2021 Genesis G80: Throwing Down the Gauntlet
Words by Jennifer Jensen
Photos by Jessica Voruda
This is the all-new, third generation, Genesis G80. Just look at it. Isn’t it attractive? There is a strong and purposeful stance to it. It is elegant and powerful at the same time. It is clear that this is a luxury sedan just from the sheet metal.
Only once during our week with the car were we asked if it was a Bentley. But we know others were thinking the same thing.
That winged logo perched at the front of the hood, the large chromed grille, the long, stately, flowing body and those strong five spoke wheels all speak to luxury and refinement.
It is the first sedan to ride on a brand spanking new chassis from Genesis that only underpins this car and its SUV counterpart the GV80. You won’t find this chassis under any other Genesis, Hyundai or Kia product.
The G80 is a big car but not as limousine-like as the G90. Slotted between the smaller G70 and the massive G90, the G80 is the “Mama Bear” of the Genesis sedan family lineup. Not too big, not too small, juuuuuust right.
BEAUTY THAT IS MORE THAN SKIN DEEP
The inside is almost better looking than the outside.
“The Beauty of White Space” is the interior theme. According to Genesis, this is a traditional Korean architectural technique where priority is placed on a balance between personal space and state-of-the-art technology.
There is plenty of space and certainly plenty of technology.
Right in front of the driver is a 12.3-inch instrument cluster that has, believe it or not, a 3-D function. Turn on 3-D mode and the speedometer and tachometer fade to the back of the display while an information screen between those two gauges hovers in front.
There are two little red laser eyes that stare at your face the entire time you are sitting behind the wheel. They monitor your alertness and also help to create the 3-D effects. It’s a little gimmicky, but it does look cool.
Above the dash is one of the best HUDs in the business. Many head-up-displays just don’t look good. They typically present decent information, but far-too-often in a mediocre manner. The G80’s HUD is large and easy to read. It provides a variety of useful information and is a handy reference whilst driving.
Sweep your eyes to the right and they will be blessed with the visuals provided by a 14.5-inch infotainment screen. It is quite gorgeous and shows different scenery that coincides with the weather and time of day when not being used to interact with any multimedia. So if it’s cold outside the G80 will gently remind you of that fact.
Below that gorgeous screen is a long swath of matte wood accompanied by a slim line of air vents.
Just below that dividing line are the HVAC controls. Two large and tactilely sweet knobs book end a capacitive touch screen with haptic feedback. It’s a nice setup that clearly displays where air is flowing in the cabin. The interactive buttons are easy to read and the little buzz they generate when you touch them is a reassuring notice that your command has been met.
Then there is the center console.
At the front is a cubby with ports for information and charging that are flanked by a wireless charger pad for your smart phone. That charging station is also vented to help keep your phone cool while charging it.
Another cubby plays home to a pair of cup holders. Next to that are two round dials.
The dial furthest aft is the PRNDL. Spin to the right for drive, to the left for reverse and a light spin in either direction for neutral. There is a button on top for park.
Right in front of that dial is the Wheel of Doom. I’ll come back to that.
The rest of the cabin is a leather wrapped and padded comfort zone meant for long distance cruising in luxury and solitude.
ROOMY AIRY AND COMFY
The driver’s seat is adjustable in just about every possible direction and it includes something called “smart posture” wherein the car will actually recommend the ideal driving position for your body. The G80 really does care about you.
Heated seats are standard in the front with ventilation and a heated steering wheel as options. The only thing missing is a massage function.
The back seats are just as comfy as the front but not as adjustable. Genesis lowered the back seats in this new G80 to create a little more headroom while also allowing for a sleeker profile to the roofline.
I fit quite well in the back seats with plenty of room to sprawl out.
There is a very nice armrest that folds down between the seats. It houses a pair of cup holders and controls for seat heating and the electric rear sunshade.
Looking around it seems as nothing is an afterthought. The G80’s cabin is a well-executed interior that stacks up well against the competition.
The G80 can be had with either a 2.5-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder or a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6. The four is good for 300 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque while the V6 puts out 375 hp and 391 lb-ft.
You also have your choice of rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Unlike some other manufacturers, you can spec all-wheel drive with either engine option.
No matter the power plant, you get a slick 8-speed automatic. Paddle-shifters are on hand but you’re better off leaving them alone. Just let the G80 do the shifting for you.
Push the start button on the dash and the turbo-fed V6 thrums to life then idles waaaay off in the distance. Sound insulating glass on the windscreen and both front doors help reduce noise from the outside world.
Spin the PRNDL to drive and you’re off.
The G80 has a self-leveling multilink suspension that is decent at soaking up road imperfections but it’s not as good as it could be. Comfort mode allows too much interference from the road rather than relegating it to the outside.
There are several different drive modes including Comfort, Sport, Eco and a Custom setting that lets you tailor individual items to your liking.
Switching from Comfort to Sport firms up the suspension and adds significant heft to the steering. The transmission immediately downshifts and holds revs longer before shifting.
There is definitely a more athletic nature to the G80 in Sport mode. Everything responds a little faster but bear in mind this is still a 4,000 plus pound luxury car you’re flinging about.
Genesis really tried to give the G80 the best traits of the more sporting G70 and more luxo-barge G90. For the most part they succeeded.
The G80 is also packed to the hilt with safety features. Everything from 10 airbags, including one between the driver and front passenger, to blind spot monitoring (which also shows up in the HUD!) to forward collision avoidance there are all kinds of safety technologies packed into the G80.
There is even artificial intelligence. The G80 has what Genesis calls Smart Cruise Control with Machine Learning. Paired with an Advanced Driver Assistance System, the program attempts to learn your driving style so it can “assist” you. Seems a it “Big Brother” to me, but I really didn’t notice it.
Then there is Road Preview, a system that uses the forward facing camera to read the road ahead and prepare the suspension to deal with it in the best possible manner.
That is a whole lot of technology wrapped in one attractive package, but is it a step too far?
THE WHEEL OF DOOM
That brings us back to the Wheel of Doom.
Do you remember when the iPod first came out? It had that spinny wheel thing to sort through your songs. You could spin the wheel but you could also push it.
The Wheel of Doom works the same way. Fine, right? Abso-freaking-lutely not.
You see, the wheel takes some pressure to spin it. But if you apply too much pressure then you are pushing the “button” portion of the wheel, which may send you in the exact opposite direction you are trying to navigate to.
So let’s say you want to spin the wheel to the right to select something else on the big infotainment screen but because you are driving your finger starts on the left hand side of the wheel. So you push a little to get some traction on the wheel to start it spinning, but you push just a bit too hard. Now you’ve pressed the wheel to go left while trying to spin to go right.
What’s even more maddening is the fact that the big beautiful infotainment screen is a TOUCH SCREEN! Why the hell do we even need the stupid Wheel of Doom?!
I will say that the wheel works pretty well if you are listening to the radio. The spinny dial works as a tuner and you can just spin around the dial to your preferred station. Again, this works only if you don’t push too hard to activate the button.
Oh, and you can “write” on the Wheel of Doom as well. Similar to Audi’s writing feature on top of their MMI knob you can scrawl letters or numbers to be interpreted into the system. While that feature works quite well in Audis, the G80 falls short.
If you write a number 5, for example, a couple of squares will pop up with a 5 and an S. Then you have to move the wheel to select the corresponding letter or number the Wheel of Doom thinks you were writing.
It’s an added step that shouldn’t be needed. Especially while driving.
My suggestion is to ditch the wheel altogether. Move the touchscreen a little closer to the face of the dashboard and be done with it.
THE SOUND OF SHATTERED SILENCE
The G80 has an optional 21 speaker audio system by Lexicon. Yes…21 speakers. I’m just going to go ahead and quote straight from the Genesis G80 press release:
“An available 21-speaker Lexicon audio system brings music and other programming to life in Quantum Logic Surround sound through 14 channels and 17 locations. A five-speaker center sound bar, Kevlar-cone front midrange speakers, acoustic lenses and metal speaker grilles create precise, immersive audio, while eight-inch, under-seat subwoofers produce rich bass.”
This sound system is the first one that I have experienced in a car in a very long time that made me want to just sit in my driveway and listen to music. So I did. And I heard new things in songs that I’ve listened to a thousand times before. It is so clear and precise I was flabbergasted.
This optional audio system is a must if you are going to purchase a G80.
A GOOD BUY
And purchasing a G80 is a good idea. With a starting price of $47,000 and as-tested price for our fully loaded 3.5T all-wheel drive of $68,050, the G80 undercuts its closest competitors by thousands of dollars.
Add in one of the best warranties in the business and the G80 looks even better.
While the Genesis badge may not have the cachet as some of its competitors (yet), with the G80 Genesis is more than just a challenger to the establishment, it is a true competitor. Just sort out the suspension a little better and the G80 could easily be a champion. Even if people might confuse your ride for a Bentley.