Review: 2022 Genesis G80 Sport Prestige 3.5T AWD
Seventy thousand, five hundred, and seventy-five dollars. $70,575. Adjusted for your relationship with a trusty local Genesis dealer, of course, that’s what you will pay for the G80 Sport Prestige 3.5T AWD you see in the pictures accompanying this review. Care to guess what the closest BMW sedan would be to this very handsome Korean fastback, price-wise? Don’t bother. You’d be wrong. I will tell you. It’s the M550i xDrive, which starts at $76,800.
In terms of relative over-the-road pace and capability, the G80 is a B-25 Mitchell and the M550i is a B-58 Hustler. What about the closest Lexus sedan? Wrong again; they no longer make the GS, but the LS500 starts at $76,100 plus a little extra for AWD. The gap in parking-lot prestige and provenance between a G80 and an LS500 … well, we already used the bomber metaphor, but it would apply just as well here.
What kind of person pays the approximate price of a rocket-powered M-badged Bimmer or impeccable-social-credentialed Lexus for an alphanumeric Korean sedan that is often sold in the same showrooms with the Sonata it kinda-sorta resembles, the way a 1994 Infiniti J30 looked suspiciously like an Altima of the same era? Take a breath: the answer might be a really smart one. In fact, there’s just one major reason I can think of not to buy a G80, but we’ll get to that later. Let’s meet the machine.
Twelve years ago, a base “Hyundai Genesis” sedan cost $32,500. It was a value play, the way the original Acura Legend and Lexus LS400 luxury sedans were value plays. The second-generation G80, successor to the Genesis sedan, was a very good car at a very good price. My brother drives one, a 3.8 HTRAC, and just loves it. The new G80, built on a next-generation large-car platform, is not a value play in any sense of the word. In four-cylinder form, it’s priced heads-up with the equivalent Germans; as a six-cylinder, it’s fighting against V-8 Germans and a Japanese full-sizer. So why bother even looking at the Genesis?
The powertrains won’t convince you, at least not if our 3.5T AWD tester is any guide. As in the GV70 3.5T we drove last year, the twin-turbo 3.5-liter six conspicuously fails to display much enthusiasm for its job, and the transmission feels painfully dim-witted any time you ask it to go fast. It’s not that you’ll get smoked by that M550i; it’s that you’ll also probably be left for dead by a 540i. Possibly a 530i. Maybe a 528e, at least off the line. I haven’t driven the 2.5T four-banger, but I wouldn’t bet a penny on it being any more vivacious.
Nor does the G80 turn or stop with any sort of Autobahn-bred vigor. It’s more like an Acura Vigor, which is to say that it is quite deliberate about changing direction or slowing down. The “Sport” in “G80 Sport Prestige” has to be taken with the same lick of salt you’d have given a Celebrity Eurosport back in the day. It’s window dressing, nothing more. Your humble author has long made a practice of running expensive sedans at trackdays, starting with my 330i Sport in 2001 and continuing through various Audis, Phaetons, and Benzes to the present day. I wouldn’t waste my time running this car at Mid-Ohio. I’d rather take a four-cylinder Camry.
In reality, however, most of these “sport sedans” aren’t driven in any kind of remotely sporting manner, so who can blame Genesis for not taking the brief seriously? If you can let go of your Serengeti Driver fantasies and return to earth, the G80 makes a much stronger case for itself. The interior is a development of the themes first seen in the GV70 and GV80. That means: real metal and leather everywhere you touch, impeccable detailing, great seats, a first-rate sound system, and plenty of LCD screen space in the cockpit. More than adequately spacious enough for a 95th-percentile human being, the Prestige Sport interior is a never-ending litany of surprise and delight. The shifter dial is knurled metal and pellucid crystal, and like every other control in the car it feels like it is attached to a 50-pound weight being moved over ball-bearing detents. All four of the primary seats are quite comfortable, although it seems a little cheap to have such a wide gap between driver and right-front seat adjustability in a $70,000 car.
If you like “soft-close” power doors—and what civilized person does not?—then you’ll like the way Genesis has implemented them in upscale G80s across both four- and six-cylinder variants. Road noise has been forcefully suppressed to at least Lexus GS levels. Maybe Lexus LS. Most charming of all is the interior trim, done in a bookmatched carbon-fiber parquet of tiny squares. Every part of the interior lines up correctly. There are no visible gaps, no obvious places where the complexity of assembly was reduced. BMW won’t give you an interior made to this degree of care, unless the BMW you’re driving says “Alpina” or “Rolls-Royce” on the decklid.
The infotainment system is powerful, capable, and not too difficult to use once you’ve learned the basics. It certainly looks cool, with the same weather-themed background images found in the GV sport-utilities. Audio quality is not up to the level of the similarly-branded system found in the larger G90, but it’s good nonetheless. I don’t find much, if anything, to criticize about the way the G80 treats its occupants. This is the 1979 Eighty-Eight Royale Brougham of modern sedans: your neighbors won’t exactly commit suicide out of envy, but the joke is on them because you’re going to love every moment you spend behind the wheel. Even the currently-fashionable lane-keeping systems aren’t terrible, and the car will change lanes on its own with a flick of the turn signal.
As with every other “fastback” sedan on the market, the trunk opening is a little tight. The massive wheels on the Sport Prestige seem a little, ah, committed for use in the Midwest; our tester was fairly hard on its sidewalls and flatted a tire in my hands, going down Route 62 near Johnstown, Ohio. That’s it for the list of serious gripes. Bank-vault sedans with first-rate interiors and modest but sufficient power aren’t much in favor at the moment, but I’d take this over the GV70 or GV80 in a heartbeat, just for the better ride and closer connection to the road.
As noted before, the G80 is nobody’s idea of a value play. Worse yet, in the 2022 model year it has a fairly fierce competitor sitting next to it on the showroom floor. No, not that sleek sharky Sonata, but the G90! The equivalent G90 3.3T is just a few grand more. It’s bigger, more comfortable, quieter, more secure in its mission. Unless you really want that nifty carbon-fiber interior, I think you’d be better off in a G90. Ah, but 2022 is the last dance for the big Fleetwood Hyundai; a new G90 is coming, with all the fascinating new tech details of the G80 and a similarly up-to-date fastback shape. I suspect it will cost quite a bit more. So next year we won’t have to make this slightly awkward-on-all-sides comparison.
Robert Ringer once wrote that “Every person has the inherent right to “self-proclaim”—to announce, at any time he chooses, that he is on any level he chooses to be on.” This $70,575 G80 is self-proclaiming its equivalence with—scratch that, superiority to—the German competition. I think it’s justified in doing so. It wouldn’t be my choice for a luxury sedan; I’d take the 5.0 G90 Ultimate over this, and maybe think about that M550i afterwards. Your opinion may vary. If it leans towards the G80, I wouldn’t blame you one bit. Why do cars like this exist? To make the driver feel special. That, the G80 does.
2022 Genesis G80 Sport Prestige 3.5T
Price: $63,700 base/$70,575 as tested
Highs: Brilliant interior, great ride, splendidly comforting to operate in all conditions.
Lows: Astounding price, Hyundai dealerships, combination of low-profile tires and unyielding suspension.
Summary: There’s no longer any financial incentive to consider Genesis over the competition, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be considering it.