Review: The $69,000 Genesis G80 doesn't just epitomize luxury - it proves how far Hyundai's come

·9 min read
The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King
  • In 2015, Hyundai launched Genesis, a spinoff luxury brand based loosely on the Hyundai Genesis sedan.

  • That sedan became the Genesis G80, which has since undergone a full overhaul.

  • Our $69,075 G80 loaner wasn't just a standout car - it was a reminder of how far Hyundai has come.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Much like every other vehicle from Hyundai's new luxury brand, Genesis, the 2021 G80 sedan almost intimidates me. It shouldn't, given that it's a car and I'm a human. Yet its soft but striking lines, headlights and taillights with snake-eye slits down the middle, and massive front grille weaved with delicate chrome accents - all communicate to me, the onlooker, that this car is superior to whatever I can bring to the table. It has me beat.

It has us beat.

I guess that's the mark of any good luxury car: looking like that person you hoped wouldn't show up to your high-school reunion because you know you'd spend the rest of your night analyzing what went wrong in your life.

The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King

For Americans, Hyundai as a whole is like that. You might have underestimated it 20 years ago - mocked it, even. But now it's here, perfectly manicured and sleek as hell, looking you right in the eyes and making you regret every negative thought you ever directed its way.

Maybe, the G80 makes you think, you should just skip the next reunion.

The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King

"The name is Hyundai and it rhymes with 'Sunday' and it comes from South Korea," Car and Driver wrote in 1986, the year Hyundai officially entered the American market with the $5,000 Excel subcompact. But this unfamiliar brand wasn't "some kind of thatch-roofed blacksmith shop on the backside of the world," the magazine added - it was a company whose sales accounted for about 10 percent of South Korea's gross national product in 1984.

"Nobody is pretending [the Excel] represents the leading edge of automotive art," the story continued. "But if you're talking automotive business, this may well be the biggest story of 1986."

The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King

Still, these little Hyundais were unknown. They were from another country. For armchair comedians whose only punchline was "not American," they were an easy laugh.

But Car and Driver was right. Hyundai would become a poster child for automotive business in the US, and more than 30 years later, its new Genesis brand isn't just laughing back at those armchair comedians - it's laughing at the whole auto industry.

The Genesis G80 when it first debuted, with a rounder face, versus the Genesis G80 now, with sharp angles and a massive grille..
The Genesis G80 when it first debuted and looked almost identical to the Hyundai Genesis (left) versus the Genesis G80 now (right). Genesis

Genesis launched in 2015 as its own luxury brand. It spun out of the Hyundai Genesis, a high-end sedan that started at about $40,000 at the time. The Hyundai Genesis as we knew it became the Genesis G80, and Genesis then launched two sedans on either side of it: a smaller G70 and a larger G90. SUVs like the GV70 and GV80 came later, as did a 2021 styling overhaul to create the G80 you see here.

A Genesis G80 price chart.
Pricing for the 2021 Genesis G80. Alanis King

All trims of the 2021 G80 come with an eight-speed automatic transmission and starting prices are as follows:

  • 2.5T RWD: $47,700. The 2.5T RWD trim features a turbocharged 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine with rear-wheel drive, featuring 300 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque.

  • 2.5T AWD: $50,850. The 2.5T AWD trim has the same 300-horsepower engine but comes with all-wheel drive, meaning the power is sent to all four wheels instead of just the two in the rear.

  • 3.5T RWD: $59,100. The 3.5T RWD trim reverts to rear-wheel drive but upgrades the engine to a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6, boosting horsepower to 375 and torque to 391 pound-feet.

  • 3.5T AWD: $62,250. The 3.5T AWD trim is the top of the line, pairing the 375-horsepower V6 with all-wheel-drive capabilities.

The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King

But the G80's real opportunity for customization comes in its looks. Not only does the car come in various shades of blue, green, and gold, but each exterior shade has multiple interior color options centered around its wooden accents. You can do black. You can do brown. You can do beige. You can even do blue.

A blue interior with a blue exterior! The G80 makes that possible. What a treat.

The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King

This particular G80 climbed all the way up to $69,075 with AWD, the V6, and two add-ons: a $400 coat of Adriatic Blue paint and the $5,400 Prestige Package.

That package upgrades the car from 19-inch wheels to 20-inch ones, regular leather to Nappa leather, and adds a classy microfiber suede headliner, a 12.3-inch 3D instrument cluster, a heads-up display, and other tech.

The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King

Much like a Rolls-Royce in a sea of Camrys and Accords, the G80 stands out. It doesn't look like anything else on the road - a sign of both affluence and taste. Its winged logo might remind you of an Aston Martin, while its smooth and basic lines evoke Bentley vibes.

The G80 just has an aura around it. For a base MSRP not too far above the average new-car price of $41,000, that's kind of incredible.

Even among its competitors - chiefly the $54,250 Mercedes-Benz E-Class and $54,200 BMW 5 Series - the G80 stands apart. You can attribute some of that to newness, but not acknowledging that Hyundai's dominating the design game would be disingenuous.

The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King

Inside, the G80 is perfectly cohesive. The patterns on the infotainment controls match those on the gear selector. The selector matches the start button. The button matches the turn stalks. Even if you can't touch them, similar patterns appear around the bulbs in the overhead lighting. Not a single thing feels out of place, and every click satisfies.

The G80 does make you learn new controls for the touchscreen: Two patterned scroll knobs in the center-console area adjust volume and tune, while a beautiful clear dial navigates between screens.

The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King

The controls look alien at first, but as you gently rest your hand over the open-pore wood encasing them, clicking through the channels with a dainty middle finger and turning off the car to a fancy exit chime and a Genesis logo projected on the ground under you, you start to get it. Sure, this is different, but this is good different. This is fancy different. You're fancy different, all for an entry price equal to a loaded Honda Pilot.

You're not the only person who notices, either.

"Where do you go to buy one of those?" one person asked upon seeing this review loaner. "A big city or something?"

The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King

Driving the G80 doesn't feel like driving a sport sedan or one that cares about sportiness at all, even with the more powerful 375-horsepower engine. Its acceleration won't wow you, and compared to the old 2015 Hyundai Genesis with its optional 420-horsepower V8, the G80 is slow to get up to speed.

Performance is a big gripe among reviewers of the G80. Motor Trend wanted "better ride quality and body control" and said the G80's powertrains "lacked the smoothness and refinement of others in the class." Car and Driver said it "doesn't feel as athletic as some rivals" while Motor Authority docked it for body control, saying the G80 "never feels as buttoned down as the German competition."

The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King

All of this is true. The G80 would be more fun with better performance, and its stats would be more impressive with a V8 like the old Hyundai Genesis had.

But there are other dedicated sport sedans - or mildly sporty sedans - out there, and the G80 didn't leave me longing for more impressive acceleration or better handling in the turns.

The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King

It left me relaxed. It left me looking back at it when I parked it and taking constant photos of its intricate design. It left me glad that, in a time when car design all blends together, Hyundai's fancy new luxury brand went for something different. Even if it doesn't age well, it's an attention-grabber now.

From initial buyer distrust and quality concerns in the late 1980s to bold styling and value updates that began around 2010 and just kept coming, it's been a long road for Hyundai in the US market. But along the way, Hyundai hasn't just found its place on American roads. It's become a major player in the country's auto market, just like Car and Driver predicted.

The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King

The G80 is proof of that. But now that Hyundai has arrived, the goal for its new luxury brand seems less about blending in on the road and more about gazing upon it from a place of suave superiority. A place where Hyundai and Genesis get the last laugh, even if that laugh is 35 years in the making.

And unlike the successes of that person from your high-school reunion, you can enjoy the G80 for yourself - for a price.

♦♦♦

The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King
The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King
The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King
The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King
The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King
The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King
The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King
The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King
The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King
The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King
The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King
The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King
The Genesis G80 sedan.
The Genesis G80 sedan. Alanis King

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