Genesis has one of the best lineups of any luxury manufacturer at the moment. That's bold to say considering the alternatives – but look at the product. The latest G90 is a full-sized hit, the GV80 (which we drove last week) wowed us in our early impression, and the G70 was a standout from the start – now it looks even better with the brand's new look.
As for the 2021 Genesis G80, it follows the same blueprint: thoughtful styling, heaps of luxury, and lots of standard safety. This once innocuous and often overlooked mid-sizer is now a real competitor in a very tough segment. And after spending a week with it, we’re well convinced that the G80 is the very best car that Genesis makes – in fact, it could be the best option in the entire class.
We were worried people might get whiplash trying to catch a glimpse of the G80 on the road; this car is achingly beautiful. Like the GV80 SUV, the G80 wears the brand's new design language exceptionally well – better, even. The hallmark of that signature look is a split-headlight treatment and shield-shaped grille, which gives the sedan an unmistakable and very appealing expression on the front end. But the damn near flawless proportions and impressive body detailing are what complete the overall look.
Take a step back and look at the G80’s perfectly proportioned profile. A long hood, fastback rear window, and kammback tail are a classic rear-drive combination, and the G80 pulls it off the look exceptionally well. There's a single aggressive body line that runs the length of the vehicle, visually connecting those unique split headlights with their counterparts out back. The twin taillight fixtures wrap around the rear fenders, partially tucked away under an integrated spoiler, with a silvery
"GENESIS" wordmark centered on the trunk to inform onlookers exactly what this beautiful machine is.
And Genesis didn't stop at the exterior – the inside of the G80 oozes luxury too. The materials alone are worth the price of admission; weighty aluminum buttons litter the dash and beautifully knurled silver dials for things like the drive selector and infotainment controller adorn the center console. And surrounding those knurled dials is real wood trim – not the typical lacquered plastic crap, but genuine, natural-feeling veneer.
Our tester wears the most notable of the four interior color options: Maroon Brown on the steering wheel and dash, and Forest Blue Nappa leather on the seats and door panels. Nappa leather is optional on all 3.5T models (lower-grade hide is standard), while the 2.5T gets leatherette out of the box with non-Nappa leather as an option. But if you have the cash, splurge on the high-quality stuff.
The leather looks and feels great, especially atop the front buckets, which are supremely comfortable and offer 16-way power adjustability on this trim (12-way power adjustability is standard). And if those clashing colors aren't your favorite – luxury traditionalists probably won't dig them – Genesis does offer more common hues of Nappa leather, like beige, black, and caramel.
Another Dimension Of Tech
Atop those beautiful materials sits a 14.5-inch touchscreen display, standard across all trims. It gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (both wired), but more importantly, a brand-new infotainment setup distinct from any of its Hyundai or Kia siblings. That said, this new infotainment system is so complex that, frankly, we need more time with it.
The basic layout consists of eight cleanly displayed boxes offering basic functions like navigation, radio, phone connectivity, and more. Selecting any of those eight available boxes opens up the desired function, but also a small square partition on the right-hand side of the screen for configurable features like music and weather. And this also applies to Apple Carplay; you can listen to an Apple podcast on the left-hand side while using the Genesis baked-in navigation on the right. It's one of the more seamless split-screen functions we've experienced.
The screen itself does have touch functionality, but it's so far away from the driver and embedded within the dash that it's almost impossible to use while driving. Instead, the nifty knurled dial in the center console handles most of the legwork. And as we mentioned in our GV80 review, it reminds us of an old iPod click wheel; you can cycle through options, click, or use the touchpad in the center to scroll. This is far from the easiest setup, in our opinion, and does require a slight learning curve to get used to. But there are certainly worse alternatives out there.
Joining that massive 14.5-inch touchscreen is a 12.3-inch digital display that has nifty blind-spot monitoring cameras and a "3D" cluster. The 3D effect is genuinely fascinating in the right drive mode, displaying a view that makes the graphics look stacked on top of each other. In Sport and Eco modes specifically, the effect works well — in Normal mode, the technology feels slightly less successful. But it's a neat feature nonetheless, though if you're really not fond of it, there's an easy on/off button on the steering wheel.
The standard G80 gets a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, good for 300 horsepower and 311 pound-feet, and the choice of either rear- or all-wheel drive. But our tester wields all-wheel drive and the optional and more powerful turbocharged 3.5-liter V6, capable of 375 hp and 391 lb-ft. The G80 definitely isn't slow, especially with the optional engine. Even in the Normal drive mode, the turbocharged V6 produces solid thrust, hustling the sizable sedan to 60 miles per hour in about 5.0 seconds flat, based on our butt test.
But if you want brutal acceleration and chest-compressing speed, look elsewhere. The G80 puts down power effortlessly but not aggressively, the turbocharged V6 reacting with barely a grunt when you put your foot down. The engine is buttery smooth and quiet on the way to 60 and beyond, while the eight-speed automatic transmission is easily forgettable as it quickly and unconcernedly rows through its own gears. We’d go so far as to describe G80's general smoothness as Rolls-Royce–esque.
There is a Sport mode, but it doesn't yield hugely noticeable improvements; the throttle response quickens, the exhaust gets slightly growlier, and the steering feels heavier, but that's about it. That's not to say, though, that the G80 doesn't handle competently. In the corners, the G80 feels linear and well-composed, keeping moderately flat for a sedan that weighs 4,497 pounds. And that heftier steering actually does yield great feedback from the road compared to the far vaguer setup in the Eco and Normal drive modes. The G80 isn't a sports sedan, but it can hold its own on the twisties, if you feel so inclined.
Best Of The Best
Genesis has really upped its game as of late, the G90 and GV80 SUV being obvious proof of that. But the G80 sedan further hammers the point home with exceptional style and all-around luxury, and it also drives well and feels modern. Plus, you don't have to pay extra for the best in in-car tech and safety. Even the base model gets standard automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane-keep assist, and more – many of which are optional on more expensive German offerings. And all of those systems work well, as intended.
Gallery: 2021 Genesis G80: First Drive Review
When it hits showrooms later this month, the 2021 Genesis G80 will set you back at least $47,700 for the base 2.5T RWD model (not including $1,025 for destination). The G80 3.5T with the optional V6 engine, like the one tested here, starts at $59,100. But our car is a bit pricier. All-wheel drive adds $3,150, the Prestige package – which includes 20-inch wheels, standard Nappa leather, the 12.3-inch digital cluster, and more – costs an extra $5,400, and the beautiful Tasman Blue paint is $400. Fully optioned, this particular G80 demands just north of $69,000, which certainly makes it competitive price-wise with the established crop.
The problem is that many of those alternatives have gotten complacent with age, simply dishing out the same old features and designs as before, totally unchanged. On the other hand, Genesis provides a fresh perspective, capturing the essence of modern luxury and comfort like no others. And because of that, the new G80 might actually be the best premium sedan in the segment right now. Full stop.
2021 Genesis G80 3.5T AWD