The 2021 Genesis G80 Is A Reminder That Luxury Doesn't Need To Come With A Hefty Price Tag—Or A Legacy Name

Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

Oh, Genesis G80, shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Because damn if you aren’t hot as hell, fair as a maiden, and so beautiful it can be a little hard to look at you. Not to get too Shakespearean, but this sedan is a masterclass in luxury. If the Genesis name isn’t on your radar yet, you’d be best served doing your research now, before it takes off. Then you can say you were ahead of the curve.

(Full Disclosure: Genesis brought the G80 to the Texas Auto Writers Association Spring Roundup, where I had the chance to take it for a test drive.)

Illustration for article titled The 2021 Genesis G80 Is A Reminder That Luxury Doesn't Need To Come With A Hefty Price Tag—Or A Legacy Name
Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

What Is It?

The G80 is Genesis’ answer to the luxury sedan—and it is one hell of a good answer. Compared to competitors like Mercedes-Benz and BMW, the G80 can offer you all the gorgeous features you love about a luxury car, but with a significantly smaller price tag than you’d normally expect for something of that caliber.

If you’re not familiar with Genesis, it’s basically Hyundai’s luxury spinoff brand that was vaguely inspired by the Hyundai Genesis. The brand has only been around since 2015, but it’s been making waves ever sense—and none quite as large as those made in 2021.

The newly redesigned G80 is the brand’s mid-size sedan, slotting in between the G70 and the G90. It’s built on the GV80 platform this year and looks a lot like its SUV sister, and it’s a massive step up from what the brand offered in 2020. We’re talking huge. It sure as hell looks like Hyundai knows what it’s doing.

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Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

Specs to Know

The G80 comes with two different trims for each of its two engine options, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder (300 horsepower) and the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 (375 horsepower). Here’s the breakdown for pricing:

  • 2.5T: $48,745
  • 2.5T Advanced: $53,325
  • 2.5T Prestige: $57,625
  • 3.5T: $60,145
  • 3.5T Prestige: $66,125

I had the pleasure of driving the 3.5T Prestige trim that was decked out with tons of the feel-good features you want from your luxury car. Let’s run through some specs.

  • 375 horsepower, 391 lb-ft torque
  • All-wheel drive
  • 8-speed transmission
  • 1st and 2nd row sunroof
  • 19-inch aluminum wheels
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Sirius XM
  • 19 mpg city / 27 mph highway
  • 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster
  • 12.3-inch ultra-crisp touchscreen with multidirectional touchpad
  • Glass-and-metal rotary knob shifter
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Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

What’s Good

If you want a list of all the gorgeous features of the G80, you’ll be sitting here all day. The infotainment screen is as crisp as a 4k television and incredibly responsive without feeling touchy. The interior’s matte metal-leather-wood scheme is like the automotive equivalent of walking into a swanky five-star hotel. The tasteful chrome touches on the Adriatic Blue exterior lends a sharp edge that’s much appreciated.

But there’s little better than the center stack, which is officially one of my new favorites in the industry. The infotainment screen is well-integrated into the dashboard, and all of the dials and gauges are incredibly tactile. Climate can be controlled via knobs, and you can access different pages of the infotainment system with dashboard buttons or the multidirectional touchpad located above the shift knob. It’s the kind of car whose buttons you want to play with, just for the hell of it.

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Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

But How Does It Drive?

Other reviewers have been highly critical of the G80's actual drive quality, and I did have one qualm that I’ll talk about in the next section. But I think anyone looking for hardline performance is approaching this sedan all wrong.

The Genesis G80 isn’t a sports car, and if you want a drive that’s going to take your breath away, you’ll admittedly want to look somewhere else. You’re not going to have a rapid-fire 0-to-60 time. You’re not going to blow anyone away merging onto the highway. You’re not going to spend your commute wishing you were at the race track.

But that’s not the point of the G80. The point is comfort. This isn’t sporty luxury—it’s laid-back luxury. It’s free drinks by the ocean luxury. It’s spa day luxury. It’s leisurely eight-course dinner with wine pairings luxury. Trying to say the G80 isn’t an exciting enough drive is like trying to say your dip in the hot springs wasn’t stimulating enough; it’s not the point. You’re here to relax, not climb a mountain.

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Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

With that in mind, the G80 is wonderful. It’s not slow to respond to throttle input, but it’s certainly unhurried in a way that isn’t bothersome because it’s comfortable. It’s relaxed. I definitely had moments while driving where I felt like I should have had complaints but didn’t because that’s not the purpose. I didn’t care if I shot away from a stop sign like a rocket. I didn’t care about precision handling. I was relaxed behind the wheel in a way that was, frankly, delightful in a world where everything needs to be performed at rapid pace.

The drive is comfortable, like you’re gliding over the surface of a calm lake. Braking is reliable; it’s there when you need it, but not so sharp that you’ll need an adjustment period. Steering is effortless, requiring very little from the driver. It’s not boxer athletic, but it’s also not ballet dancer athletic. Instead, there’s the grace and flow of synchronized swimming, which comes at a slower and more deliberate but still lithe pace.

Whether or not that relaxed driving style will be a hit remains to be seen. Car journalists tend to have a slightly different set of standards than the average car buyer; we tend to rely on hard numbers and hard performance to dictate our opinions, and the G80 is asking us to frame our perception of a car in a different light. But I do have to give kudos to Genesis for designing a car that’s not a direct attempt to one-up a Mercedes E-Class; instead, it’s a similar but drastically different option for a different kind of car buyer.

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Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

What’s Weak

Honestly, there’s not much about the G80 that I’d consider “weak,” with one exception: the handling in corners, but even that isn’t much to be concerned about. When you make sharp turns, the car feels fairly soft and almost a little sluggish, but that isn’t an overwhelmingly bad thing by any means—it is, rather, one of the few places the G80 lags behind its competitors. And we’re not talking about Mercedes-Benz totally kicking Genesis’ ass here. It’s more like “oh my God that was one of the closest finishes I’ve seen in a race in ages.”

Other than that, you’re not going to find much to complain about, unless you’re a grump that thinks the grille design is ugly, or you think we shouldn’t give credence to a newer marque like Genesis. And if that’s the case, then you don’t sound like someone I’d want to chill with at parties.

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Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

The Verdict

If you’re in the market for a luxury sedan but don’t want to drop luxury sedan prices, then look no further than the 2021 Genesis G80. This gorgeous machine offers everything you could ever want in a luxury car, and it does it at a frankly stunning price tag. Don’t let the relatively unknown name be a turnoff for you; this is the kind of car that will turn heads and make you feel like a glam film star every time you get behind the wheel.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

DISCUSSION

chrisfurlough
Chris Furlough

I own a 2017 G90, bought it new.  (Well, it was a 2017 “left-over” once the 2018's were on the ground, and I got a HUGE discount on exactly the car I wanted, anyway) and I find the new design HIDEOUS. Interior is nice, and I’ll get one as a service loaner in the next year or so I’m sure, but that grill? YIKES!