The G90 blew our expectations out of the water. Genesis' 5 Series fighter? Not so much.
The Genesis badge has earned somewhat of a high reputation after the G90 came and went, leaving in its wake a week well spent enjoying the sort of luxury treatment we previously experienced in a BMW 7 Series costing nearly twice as much. However, we also know that Genesis has to wow because getting someone to spend $50,000 and up on a luxury vehicle that's missing the prestige of a well-known badge requires quite a bit of bargaining skill, the type of which we weren't sure the Genesis G80 would possess.
When our Patagonia Blue example arrived, we were pleasantly surprised by the large grille reminiscent of the inexplicably subtle yet domineering presence of the G90. Unlike the G90, there was no king size presence to call extra attention to the car and make up for the lack of chrome and the anonymity of the styling. An angular design approach that contrasted with the ironed out lines of the G90 helped onlookers see an Audi, Tesla, or any number of other high end vehicles in the G80's sheetmetal, but the overall effect is similar to that of an Acura, giving the impression of being vaguely upscale but missing the show stopper mark by a good margin.
Inside is where the real treat is to be had because in Genesis' habitual fashion, it included every option in the $54,550 price, with the only add-ons pushing our tester up to its $55,660 price being the $950 destination and handling charge, a $45 first aid kit (which actually came in handy following a video shoot injury), and $115 mud guards. Everything else, from the driver aids and 19-inch alloy wheels to the genuine wood trim and heated and cooled 16-way power driver's seat, 12-way passenger's chair, came standard. In fact, the sheer level of technology packed inside will dazzle most, especially when considering no options boxes need to be ticked to have it all.
Along with Automatic Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, and Smart Cruise Control, there is a CO2 sensor embedded inside to sense when the HVAC system needs to clear out the stale cabin air. The cherry on top are a heads-up display and rear-view parking camera, parking sensors, and rear window shades that unfortunately aren't automatic as they are in the G90. Like the G90, the G80 attempts to take over as much of the headache of getting from point A to B by including amenities like a handsfree automatic trunk, paddle shifters to help row all eight gears, and a sunroof.
The cumulative effect is that the G80 is comfortable, quiet, relaxing or invigorating depending on what's playing on the 17-speaker Lexicon sound system, and, well, slightly lacking. It's unfair to expect top trim quality for $55,000, but discovering that the trim pieces are actual wood takes a glance at the Monroney sticker since a discerning finger would predict plastic. Buttons, while soft to the touch, are a bit cheap feeling but nowhere near as bad as what you'd find in a Lincoln. The G80 still had the ability to impress anyone who stepped inside, especially with an Ivory color scheme and a sense of loftiness that belies its segment. Fit and finish is good, better than on the current generation of American luxury cars.
However, there is always the creeping feeling that something is missing. What the G80 fails to deliver in terms of luxury, it attempts to make up using the hardware lying under the sheet metal, especially given that the 5.0 badges on the trunk allude to the beast of a V8, naturally aspirated like a Mustang's Coyote unit, that motivates the sedan. With 420 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque being sent out the back wheels (all-wheel drive can only be had on V6 models) at the beckon call of the driver's right foot, the G80 should leap away from red lights with relative ease. For the most part, it does, but once up to speed acceleration starts to slacken fairly quickly.
When approaching an empty tunnel, we decided to give it the beans with the windows cracked to see if we could catch the shy V8 singing while attempting to explore the edges of its speedometer. Excuses can be found in the fact that it does have 4,567 pounds to answer for, but the overall experience led us to believe that either the V8 makes less power than advertised or simply doesn't know how to translate it to emotional performance. Wind noise answered our heavy throttle foot and the lack of drama made the speedo needle appear to crawl upwards as if it had a rock tied to it. A large displacement V8 is simpler and cheaper to build than a complex forced induction unit, helping cut costs on what is already a bargain luxury vehicle.
The only problem is the 12 mpg we averaged in dense city traffic and mild amounts of highway driving (out of an EPA estimated 18 mpg average, 15 city and 23 highway), which made us wonder how much of a premium we'd have to pay for one of the G80's competitors with a more refined drivetrain. Evidence that Genesis left that the performance aspect on the back burner is felt in the suspension, which is cushioned and comfortable but lacks the dynamics of some of its German rivals, leaving us wishing for more agility at speed. Anyone expecting the large V8 up front sending more than 400 horsepower to the rear wheels to enable massive smokey drifts will be disappointed, but it's not all bad.
A drive mode selector can switch between Eco, Normal, Sport, and Snow, modulating the throttle response and traction control but forgoes any tweaking of the suspension damping. In heavy traffic the G80 can launch away from stoplights faster than more pedestrian models surrounding it and will cut around gaps if hustled, but expect a ballet of body roll and a promise to oneself to try and curtail those actions as much as possible. The lofty yet slightly aloof character of the G80 also seems to leak through into the infotainment system and control layout. A rotary knob and an array of controls placed behind the automatic shifter control the show.
While the knob does help relay inputs to the computer more easily, Genesis hasn't quite nailed down the science of user friendly controls, with the system looking similar to what's on the latest and greatest Hyundais. What Genesis needs, then, is a bit more time to distance itself from Hyundai. A generation or two could perhaps do the trick, and while Hyundai has yet to be able to charge full price for the package it offers given the compromises, the G80 is a good warning that the marquee is evolving quickly, keeping it on track with one day attaining the ranks of Infiniti or even Lexus. Buyers won't be nearly as impressed here as they would be in a G90, but our weeklong dance with the G80 proves that hard work is paying off.