On the Road Review: Genesis G80 Sport AWD Sedan

Despite the rapid market shift to all things tall and labeled crossover, automakers are still building very credible sedan offerings worthy of attention — and your hard-earned money.

Feast your eyes on this Genesis luxury/sport sedan, the G80. Deemed a midsize to compete with Audi A6, BMW 5-series, or Mercedes E-class, this luxury-labeled Hyundai is really closer in size to the full size sedans crafted by the Germans, as well as the larger Infiniti and Lexus offerings. At 196 inches long, on a smooth-riding 118-inch wheelbase, this 4,800-pound four-door is fast, smooth and really large for a midsize.

It is also handsome — in every sense of the word. The sculpting of the metal and the greenhouse, the comely design of the front grille and its (now) inherent safety features, plus the complete look of its shapely posterior leave one wondering what kind of car the Genesis is because it carries few labels to tell you that it’s not an Infiniti or some other sports sedan. Low-profile 19-inch rubber affixed to decidedly upscale wheels, LED lights all around, plus thoroughly integrated air dams and outsized exhaust pipes all suggest that Hyundai’s new Genesis Division has some serious auto buffs on the styling team.

And on the powertrain team. Packed under the hood is a new 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine spinning out 365 hp, and more importantly, 375 pound/feet of peak torque, which arrives with a none-too-subtle push in the back at a barely above idle 1,300 rpms. Can you say forced-induction rush — right now? For a large car, with AWD and a host of creature features, this machine hustles.

Sending the power through an eight-speed automatic that allows driver interaction via the console shifter or the steering wheel paddles, the Genesis is hushed to the point of overly protecting the driver and occupants from the excitement that a heavy throttle creates. There is no engine roar, no exhaust bark, just a whooshing sensation of time travel as the G80 easily propels you and your passengers to virtually any pace you select — legal or otherwise.

Pricing starts at $56,225 for a rear-drive model; add $2,500 for AWD. Basically, everything you need is standard: a plethora of safety components, numerous electronic driving aids, huge panoramic roof, heated seating all around plus heated power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, as well as the expected navigation, entertainment and cell-phone connectivity. Controls are fluid, smartly located and often duplicated on the touchscreen so techies and druids alike will find comfort in the vehicle’s operation.

The Genesis’s seating is excellent, visibility is good, plus the seamless integration of the assorted controls and features makes adapting to the G80 an easy task. Several rivals have ladled their luxury cars with non-intuitive features that beguile most drivers, not to mention distract from rather than assist the vehicle’s operation.

In the plus column: great interior and controls, quiet, nice driving car. The Genesis’s styling is also a big plus; it may look like some other Asian large sedans, but there is still an air of confidence in the G80’s stance that is pleasing to view. With copper trim accenting the black and chrome features, the Genesis really stands out.

On the con list, the G80 is heavy, several hundred pounds heavier than its rivals. This shows up in the EPA ratings — 17/24/20 mpg. The sedan doesn’t drive heavy, with the bulk nicely masked in a very composed chassis, yet there is no escaping that the G80 could benefit from a visit to Jenny Craig. And to further illustrate the point; the smaller, lighter, faster G70 is right around the corner with this engine as an option, or a turbo-four as standard power. The G70 is intended to be the BMW 3-series battler, with AWD too.

During a subsequent discussion with other media members, each person pegged the Genesis as a surprising sedan worthy of driving. Such reverence is rare, yet demonstrates the length of the strides made by Hyundai.

Hyundai may be new to the sports/luxury game — even though the previous Genesis models have been around since 2009 — but don’t overlook how thoroughly successful the automaker has been with other products. This G80, plus the larger G90, smaller G70, and two pending crossovers, will make an impact on the luxury segment due to price, quality, warranty and a single-minded focus to improve. A very decent sedan will only get better.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.

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