Genesis has almost two years under its belt as a luxury automaker, and we don’t envy its task of competing with brands that are 100 years old. Because other automakers have had plenty of time to secure recognition, it’s especially important for Genesis to stand out from the crowd. Is it too little, too late for Genesis?
Not so fast. Genesis will have six vehicles by 2021, and right now, only the G80 and G90 are available. The G90 flagship we reviewed last year looked promising. Although it doesn’t exude the flash of some other luxury rivals, it stood out as a top performer in ride quality. To this day it’s easy to recall; driving over speed bumps left the G90 perfectly undisturbed. As we noted in our G90 V-6 First Test, international bureau chief Angus MacKenzie called the Genesis sedan “a Korean full-size luxury car that’s better than anything America or Japan can build. And yes, that includes Lexus.”
The G80 Sport takes a very different path from its older brother by focusing on performance over plushness. The result is what often feels like a strange mix of sports car and comfortable cruiser. Packing a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6, the G80 produces a very healthy 365 hp routed to the rear wheels. It’s powerful enough that I didn’t imagine myself wanting the G80 with the 420-hp V-8 engine, and even the base 3.8-liter V-6 with 311 hp might prove more than enough. But despite the plentiful power of our tester, the weight and steering feel suggest ambitions other than raw performance.
Compared with the competiton
Numbers we gleaned from the track gave us a more solid idea of the sedan’s performance compared to key competitors. It hit 60 mph (96 kph) from a standstill in 5.2 seconds, which is 0.2 second quicker than the G90 all-wheel drive (AWD) we tested with the same engine. And it’s significantly quicker than its predecessor, the Hyundai Genesis 3.8 AWD, which hit 60 mph in 6.4 seconds. The G80 Sport also ranks ahead of the 2017 Lexus GS 350 F Sport RWD, which took 5.9 seconds to launch to 60 mph. That model, however, only produces 311 hp.
Other sedans are quicker than the G80 Sport. The 2017 Mercedes AMG E43 4Matic made the mark in 4.6 seconds, and the 2016 Audi A6 3.0T Quattro managed the deed in just 4.7 seconds, all while making just 333 hp.
The G80 feels plenty robust, at least once you’re going. “It’s pretty boggy from a stop. Turbo lag? Power comes on at about 2,500 rpm,” noted Road Test Editor Chris Walton about the G80 Sport’s acceleration tests. “The sweet spot is slightly over 2,000, and above that it spins the tires pretty hard–irrecoverably.”
In the figure eight, the Genesis G80 clocked a time of 27.5 seconds at an average 0.66 g. Other competitors performed better, including the GS F Sport, which hit the mark in 25.5 seconds at an average 0.74 g. The Mercedes managed the run in 25.1 seconds at an average of 0.77 g, and the Audi completed it in 25.3 seconds at 0.79 g.
The G80 clocked 13.8 seconds at 102.6 mph in the quarter mile. The Mercedes hit the target in 13.1 seconds at 107 mph, the Lexus managed 14.4 seconds at 98.3 mph, and the Audi performed the task in 13.3 seconds at 104.6 mph.
A cruising sedan
At almost 4,500 pounds, the G80 can feel a bit ponderous in turns. And although Sport mode tightens steering feel, it doesn’t provide quite enough feedback to qualify as sporty. Like any comfortable cruiser worth its salt, the interior is quiet even while traveling at moderate speeds on the highway. But the stiffness of the sport suspension, strong power, and satisfying engine note reveal its dual personality.
In our Genesis G80 Sport First Drive review, Senior Production Editor Zach Gale noted the G80 Sport doesn’t feel quite as light as the Lexus GS F Sport. But compared to its less powerful sibling, the G80 3.8, it experiences less pitch and dive under hard acceleration and braking. “It still feels sporty to me, but in a comfortable way,” Gale said after driving it for a second time. “You can’t have it both ways.”
Inside is the same conflicting story. Sport seats, aluminum pedals, and carbon-fiber accents belie the interior’s true focus on comfort and luxury. You’ll also find heated and ventilated front seats, decadent leather seats, a suede headliner, a head-up display, a 9.2-inch touchscreen with navigation, a 16-way power driver’s seat, a 12-way power front passenger seat, a wireless device charger, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and a colossal back-seat area. Other features include full LED headlights and LED daytime running lights, hands-free smart power trunklid, and a power tilt-and-slide panoramic sunroof. Among its safety goodies are automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control with start/stop capability, lane keep assist, front and rear parking sensors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and an auto-defogger windshield. All of these features are standard because Genesis offers virtually no options on the G80 Sport, except all-wheel drive. At $56,225, the Genesis G80 goes further for the dollar than comparable BMW, Lexus, Audi, and, particularly, Mercedes models.
Automakers are injecting more comfort into their traditionally sport-oriented sedans with varying degrees of success. Genesis hasn’t established itself as putting more emphasis on either sport or performance, and it will be interesting to see which direction it takes with the compact G70. But we can conclude the G80 Sport has thrilling power. Its ride befits a sports car, but its weighty feel, hesitation off the line, and large back seat make it more of a cruising sedan than anything else.