Luxurious, value-focused, avant garde. Is there anything this sedan doesn’t do well?
When Hyundai launched its first luxury product in the United States, your author was on the front lines, delivering those early Genesis sedans to the media. But nothing at the time – neither the excellent Lexicon audio systems nor the charming 4.6-liter V8 engines – could have prepared me for where we’re at 13 years later.
Genesis is a full-fledged luxury brand now, a concept that in itself would have seemed farcical in the late 2000s. Moreover, pretty much every vehicle it sells is excellent. That's especially true of the new Genesis G80, the successor to that original Hyundai Genesis and (technically) the second car to bear the name. This is a relaxed and refined luxury sedan with avant-garde styling, effortless tech, and the kind of soothing driving experience sportier alternatives have largely abandoned.
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We base our vehicle ratings on a car's direct competition, but I'd argue that the Genesis G80's perfect design score extends well beyond mid-size premium sedans. To my eye, this is one of the most attractive four-doors on the market, full stop. At the very least, it’s the most attractive car in a segment that includes the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5-Series, Audi A6, Volvo S90, and Jaguar XF.
That’s due in large part to the bold and occasionally contrasting touches that came from a design team led by Belgian talent Luc Donckerwolke (of Lamborghini Gallardo fame). The fascia design is inspired, pairing a polarizing shield-nose grille with twin-bar headlights, which neatly bleed into the fenders in one of the most fascinating design touches in recent memory.
The long hood fits perfectly with the fastback roofline and the kammback rear end, accentuating the car's rear-drive platform without shouting about it. Meanwhile, the back of the car recalls the front with a concave vertical section, twin exhausts that each mimic the grille shape, and twin-bar taillights that wrap around the fenders and live on the same horizontal plane as the fender lights and headlights. The cohesion of the overall exterior design is stunning. Also, Genesis' wheel game is on point – these 19-inch alloys are gorgeous.
Where the outside of the G80 wows with unconventional touches, the interior follows a more formulaic approach that instead relies on high-quality materials and attractive detailing to impress occupants. Knurled metal surfaces abound, while matte wood and white contrast stitching balance out the substantial amounts of black leather in this test unit.
The overall interior design strikes a minimalist note without feeling spartan – the controls for the climate system are blissfully physical, but rely on a display to show air distribution. It's a balance of function and form that BMW pioneered, but which Genesis has mastered. The stylish four-spoke steering wheel is a joy to hold, while Genesis' designers deserve praise for how they integrated the wide, semi-recessed 14.5-inch display into the dash.
Are there things to critique here? Sure. The master buttons that sit above the climate controls are from the Hyundai parts bin, and the fact that the instrument cluster is a mix of physical dials with an offset display feels like a copout. Those are small issues, though, especially when the broader interior is so good.
save over $3,400 on average off MSRP* on a new Genesis G80
The G80's luxury bona fides are plenty obvious when we look at its Comfort score. This sedan exhibits excellent sound control, with very little wind, road, tire, or engine noise entering the cabin during normal driving. Exercise the turbocharged four-cylinder engine and some of that serenity vanishes, but there's rarely a good reason to push the powertrain. At the same time, the ride is smooth and refined. We salute the Korean brand for sticking with 19-inch wheels and tires with a healthy 45-series aspect ratio which, along with smart tuning of the fully independent suspension, ensure sublime ride quality and excellent high-speed stability.
Our G80 2.5T Prestige, the top-end four-cylinder trim, slathers both rows in rich leather upholstery. While this isn't the good stuff (the 3.5-liter model comes standard with leather and offers Nappa hides as an option), it's still a far better material choice than leatherette and is rich enough to fit the G80's luxury brief. Impressive piping and detailed stitching help there, too.
But those touches can't improve the flat and uninspiring front-row chairs. While far from uncomfortable, these seats lack the level of support we expect of this segment. There's a suitable range of motion – 12-way adjustability is standard, but our tester had the optional 16-way seats with a thigh extension – but it always felt like we were sitting on these seats rather than in them. More aggressive bolstering and a softer bottom cushion would go a long way.
The second-row bench is better. The cushioning is soft, a heating function is available, and even with the front seat set in your author's seating position, our knees weren't brushing the front seatbacks. Genesis quotes 38.7 inches of second-row legroom – that's 2.2 inches more than you'll find in a BMW 5 Series, 2.5 inches more than a Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and 1.3 inches more than an Audi A6. But if that advantage isn't enough, we suggest forcing out whoever is in the front passenger chair and using the chauffeur controls to expand the right rear seating area.
Cargo volume is competitive here, with the 13.1 cubic feet of trunk space tying the E-Class and trailing the A6 by less than a cube. But if max capacity matters, the leader is the 18.7-cubic-foot 5 Series. Still, the G80 has some stuff going for it beyond the trunk, including a sizable center console, a substantial cubby below the climate controls with a built-in wireless charge pad, and ample door pockets.
The Genesis G80 and GV80 introduced the broader Hyundai/Kia family's current infotainment system, so whether you buy this luxury sedan, the compact Hyundai Elantra or the handsome Kia K5 sedan, the top-end screen runs a version of this unnamed OS. Genesis, though, adds unique visuals that spice up what’s shown on the standard 14.5-inch touchscreen. There’s also a brand-exclusive iPod-style clickwheel that's a joy to operate.
The action of the dial, both as it turns and when you push the center down to make a selection, feels rich and authentic, like the kind of thing that rolled right out of Apple's Cupertino HQ. It's little surprise we barely used the touchscreen functionality, both because the redundant interface is so good and because that screen is wide and surprisingly far away from the driver.
The G80's actual software is mostly okay. We appreciate the default screensaver, which shows the time on the left, blending the background into a navigation map on the right. It's an elegant solution that looks more luxurious than leaving the map or audio screens up constantly. Spinning the clickwheel dismisses the screensaver and shows a bank of tiles for the different areas of the system – this is a departure from other Hyundai/Kia products, and not one we really love after a week at the wheel. Individual icons may not look as pretty, but it's easier to distinguish what's where.
In terms of other neat technology, we have to praise the optional Smart Park and the 21-speaker Lexicon audio system. Your author’s one-car-wide driveway means constant shuffling of vehicles – Smart Park meant that when a late spring snow froze itself onto the G80, we could move the car out of the way without going through the hassle of scraping the windows. And that Lexicon audio system remains one of the industry’s best. In fact, we’d go so far as to say it matches everything but Volvo’s 19-speaker Bowers and Wilkins setup. The Lexicon suite is crisp and pleasant when playing everything from classic rock to EDM to orchestral scores.
The Genesis G80 is one of the most powerful cars in its class, but struggles in our Performance metric due to its intense focus on luxury over sportiness. The base engine, a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder that packs 300 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque, which G80 owners can and should lord over their German-driving friends. For comparison, the 2.0-liter four-cylinders in the Audi A6, BMW 530i, and Mercedes-Benz E350 range from 248 to 261 hp and 257 to 273 lb-ft. Only the Volvo S90 offers more horsepower, its five-pony advantage comes at the expense of 16 torques.
But the G80 never feels all that willing to press its advantage. Yes, it's probably quicker on the stopwatch, but the 2.5-liter is buzzy at higher engine speeds, lacking the refined tone of rival 2.0-liters, and the eight-speed automatic's tuning favors smoothness of shifts over outright speed. Pushing hard feels a bit like misusing the powertrain, considering how good the car is at around-town cruising and the freeway slog.
The engine has a broad and accessible torque peak (1,650 to 4,000 rpm), and G80 owners will spend the vast majority of their seat time surfing that particular wave. This is sure-footed, always available performance, even if the overall behavior in aggressive situations is less desirable. The eight-speed keeps the revs low, with relaxed and unobtrusive gear changes the order of the day. A manual mode and paddle shifters are on hand, but we'd make a strong argument to Genesis management that the G80 shouldn't tempt owners with such frivolities.
Opting for the base 2.5-liter engine shouldn't have much impact on the G80's suspension, but it does. That's because while Genesis is pretty darn liberal when it comes to equipment, its more advanced active suspension system isn't available with the smaller powerplant – it's standard with all 3.5-liter trims, though. Instead, the standard G80 has a multi-link suspension with fixed dampers at all four corners. It's a fine setup, but the focus is clearly on ride quality, rather than handling.
The G80 lacks the precise and sharp cornering character of a Mercedes-Benz E-Class or BMW 5 Series, which both do more to communicate with the driver, too. The G80, though, feels detached and less than happy when asked to change directions suddenly. There's a fair amount of roll, and the steering lacks weight. Overall, the G80 does its best work at relaxed speeds and in a straight line.
The Genesis G80 comes standard with nearly every active safety doodad in the automaker's lineup. In fact, the only safety options come with our Prestige pack, which adds a surround-view camera, blind-spot monitoring, remote parking assistance (Hyundai's Smart Park), and rear automatic emergency braking to a suite that already includes full-speed adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, and the most advanced form of Hyundai's Highway Driving Assist.
The integration of these various systems is excellent. Activating Highway Driving Assist is a one-button affair, and setting the cruise control is no different than on any other Hyundai/Kia/Genesis product. With just two inputs by the driver, the G80 takes on the lion's share of the stress that comes with highway driving.
Critiques are few, here. There's a small amount of bouncing between lane markers, but the main issue, and a modest one at that, is the car's tendency to make regular teeny, tiny corrections to the steering while HDA is active. These have no impact on the ride, but because Genesis requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel, you'll feel each little change. It's not necessarily annoying, but it does take some time to acclimate.
Our target fuel economy for the G80's class, mid-size premium sedans, is 26 miles per gallon combined. The G80 manages 25, but it loses a point for requiring premium fuel. You'll see 22 mpg in the city and a reasonable 30 mpg highway. Those numbers broadly match the rest of the segment, which as we've pointed out, offer less power and torque with their base engines.
The EPA rates four-cylinder/all-wheel-drive examples of the BMW 530i at 23 city, 32 highway, and 27 combined and the Audi A6 at 23 city, 31 highway, and 26 combined. The Mercedes-Benz E350 ties the G80 across the board, while the Volvo S90 also returns 25 mpg combined – it's down a point in the city and up two on the highway, compared to the Genny.
As has been the case since its founding, Genesis presents a very strong value proposition. The G80's starting price is just $47,700, or about $7,000 less than the A6, 530i, and E350. All-wheel-drive is a $3,150 option here, which is more than BMW or Mercedes requests (every version of the A6 is all-wheel drive as standard), but even at $50,850, the G80 has a substantial advantage over the $56,750 E350 or $56,500 530i.
Option packing is blissfully simple. The 2.5-liter model is available in standard form, with the $4,600 Advanced pack, or the $8,300 Prestige pack, which comes with all the Advanced goodies. Neither of those packs really feels like a must-have, though. Yes, we like the Advanced pack's matte wood trim and 21-speaker Lexicon audio system, and the ventilated seats are nice for a hot climate. And the Prestige pack's surround-view camera, rear automatic braking, and wireless charger are cool. But a base G80 ticks enough boxes that you shouldn't feel pressured to option up.
One area you will spend money? Paint. Annoyingly, Genesis only offers one no-cost shade, the uninspiring Alta White. The rest of the very good color palette adds $500 to the price tag. That's what it took to slather our tester in Himalayan Gray (we'd have Black Forest Green), bringing our Prestige trim's as-tested price to $60,695, including the $1,045 destination charge.
Frankly, less than $61,000 for a car that offers this much equipment and luxury is a steal at half the price. Simply adding equivalent active safety gear to the $56,750 E350 drives its price up to $62,000 thanks to the actual price of the package and associated prerequisites. There simply isn't a rival that can match the G80's combo of low price and impressive equipment.
G80 Competitor Reviews
- Audi A6: Not Rated
- BMW 5 Series: Not Rated
- Jaguar XF: Not Rated
- Mercedes E-Class: Not Rated
- Volvo S90: Not Rated
Gallery: 2021 Genesis G80: Review
2021 Genesis G80 2.5T Prestige AWD