable, quilted leather driver's bucket – which felt like plopping onto a premium lounge chair – a combo of Maroon Brown and Forest Blue Nappa leather greeted me, with real metal and open-pore wood trim accents dotted elsewhere. The interior is stunning and the seats envelop the driver like a fitted suit, offering the perfect amount of support. My lingering back problems didn’t flare up once in the five-plus hours in these seats.
save over $3,400 on average off MSRP* on a new Genesis G80
Once comfortable, I plugged my phone into the USB to reveal a crisp Android Auto display projected atop the 14.5-inch touchscreen. And the screen itself doesn't look like an afterthought at all. It sits neatly within a crevice atop the dash unlike the oversized-iPad styling of some other infotainment systems, and extends horizontally rather than vertically. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard across the board, but they're still wired connections – hopefully the G80's first refresh adds wireless connectivity.
Even without plugging in a phone, the G80's baked-in UI is refined and easy to use after an initial learning period. Boxes arranged side-by-side offer basic functions like navigation, radio, phone connectivity, and more. The display is a touchscreen, as mentioned, and scrolling and swiping functionality are smartphone-good. But the location of the screen is hard to reach from the driver's seat, even for someone with a six-foot wingspan like me. Thankfully, the rotary dial in the center console does most of the heavy lifting and is easy to use while on the highway, allowing you to swap easily between Android Auto and the Genesis UI.
So with the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island in my sights, I set off, unreeling the optional 3.5-liter V6 at the first available onramp. You can go for the base turbocharged 2.5-liter engine with 300 horsepower and save some money (about $11,000, actually), or opt for the twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 tested here. The V6 is so good, though, that it's hard not to recommend it; this engine produces a robust 375 hp and 391 lb-ft, which gives the G80 more oomph, especially if you tick the drive mode selector to Sport.
There's nothing harsh about the way the G80 puts all that power down. This car will hustle to 60 miles per hour in about five seconds flat, but it does so with a silkiness and fluidity that few cars in this segment can match. Even when hammering the G80 on onramps, the car never felt too aggressive or uncouth, just exceptionally smooth.
This luxurious sedan is more comfortable and offers better tech than most other cars in the class, plus it looks great.
With open highway ahead of me (rare for Florida), I ticked the Highway Driving Assist button on the steering wheel and relaxed. The G80 – and Genesis as a whole – has one of the better driver-assist functions on the market, and the HDA suite combines adaptive cruise control and lane-centering tech to make highway driving much, much easier. Between West Palm Beach and my changeover in Fort Pierce, I barely had to tug at the steering wheel once. The exceptionally straight stretch of highway allowed me to cruise comfortably at a pace of around 70 miles per hour with HDA doing most of the work.
HDA also came in handy when billowing black smoke forced traffic off the highway onto some of the tightest backroads Central Florida has to offer. In bumper-to-bumper, two-lane traffic, the adaptive cruise control brought the G80 to a controlled stop and lane-centering kept the car single-file until traffic cleared. The only thing I had to do was poke the gas pedal when the car in front moved forward a few feet before stopping again, rinsing and repeating until the next exit.
Thankfully, the long diversion didn't dampen my spirits too badly. And after more than five hours on the road – dodging forest fires and Florida Highway Patrol – I was at Amelia Island. The two-lane road into town afforded me the opportunity to see some of the cars that would be on display that weekend, including Porsches, Alfas, Astons, and many more. But even with stunning scenery to gawk at on the way in, the Genesis G80 felt very much like it belonged, which is pretty remarkable for a brand that didn’t even exist five years ago.
This luxurious sedan is more comfortable and offers better tech than most other cars in the class, plus it looks great. If you want this particular example, it will cost you $68,150. That’s not cheap, but neither are loaded versions of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class or BMW 5 Series. But after a solid highway bout in the G80, it only solidified my original feelings – this is still the best car I've driven in a long time and one of the best cars you can buy right now.