2018 Genesis G80 Sport First Drive | Edmunds

2018 Genesis G80 Sport First Drive

Loads of Luxury With a Dash of Sport

It's often said that history repeats itself, and this scene looks familiar. Back in the late 1980s, a few Japanese manufacturers collectively set their sights on the European-dominated luxury vehicle market. Those Japanese brands started conservatively with a single model, and now nearly 30 years later they're the household brands you know as Acura, Infiniti and Lexus.

Hyundai's new luxury Genesis brand is currently undergoing the same creationary phase. In 2016, it rolled out two models under its own name — the G80 (formerly the Hyundai Genesis) and the G90 (formerly the Hyundai Equus). The 2018 Genesis G80 Sport is a new submodel of the G80 line that receives a sprinkling of performance pixie dust similar to Lexus' F Sport or Cadillac's V-Sport lines.

2018 Genesis G80 Sport

What Defines the G80 Sport?

The G80 Sport borrows much of its running gear from the larger G90 sedan. This includes the G90's 365-horsepower, 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 engine that sends power to the rear wheels or all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. The G80 Sport also gets a retuned suspension with stiffer springs as well as a version of the G90's continuous damping control (CDC), providing two damping settings, one that prioritizes ride comfort and the other for sportier handling.

On the aesthetic side, the changes are noticeable and effective. Sharper front fascia lines frame a new honeycomb grille design, while the standard G80's lower LED foglights have been dropped in favor of new vertical air curtain slits that are said to help with front brake cooling. The usual brightwork — such as window surrounds, mirrors, headlight housings and taillight covers — have all been darkened, smoke-tinted or painted black for a stealthy undertone. The front of the car wears an assortment of dark copper trim pieces, from the front grille surround to the headlight bezels, regardless of exterior paint color. They work well in most conditions, but they occasionally look garish when paired with certain colors (such as blue) in the wrong light.

2018 Genesis G80 Sport

All Sport models roll on attractive 19-inch alloy wheels that come standard with all-season tires. Ventilated brake discs equipped with more heat-resistant pads for improved stopping performance are also part of the package. Other details that help complete the Sport's makeover include cutlines in the lower side rockers below the doors, for added character to the flanks, and a mildly restyled rear fascia where quad exhaust tips poke out through honeycomb surrounds on either side of a decorative rear diffuser.

2018 Genesis G80 Sport

How Sporty Is the Sport?

Mash the gas from a stop, and a swell of low-end torque chirps the rear tires off the line. The Sport's twin-turbo V6 puts out the same 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet found in the G90, but in this application the engineers managed to coax a burlier sound out of it without overselling the sport factor. Comparing power-to-weight ratios across the G80 line, the 5.0-liter V8-powered car still has the fewest pounds to pull per pony, but the flexible power of this V6 will leave few people missing the extra cylinders.

The Sport's 16-way adjustable driver seat features more aggressive lateral bolstering and can be molded to deliver surprising levels of comfort and support. The steering wheel rim is thicker than in the standard model with lovely contours that feel great, while the wheel-mounted paddle shifters are more substantial than those of some current European competitors.

2018 Genesis G80 Sport

Even in the default drive mode before taking the first real corner, the suspension feels noticeably different. The Sport's suspension springs are about 10 percent stiffer in front and 19 percent stiffer in the rear compared to a V8-powered G80. The ride isn't harsh, but it is busier, so luxury seekers should know there is some tradeoff in comfort even with the Sport's special adjustable dampers.

Our love affair with the steering began to fade during the twistier part of the drive route. At first we thought it was one of the active driving aids trying to help us negotiate a turn and overassisting our steering inputs as we entered a corner. But then we turned off all driver-assist systems and experienced the same unnatural sensation, multiple times, in different test cars. We think it has to do with the calibration of the electric power steering, possibly something that could be updated down the line.

2018 Genesis G80 Sport

Selecting Sport mode, the G80 becomes more buttoned down and responsive to commands. We wouldn't go out of our way to seek out canyon roads with it, but it does handle itself well should the opportunity present itself. Push the pace a bit more, and the auto-retracting seat belts will begin to tighten across your chest like a jockey tugging on the reins. Words aren't always required to get a message across.

Prix-Fixe Luxury

Akin to a tasting menu at a Michelin-starred restaurant, Genesis has preordered the accoutrements for all G80 Sport owners. Customers get to pick the exterior and interior color combinations, rear- or all-wheel drive, and that's it.

This approach drastically reduces the number of variations of G80 Sport Genesis to assemble, and it simplifies pricing: $56,225 for the rear-wheel-drive G80 Sport; $58,725 for one with all-wheel drive. And once people spend any amount of time in the car with all the options, it's not often they find themselves thinking, "I wish this car had fewer options." The strategy is sound.

The G80 Sport's equipment list is a lengthy one, but a few of the standout features include adaptive LED headlights, carbon-fiber and aluminum interior trim, a microfiber suede headliner, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a panoramic sunroof, a 9.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, a robust 17-speaker Lexicon audio system, and a full suite of active driver-assist aids including a handy 360-degree camera system.

2018 Genesis G80 Sport

With a battleship's worth of options, driver-assist systems and media-related functions, you might expect the G80's user interface to be a labyrinth of menus and frustration — but it isn't. Instead, there's multifunctional rotary knob that allows drivers to scroll and navigate while on the move, with the redundancy of a touchscreen for those who prefer that interface. There are quick-access buttons for the assist systems to the left of the dash, which makes it easy to toggle them on and off without having to drill down through the menus, as well as a shortcut button for almost everything else on the center console. No user manual required.

2018 Genesis G80 Sport

This Genesis succeeds in impressing with a dressy exterior and comprehensive equipment list, but earning stars isn't entirely based on the number of courses served. Some of the finer details such as the finish and font of the interior controls lean more Hyundai than they do luxury. Granted, the larger G90 sits further upmarket, but the congruous execution of its interior is something that needs to trickle down to the G80, even if that means sacrificing content.

Nevertheless, Genesis is off to a strong and promising start, and we're guessing it will take far fewer than 30 years for it to achieve household status.

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