Welcome to Critic's Notebook, a quick and off-the-cuff car review consisting of impressions, jottings, and marginalia regarding whatever The Drive writers happen to be driving. Today's edition: the 2018 Genesis G80 Sport.
In this day and age, if you're a automotive manufacturer looking to punch into the profitable luxury vehicle market, you need to pump a little sportiness into your cars. The era of floaty, leather-lined boats on wheels has been dead and gone for decades; nowadays, every high-end carmaker is tripping over itself trying to bake driving excitement into its wares, even if they're building soft-roaders targeted at stylish Starbucks-sipping soccer moms.
The Genesis G80 Sport—fresh out of the box this summer for the 2018 model year—is designed to be the performance-minded contender for Hyundai's still-fledgling luxury nameplate. On paper, it seems to pack much of the sort of hardware needed to hold its own in the increasingly-competitive middleweight, mid-sized sport sedan class typified these days by the likes of the Mercedes-AMG E43 or the Cadillac CTS VSport: a twin-turbo V6 (in this case, making 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque), a sport-tuned suspension, rear- or all-wheel-drive, and a bougie interior with plenty of room for four full-grown adults. (For more on the latter part, see the video embedded at the bottom of this post.)
But if you just grabbed your keys to dash down to your local Genesis showroom with visions of buying a bargain-basement Audi S6 with a 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty...slow your roll. In spite of what the specs might suggest, the Genesis G80 Sport is less sport sedan than "sport" sedan. The regular G80 and the larger G90 both firmly occupy the softer end of the luxury car spectrum more commonly associated with Lexus and Lincoln; while the G80 Sport certainly has a sharper edge than either of its relatives, it still leans more towards long-haul cruiser than Nürburgring terminator. (Nürburgstürminator?)
And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
- The Genesis G80 Sport is quite the looker. Poaching an A-team of designers from around the automotive realm is one of the smartest moves Hyundai-slash-Kia ever made, and this sporty version of the G80 is probably the most attractive car the massive South Korean conglomerate has turned out yet. I once heard someone wonder if this car was an Aston Martin, back when it was still called the Hyundai Genesis; I wouldn't be surprised to hear that mistake even more with this new variant.
- The subtle copper accents—unique to the G80 Sport, and scattered about both interior and exterior—add an extra dash of class to this Genesis. It's a sophisticated touch.
- It rides like a dream. On the open road, it pours down the highway like maple syrup over pancakes, smoothing out bumps and flowing through curves with fluid grace. I knocked out two separate nine-hour driving days behind the wheel of the G80 Sport during my time with it, and both times I climbed out feeling fresh as a spring daisy on Prozac.
- The interior may be lacking somewhat in style, compared with the competition (or the aggressive lines found on the car's exterior), but it more than makes up for it in substance. Sure, some of the switchgear may have been sourced from the same parts bin the Kia Optima uses, but the controls all feel solid and work intuitively. The seats boast the ideal level of upholstery for a long trip; the leather is soft to the touch; and the 17-speaker stereo plays tunes with crystal clarity.
- 55 grand may not seem cheap, but considering where this car sits in the marketplace, it's a bargain. Every competitor packing a similar level of horsepower starts thousands of dollars higher—and the G80 Sport only comes fully loaded, to boot.
- The steering's Hyundai-family roots become clear after a few turns on a winding road. There's not a whole lot of feel or sensitivity to be found there—just an oddly comforting numbness, as though the steering rack had just downed three shots of Jack Daniel's.
- It drives like a bigger car than it already is. At 196.5 inches long, the G80 is a fraction more than four inches longer than a Honda Accord—yet maneuvering it down a tight rural two-lane, it feels downright massive.
- The shifter, like all too many these days, is an unintuitive mess. Drive and Reverse are found by pulling back and pushing forward from a stop, respectively—but since it's a giant switch, not a lever, the shifter flops right back to center after you do. Park is a tiny button hidden in the shadow of the pedestal rock-shaped shifter, colored to blend in with the trim around it; good luck spotting it quickly, and better luck hitting it on the first try.
The Hyundai G80 Sport, Ranked:
- Performance: 3/5
- Comfort: 5/5
- Luxury: 4/5
- Hauling people: 4/5
- Hauling stuff: 4.5
- Curb appeal: 4/5
- “Wow” factor:3/5
- Overall: 4/5
The Bottom Line:
It may hail from Korea, but the Genesis G80 Sport feels more than anything like a great interpretation of the classic American sedan. It's the sort of car that seems made for the sort of cross-country road trip we in the U.S. love, capable of eating up hundreds of miles with the same zeal its occupants attack their Big Macs. It may not be in its element slicing and dicing up canyon roads, but when the highway turns twisty, it's still able to have some fun. It'd be a solid all-around luxury car at $65,000; at 10 grand less, it's a steal.
So what if it's not really all that sporty? If slapping a vastly-overused descriptor to the end of the car's name is what it took to bring it to market, then let the G80 Sport use that word. After all, it's hardly the least-deserving vehicle on sale to use the name.
By the Numbers:
- Price (as tested): $56,225 ($56,225)
- Powertrain: 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6, 365 horsepower, 376 pound-feet of torque; eight-speed automatic; rear-wheel-drive
- Fuel Economy: 17 city, 25 highway
- 0-60 MPH time: Still unknown, but like we said, if it's not under five seconds we'll eat our hats
- George Takei quote uttered upon feeling the ventilated seats at full blast for the first time: "Oh, my."