- Redesigned for 2021
- More powerful engines
- New technology features
- Launches the second G80 generation for 2021
When Hyundai launched the Genesis sedan in 2009, the idea of a Korean luxury automaker was the furthest thing from the public's collective mind. A decade later, Genesis has garnered moderate success as its own brand, and the sedan that started it all has been fully redesigned to take another shot at the establishment. The 2021 Genesis G80 builds on the groundwork laid by its predecessors, offering more technology, driving aids and luxury features than ever before. It also includes the quad headlight design and large grille introduced to the Genesis pantheon by the new GV80 SUV and refreshed G90 sedan.
The G80 is powered by your choice of two engines. The previously standard V6 has been replaced by a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder producing 300 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque. This is a pretty stout output for a four-cylinder engine and gives the G80 plenty of standard horsepower.
As with rivals, the G80 offers an upgraded motor for those craving more performance. In this case, it's a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 with 375 hp and 391 lb-ft on tap. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is optional for the latest G80.
We've been able to test out both engines, and we like them quite a bit. The four-cylinder engine responds well to commands, while the V6 packs a bigger punch. Both engines lag slightly compared with other turbocharged engines in the class, which behave more like naturally aspirated engines with linear, uninterrupted power delivery. Instead, the G80 engines make you wait momentarily before they really start laying down the power. Still, there's plenty of muscle here. As for stopping, we found the brakes a tad touchy, but after a few minutes it becomes easier to modulate them as needed.
Toss the G80 into a turn and you will feel more noticeable body roll than we've come to expect from luxury sedans at this price. That lack of sporty stiffness appears to be the trade-off that Genesis made in the name of comfort.
The G80 is a very comfortable midsize luxury sedan. Its airtight cabin keeps occupants insulated from outside noise, and the forgiving suspension delivers a smooth ride. We also like the supportive and plush seats — our test G80 came with power lumbar support and a massaging function. There is good space up front, with a wide range of seat adjustability, and plenty of legroom in the back. A nice touch is the knee indentations in the back of the front seats to accommodate taller rear passengers. The sloping roof limits rear headspace, however.
The G80 drives a lot like a traditional Lexus, with a soft ride that isn't accustomed to hard corners. Genesis is not claiming it's a sport sedan, though, and we don't think the vast majority of luxury buyers will mind.
The cabin is the G80's calling card. This is a thoughtfully designed interior, with graceful flowing lines that make great use of the spaciousness inside. Our G80 test cars came with wood-grain accents and a soft faux-suede roof liner. It isn't quite as suit-and-tie as some competitors. Instead, the G80's design is a touch more playful.
Touch points are particularly well done. Most things you touch with your hands, from the start button to the turn signal and windshield wipers, are contoured or textured, adding personality to normally boring afterthoughts. In the center console lie two dials. First is the gear shifter in the shape of a hockey puck — it feels appropriately hefty and is easy to grip. Next, the infotainment dial has an outside ring that clicks as it rotates, can easily be moved with a light finger and even continues spinning if you give it a good whirl. These are small things, but they show the effort that Genesis put in to make the G80 feel special.
Technology is front and center in the new G80. The infotainment and climate setting screens each have a vivid display. The spinning dial control is very satisfying to use — though it's sometimes difficult to tell whether you should spin it or press it. Surprisingly, the driver information display is a star. The menu displays are impressively crisp and detailed, and you can choose driver aid information, turn-by-turn directions and other menus in cool-looking 3D. The 21-speaker Lexicon audio system is also fantastic.
Unfortunately, the driving aids leave something to be desired. Adaptive cruise control is confusing to activate and not as smooth as the systems in other luxury vehicles. Lane keeping assist feels a bit too much like ping-pong, and it struggles to differentiate between lane markings and different shades of pavement on the road. The G80 is impressive in a lot of unexpected ways, but its advanced safety aids slightly miss the mark.
Here's the downside of the G80's sloping rear roofline: a trunk that is wide and long but not very tall. The G80 offers acceptable storage space in the back because the car extends so far beyond the rear seats. There's just not very much vertical depth to it. It's more akin to the Audi A7 and Mercedes CLS fastback style. You're trading functionality for style here.
Another drawback is that the rear seats do not fold down. There's a center pass-through area for fitting items long and skinny items such as skis or narrow boxes. But the lack of a folding feature severely limits the usability of the G80 and we're struggling to understand the absence. Plenty of other luxury sedans have a similar shape, and they can still fold their rear seats. It was a problem in the previous-generation G80, and we're disappointed to see that it continues with this version.
The G80 earned strong fuel economy ratings for a luxury sedan of this size, topping out at 26 mpg in combined city/highway driving for a rear-wheel-drive G80 with the smaller four-cylinder engine. The larger V6 engine drops the ratings to 22 mpg combined. If you add all-wheel drive, the combined estimate falls by 1 mpg on both models.
These figures match the best combined ratings for the E-Class and Lexus ES, but they fall slightly short of those for the most efficient versions of the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and Jaguar XF. However, they are a big improvement over the 2020 G80, which topped out at 21 mpg combined — so progress is being made. We're eager to get the G80 onto our evaluation loop when the opportunity arises to measure its real-world consumption against these ratings.
Since the brand's inception, value has been the chief reason to consider a Genesis over traditional prestige luxury models. And value remains paramount to the G80 proposition. Starting at less than $50,000, and with the larger 3.5-liter engine version just crossing $60,000, the G80 is priced about $5,000 lower to start than competitive models from Mercedes, BMW and Audi. Even fully loaded, the G80 never crosses the $70,000 threshold that some of its rivals pass without a second glance.
The impressive quality of cabin materials plus the amount of advanced technology and sheer ride comfort add up to a big advantage in favor of Genesis. That said, five stacks may not be a large enough chasm to attract shoppers who are dead-set on putting that BMW badge in their garage.
More than past models, the 2021 Genesis G80 stands on its own as a viable luxury contender in a cutthroat segment. No, it does not feel as fully polished as the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, our top-rated model in the segment, and it lacks the pedigree that matters a great deal to many shoppers. But the G80 is very close, and it has a lot of eye-popping features in a genuinely impressive package. It also looks great, which frankly goes a long way in this class. If you want a luxury sedan that stands out, and will potentially save you money in the process, the Genesis G80 deserves a serious look.