In the beginning, Karl Benz created the Patent-Motorwagen, and the car was born—at least that’s the first verse in the Good Book according to Mercedes-Benz. Two years ago, Hyundai announced its own creation story, assigning the Genesis name to a new line of luxury cars that would be sold by Hyundai dealers. Rid of both the Hyundai nameplate and that brand’s everyday-affordablity emphasis, Genesis aims to be a fresh alternative to the 100-year-old premium labels.
Born in 2009 as the Hyundai Genesis and refurbished for the 2015 model year, the G80 sedan reviewed here is the first shot in the Genesis brand’s salvo. Add to that a larger and all-new G90 flagship sedan and at least four more models to arrive by 2020. The Genesis mission is invading the money zone where Acura, Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Infiniti, Jaguar, Lexus, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo earn lucrative returns on their parent companies’ investments.
Premium and Ultimate
The Genesis G80 3.8-liter sedan starts at $42,350, rising to $53,800 when equipped with three of the four available upgrades, as was our test vehicle. An all-wheel-drive system called HTRAC cost $2500. A Premium package containing a two-panel sunroof, upgraded audio, front-seat ventilation, an LCD instrument cluster, parking sensors, a rearview camera, fog lamps, and rear-window shades hiked the price by $4750. Finally, the Ultimate package bringing leather seats, extra driver’s-seat adjustments, wood and metal trim, a color head-up display, a 9.2-inch infotainment touchscreen, yet another sound-system upgrade, a power-operated trunk lid, and dual-mode front-vent controls added another $4200 to our total.
While many luxury-brand incumbents built their reputations on strong performance credentials, the G80 takes a more cordial path. Every G80 rolls on all-season tires. While there is a potent 5.0-liter V-8 alternative to the 311-hp 3.8-liter V-6, this Genesis doesn’t have an aggressive bone in its attractively sculpted body. Ride motions are smooth and settled, as if every pavement fissure is filled with whipped cream. Respecting the hushed conversations anticipated in this luxury setting, cabin noise is a low 72 decibels during full-bore acceleration and 66 decibels during 70-mph cruising. Control efforts are low to guarantee that commuting is never a chore.
Back of the Grid
At the test track, the G80 landed toward the back of the performance grid. While most base-engine, all-wheel-drive premium sedans hustle from rest to 60 mph in the low-five-second range, the G80 needed 6.6 seconds to reach that velocity. Similarly, quarter-mile runs in the low-to-mid 14s with a trap speed around 100 mph are typical of this class, versus the 15.0 seconds at 96 mph achieved by the G80. That said, this Genesis did add a notch to its holster by matching the Mercedes-Benz E300 4MATIC’s 15.0-second quarter-mile time and by topping the four-cylinder Benz’s 92-mph trap speed by a significant 4 mph.
This leaves the weight side of the G80’s power-to-weight equation as the performance-robbing suspect. The 4503-pound curb weight we measured is hundreds of pounds heavier than alternatives such as the Cadillac CTS 2.0T and the Jaguar XF 3.0 (both equipped with all-wheel drive). While aluminum body parts now are common, this Genesis has an all-steel body.
So the G80 is clearly not a sports sedan, but it does excel in other areas. While the exterior design borders on generic, the combination of a long hood and a set-back cabin yields a striking profile. Call it a coincidence, but the Audi-like grille frame and the Bentley-esque winged badge are interesting touches considering that chief designer Luc Donckerwolke worked for both of those marques before joining Genesis last November.
Considering that this G80 is an upcycled Hyundai, it’s a modest step toward what this brand aspires to achieve. This first-edition Genesis scores well in comfort and convenience, but drivers accustomed to sparkling performance will be disappointed. Responding swiftly to market needs is what made the Hyundai Motor Group a force to be reckoned with, and Genesis already is considering how to integrate a performance-oriented sub-brand into its products. That means there’s probably a comprehensively upgraded G80 waiting in the wings—and no chance of Exodus following Genesis in this playbook.