2021 Genesis G80 Review: Proof That Good Quality Makes a Great Car
The second-gen G80 finally comes into its own with incredible quality and looks to boot.
Before, if you were to ask me what a Genesis G80 looked like, I wouldn't have been able to tell you, and I do this for a living. The first generation was handsome enough, but anonymously so. Almost as though its designers went the inoffensive route as not to alienate anyone. But this second generation? Man. Seems like someone (see also: Luc Donckerwolke, ex-Bentley and Lamborghini design chief) pulled out all the stops when designing the 2021 Genesis G80.
The new G80 luxury midsize sedan now wears the same Genesis corporate facia as the GV80 SUV. For a car that once erred on the polite side of bland, it's sure as hell a lot more memorable and striking now. And the great news is it's absolutely a joy to live with.
2021 Genesis G80 AWD 3.5T Prestige: By the Numbers
- Base price (as tested): $48,745 ($69,195)
- Powertrain: 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 | 8-speed automatic transmission | all-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 375 @ 5,800 rpm
- Torque: 391 lb-ft @ 1,300 to 4,500 rpm
- Curb weight: 4,343 pounds
- Seating capacity: 5
- Cargo volume: 13.1 cubic feet
- EPA fuel economy: 18 mpg city | 26 highway | 21 combined
- Quick take: A midsize luxury sedan whose quality will blow you away.
The second-gen G80—which slots above the G70 and below the G90 in Genesis' sedan lineup—now rides on a Genesis-exclusive rear-wheel-drive platform the automaker says lowers the overall center of gravity for better handling and increased interior space. Two engine choices are offered here in the United States: a 2.5-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder, good for a claimed 300 horsepower as standard, and an optional 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V6, good for a claimed 375 hp. You can get them both with either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. All G80s come with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Fans of the previous G80—they exist!—might notice the 5.0-liter V8 is no longer on the menu, which is sad but to be expected.
The new G80 has a big, triangular grille and cool, dual slashes for its headlights, taillights, and side marker lights. Its winged emblem looks as though it slid down the length of the hood and a sweet line runs from the inner corner of its headlight, along the entire side of the car, to end at the slightly raised lip of the fastback design. Finally, we have a signature "Genesis look," though it's not yet clear how it will age. But for now, I think it works great.
Once upon a time, you could call out the G80 for ripping off a Mercedes interior, dash clock at all. You cannot level that criticism at it any longer. Now, the interior is its own, with a horizontal approach to emphasize width and clean, well-integrated lines. All G80 models benefit from a 14.5-inch central infotainment touchscreen display, though the driver information cluster on the four-cylinder models remains an eight-inch color LCD display throughout trims. The 12.3-inch 3D digital cluster only becomes an option once you select the V6 model.
The windshield and windows are all made from acoustic glass. It, along with better door sealing, quieter wheels, and new sound insulation in the engine compartment, work to create a much quieter ride.
Luxury Over Sport
There are cars out there built expressly for sportiness. The new G80 is not one of them. It's a rolling testament to luxury, and you can feel it all around you.
The ride, regardless of highway or local driving, is incredibly smooth. It's also quiet at whatever speed you're traveling at; you and your occupants will never need to raise your voices to be heard. You can barely feel the transmission shifting and the brakes grab progressively and predictably. I could have done with slightly more communicative steering, but again, I understand the G80 is a luxury car. The priority here is comfort, not sniffing out every last ounce of road articulation.
I could barely hear the 375-HP twin-turbo V6 the test car came with unless I really leaned into the throttle. Outside of just keeping the vehicle moving, its presence was invisible. This I also did not mind. The engine itself didn't have much character, but it was powerful and perfectly adequate at merges and passes.
I suppose you could take the G80 on some backroads and it would certainly be fine doing so. But the overall sense I got from this car is it's a highly capable cruiser. I was able to get my seat nice and high up so I could easily see over the hood. Rear visibility was good, too. Behind the wheel of the Genesis, there's little urge to rush anywhere in particular because it's just such a nice spot to sit.
The car's most impressive feature by far was its very advanced adaptive cruise control, now with machine learning. I don't know if I drove it long enough for it to learn my driving habits, but I can tell you the system now has the added Highway Driving Assist II function, which helped with lane changes when I activated the turn signal. From the crisp heads-up display, itself also an option, I could see the car could "see" exactly where it was in the lane. If we drifted a little closer to either side, the HUD image reflected that. It was cool.
Furthermore, the system also had peripheral vision: it could "see" cars coming up behind me to pass, as well as cars traveling in neighboring lanes. This was especially awesome because many of the other adaptive cruise control systems I've used can only see what's in the lane directly in front of them. With my own eyes, I can obviously tell if someone's about to cut me off or merge suddenly. But that always catches those other systems off guard, forcing them to slam unnervingly on the brakes.
This was not the case in the G80. It kept track of all of the cars traveling around it and automatically adjusted its speed depending on their proximity. The only time it got tripped up was when we were driving alongside a semi-truck, which it failed to detect for some reason.
Finally, the adaptive cruise control also worked great in stop-and-go traffic—flawlessly bringing the car down to a stop from a crawl and starting back up again while keeping tabs on everything else. It made a 30-minute, bumper-to-bumper jam on FDR Drive... tolerable? Tolerable.
In total, I put 1,000 miles on the G80. Most of those were long highway stretches but I always came away far less fatigued than I normally would thanks to the wonderful adaptive cruise control. My average fuel consumption was 26.3 mpg, according to the car's trip counter.
All About That Interior
I'm not ignorant to the fact that I liked the G80 so much largely because of its interior. Pictures only show you so much. Overwhelmingly, it shines through in its thoughtful details.
Besides the deep trunk, spacious rear seats, and attractive design, I found the inside of the G80 a highly habitable space. Everything has some kind of texture to it even if it doesn't need it, like the vent tabs, the rotary dial surround, and even the overhead cabin light. The big click-wheel you use to navigate the infotainment ticks satisfyingly as you scroll through menu items.
It's not intrusive to use while driving, either, because you can use the clicks as you scroll to help place yourself through those menu items. And if you really need to do something that involves lots of inputs—typing in an address for the navigation system, for example—you can always default to reaching forward and using the touchscreen as a touchscreen. Just be sure to pull over when you do that, though.
I didn't mind the lower climate touchscreen either, since there was good haptic feedback and the setup was simple enough that you'd be able to use it without fully taking your eyes off the road. Plus, the most important part of it—the temperature adjustment—was still handled through a dial. The matte-finish wood trim, standard on this top-trim test car—was a classy touch.
The coolest part of the interior was the digital driver information screen (again, only available on select V6 trims): It's a 3D digital cluster that looks to have real depth, with different layers of light stacked on top of each other and a system that tracks your eyes to correctly adjust the perspective as your head moves around. The colors change depending on your drive mode, but they are bright and look futuristic, especially at night. Think a Tron: Legacy color scheme combined with Iron Man's Jarvis interface. Unfortunately, it is also impossible to photograph, so you'll just have to take my word for it.
My only gripe was neither my partner nor I could get comfortable in the seats. He reported having to shift his weight frequently. Different parts of my butt kept falling asleep—troubling on long, multi-hour car rides. I recognize this is a problem that's based very much on how we're shaped, however.
A Solid Choice Among the Competition
The test car Genesis sent for review was the AWD Prestige—the highest trim you can get on a G80. It came with 20-inch alloy wheels, Nappa leather seats, the 12.3-inch 3D digital instrument cluster, the HUD, and microfiber suede pillars and headliner. Total MSRP came to $69,195.
Your standard G80 comes with rear-drive, the four-cylinder engine, 18-inch wheels, leatherette seats, piano-black trim, dual-zone climate control, an eight-inch LCD driver information display, front and rear parking sensors, and a pretty extensive suite of safety features that include forward-collision avoidance assist, lane-keeping, blind-spot collision-avoidance, driver attention warning, and smart cruise control with the very excellent Highway Driving Assist II.
If you don't absolutely need the V6 or the extra interior trim materials, the standard car comes pretty well-stocked. I'd personally shell out extra for the HDA II but it already comes as standard, which is a bonus. Base price of the 2021 G80 comes to $48,745.
There's no shortage of cars in the luxury midsize sedan segment, but the G80 deserves your attention. It starts cheaper than the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Audi A6, but is priced a bit higher than the Lexus ES and Jaguar XF. However, because it leans further in the luxury direction than the sporty, its interior is standout for those shopping that way, too.
The only thing the other cars offer that I'd prefer is the turbocharged straight-six with EQ Boost you get in the E-Class. In my testing, I found it to be just as efficient as the G80's twin-turbo V6, but it was far smoother.
But as a complete package with striking looks to boot? The G80 is it.
For a few years after its launch, Genesis struggled a bit with brand identity. Its cars were nice but ultimately not very memorable. (A separate argument can be made for the manual G70 sport sedan.) But with a new corporate face comes a new generation for Genesis, one that stands apart in design, quality, and attractive pricing.
Unlike the G90, which is the one you'd want to be driven in, the G80 is the one you'd want to drive. Especially if you're someone with long commutes. The cabin is a serene place to hang out and the miles will fall away before you realize they have thanks to the advanced adaptive cruise control. It's no Tesla Autopilot or General Motors Super Cruise, but it's pretty damn close.
The 2021 G80 doesn't wow you with splashy zero-to-60 specs or Autobahn-worthy top speeds. Rather, it'll impress you in a far quieter and more dignified fashion by simply being extremely good at being a car.
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