Creating a new luxury brand from scratch takes time. Just ask Lexus how long it took before people stopped calling them fancy Toyotas. With products like the 2021 Genesis G80 sedan, the South Korean luxury brand is currently where Lexus was back in the 1990s, fighting to shake off preconceived perceptions. But after driving the G80 for a week, we believe Genesis is on the right trajectory to challenge the established luxury players, even the European ones.
The second-generation Genesis G80 entered the market at a poor time for sedans, when SUV sales dominated the market, competing with established mid-size options such as the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The latter two recently received major updates, meaning that the G80 faces some stiff competition. But is the new entrant dead on arrival? Not even close. Genesis sent us a fully-loaded G80 3.5T with the twin-turbo V6 and the Prestige Package to sample for a week. Not only does the G80 match the Germans on luxury, it does so at a significantly lower price. Are we looking at the new face of luxury?
The 2021 Genesis G80 is an all-new arrival for this model year. Along with an imposing redesign that gives it a better chance of luring buyers away from the prolific Germans, the G80 is improved in many other ways. Its unibody structure now boasts six percent improved tensile strength over the last G80, while the platform as a whole is also 6% lighter than before.
At the lower end of the lineup, the Genesis G80 is powered by a more efficient 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 300 horsepower, while a new 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 produces more power than the outgoing 3.3-liter unit. However, the V8 has been dropped. The cabin is more luxurious than ever, provides more space for passengers, is quieter, and offers technology highlights such as a 14.5-inch infotainment display. As before, keen pricing for the Genesis G80 remains one of its key selling points.
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The Genesis G80 knows exactly what it wants to deliver; it's more athletic than you'd expect, but it will leave the race track antics to the Germans. We love the G80's naturally-balanced steering, which doesn't feel overly assisted in any drive mode. Placing the car into its sport mode considerably tightens the steering rack, making the car feel more eager to leap into corners. It's no M5 when the roads get twisty, but the electronically-controlled suspension does a novel job keeping the car mostly flat and level. There's noticeable body roll if you push too hard, but the chassis is well-tuned to let the driver play with the car before it gets too out of shape. Anyone who's driven a Lexus GS 350 F-Sport will feel right at home in the G80 with its comfortable yet athletic demeanor.
When the roads are straight and boring, the G80 excels at delivering on its luxury promise. It's quiet, comfortable, and composed even when the roads aren't, keeping occupants cocooned from reality. We came away particularly impressed with the G80's Highway Driving Assist function, which manages the steering and adaptive cruise control in traffic. Though this Level 2 system isn't meant to be hands-free, it was able to take over during huge chunks of our bumper-to-bumper commute without us touching the steering wheel or pedals. So whether you are hustling the car on a curvy mountain road or letting it nearly drive itself in traffic, the G80 impresses.
The previous-generation Genesis G80 was an outstanding value proposition in the midsize luxury sedan segment, but it was clear that it had room for improvement to reach the opulence of its European rivals. With this second-generation model, Genesis has made the leap to the point where the G80 not only matches its European competition, it recaptures some of the old-school luxury spirit that's been lost in favor of sporty handling and overabundant technology. The G80 reminds us a lot of the now-gone Lexus GS; it's a competent handler that offers balanced performance at a lower price point than the Europeans.
If we were in the market for a midsize luxury sedan, the G80 would be near the top of our shopping list. At the low end, the four-cylinder model delivers more power than all of its rivals from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes along with far more standard safety and luxury features. At the high-end, the G80 may not match the performance capabilities of its rivals, but to equip those cars with comparable features, you can spend upwards of $15,000 more. Not only is the 2021 Genesis G80 an outstanding luxury sedan, it's a bargain within its segment.
Is the G80 enough luxury wrapped in a sedan or is it worth spending extra on the larger G90? Starting at $72,950, the G90 is a bigger vehicle and offers either the same twin-turbo V6 or a 5.0-liter V8. The G90 does everything the G80 does but it's even quieter and does an even better job of isolating its occupants. If you intend on being driven around rather than doing the driving yourself, it's a no-brainer - the G90 simply offers more, including extensively power-adjustable rear seats and plenty of rear legroom. There is also a slightly larger trunk in the G90, although, like the G80, its rear seats also can't be folded flat. If you must have a V8 engine and you want the most serene driving experience on offer in a Genesis, the G90 is worth it. But the G80 offers a lot of the same for less money.
The smaller Genesis G70 is yet another accomplished sedan from the Korean company. Starting at $36,000, it's a smaller and lighter vehicle than the G80 which makes it much more agile and enjoyable to drive quickly. The same V6 engine is on offer in the G70, and it makes the smaller sedan faster in a straight line. On the downside, the G70 isn't as spacious for passengers and the trunk is smaller than the G80's. The latter also has a more luxurious interior and its 14.5-inch touchscreen display dwarfs the 10.25-inch screen in the G70. Both cars excel within their respective segments. Choose the G70 if you have a tighter budget or want to have more fun behind the wheel, but go for the G80 for a more opulent experience.
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Check out some informative Genesis G80 video reviews below.