It takes two things to become a universally accepted maker of luxury cars: compelling products—naturally—and time. Although Hyundai has been selling cars in the United States with the Genesis name since 2008, Genesis only became a separate brand in 2015. That's a mere eyeblink compared to the storied histories of established upper-crust brands such as Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. It will be a while before Genesis becomes a household name in America's well-off enclaves. But the new Genesis G80 shows that Hyundai's aspiring luxury division already knows how to build the right sort of cars.
The redesigned G80 sedan is a very different automobile than it was in its previous generation. It reminds us of the gangly teenager who, seemingly overnight, grows from a gawky kid into a mature, young adult. The G80's transformation starts with its well-tailored sheetmetal, which is rife with careful detailing. Note the wraparound headlamps and matching front-fender strip lighting. Its lines are sleek but not derivative, and its proportions give it presence. Unfortunately, Genesis has embraced the luxury design trend for comically oversized grilles, but other than that we think the G80 nails the upscale look.
Built on Genesis's new M3 rear-wheel-drive architecture, its wheelbase, overall length, and width are one to two inches greater than those of its key mid-size competitors: the Audi A6, BMW 5-series, and Mercedes E-class. That may not sound like much of a difference, but Genesis used those extra inches to carve out impressive interior room in the G80. It feels half a size-class larger than the German trio.
Even more impressive is the cabin's luxurious ambience. The G80's interior is stylish, elegant, and beautifully crafted from premium materials. The instrument panel sweeps across the cabin and is adorned with fetching matte-finished wood accents, and it's topped with a 14.5-inch infotainment screen that seems a half size larger. The front-door upholstery is sewn in a cool wave pattern that's repeated on the plush seats. As in the new GV80 SUV with which the G80 shares its architecture and design, the sedan's metal rotary shifter knob and infotainment controller dial are knurled. Other ancillary controls have an attractive brushed-metal finish.
The G80 lineup offers a choice of two engines—a 300-hp 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-four or a 375-hp twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6—plus the option of rear- or all-wheel drive and three trim levels. Our rear-drive test car was equipped with the four-cylinder and the top-spec Prestige trim package, which loaded it with everything you'd expect in a luxury sedan—from a 21-speaker Lexicon audio system to a host of active safety assistants to the ability to play a variety of calming nature sounds through the infotainment system. We especially liked the cozy pitter-patter of the rainfall soundtrack.
The Prestige package also includes Genesis's Ergo Motion multi-adjustable front seats, which feature a light massaging capability. But their weak pulsating action feels like an unenthusiastic back rub from your significant other who'd rather be binge-watching "Succession."
Seat-massage functionality may be the only place where the German competition has a significant advantage over the G80. The Genesis drives about as well as the base four-cylinder versions of its rivals. Its turbo-four is muted at low speeds and provides more-than-ample thrust, accelerating the 4143-pound sedan to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. The standard eight-speed automatic transmission's shifts are well-coordinated. Ride quality is appropriately supple, the handling is agile enough to be borderline engaging, and the G80 whispers only 66 decibels of interior noise at 70 mph—the same as a Bentley Flying Spur.
While its name doesn't carry gold-star brand equity, the Genesis G80 is still compelling for its superb value. Its base price is $48,725, and even our well-equipped test car's $58,025 sticker handsomely undercuts the price of similarly equipped competitors. Lexus proved that this strategy works given enough time. The G80 is a fine luxury car just waiting for its reputation to catch up.
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