One Week With: Genesis G80 RWD 5.0 Ultimate

Few months ago, I had the opportunity to test-drive the Genesis G90, the all-new, full-size flagship from Hyundai — er, sorry, Genesis. Like Acura, Lexus, and Infiniti before it, the Genesis Division is Hyundai’s new premium marque, no unsightly residue of budget Accents and Elantras sharing the brand name. My take on the G90? The existing upscale makers I just mentioned — plus Mercedes, BMW, Lincoln, Cadillac, and more — are in for a fight. The G90 is that good, and it stickers for thousands (even tens of thousands) less than the established bluebloods.

Having sampled the top of the range, last week I added to my Genesis knowledge with a week behind the wheel of the division’s “mid-luxury” model, the Genesis G80. The first Genesis to hit dealerships, the G80 isn’t a new car; instead, it’s a modest update of Hyundai’s existing Genesis luxury sedan. (I know, I know: it’s confusing. The former “Hyundai Genesis” is no longer a Hyundai. Renamed the G80, it’s now one of two Genesis-branded models — with many more on the way.) The updates consist mainly of making previously optional features standard — and raising the price. That’s not necessarily a marketing ruse, though: the G80 is a premium-spec, lavishly equipped sedan boasting a sticker that will give rivals fits. It morphs from wearing the Hyundai nameplate to carrying upscale Genesis badges without apology — or, probably, most buyers being the wiser.

The first thing you notice after climbing behind the G80’s wheel is the pervasive air of quality. The cabin is airy and spacious; it’s roomier than such competitors as the Cadillac CTS, the Lexus GS, and the Mercedes E-Class. Fit and finish are top notch. The seats are covered in first-rate perforated leather with attractive contrasting piping. Handsome matte-finish grained wood adorns the dash

Like its bigger G90 sibling, the G80 is a bargain bonanza. A four-cylinder Mercedes E-Class starts at $53,075 — nearly the same price as my fully loaded V-8 G80 tester. And the Benz’s sticker soars with options. If you’re not comfortable with a rear-drive car (say, you live in a wintery climate), the G80 is also available with a V-6/all-wheel drive combo (AWD is not offered with the V-8). The AWD system adds $2500 over the base V-6 car — and also loads on nearly 200 pounds, so you won’t want it unless snow and slush are part of your yearly driving fare. But Genesis deserves kudos for having AWD in the mix.

For what’s essentially a carry-over automobile, the G80 is an impressive premium front door for the new Genesis brand. It may not be as big and grand as the G90 flagship, but a similar DNA is there. It gets the essentials right, and then some. Add the Genesis 5-year/60,000 warranty and generous dealer features — such as free pickup and drop-off of your car for service — and the G80 makes a mighty strong case indeed.

Things are only going to get more interesting at Genesis in the next few years. With former Bentley and Lamborghini designer Luc Donckerwolke now on board to shape the next slew of Genesis models, look for “style” to join “luxury” and “value” as a Genesis hallmark. Down the road, those cars are sure to prove tempting upgrades for the many buyers the G80 and G90 have deservedly drawn to the Genesis fold.