A compelling alternative that proves badges aren’t everything.
If you’re deeply troubled by the fact that your neighbour’s new ride has four rings on the front and back, or whatever you’re driving doesn’t have a three-pointed star on the steering wheel, it’s likely a good idea to consult a medical professional. Badge snobbery is a terrible affliction in the automotive world, but there is hope – a new treatment is available, and it’s this 2021 Genesis G80 2.5T Advanced.
Genesis isn’t the first, and it certainly won’t be the last automaker bent on challenging the German establishment. But where many would-be challengers over the years have missed the mark for various reasons – be it seemingly nonexistent marketing, a final product that misses the mark, or plain ol’ badge snobbery from consumers – Hyundai‘s luxury division arrived in 2017 ready to take a bite out of Audi, BMW, and Mercedes’ slice of Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte.
Trouble is, Genesis hasn’t quite taken off since it launched four years ago. Maybe Hyundai expected this; after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day and the Germans still rule the luxury segment. But while Genesis’ cars were certainly compelling, the lineup was exactly that: cars, in a world where everyone seems to be flocking to SUVs and crossovers. In all fairness, Genesis has jumped on the bandwagon and in addition to the newly launched GV80, there are at least two more SUVs on the horizon – but that doesn’t mean they’re about to abandon what they started with.
While a fundamentally good (and handsome) car, the outgoing G80 tended to blend in. That’s definitely not the case this time around; the 2021 G80 is nothing if not polarizing, especially up front with that absolutelymassive front grille flanked by quad headlights, which flow into the split side vents that double as turn signals. The overall silhouette is very coupe-like, flowing into a tidy rear end that continues the split-lighting motif. It’s a fairly sharp-looking car until you get to the grille, but whether you love it or hate it, one thing’s for sure – if the number of people whipping out their phones is any indication, the new G80 is definitely a head-turner.
Under the skin, the 2021 G80 is available with two equally new engines. Our tester had the base 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, putting out a stout 300 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque – a pretty significant bump over the turbo-fours found in the base Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. More impressively, it doesn’t feel like a “base” engine: the four-cylinder smooth, quiet, and while it does run out of breath when you wind it out, there’s plenty of low-end and midrange punch. Fuel economy is officially rated at 10.8 L/100 kilometres in the city and 7.9 on the highway.
If you think you want more power, you could opt for a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 with 375 horsepower and 391 lb-ft. of torque, but for most people, the turbo-four is more than enough. Regardless of the engine you choose, all 2021 G80s come with an eight-speed automatic; it’s well-matched to the turbo-four, delivering snappy shifts when you need them and fading into the background when you just want to relax.
Speaking of which, the G80 is great at letting you do exactly that. You’ll barely feel any bumps, potholes, and rough pavement, and wind and road noise are virtually non-existent. Steering is pretty much par for the course in the luxury segment – well-weighted but devoid of feedback – and the standard, rear-biased AWD system works pretty much as advertised, putting the power down seamlessly in particularly nasty weather. Of course, the right winter rubber helps here, too.
If you’re unfazed by the polarizing styling, the interior is where the G80 might lose you with a couple of ergonomic nit-picks that are unbecoming of Genesis (and Hyundai), whose interiors are typically no-nonsense affairs. The first is the rotary knob controlling the infotainment; it’s placed near the shifter, which is also round, so there’s a chance you might find yourself reaching down and almost shifting into Neutral instead of changing the radio station. In addition to that, the climate control panel boasts some physical switchgear, but not nearly enough: you have to take your eyes off the road to do something as simple as warm up the steering wheel or cool down the seats.
But if you can get used to those ergonomic niggles, the cabin is otherwise a class act. It’s easy to get comfortable regardless of where you sit, the part-digital instrument cluster is clear, the standard 21-speaker Lexicon sounds excellent, and the fit-and-finish is absolutely top notch. Aside from the awkwardly placed knob, the quick and intuitive infotainment looks crisp on that 14.5-inch display spanning across the top of the dash. And as a bonus, the G80’s cabin has some pretty unique colour options, depending on your exterior colour – beyond the basic blacks, beiges, and browns, you can even spec dark blue. Neat!
Pricing and value is where the 2021 G80 is really tough to beat. Our tester, the “base” 2.5T Advanced, starts at $66,000, and that’s it. Your only choices are what colours you want inside and out, and a bunch of accessories like all-weather floor mats and touch-up paint pens. No options. No packages. Pretty much anything you could possibly need or want is standard, like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, that sweet 21-speaker Lexicon sound system, a panoramic sunroof, heated and cooled seats, and pretty much all the active safety tech you can expect – including a 360-degree camera system and Hyundai’s neat Blind-View Monitor. Stepping up to the 3.5T Prestige trim for the twin-turbo V6 will cost you $76,000, but that also adds goodies like Nappa leather seating, a 12.3-inch fully digital (and 3D) instrument cluster, 20-inch wheels, and much more.
Challenging the German establishment is no easy feat. Between the first-rate interior, excellent driving dynamics, and truly unbeatable value, the 2021 Genesis G80 2.5T Advanced is a compelling alternative that proves badges aren’t everything. It’s what’s on the inside that counts, and at least you don’t have to look at the grille when you’re behind the wheel.