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2018 Genesis G80 Sport: First Drive Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer Genesis G80, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Genesis G80 Review

The 2018 Genesis G80 Sport is born into a tough world. It’s the latest variant of premium midsize sedan to come from Hyundai’s newly minted luxury brand. Which all sounds rather nice on the surface until we factor in the kind of competition the G80 Sport faces, such as the BWM 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class (both all-new for 2017), the Audi A6 and the Lexus GS. Only some of the finest cars in existence.

Let’s assume, though, that a buyer on the hunt for a touch of luxury with a hint of enthusiast engagement might also want to keep their budget within the realm of sanity. Suddenly the G80 Sport starts to look more appealing.

The Pitch

Genesis doesn’t have a heritage or reputation to speak of. Both this and the larger G90 are revamps of Hyundai’s older Genesis (model name, as opposed to brand) and Equus luxury cars. And their main selling point was a lot of equipment at a reasonable cost. This applies to the G80 Sport as well.

For a starting price of around $56,250, the G80 Sport comes standard with 19-inch alloy wheels, an adaptive suspension, full LED lighting, a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, a 17-speaker Lexicon audio system (the other company that uses Lexicon is Rolls-Royce), a head-up display, navigation, a multiview camera system, heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a power trunk lid, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, wireless smartphone charging and virtually every other comfort and convenience amenity. On top of that are all the advanced driver aids, such as blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control and forward-collision mitigation with pedestrian detection. It’s worth repeating — this is all standard.

Compare that to a Mercedes-AMG E43 4Matic costing $73,325. To twist the knife, the G80 Sport has a larger cabin than those rivals mentioned above while also offering three years of free servicing with a valet feature. See the 2018 Genesis G80 models for sale near you

The Play

Aside from all that aforementioned good stuff, the Sport has a different engine than other G80 versions. It’s a twin-turbocharged 3.3-liter V6 making a healthy 364 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque. This connects to an 8-speed automatic transmission (with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters) and drives the rear wheels. All-wheel drive is optional. Fuel consumption for the rear-drive version is a so-so 17 miles per gallon in the city, 25 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg in combined driving. All-wheel drive runs to one less mpg on the highway.

What’s fairly surprising is that there’s no Sport Plus mode in a car called Sport. Nor does Genesis give a standstill-to-60 mph time, which also seems a bit noncommittal to the whole Sport notion. There is, however, a strong surge of low-end power that’s particularly reassuring when grabbing an opportunity to overtake. Yet the cabin remains hushed even when the engine is revved harder.

It’s easy to find an ideal driving position, and the sport seats provide sufficient lateral support, though it would be good if the bolstering went a little higher. When the roads and conditions align, selecting Sport mode firms up the suspension somewhat, brings a little extra weight to the steering (though not necessarily more feel) and makes the throttle more responsive. It’s still quite comfortable and manageable, though. On the daily commute, keeping it in Normal mode allows the driver to think about something else entirely or just enjoy the excellent Lexicon audio system.

The Goal

Naturally, the big idea is to compete with the established luxury marques as an equal. On the evidence so far, this situation has not yet arrived. Although the build quality is fine, things still don’t seem fully baked, so to speak. The cabin materials appear to be at the posh end of mainstream rather than firmly in the premium camp. And the elbow rest in the center console is too hard.

There also has to be more expertise in the suspension tuning to provide more poise (relying on technology where a driver can select Normal or Sport modes isn’t enough), a smarter approach to ergonomics (push the gearshift lever as far back as possible, where the Park setting usually is in other cars, and the G80 Sport is in Reverse; Park is a separate button), and even if it can’t achieve a "wow" factor, there should still be some kind of "want it" factor that goes beyond mere economics.

Genesis will get there. It’s putting a lot of money on the line. For example, the company recently hired a new chief designer, Luc Donkerwolke, who has worked for Lamborghini and Bentley, so his salary can’t be trivial. Sadly, the G80 Sport was too far into the production process when he came on board. So it’s the next generation of G80 that should be a better indicator of the marque’s potential, or the inevitable SUV. In the meantime, the 2018 Genesis G80 Sport is an incredibly roomy and well-stocked premium sedan with a decent helping of muscle for what amounts to a bargain price. Even if Genesis hasn’t yet mastered the finer art of luxury motoring, it definitely has a grasp on the art of the deal.

 To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle’s manufacturer.

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