• By: Neil Moore

G80 joins starting lineup for standalone Genesis brand

Photos by Neil Moore / Feature image: One of two vehicles to launch Genesis as a standalone brand, the G80 is a mid-size luxury sedan with no shortage of agility, and get-up-and-go.

Tolstoy once said, ‘The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.’

Unlike Toyota, Hyundai held on to its premium models, seemingly resisting the urge to create a separate luxury division. I initially wondered why they didn’t follow the Lexus approach, but eventually got it.

In building the ‘Hyundai’ Genesis Sedan, which was crowned North American and Canadian Car of the Year right out of the gate in 2009, there was now a reason for well-heeled customers to visit their showrooms.

The pricier Equus soon followed, and although it didn’t gain similar traction, it proved Hyundai could build luxury rides. Maybe not quite on par with longstanding Euro rivals, but pretty good nonetheless. Especially when you consider the relative youth of the company, and the Ponies and Stellars they were selling only three decades ago.

Let’s call this an exercise in repositioning their brand.

Fast forward to November 2015. Genesis was finally announced as a standalone marque, and a year later, the brand launched in Canada with two models: the G90 full-size luxury flagship and slightly smaller G80 sedan.

The G80 interior is fitted with premium materials like Nappa leather and real carbon fibre. The centre stack is clean and functional, highlighted by a chic analog clock in the centre.

I recently tested the latter, which like all Genesis models, has embraced an industry-first pricing model that not only simplifies the buying process, but gives luxury buyers a carrot in swapping brand cachet for convenience. The all-inclusive MSRP covers not only delivery and destination charges, but scheduled maintenance (5-year/100,000km), satellite radio subscriptions, navigation map updates, and “Genesis at Home” concierge service.

The latter is unexpected for the $60K price point, as it offers both pickup and delivery of your vehicle for servicing, and a courtesy car while you wait. Beats languishing in a customer lounge, sipping machine coffee from a styrofoam cup…

Bottom line, the AWD G80 comes in thousands less than German competitors like Mercedes E 400 4Matic, Audi A6 and BMW 540i with xDrive. More comparable in price would be the Volvo S90 or Infiniti Q70.

The “entry” G80 Luxury starts at $55,000 and Technology trim at $58,000, both powered by a 3.8L DOHC GDI V6 that produces 311 hp and 293 lb/ft of torque. Like all G80 models, this is mated to an eight-speed automatic with manual mode and shift paddles. Ditto for the full-time HTRAC all-wheel drive.

The topline G80 – the $65,000 5.0 Ultimate – gets a 5.0L DOHC GDI V8, good for 420 ponies and 383 lb/ft.

Mine was the 3.3T Sport, which at $62,000, may deliver the most bang for the buck. It packs a 3.3-litre, twin turbocharged V6 with GDI, delivering 365 hp, and more importantly, 376 lb/ft of torque from a low 1,300 rpm.

Centred in the dash is a stylish analog clock. Its copper faceplate is reflected in the stitching and other copper-coloured elements throughout the G80’s design. (Photo by Adam Moore)

Even in Sport Trim, this is not a vehicle for weekends at the track, and to focus too heavily on performance metrics is to miss the point of this relatively large four-door. That being said the 3.3T Sport is no slouch. With its bigger brakes (14.2-inch ventilated rotors up front with four-piston calipers, 13-inch in rear), along with a sport-tuned adaptive suspension and larger alloy wheels – 19-inch instead of 18’s, the G80 is at home when roads get twisty and fun – despite the car’s hefty curb weight and somewhat heavy steering. There’s minimal body roll in carving corners, and the vehicle still feels nimble for one that tips the scales at 2,120 kg (4,674 lbs).

Which brings me to the engine and its three drive modes. Eco mode was a wet blanket that I used rarely, as it drains the life from this otherwise spunky powertrain. ‘Normal’ is the go-to for daily driving, and for more entertainment, Sport mode kicks it up with a quicker throttle response, later gear changes, and the pointless, but fun, ability to make use of its shift paddles.

Benefiting from loads of low-end torque, the G80 sprints off the line, reaching 100 km/h in 6.2 seconds, according to company specs. This may be on the conservative side as one publication had clocked it a second faster. Regardless, it’s plenty quick – plant the pedal at any speed, and the smooth-shifting automatic quickly finds the right gear, accompanied by a throaty growl from the quad exhausts.

Back to my early point, the G80 isn’t targeted at ‘boy racer’ types, with an interior that is more about refinement than hard-core performance.

The look is buttoned-down and European, with the Sport model getting some unique features like bigger bolsters in the Nappa leather sport seats, real carbon fibre accents, and smaller-diameter steering wheel.

I liked the copper contrast stitching, which pops against the upholstery in the seats, dash, armrests and console. The copper theme is carried on in its chic analog clock, centred below the high-def 9.2-inch infotainment screen, as well as around the headlamp casings and wheel hubs.

As you’d expect in a luxury ride, even the base model gets a full suite of safety features: blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist, and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection.

It also comes with 900-watt Lexicon audio, with the other three trims getting an upgraded version: 17 speakers (including subwoofer), surround sound and Logic 7 sound processing. My son – also a classic rock fan – was thoroughly impressed with the system cranked. In our driveway, of course.

The G80 and G90 will be joined by the G70 compact luxury sport sedan, arriving in the first-half of 2018. Three more Genesis models will follow – a coupe and two SUVs – by 2021.

If you’re shopping in this space, and are stuck on established nameplates, you may miss this worthy contender. Which would be a shame.

Wide shoulders, sculpted sides and quad exhausts give the G80 an aggressive look from the rear.

SNAPSHOT: 2018 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
BODY STYLE: mid-size luxury sedan
ENGINE: 3.3-litre, twin turbocharged V6 with GDI, (365 hp, 376 lb/ft of torque)
POWERTRAIN: eight speed automatic with manual mode; HTRAC all wheel drive
FUEL ECONOMY: 13.8/9.7/11.9 L/100 km (city/hwy/comb)
CARGO: 433 litres
PRICING: 3.8 Luxury $55,000; 3.8 Technology $58,000; 3.3T Sport (as tested) $62,000; 5.0 Ultimate $65,000. Taxes extra – see website for option and accessory pricing.  
WEBSITE: genesis.com/ca

(with contributions from Adam Moore)