2018 Genesis G80 Sport is much more than a Hyundai – Chicago Tribune
The launch of Hyundai’s premium Genesis brand is getting the Rodney Dangerfield treatment: No respect.
For the first day in the 2018 Genesis G80 Sport, my passengers would smooth their hands over the leather seats and soft touch dash, open and close the panoramic sunroof, note the silly analog clock. They’d admit it was nice, for a Hyundai.
This is the challenge for the South Korean automaker, and a fair one as it ramps up product for its premium brand.
The same challenge was made when Toyota introduced Lexus, Honda with Acura, Nissan with Infiniti. Hyundai will have a tougher time due to the outdated but lingering stigma of it being a budget brand; the presence of youthful sister-brand Kia further muddles the Hyundai’s Group’s three brands. Unlike other Asian premium brands, Genesis aims to separate itself like Cadillac has done from General Motors. The three Genesis sedans and forthcoming three crossovers will use a rear-wheel-drive platform, the designs come from German engineers, and the brand is establishing its luxury bona fides in its home country first.
Is the new brand with the wings worthy of flying on its own? It can, if given a chance.
While last year’s G90 was a refined if understated full-size luxury sedan, the G80 Sport that shares the 365-horsepower twin-turbo V-6 engine is a refined if unassuming rear-wheel-drive sedan with plenty of pluck. In sport mode, the rear wheels kick up some gravel and second gear brings a surprising chirp from the tail. The twin turbo minimizes lag from a stop, and all 376 pound-feet of torque is available at just 1,300 rpm so there’s plenty of turbo punch whenever you want it, with a nice soundtrack to boot. Rear wheel drive never gets old, until snow, and the Genesis is really well-balanced so it never feels dangerous. The available power surprised me every time, and it appeared to surprise other drivers.
In eco mode, the smooth and quiet ride further distinguishes it from louder Hyundai models. It’s Lexus quiet, but with more sport and style; handling is firm and responsive enough to make driving fun.
The design is attractive but unassuming, long with short front overhangs and 19-inch alloy wheels. It’s longer than most midsize sedans but not quite full-size, except at the rear, which is on the bigger end of things.
The G80 Sport is well-appointed but straddles Hyundai and luxury in a way that is neither here nor there. The recurring comment was it’s nice, for a Hyundai. The font and design of the 9.2-inch screen is familiarly Hyundai, but the controller knob flanked by menu buttons in the console draws from luxury German design. The Genesis system is a lot less complex and easier to navigate.
The semi-autonomous hands-free driving system works well on the highway, without all the promotional hullabaloo of the competitors. That understated, almost modest quality of Genesis is endearing in a segment that often overvalues its offerings.
Even more endearing — and relieving from German luxury — is the singular price point: the G80 comes with three engine options, in RWD or in AWD, and trimmed with all the stuff or with basic stuff. There are no piecemeal options as is the German way, so that by the time you add up power liftgate, power locks, air in the tires you’re at over $70,000 from a $50,000 base. And the stuff, like that smooth and capacious panoramic sunroof, works really well.
It takes time to appreciate the overall personality of the brand, the quiet confidence and harmonious design that excels it above the Lexus GS and Acura TLX. It won’t have the same cachet or performance benchmarks as the German brands, but for people who like nice things and don’t want to flaunt it, Genesis is worthy of respect.
2018 Genesis G80 Sport at a glance
Vehicle type: Premium midsize sedan
Base price: $55,250
As tested: $55,250 (excluding $975 delivery)
Engine type: 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Parting shot: Worthy of respect.
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