Affordable Luxury: The Genesis G80

After years of speculation, Hyundai finally pulled the trigger and created its own dedicated luxury brand, designed to compete with the likes of Lexus. The brand goes by the name Genesis, and it likely signals a new era for the Korean carmaker.

The first vehicle to be launched under this new brand is the full-sized G80 sedan – a car previously known as the Hyundai Genesis sedan. Confused? So are we, but this car remains a solid entry into the luxury brand game.

The Look

As hinted above, the G80 is simply a rebranding of an existing car – the Hyundai Genesis sedan – so it’s a very familiar sight. Even if this is your first time looking at the car, it remains a familiar sight as it is a somewhat generic-looking sedan. But that’s not exactly a bad thing.

As other luxury brands are going wild with their designs, it’s nice to find something with clean, elegant lines. Unlike some other cars, with their predator-inspired front ends and folded-origami bodywork, the G80’s simpler design will look better 5, 10, even 20 years from now.

Best of all, there’s a presence to the G80 when viewed in person. It is a full-sized luxury car, feeling most elegant when sprayed in a subdued hue like gunmetal or silver. Even the “flashy” parts – like the large grille, for example – still carry a minimalist feel, seeking a more timeless sense of beauty than trying to feel very “now.”

The Interior

As the G80 was engineered first to be a Hyundai, the cabin doesn’t feel as high-end as a comparable Lexus or Mercedes. The grade of leather feels a bit harder, and certain plastic bits feel slightly less refined. For the price, though, there’s a lot to like.

All the key luxury features you want – like leather seating surfaces with contrast stitching, heated and ventilated power seats, and smart safety technologies – are all accounted for here. And, of course, our tester also featured a premium Lexicon 7.1 surround sound audio system with 17-speakers, a full-color heads-up display, and a trunk that automatically opens when you stand behind the car for more than three seconds.

What might be best, though, is the fact that the entertainment and climate systems still rely on physical buttons and knobs to get the job done. Okay, yeah, there’s a really nice touchscreen system too, but in a time when other luxury carmakers are trying their hands at creating a one-off, convoluted interface that never quite works right, the fact that everything in the G80 is intuitive to use is a true breath of fresh air. Best of all, everything just works.

The Drive

The Genesis G80 is a large car, and it’s fine with that. It doesn’t try to bend the rules of physics in order to achieve an arbitrary lap time on a racetrack; instead, it revels in being a darn comfortable automobile. It’s a car that’s at its best when driving down an open stretch of highway, but this heavyweight still has the footwork to adeptly get it around a bend or two.

But the jewel of it all is the (optional) 5.0-liter V8 under the hood. Rated at a whopping 420 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque, this engine provides the right amount of shove at any speed. Need to blast onto that onramp or get around that moving truck in a hurry? It’s all done with a simple press of the throttle.

This powerplant is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, allowing for plenty of punch off the line, while maximizing efficiency at higher cruising speeds. Yeah, there are also paddle shifters and a manual shift mode if you want ‘em, but they don’t really feel necessary for a car like this. Just point it in the direction you want to go, give the throttle a squeeze, and enjoy the ride.

Final Thoughts

While the Genesis G80 is a solid first step in creating a premium auto brand, this car still feels more Hyundai than luxury, and further refinements will be needed should the car hope to compete against the likes of Lexus.

But then, the Genesis G80 offers a compelling value for the price. Our top-spec tester (dubbed the G80 5.0 Ultimate) carries a very reasonable MSRP of just $55,670. For comparison, the similarly sized Lexus LS starts at $72,520. So just as Lexus beat Mercedes on price when it launched, it looks like Genesis is hoping to do the same here.