I took my first long-distance trip by train a few days ago, boarding the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner for a journey from Burbank to San Luis Obispo, California. I’ve been on light rail trains before and expected something similar – efficient, but cramped and tiring. The Pacific Surfliner had other plans, namely a gorgeous, relaxing view of the Pacific Ocean from my spacious window seat, and I still got my on-time arrival.
Adding to the appeal of the trek was the car that awaited me at the San Luis Obispo train station. The new 2022 Genesis G80 Sport would be a fitting follow-up to the choo-choo, offering all the comfort and poise we’ve come to expect of a Motor1.com Star Award contender for Best Luxury Vehicle. However, this Genny might also do a decent imitation of the South Korean KTX high-speed train thanks to a few key differences between it and other members of the midsize sedan family. Refreshed by the trip on the Surfliner, I had a few hundred miles of winding road to find out if the 2022 Genesis G80 Sport handles like it’s on rails.
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|2022 Genesis G80 Sport Prestige 3.5T AWD
|Twin-Turbocharged 3.5-Liter V6
|375 Horsepower / 391 Pound-Feet
|4.9 Seconds (est)
Gallery: 2022 Genesis G80 3.5T Sport First Drive Review
What’s The Difference?
When the second-generation Genesis G80 arrived for the 2021 model year, it featured massively improved interior quality and overall refinement relative to its immediate predecessor. However, the popular Sport model was noticeably absent. That changes for 2022. Now, every V6-powered G80 will be either a Sport or a Sport Prestige trim. Incidentally, rear-drive has also been dropped from the 3.5T lineup, which is now all-wheel-drive–only. That said, the 2022 G80 Sport doesn’t feel substantially more dynamic than its 2021 equivalent, despite more aggressive styling cues and incremental mechanical tweaks.
The entry-level G80 Sport trim is a mechanical dead ringer for the 2021 G80 3.5T AWD, with the same four-piston monoblock front brake calipers, suspension tuning, and all-season tires as its non-Sport predecessor. However, the restyled G80 gets unique front and rear bumpers with sportier sculpting and functional air curtains, and the redesigned 19-inch wheels look more aggressive than they did on the luxury-styled 2021 model. Darkened chrome on the grille, badging, and window surrounds provide a more modern appearance as well. And inside, the G80 Sport wears aluminum dash appliques and unique chevron quilting for the front and rear seats.
If you want actual performance improvements relative to the 2021 G80, then you’ll want a Sport Prestige like the one I drove around town. With the same exterior modifications as the base Sport, the Prestige adds slightly stiffer tuning for the adaptive suspension and rear-wheel steering that improves turn-in. An exclusive Sport Plus drive mode offers sharper throttle response, more aggressive automatic shifts, and reduced stability control intervention. Nappa leather upholstery, parquet-woven carbon fiber trim, and unique 20-inch wheels complete the getup.
The Sport Prestige also offers Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires, part of a package that costs a mere $500. To counteract the expected (and acceptable) noise increase over less aggressive all-season rubber, the package also includes “Active Noise Control – Road,” which cancels out some of the slap and roar that often accompany higher grip levels. Unfortunately, the G80 I drove wore the standard all-season tires, though I suspect the summers would be worth it to many folks.
Although Genesis claims the G80 Sport Prestige is a dynamic improvement over the 2021 3.5T, talk is cheap. Eager to test the automaker’s suppositions, I set out on some of the undulating, broken pavement that typifies the Central California coast with the vehicle set in the Comfort mode. As on last year’s G80, the suspension absorbs just about every pavement imperfection possible thanks to a road-previewing camera that relays potential pavement flaws to the suspension controls. That said, body motions are more akin to a boat than a bullet train, sapping some driving confidence when pressing hard.
Hit the drive mode button to activate the Sport setting, and the G80 starts to live up to its name. The stiffer dampers relative to other G80s are immediately apparent, with none of the floatiness of Comfort while still retaining a reasonable amount of tranquility. The eight-speed transmission becomes more responsive as well, which makes dive-bombing into tight corners good fun as the gearbox bangs down from fifth to second, and clever shift logic holds that gear until it’s time to exit the bend.
Body motions are more akin to a boat than a bullet train, sapping some driving confidence when pressing hard.
The rear-axle steering is another boon in brisk driving. Turning out of phase with the front wheels at speeds below 37 miles per hour, the rears noticeably help the G80 carve through tight corners with confidence. And above that speed, as you might experience on a wide sweeper, for example, the rear wheels point in the same direction as the fronts, reducing turn-in sharpness but improving stability and confidence. My only complaint in such situations is a $500 one – the standard all-season tires give up before your courage when pushing toward the limit.
The delta between Comfort and Sport amps up the driving fun, so Sport Plus should make the G80 feel positively giddy, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case, at least on the geologically altered roads near Paso Robles and Atascadero. The ride becomes brittle and borderline bone-shaking over bad pavement, with lots of head tossing and butt-bashing when cresting hills. And although I like an aggressive shift strategy, Sport Plus perhaps takes things a bit too far for public roads – its redline nearly always pegged, G80 was screaming like a banshee without any perceptible improvement in real-world performance.
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After 30 minutes or so of Sport Plus aggression, I dialed the G80 back to its Goldilocks setting, reduced my pace to about seven-tenths, and found much to appreciate. The steering is numb but nicely weighted, and running the G80 Sport through a series of corners is a pleasant, fun experience. The brakes are perfectly suited to the car’s mission, with a little bite at the top of the firm pedal’s travel, instilling confidence without resorting to grabby imprecision. The seatback’s adjustable bolsters keep the driver in place, compensating for the seat bottom’s convex – though comfortable – shape.
And when the route turns scenic instead of manic, the 2022 G80 Sport is all too happy to revert to its old life as a graceful, genteel touring machine. On the highway in Comfort mode, the cushy suspension and hushed interior work with the stiff chassis to give the Genesis a ride not unlike an Autobahn-tuned Lincoln Town Car. The G80 Sport also continues to wow occupants with impressive interior quality – the chevron seats are a bit much visually, but they coddle and cosset like before, and nearly every interior surface is coated in rich-feeling Nappa leather, supple vinyl, and soft-touch plastic.
It’s easier to appreciate the G80’s interior with Highway Driving Assist II engaged. The second-generation version of the automaker’s advanced driver assistance system, HDA II provides adaptive cruise control, lane-departure prevention, and automatic emergency braking, but instead of mere lane centering, the G80 can deviate from the middle slightly if other drivers encroach on its lane lines, keeping the sedan comfortably spaced from surrounding traffic. Assisted lane changes are another new advancement, though they’re not as foolproof as those of BMW or Mercedes-Benz – sometimes they refuse to activate for unclear reasons.
We’ve extolled the Genesis family’s infotainment system before, and not much changes for 2022. The Sport Prestige features the same 14.5-inch touchscreen center display and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster as its 2021 equivalent, with a redundant rotary controller easing the long reach to the screen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, though curiously, both require a wired connection in this application – we’re still not sure why Genesis and other Hyundai products refuse to offer wireless integration on their flagship infotainment systems.
My only other complaint about the Sport Prestige’s cabin is that the graining of the carbon fiber trim doesn’t line up between the panels. If the cupholder cover is shut, for example, the retro-modern parquet pattern is just barely mismatched from the rest of the center console. It’s a minor quibble, but given the Genesis’ otherwise impressive attention to detail, the inconsistency is a disappointment.
A Fair Fare
Since the entry-level 2022 G80 3.5T Sport AWD is mostly a styling update relative to the outgoing G80 3.5T AWD, we’re pleased it’s not much pricier. At $64,495 including the $1,045 destination charge, the new sedan is only $700 more expensive than its 2021 equivalent, which might be worth it for the slick new exterior. The 2022 Sport Prestige is a bit dearer at $70,795, which is $1,600 more than the 2021 Prestige, a number Genesis justifies with rear-wheel steering and just-right handling balance of the sportier suspension tuning.
My test car wore a $500 coat of Tasman Blue paint and nothing else (the stunning Cavendish Red of our photo subject is the same price), bringing its total cost to $71,295. I’d maybe add the $500 summer tire package if I were spending my cash, but then again, I’d also be tempted by the base Sport and its smaller wheels and more uniform aluminum interior trim. The Genesis G80 is one of the happiest long-distance cruisers on the market, so going for the base Sport 3.5T model might be the move here. The performance improvements of the Sport Prestige are too slight to endear me to the added cost.
Whatever the case may be, the Genesis still makes a compelling case for itself among its main competitors. The 2022 BMW 540i xDrive starts at $63,245, but optioning metallic paint, Nappa leather, and enough driver assistance to match the Genesis’ standard Highway Driving Assist II brings the price to $72,435 – and that’s with 19-inch wheels and 40 fewer horses under the hood. Things are worse in Stuttgart. A Mercedes-Benz E450 4Matic starts at $63,800, but adding driver assistance, 19-inch wheels, and leather seats mean a bare minimum of 75 large before you can drive away.
Add in the stately big-car styling of the G80, and it’s easy to see why it’s one of our perpetual favorite luxury sedans. And while the Sport package alterations for 2022 don’t fundamentally change how the midsize four-door drives, that’s not a bad thing. It’s a bit sharper, both dynamically and visually, but the Genesis G80 Sport is still the same gorgeously appointed, poised sedan it’s always been. Make sure there’s one waiting for you at the train station; you won’t regret it.
G80 Sport Competitor Reviews:
2022 Genesis G80 Sport Prestige 3.5T AWD