While some companies have pulled out of the large luxury sedan segment altogether, Genesis has introduced a new generation of G80 riding on a new platform with new engines and a raft of new technology.
Many Australians mightn’t know what a Genesis is yet, but the new G80 will simultaneously stand out and fit in at your local country club or marina parking lot, with Genesis designers penning an exterior that pays homage to some other luxury cars while having a distinctive identity of its own.
The Genesis badge has always been rather derivative of Aston Martin’s, while the diamond “G-Matrix” grille has a Bentley-esque look to it that led to numerous passers-by asking if this was a new sedan from Crewe. Evidently, there’s a sufficiently upscale look to the rest of the exterior to invite that comparison and the designers should be flattered.
One family member also said the front of the G80 reminded him of a Chrysler Crossfire – I personally wouldn’t be offended by that comparison if I’d penned the G80, but your view may differ.
Where the Genesis differs from other luxury cars is in its distinctive two-tiered headlights, side repeaters and tail lights, as well as a fastback silhouette that makes this look sleeker than established rivals like the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
Overall the look is sleek, upscale and thoroughly contemporary, though the 2.5T’s 19-inch alloy wheels are rather controversial and a peculiar throwback to the early 1990s. We note a very similar wheel design was used on both the Ford EB Fairmont Ghia and the first-generation Chevrolet Lumina, though Genesis says the wheels simply echo the “G-Matrix” pattern of the grille which can also be found on the leather seats.
Sharing the new M3 architecture with the GV80 SUV, the G80 is unlikely to sell anywhere near the same volumes as its high-riding sibling. Even in an SUV-hungry market, the GV80 has an uphill climb being from a new brand with a limited retail network and with fixed pricing, so the G80 is destined to be a niche player particularly as the large luxury sedan segment stagnates.
The 2021 Genesis G80 range starts at $84,900 before on-road costs for the 2.5T we have on test. Opting for the more powerful 3.5T brings that to $99,900 list.
Both models are available with a $13,000 Luxury Package, which was fitted to our tester.
Our G80 also came with optional matte paint, which adds $2000 to the price. Personally, this is the last paint option I would have chosen out of the G80’s range of metallic and matte finishes but it looks nice in photographs and if matte is your thing, go for it.
Before on-roads, that makes our G80 essentially a $100,000 proposition and Genesis won’t discount its prices like Audi or BMW dealers will. So, while its list price lines up with that of a much less powerful and more spartan BMW 520i ($95,900) or Mercedes-Benz E200 ($96,900) and undercuts that of a 530i or E300, that’s just one part of the story.
The 2.5T and 3.5T have the same long list of features, though the 3.5T also adds adaptive suspension and 20-inch alloy wheels.
Likewise, the Luxury Package’s contents are the same on both the 2.5T and 3.5T so you aren’t disadvantaged by choosing the less powerful engine.
The 2.5T comes standard with LED headlights with automatic high beam, adaptive cruise control with stop/go, a panoramic sunroof, along with keyless entry and start.
The Luxury Package adds LED matrix headlights, though there are no cornering lights.
Inside, there’s real open-pore wood trim, heated and ventilated 12-way power front seats, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, colour-adjustable ambient lighting, a 21-speaker 1050W Lexicon by Harman sound system, a 12.0-inch head-up display, and a 14.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, DAB+ radio and satellite navigation.
Additional convenience features include a surround-view camera, a power hands-free boot lid, dual-zone climate control with rear vents, and wireless phone charging.
The Luxury Package upgrades the LED headlights to LED matrix units, the leather upholstery to quilted Nappa leather and the 12-way power driver’s seat to an 18-way seat with massaging function. The instrument cluster also becomes wholly digital, measuring 12.3 inches and featuring stereoscopic 3D technology.
It also adds suede trim for the headliner and pillars, tri-zone climate control, soft-close doors, a heated steering wheel, power rear sunshade, and both smart and remote smart parking assist.
Rear-seat passengers are pampered the most, with the Luxury Package adding heated, ventilated and power-adjustable rear seats plus dual 9.2-inch touchscreens.
There are a couple of things missing from the G80’s lengthy features list. The first is memory for the front passenger seat and the second is any kind of static or dynamic cornering lights. The outgoing G80 had static cornering lights on either side of the headlight assemblies which turned on if you moved the wheel, while it was also available in other markets with the same steering-guided headlights as you’ll find in up-spec Kia Stinger variants. That Genesis has removed the option of either for the new model is a strange omission.
There are some novel if less useful lighting inclusions, however, including puddle lamps that project the Genesis logo and guide lights projected on the road behind your car when you’re reversing.
ANCAP and Euro NCAP have yet to test the new G80.
Both the G80 2.5T and 3.5T have the same suite of safety features, though both add reverse parking collision avoidance assist when you add the Luxury Package. The standard driver attention alert is also enhanced and will warn you if it detects you’re not watching the road.
Standard on all G80s is an autonomous emergency braking system that includes pedestrian and cyclist detection, junction turning and junction crossing functions, and lane-change oncoming and side functions. It also includes evasive steering assist which will help steer your vehicle out of trouble, for example if a vehicle in front suddenly reduces speed.
In addition, there are blind-spot assist and rear cross-traffic assist systems that apply the brakes if they detect a collision is imminent. The expected lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning functions are also bolstered with lane-following assist, which helps keep you centred in your lane. Finally, there’s a rear occupant alert and a safe exit warning system to help protect rear-seat occupants.
All in all, it’s a significant upgrade in safety kit from the last G80.
The autonomous emergency braking system works at speeds of 10 to 65km/h when it detects pedestrians and cyclists. Genesis says it works at speeds of 10 to 75km/h when it detects vehicles, or at speeds of 10 to 100km/h when equipped with front corner radar.
The junction turning function works if you’re travelling at speeds of 10 to 30km/h but, while the warning function will work with an oncoming vehicle travelling at up to 70km/h, the braking function will only work if it’s travelling at 10 to 20km/h.
The old G80 had a classy analogue clock in the dash much like that of the first Infiniti Q45. In both those cars, the manufacturer had designed an interior with a simple, elegant appearance and high-quality materials and yet felt the need to insert a retro timepiece as if to “prove” it was a luxury car interior. It arguably betrayed a lack of confidence.
Contrast that with the new G80, in which Genesis designers have crafted an interior that’s at once instantly recognisable as a luxury car cabin and yet has a distinctive look of its own.
The G80 interior doesn’t try to ape the 5 Series or E-Class and, in your author’s opinion, Genesis has nailed the look inside. The analogue clock is gone now, too.
Yes, it does have a polarising steering wheel. No, there’s no option yet for a conventional three-spoke steering wheel, like the upcoming GV70 SUV will offer. Let’s see if one appears in the inevitable G80 Sport.
The last G80 had a plush, high-quality interior but the new car takes it to a whole new level. Every surface in the G80’s interior is either upholstered in leather or finished in soft-touch plastic, including the sides of the centre console, while even the floor mats are thick and plush.
There’s been no skimping, and you won’t find any stray bits of cheap plastic anywhere – the door trims have nice, squidgy plastic right to their base, while even the ledge upon which the touchscreen sits is soft-touch. So, too, are the insides of the door pockets, though partial felt lining like in the last car would perhaps have been a better idea.
The fake wood that last-generation, Australian-market G80s had has been replaced with real open-pore wood trim like we should have had all along (and which other markets did). The last vestiges of Hyundai and Kia corporate switchgear appear to have been banished and all the controls are tactile and well-weighted.
The interior looks and feels superb but, more importantly, everything is extremely functional. The stereoscopic 3D instrument cluster sounds like a gimmick but it’s actually highly legible and elegant in design, and a camera monitors your eyes to look for signs of inattentiveness or drowsiness. Each drive mode has a corresponding instrument design and, frankly, it all looks more elegant than that of, say, a Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
The G80 also offers something an E-Class doesn’t: a blind-spot view monitor in the instrument cluster. Turn on the indicator and either the left or right gauge displays footage of what’s in the corresponding blind spot. It’s clever and looks great to boot; you’ll find the same tech in up-spec Hyundai and Kia products including the Sorento GT-Line. The footage is also clearer than some cars’ reversing cameras.
Speaking of blind spots, the graphical depiction of the car in the head-up display also shows if there’s something in your blind spot, saving you from even having to look down at the instrument cluster. There are also the traditional blind-spot monitor lights in the exterior mirrors, though we note they’re now red like those of a Mercedes-Benz.
The rotary dial for the infotainment screen is solidly constructed from metal and tempered glass. Its top also features handwriting recognition which works well, though we wouldn’t say it’s the quickest way to input text. Using the dial becomes second nature as, while the infotainment screen has touch functionality, it’s a bit of a stretch to reach.
If the interior is an upgrade over the last car, the new 14.5-inch infotainment system is a quantum leap. In addition to being larger than the last car’s 9.2-inch unit, it finally has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto which on the last car was limited to overseas models.
It also discards the last car’s obviously Hyundai user interface for a new, Genesis-specific one that looks appropriately posh. It even has an attractive screensaver when it hasn’t been used in a while, plus the new Sounds of Nature app being rolled out across new Hyundai Motor Group vehicles.
Because the screen is quite wide, smartphone mirroring won’t take up the full display. While it defaults to displaying a useless compass on the far right-hand side when you’re in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you can change that to a more useful map.
Below the strip of real wood trim are some shortcut hard buttons for various infotainment screens, while below those sits a touch-capacitive black glass panel for the climate control. It has haptic feedback and we also appreciate the presence of Low, Medium and High modes for the climate control’s automatic function.
Underneath this, there’s a wireless charging pad and two USB outlets. Unfortunately, there are no USB-C outlets in either the front or rear of the cabin.
Impress your friends
The G80's remote smart parking assist is more party trick than useful function, but the remote forward and reverse function could come in handy.
In addition to a regular semi-autonomous parking assist function, the G80 – when equipped with the Luxury Package – also includes a remote smart-parking assist system of which there are two key components. Once the system identifies a park, you can exit the vehicle and watch it steer into the space.
This is of dubious utility beyond a party trick with which to impress your friends and it doesn’t always work efficiently – on one occasion, the car made several attempts to straighten up in a parking space, while on another it parked too closely to another car.
The remote forward and reverse function is a clever way to get your car out of a space if some rude individual has parked too closely to your door. Simply lock the car, start it remotely, and use the buttons on the key fob to move it forward or backwards.
You can move this almost two-tonne luxury sedan as nonchalantly with the fob as if you were fast-forwarding the boring part of a movie on Netflix.
Along with the remote smart parking assist, the optional rear-seat entertainment system is one of the car’s biggest conversation points. Controlled either by touch or by a metal-and-glass dial identical to the one up front, the G80’s two rear screens have shades of the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class about them.
Rear-seat occupants can set the navigation destination, watch videos, adjust the media volume, climate control temperature and ambient lighting, and even look at the view from the G80’s exterior cameras.
Despite the panoramic sunroof and the sleeker roofline that’s shaved 10mm of rear headroom, there’s still plenty of headroom for somebody measuring 180cm. There’s also ample legroom for somebody of that height sitting behind a similarly tall person.
Rear-seat passengers are treated even better in Luxury Package models, with the outboard rear seats being heated, ventilated and power-adjustable.
Luggage space is down by 9L to 424L but, despite the G80’s fastback shape, it still has a fairly large opening. As with the previous generation, there’s only a pass-through to the cabin.
While beautiful to look at and impeccably assembled, the G80 interior does have a few foibles.
The panoramic sunroof is tinted so darkly as to be almost impossible to see out of, in stark contrast with the last car’s sunroof. Upon restarting, the G80 also won’t retain your last drive mode or heated/ventilated seat settings.
The Nappa leather upholstery is also a bit firm for my taste, though this is purely subjective. The massaging function is a boon for comfort but it’s disappointing the front passenger doesn’t get a similar set-up for their seat.
If you’re coming out of a last-generation G80, though, some of its bugbears have been addressed.
The front door pockets of the new car actually fit bottles, for example. The infotainment system’s Bluetooth was also much quicker at connecting to my phone.
The G80 2.5T is powered by a new turbocharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine producing 224kW of power and 422Nm of torque, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
That’s up 25Nm of torque on the last generation’s naturally-aspirated 3.8-litre V6, the only powerplant offered locally, and it’s available lower in the rev range. Power is down by only 8kW, too.
Though it’s available with all-wheel drive in other markets and the more powerful 3.5T is exclusively available with all-paw traction here, all Australian-market 2.5T models are rear-wheel drive.
Genesis claims a 0-100km/h time of six seconds flat.
In our launch review of the Genesis G80, I said I wanted to get my hands on one here in Brisbane to take it to the kind of roads I like to take my 2015 Hyundai Genesis on. Roads like those traversing Mount Glorious and Mount Nebo, with the kinds of hairpins and tight switchbacks that inspire convoys of supercar and Skyline drivers to flock to the twin peaks almost every night.
Suffice it to say, it’s a great test loop for handling.
On these tortuous roads, the previous generation model is a surprisingly good steer. Its heavier steering inspires confidence and body roll is well controlled. Put it in Sport mode and you can even enjoy some controlled oversteer.
Alas, the new G80 simply isn’t as fun. The steering feels lighter and less tactile and while its stability control has a smoother calibration, it also means the car feels more prim and proper. Body roll remains fairly well controlled and it’s composed and unflappable – a consummate professional – but it doesn’t inspire you to tackle some twisties. This isn’t a sports sedan.
While it’s less sporty than before, it does a better job of being a luxury sedan. It has a nice, loping ride quality that has it gliding over bumps.
Like the last generation, it also has a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission.
While ride quality is generally much improved compared to my car, very rarely you’ll experience a brittle feeling on stray bumps. It feels awfully similar to that which I more frequently experience in my car, despite it using a different platform.
The turbocharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder is responsive for the most part, though there’s a slight delay off the line. Sport mode definitely sharpens throttle response, however.
The cabin is extremely hushed thanks to triple door seals and acoustic glass for the windscreen and doors, with just the faint sound of the turbocharged four-cylinder engine working away under the bonnet. It’s a rather innocuous engine note, though fortunately a lot more refined in sound than the coarse turbocharged 2.0-litre in the Kia Stinger.
Its cabin is whisper-quiet and its ride is pliant, making for a cosseting luxury sedan.
Like the Stinger, the G80 offers Active Sound Design which pipes a more burbling note into the cabin. You can also adjust the level of the artificial sound, while it’s more pronounced in Sport mode. It doesn’t sound particularly authentic but it does add a little aural spice to the car.
The lane-keeping assist system is a little inconsistent, occasionally tugging at the wheel to keep you in your lane while ignoring lane markings at other times. It lacks the uncanny precision of, say, Audi’s lane-keeping system.
The lane-following assist, however, feels like the car has been possessed by a spirit whose unfinished business on Earth is to keep your car within its lane. The system reminds you to keep your hands on the wheel but it kept us centred in our lane remarkably well, even in rainy weather on a busy highway around curves.
The adaptive cruise also worked well, and we appreciate a cruise control system that can be activated with the press of a single button.
Another area where the G80 has improved with the redesign is fuel economy. In our fuel economy loop, with a mix of inner-city, suburban and highway driving, I averaged 9.2L/100km. Tackling the same loop in my own car, I averaged 10.5L/100km.
A couple of things to note: we experienced more stop-start traffic while assessing the new car, while the old car requires only 91RON regular unleaded and the new G80 needs at least 95RON premium unleaded. Nevertheless, we came very close to matching the G80’s claimed combined figure of 8.6L/100km.
Genesis offers perhaps the most generous aftersales package in the luxury car market. There’s five years or 50,000km of free scheduled servicing (intervals are 12 months/10,000km), a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty and five years of 24/7 roadside assistance.
The company also includes a concierge service where it will pick up your G80 for scheduled servicing and leave you with a Genesis courtesy vehicle.
The large luxury sedan segment isn’t dead yet, even if it continues to decline. There are still luxury car buyers out there – and indeed, car buyers in general – who want a sedan instead of a crossover.
For this group of buyers, the G80 makes a compelling case for itself. Yes, it’s hamstrung by the general lack of awareness of the Genesis brand, plus its limited dealer network and its fixed pricing model.
But the new G80 has a distinctive and upscale exterior, while the interior is a superb blend of high-quality materials and stylish design.
It’s rather more isolated to drive than the last G80 and is therefore less fun to drive, but it’s quieter and boasts a more pliant ride.
Those are two qualities that are critical for a vehicle Genesis is marketing as a luxury sedan – note there’s no mention of “sports sedan” in the marketing materials, with Genesis instead emphasising its “refined proportions” and “stately qualities”.
The G80’s positioning and execution makes it an intriguing choice for buyers who are simultaneously luxury sedan traditionalists and yet who are willing to take a chance on an upstart brand. The only problem for Genesis is: just how many of that kind of buyer is out there?
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