by Jay Traugott
Once upon a time, the luxury market was dominated by the German automakers, specifically Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. Years later, Lexus and Acura arrived on the scene and both have left their marks. And now there's a new player in town. Hyundai's luxury division, Genesis, has proven itself as a formidable competitor in this exclusive space and its latest debut is proof. The new 2021 Genesis G80 mid-size luxury sedan not only looks fantastic inside and out, but it's also roomier and more feature-packed than its immediate predecessor.
Although Genesis initially planned to have an official unveiling at the 2020 New York Auto Show, plans suddenly changed and the debut was done via live stream instead. The new G80 will be going head-to-head against the likes of the BMW 5 Series, without question one of the best all-around luxury sedans on sale today. But where the BMW has taken a slightly more traditional styling route, Genesis has gone for a bolder and, perhaps, slightly more polarizing look. But remember, fortune often favors the brave.
If you like the styling of the all-new Genesis GV80 SUV, then chances are you'll feel the same about the G80 sedan. Genesis calls its latest styling language "Athletic Elegance." It's not exactly traditional but it should appeal to conservative and younger buyers alike. The headlights and taillights both feature what's described as a double-lined Quad look. Expect to see this appear on future Genesis models. The massive front mesh grille also can't be missed and there's a hint of resemblance here to modern Bentleys.
The side character line begins at the headlights, extends above the door handles, and goes all the way to the taillights. It's mirrored by a chrome strip that runs across the bottom. A set of 20-inch wheels comes as standard.
From the side view, it may seem as if the G80 features fastback styling, like the Kia Stinger GT. Your eyes are slightly fooling you. Instead, there is a traditional trunk lid opening.
Perhaps your eyes will drift towards the unusual yet attractive split steering wheel design when first entering the vehicle. Some will like this, others won't, but no doubt Genesis took a bit of a risk here. There are also thin air vents running the entire length of the dashboard with open-pore wood trim beneath them. Traditional analog buttons and knobs have been retained for the heating and air conditioning controls. This was done instead of integrating them into the touchscreen for both aesthetics and convenience.
The driver's gauge cluster measures at 12.3-inches and can recognize the driver's eyes thanks to new and advanced tech. Meanwhile, the wide infotainment screen is 14.5-inches and incorporates the Genesis Integration Controller software specifically for Valet mode and other convenience feature systems.
Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are standard, as is a Lexicon sound system and ambient lighting. It also appears that leather upholstery is standard though the dashboard surfaces are covered in leatherette. Overall, Genesis claims the new G80 has more headroom and legroom than before, and a greater amount of space in general.
Buyers will have a choice of two engines, neither of which are offered with any sort of hybrid electrical assist. The standard engine is a 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-four totaling 304 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque. A 3.5-liter turbo V6 with 380 hp and 391 lb-ft is optional. Although Genesis has not confirmed a transmission, chances are it will be the same 8-speed automatic found in other Genesis models, including the GV80. Rear-wheel-drive is standard and all-wheel-drive is once again an option.
As always, Genesis prides itself on offering lots of luxury, tech, and safety and nearly unbeatable prices. For example, the 2021 G80 features 10 airbags as standard fare, along with tech bits like smart cruise control, remote smart parking assistance, and Highway Driver Assist II. This aids drivers during lane changes and potentially difficult lane mergers. Forward collision-avoidance and blind-spot collision avoidance are also included.
Like before, the Genesis G80 will compete directly against the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. All of these luxury mid-size sedans share a few things in common, such as riding on rear-wheel-drive architectures. But unlike those German sedans, the Genesis doesn't offer optional V8 power. Chances are that won't change, but we wouldn't be surprised to see a plug-in hybrid version arrive at some point.
Official pricing has yet to be announced, but the outgoing model carried a starting price of about $43,000. To compare, the cheapest BMW 5 Series costs at least another $10,000. The 2021 Genesis G80 will first go on sale in its native South Korea but will reach North American dealerships in the second half of this year.