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Photo: Andrew P Collins
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The Genesis luxury sedans were pretty nice even when they were still badged as Hyundais. Since then, the label’s only gotten more refined and impressive. The 2019 Genesis G80, in its top trim with a 5.0-liter V8 and all-wheel drive, feels fancy without getting pretentious. It’s still catching up to the Europeans in elegance, but there’s a lot to like here.

This version of the car has been around for a few years now and the rumor has it the next generation is coming in hot, but the current G80 certainly hasn’t gone stale.

(Full Disclosure: At my request, Genesis let me borrow a fully-fueled G80 5.0 for a week. The car was brought straight to my house and collected seven days later.)

We’re way past accusing this Korean automaker of being a knockoff in the luxury space, and the G80 sure as shit doesn’t feel like a half-assed attempt at grandeur. But it still seems like the first thing anybody ever wants to know about these cars is how they compare to a Mercedes or a BMW.

Well, the G80 doesn’t smell as nice as a Mercedes and inside it’s not quite as sharp as a BMW’s cockpit, either. The German automakers have finer cabin materials and infotainment systems that are more aesthetically interesting, but, harder to use.

The larger sedans from Acura and Lexus feel closer to the Genesis in look and feel, but to me, the G80 does a better job looking good while flying under the radar than pretty much anything else it might call a rival.

As far as stately smoothness, the cornerstone of a luxury sedan’s essence, this Genesis has it down pat.

What Is It?

The G80’s genus, if it had one, would be “mid-sized sedan” but it’s really pretty big. Four doors, room for four adults to spread out, a soft ride and simple controls make this car something of a callback to luxury cars of decades past. But it does so in a way that stokes positive nostalgia, rather than shoving anachronisms down your throat.

That said, it’s undeniably built for comfort over speed. The V8’s 420 horsepower output rating might suggest the car can rip, and it certainly accelerates briskly, but there’s not much sensation of raging urgency to widen your eyes if that’s what you’re after.

If you’re into silky smooth steady-state steaming ahead though, this thing’s got your number. Did I mention that yet?

Standout Features

The G80’s panoramic sunroof cover opens like an eye–both halves slide away from the center in a very dramatic and pleasing way. I love it. While you’re looking up, you might notice that the headliner in this car is very soft and pretty. Also good.

Both the front and rear seats of the G80 are comfortable, even with four adults on board. But what really stood out with a full complement was how good the front-to-rear and rear-to-front acoustics are. On a long, high-speed highway cruise from Los Angeles to California’s central coast, I found it remarkably easy to have a conversation with people in the back seats. And no, I don’t turn my head away from the road when I’m at the wheel.

What’s Good

Objectively speaking, the design feels a little generic. Every time I look at this car I feel like I’m seeing a caricature of a luxury car from the Grand Theft Auto V game. And yet–it’s also kind of perfect–weirdly, for the same reason.

The design essence that makes the G80 look like an archetypal everycar also makes it appealing the way bluejeans or Ray-Ban-style sunglasses are. They just fit in with the flow of society and help you socially comfortable.

The cabin is similarly normcore but it is welcomingly simple. Everything’s easy to find and clearly marked. The infotainment system is completely idiot-proof like it is in every Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis.

Heating in the steering wheel and seats (front and rear) comes on with a vengeance to warm your cockles quickly. Yeah, even in fire-soaked fall in California, I run surface heaters. I’m a lizard.

But the G80’s defining characteristic is supreme smoothness. I know, I know, I think this is the third or fourth time we’ve talked about that. The powertrain, suspension, and chassis all get along like old buddies at a reunion. The result is a ride that walks the perfect line between cushy and responsive that you want in a cruiser like this.

In its normal comfort mode, the car floats over pavement and competently glides around corners at reasonable speeds. Eco mode dulls responsiveness somewhat, but it’s not readily noticeable. Sport mode ruffles the G80’s feathers in a way that disrupts the car’s flow and I don’t think it has any place within its natural personality. The same goes for aggressive driving; even with over 400 HP, making this car charge, dive, and swing isn’t very rewarding. But what’s your hurry, anyway?

This is an asphalt eater that wants to sail over highways forever. It doesn’t break its composure at very, very high highway speeds either as long as you’re driving deliberately and generally dead ahead.

Once you start linking turns, well, it’s certainly not sloppy, it’s just not all that fun. This car wants you to relax and enjoy the ride, and it’s very happy to help you do it.

What’s Weak

For a car that’s clearly designed to carry two adults in its back seats, the lack of rear USB chargers seems kind of wack. Also, hiding the rear seat heaters in the fold-down center console is slightly suboptimal.

Wind noise becomes a bit apparent near 80 mph; bothersome around triple digits. Probably. Not that I would know.

I do know I mentioned the Genesis lagged behind its European rivals in elegance at the top of this shakedown, and now it’s time for me to explain what that means. The G80’s interior is nice, but it feels decidedly... practical. What it is not is memorable. Or artful.

The materials on the steering wheel, shift knob and center console, everywhere you actually touch, feel fine and, generally, worthy of the vehicle’s substantial asking price. But larger swaths of plastic just aren’t quite as premo as the stuff you find in most European highline cars.

The same goes for the infotainment system–Genesis has the same “problem” as Acura there. The software is very easy to use, but, there’s something about the UX that doesn’t feel as elite as what you work with in a Mercedes or BMW.

That’s not a dealbreaker for me, but it might turn you off if design is a major priority.

And, for those seeking speed thrills, we just went over why this might not be your machine.

Value

The G80 starts at a monocle-shatteringly cheap list price of about $45,000 but by the time you spec the V8 and all-wheel drive, it’s a $60,000 vehicle and squarely in the mix with heavy hitters. Our Genesis test car, a G80 5.0, rang up at exactly $60,495. The BMW 540i xDrive and Mercedes-Benz E450 4Matic list right around $62,000 before being optioned.

“I thought this was supposed to be the discount option,” you snort. “Why pay German car prices for Korean car performance?” Well fam, go a little further down the brochures and you’ll find the 540i is powered by a 335 horsepower turbo six. The Merc’s a little meatier with a 362 HP rating, also from six boosted cylinders. The G80 5.0 promises 420 ponies, 383 lb-ft of torque and of course, a naturally aspirated V8, as god intended.

If you want a 5 Series packaged with heated, a heads-up display, and power sunshade, you’re up to $65,000. An E-Class is also $65,000 if you want things like lanekeeping and parking assist. The Genesis has all that stuff and still lists at $60,495. Not a mega price delta, but it’s something.

There’s also something to be said for the cost of ownership. As I write this, Genesis is offering a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty on its cars’ powertrain. And in 2019, Korean cars have been established as being pretty reliable. I think it’d be fair to expect a new G80 wouldn’t even need to touch that warranty in a decade of service. (Obviously, the company agrees, or it wouldn’t be writing said warranty!)

Fuel economy is another interesting value point. The all-wheel drive V8 Genesis is only rated to get 23 mpg on the highway. Jalopnik once ran a G80 review (two-wheel drive) where the driver could only get 14.3, despite a lot of highway driving. Well, I must have a much lighter foot, because I was getting 26 mpg and up no problem, even cruising at a hard gallop for hours. I wouldn’t be surprised if a very careful driver could do even better.

Verdict

The fact that Genesis’ brand is new and unknown isn’t a hindrance, I think it’s one of the car’s best features. The G80’s ride quality is as flat as a freshly ironed shirt and it looks great without looking like it’s trying too hard–the ultimate mark of coolness.

The G80 might be a relative newcomer to the lux car scene but it’s already acting like it’s got nothing to prove. That calm demeanor seemed to carry into the driving experience, which was very pleasant indeed.

This car is all about simplicity and subtlety, and it delivers both with legitimate highline luxury for a total package that is basically just delightful to ride in.

If you want excitement or canyon-carving energy, you’re going to want to look elsewhere even though this car’s packing a V8 and all-wheel drive. But if you’re after classic comfort without wallowing around in soft suspension that makes you feel like a boat-owning dad, the G80 is going to do you right.

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About the author

Andrew P. Collins

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik | 1975 International Scout, 1984 Nissan 300ZX, 1991 Suzuki GSXR, 1998 Mitsubishi Montero, 2005 Acura TL