It’s hard to think of Hyundai’s new luxury brand, Genesis, without being reminded of Toyota’s similar leap of faith back in 1989 when it delivered unto us the Lexus division. The concept then and now was to establish a standalone luxury brand that was separate and several notches above Toyota, which was equated with being a budget brand for normal folk.
Now, nearly three decades later, it’s Hyundai’s turn to burst into the high-end market with Genesis, a brand differentiated from the South Korean automaker’s otherwise plebeian image. Other car companies have tried with varying degrees of success – Nissan’s Infiniti brand finally took off after a faltering start, as has Acura for Honda, although Volkswagen fumbled with its moon-shot Phaeton brand.
Meanwhile, Hyundai seems to be taking a cue from Lexus’s booming success in its rollout of Genesis. What’s different is that Hyundai is taking one of its existing nameplates and spinning it off as its own brand. Not really all that unusual in the auto business; think of Ram spun off as a standalone truck division for Fiat-Chrysler.
The 2018 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport tested here is the smaller of the two Genesis models, which are led by the hulking G90 luxury sedan that is designed to do battle with such titans as Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7-Series. G80 aims a bit lower, and before the advent of the new division, the sedan would have been known as the Hyundai Genesis, as it was until 2016.
As such, the G80 is something of a carryover model from Hyundai, which makes we wonder why with all that corporation’s vast resources the automaker couldn’t come up with something fresh and exciting for the launch of its new venture.
As the Sport model, the G80 is dialed in for performance while still delivering cushy comfort for five. To motivate the sporty aspect, the G80 Sport gets the powerful 3.3-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 and eight-speed automatic transmission as used in the G90. This powerplant churns 365 horsepower and 376 pounds-feet of torque, which is generated at an accessible 1,300 rpm for seamless power delivery. Paddle shifters add driver interaction.
The G80 Sport is based on a heavyweight luxury car that carries more than 4,500 pounds of heft. But the engineers did an admirable job of equipping the Sport model with quick, responsive steering and firm suspension, which provides some semblance of sporty drivability. Despite the weight, acceleration is brisk and the stopping power is solid.
Genesis styling breaks no new ground in either the G80 or the newly minted G90, following the trends of the major European luxury brands, as well as Lexus, which G80 fairly apes in front-end design. Hyundai has stepped out in the past with its own design language for its other, lesser models, and it should have done the same here to set these cars apart from the herd.
The G80 Sport tested was lavishly equipped with every feature imaginable, with a beautifully crafted interior tastefully trimmed in aluminum and carbon fiber. The seven-inch touch screen is easily mastered, and includes a decent navigation system along with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for you techheads out there. The 17-speaker (where do they put them all?) Lexicon audio with Quantum Logic surround sound performed as well as anything out there, in my humble experience.
Safety features abound, with cameras and sensors and such allowing no excuses for running into something.
Like its parent company, Genesis has a pair of aces in the hole: competitive pricing and Hyundai’s customary long-term warranty, still the best in the business last time I checked.
The G80 starts at around $41,000 for the base V6 model, which is well-equipped as a premium car. There’s also a higher-priced full-luxury G80 with a 5.0-liter V8, which starts at $57,000.
The G80 3.3T Sport with rear-wheel drive that I tested (all G80 models can be equipped with all-wheel drive) came fully equipped for $55,250, or $56,225 with shipping added on. That pretty much undercuts the luxury competition in this model range with similar levels of features.
As for the warranty, Hyundai still backs its vehicles with 5-year/60,000-mile new-car coverage, 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain and 7-year/unlimited anti-perforation, which should be of interest to those living in the snow belt.
While the G80 3.3T Sport equated itself well overall in features and performance, it somewhat missed the opportunity to stand out from the swarm of luxury cars with which it competes. Hyundai has shown with some of its other vehicles that it can provide that edge, and it should be able to do it here.
2018 Genesis G80 3.3T Sport
Vehicle type: Five-passenger, four-door sedan, rear-wheel drive
Base price: $55,250 Price as tested: $56,225
Engine: Twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V6, 260 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, 240 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 118.5 inches Overall length/width: 196.5 inches / 74.4 inches
Curb weight: 4,519 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 17 city / 25 highway / 20 combined
Assembled in: Ulsan, South Korea