All week long I’ve been asked to identify this car for curious onlookers and the vast majority had no idea what it was. Some were onto the Hyundai connection but it just goes to show that building brand recognition takes time. This is the new Genesis G80.
Once a Hyundai sub-division of rear-wheel drive sedans and coupes, Genesis has emerged as its own luxury brand. I’ve driven both variants of their first flagship model the G90 and it’s the real deal in every way. This week I have the less expensive 2017 G80 – the car formerly known as the Hyundai Genesis – a model I’ve also driven numerous times in recent years that’s nearly as compelling. However, this one hasn’t undergone the same major transformation as the G90 has from its origins as the Hyundai Equus. It’ll be the 2018 model year that sees significant changes to the G80. But if you just can’t wait and need your G80 now, rest assured you’ll still be getting a stellar large sedan steeped in the mystery of a new badge. And if you’re like me, you appreciate some exclusivity to your ride – the G80 certainly affords that.
A base rear-drive G80 starts at about $42,000 while this one here, the 3.8 all-wheel drive Ultimate comes in at $53,800 and includes nearly everything the V6 models offer. For those who must have a V8, the 5.0 is still on the table – just no all-wheel drive, though that option is coming in the freshened 2018 car. Significantly bigger than competing midsize entries from other luxury marques, the G80 gives passengers a taste of executive sedan dimensions and amenities without the budget-busting price tag. Those riding in the back are provided an elevated seating position with enhanced visibility, an airy panoramic roof, big leg room, sunshades all around and heated seats. At over 15 cubic feet, the trunk is sizeable too and operates with a proximity sensor so opening it requires nothing more than standing nearby with the key fob on your body. It looks premium with gorgeous real wood and aluminum trim and comes off clean and uncluttered. The front seats have multiple power adjustments for great cruising comfort, sound absorption provides cabin quietness and the technology is a clear cut favorite. It’s ergonomically sound, concise, easy to use via touch, voice or switchgear and comes packed with useful features. Ditto for the driver gauges and bright heads-up display with speed limit information. Other automakers could learn a valuable lesson here. The big Lexicon sound system features 17 speakers to soothe music aficionados and Blue Link provides 3 years of no cost connected services such as the Intelligent Assistant smartphone app.
Unlike the metamorphosis from Equus to G90, this G80 still looks and feels very much like the Hyundai Genesis we already knew. So it stands to reason that my opinion hasn’t really changed. It’s a top tier premium sedan that’s every bit as satisfying as its stately appearance suggests. Spacious, quiet, comfortable and backed by a frisky V6, the G80 gets it done for less. If only it integrated the latest smartphone tech it would be darn near perfect.
Demerits such as only 1 USB port and no CarPlay or Android Auto on G80s with the Ultimate Package again are being addressed in the 2018 model while absent safety features like Pedestrian Detection and Driver Attention Alert will join later, as well. Lane Keep Assist, blind spot detection, automatic emergency braking with haptic steering wheel and many other features are here now however and complete a comprehensive grouping of safety tech.
The drive is rewarding with this big V6 pushing out 293 pound-feet of torque and 311 horsepower with a snarky soundtrack the performance-minded will appreciate. It feels particularly quick at all speeds. Plus it can run on regular unleaded with only a small reduction in peak power but swaps some zip for mileage, returning only 19mpg in combined driving. Normal, Sport and Eco drive settings work in conjunction with the 8-speed transmission to tailor the experience, including working the all-wheel drive system from back to front with variable torque distribution. The throttle is a little touchy and these Michelins don’t particularly care for snow so the HTRAC system hasn’t wowed me in bad weather. But the well balanced weight distribution plus the eager chassis means the G80 hustles with impressive poise, leading me to believe that the upcoming twin turbo G80 Sport will be one heck of a driver’s car.
The Genesis Experience includes 3 years of scheduled maintenance, valet services, SiriusXM Travel Link, map updates and enhanced roadside assistance. They’re a brand on the rise with a growing stable of cars.