Genesis is forging a unique path by zigging where others zag.
When the Hyundai Motor Group first launched its Genesis luxury brand, there were plenty of doubters. The 3 Series-rivaling G70 showed that Genesis could build a world-class sports sedan, while more recent arrivals like the 2021 Genesis G80 prove the Korean luxury brand is here to stay. Much in the same way the original Lexus LS demonstrated that Japan could produce a world-class luxury sedan on par with Europe, the latest G80 does the same for South Korea. The G80 isn't just "as good" as the competitors from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes; in some ways, it's better.
Genesis recently sent us a 2021 G80 with the larger 3.5T engine, loaded up with the $6,000 Prestige Package. Aside from the optional all-wheel-drive system, this is the pinnacle G80 model with every available feature. Spending a week with this car revealed that Genesis crafted a unique sedan that goes its own way.
Luxury sedans have a bad habit of looking similar to each other. The Genesis G80 bucks this trend. This car adopts the latest Genesis "Athletic Elegance" design language, which attempts to balance these two opposing themes. We love the signature Crest Grille and twin headlight design. Those twin lines continue down the car to the rear, where the taillights are split as well. The rear end gives off first-generation Mercedes CLS vibes with a sloped roofline that affords it a four-door coupe profile.
Genesis offers some bold wheel options, but the Prestige Package includes simple, elegant five-spoke 20-inchers. If we had one complaint on the exterior, the G80 doesn't offer enough color choices. The Tasman Blue on our tester was pretty unique, as is the available Black Forrest Green, but we'd like to see a red hue available.
A common mistake automakers make with luxury sedans is trying too hard to incorporate sporty, racing pedigree into a vehicle designed for comfort. Genesis avoided this trap by looking back on what made older Lexus models so popular; they didn't pretend to be something they weren't. The G80's cabin is filled to the brim with tasteful designs and features. These seats are supremely comfortable, and on the Prestige model, they feature a massage function called Ergo Motion. Though the rear seats don't have this feature, the padding is among the most comfortable we've sampled in a sedan.
The G80 has some athletic character with its rear-wheel-drive platform and available 375-horsepower twin-turbo V6, but it isn't the defining point of the car. Instead, the G80 aims to relax its driver while retaining excellent balance. Anyone who loved the now-discontinued Lexus GS will find a lot to like here.
As with the exterior, the G80's cabin looks uniquely Genesis. The large 14.5-inch display has a touchscreen, but it can also be controlled using a unique rotating knob. Like many other controls in the car, the knob is knurled for a quality feel and features a white glass center with a swipe pad. The shifter is knurled, too, and even lights up with a pinkish hue at night. Other stunning elements in the interior include the unpolished wood trim, elegant stitch work, and available dark blue leather with maroon brown accents. Very few cars offer blue leather, and it's refreshing to see Genesis go with something so unique.
Even the technology looks unique, with the infotainment screen defaulting to a pretty screensaver depicting different graphics depending on the location and weather. The available 3D instrument cluster is interesting with different themes based on the drive modes.
Luxury automakers tend to make buyers pay extra for safety options like adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring. Genesis believes such features should be standard equipment. No wonder why the G80 is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award winner. As standard, the G80 includes forward collision avoidance, lane-keep assist, lane-follow assist, blind-spot avoidance assist, smart cruise control, high beam assist, driver attention warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and Highway Driving Assist II.
That last option is the most beneficial, combining the smart cruise control and lane-keep assist to help drivers steer and retain a set following distance in traffic. Among the hands-on systems we've tested, it's by far the most intuitive. Other available safety features include the Blind-View Monitor, which shows blind spots on the available digital instrument cluster.
We loved the G80 and even compared to rivals from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes, we'd highly recommend it. And that's before you look at pricing. The base G80 with the 300-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine starts at just $50,850. In comparison, the less powerful (and less well-equipped) German options cost significantly more. The Audi A6 starts at $54,900, the 5 Series at $54,200, and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class at $54,250.
These German options punch into much higher price brackets than Genesis, especially in RS, M, and AMG guise. We'd love to see Genesis compete with the S6, M550i, and E53 with a G80 Sport variant, but it seems like the Korean brand is content to let its new midsize sedan thrive at the more reasonable level. The G80 captures the magic of the old Lexus GS; it punches well above its price point and should have the Europeans on notice.