Remember that show Extreme Makeover, where they gave subjects a nip and tuck to make them look and feel new again? That's kind of what Hyundai's luxury arm, Genesis, has done with its G80 large sedan, which funnily enough was known in a previous life as the Hyundai Genesis. Confused yet?
Genesis has relaunched as a standalone 'label', aiming to differentiate itself from its Hyundai parent with bespoke products that will rival the established luxury players – think Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Lexus.
It's certainly an ambitious goal, given these brands have decades of history behind them, but the company has already proved its new G70 is more than worthy of premium buyers' consideration, so what about the tried and tested G80?
Here on test we have the flagship 2019 Genesis G80 Ultimate Sport Design priced from a hefty $92,900 plus on-road costs – around $10,000 more than the most expensive pre-facelift model. Before you say "jeez that's exxy for a Hyundai", though, keep in mind the company is targeting the likes of the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class with this car, both of which start around this pricepoint with four-cylinder engines.
What powers the G80, you ask? Well, all G80 models in Australia feature the familiar 3.8-litre naturally aspirated V6 with direct injection developing 232kW (@6000rpm) and 397Nm (@5000rpm).
Elsewhere in the world, you can have the G80 with the beefy 272kW/510Nm 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 shared with the Kia Stinger and smaller Genesis G70, along with a burbly 313kW/520Nm 5.0-litre V8 – unfortunately, both are exclusively produced in left-hand drive, ruling them out for our market.
Regardless, the G80 sends drive exclusively to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic here – though you can option all-wheel drive overseas.
Genesis doesn't officially quote a 0–100km/h time, though a circa-6.5-second dash has been quoted for the pre-facelift model, which is pretty much identical mechanically. That's impressive given its fairly modest outputs and 1.9-tonne heft – we'll get on to the driving in a bit.
By comparison, the equivalently priced BMW 520i (from $89,990) makes 135kW and 290Nm from its 2.0-litre turbo petrol motor, good for a 7.8-second 0–100km/h claim. The Mercedes-Benz E200 is almost identically priced with the Genesis at $92,242 plus on-road costs, and is powered by a 145kW/320Nm 2.0-litre turbo four that claims a 7.7-second sprint to triple figures.
There's also plenty of kit in the Korean saloon that you'd need to tick option boxes for in the Germans: think Nappa leather upholstery, a suede headliner, 16-way driver seat adjustment with lumbar and memory function, colour head-up display, heated and ventilated seats front and rear, four-way power adjustment for the rear seats, a heated steering wheel, 19-inch alloys, rear window blinds, a powered tailgate, 360-degree camera system, a 17-speaker Lexicon by Harman premium audio system with 900W amplifier and 7.1-channel surround sound, and a Qi standard wireless phone charger.
Other highlights include autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control with stop&go, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, high-beam assist, lane-departure warning, driver-attention warning, real aluminium trim inserts, a 9.2-inch touchscreen navigation system with SUNA live traffic updates and 27GB hard drive, a 7.0-inch multifunction driver's display, and adaptive suspension.
The Sport Design Package fitted to our tester swaps out the full-LED headlights for bi-xenon units (not sure why), 19-inch multi-spoke alloys wrapped in staggered Dunlop SP Sport tyres (wider rear), dark chrome exterior accents, sports bodykit, dual oval chrome tailpipe finishers, and stainless steel pedals.
In addition to the active safety and driver assistance features listed above, the G80 also features nine airbags, including a driver's knee inflator, and ISOFIX child seat mounts on the outboard rear pews. The G80 wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating, though it has a 2014 date stamp. While an old score, the Genesis scored the highest recorded ANCAP safety rating when tested, managing 36.88 points out of 37.
No matter how you look at it, the Genesis G80 is comprehensively equipped for any vehicle priced below $100,000. In saying that, there are a few things still missing.
Unlike versions offered abroad, Australian-delivered G80s persist with a very old infotainment system that does without Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while the lane-departure warning system lacks lane-keeping or tracing functionality like you might find in other Hyundai/Genesis products – a bit odd given this is the flagship. There are also no rear climate controls, just vents, which seems like nitpicking, but given the chauffeur or hire car demographic, it's worth noting.
Keep in mind, though, the G80 has hardly changed since it first hit the market as a Hyundai back in 2014, but given prices have actually risen with the rebranding and relaunch, the gaps in specification are a little disappointing.
Luxury buyers want upmarket design and plush interiors, and we reckon the Genesis G80 delivers in this regard. Our tester's lovely Havana Red metallic paint has real depth and a quality look to it, contrasting nicely with the shadow chrome finishes of the Sport Design Package and the dark-finish multi-spoke alloys.
The long sedan body measures 4990mm from head to tail, and 1890mm wide. It's got strong, muscular proportions that really help it to stand out in an elegant, understated way, as weird as that sounds.
Despite its age, the G80 scrubs up pretty well, even if the exterior design is a tad derivative. There are elements of Audi A8 and E-Class throughout the exterior details, and the Bentley-esque winged badges always get people asking what exactly you're driving – if you're like me and love attention, there's a drawcard for you.
Hop inside and there's a real air of plushness to the cabin. The Nappa leather upholstery with perforated seat inserts is nothing short of lovely, while the suede headliners are another dash of class.
Our tester's beige interior blends well with the brown faux wood trim inserts, though some may find the fake timber a little gauche. You can also get black or brown interiors should the light colourway not appeal to your taste.
The overall look and layout of the dashboard is a little old-school, which will either be a plus or minus depending on your preferences.
All the controls are clearly and logically laid out, though, so you shouldn't have any issues with the ergonomics. There's a decent amount of physical switchgear, though, which extends to quite low on the centre stack – so if you have to change the climate temperature on the move, for example, you might find yourself taking your eyes off the road to find the corresponding knob.
You can see some obvious links to older Hyundai and Kia models as well. The infotainment interface looks very similar to the one used on my parents' 2012 Kia Sorento Platinum, while the 7.0-inch multifunction display in the instrument cluster is nicked straight out of higher grades of the Kia Stinger running menus that can be found in an i30 hatchback. The switchgear on the steering wheel harks back to old Sonatas and Santa Fes, too.
While the design is a little dated, the overall fit and finish, along with the perception of quality, is top notch. Everything is soft-touch, from the upper levels of the dash and doors, right down to the lower tiers. Everything feels solidly screwed together, and it certainly feels like it will stand the test of time.
Colleague Mike Costello recounted how recently he was driven to the airport in a Hyundai Genesis with more than 300,000km on the clock, which had no rattles or squeaks despite its age – some first-hand experience for you there.
Move to the back and you have limo-like appointments, such as the power-reclining rear seats and a fold-out centre console with controls for the infotainment system, rear sunshade, and rear seat heating/cooling.
There's also a button on the rear right side of the front passenger seat that allows passengers in the back to adjust the seat fore and aft, along with the recline, for limo-like legroom if desired.
While a bit novel, these features and layout are things you'd find on something like a BMW 7 Series or Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and can provide endless entertainment for kids or mates in the back – perhaps to your annoyance, but I digress.
It's also worth noting the panoramic sunroof eats into rear head room a bit, and there's not a whole lot of leg room for passengers seated behind a taller driver. Again, no deal-breaker, but not ideal given the target market. You'll also find the sculpted outer seats make the G80 more of a 4+1-seater than a proper five-seater.
Behind the second row and under the boot lid there's a fairly average 433L of cargo space. It swallowed several suitcases with minimal fuss when I did a chauffeur run taking some overseas relatives to the airport, though rivals like the E-Class offer over 100L more volume.
Under the boot floor lives a temporary space-saver spare wheel.
On the road, the Genesis continues the old-school luxe vibe with its naturally aspirated engine and cushy dynamics.
The 3.8-litre V6 is silky smooth and sends a lovely note into the cabin under load, though in normal driving you'll barely hear it. We occasionally found the eight-speed auto to be a little lazy when setting off or kicking down after stabbing at the throttle, but it's obviously been tuned for smoothness and efficiency rather than all-out performance despite the cosmetic pack.
Around town, the linear power delivery means you make smooth and quiet progress when you want it, with plenty of oomph in reserve when you need it. Despite lacking a turbocharger, there's good low-down torque so you aren't wringing the G80's neck, and once the speed gets up to freeway levels there's enough muscle to get you to triple figures deceptively quickly.
It rides pretty darn well, too, even with 19-inch wheels and staggered low-profile sports tyres (245/40 front and 275/35 rear), and there's very little wind and road noise entering the cabin on any surface – a strong point of this car ever since it launched. This is likely helped by the Australian-tuned standard adaptive suspension system that we left in Comfort for the most part, offering wofty ride comfort across all situations without sacrificing body control.
Josh Dowling reported at the local launch that lower grades equipped with smaller 18-inch wheels and chubbier tyres were better at handling uneven surfaces and quieter on the open road again, but our tester is already very good in isolation.
As for the handling, it's not bad on that front either, despite being a big, heavy thing. The steering is on the lighter side but nicely direct, and weights up a little more if you toggle Sport mode.
Through successive bends, the Genesis exhibits good balance and sure-footedness, though it can't mask its size, with a bit of body roll through sharper turns. A dynamic benchmark this is not, but it's definitely competitive within its segment.
Probably the biggest downside of having such a large naturally aspirated engine is fuel use. During our week with the Genesis, we did nearly 600km of mixed driving skewed towards high-traffic urban conditions. The G80's trip computer indicated 13.1L/100km, a little over 2.0L/100km up on the company's combined claim.
Unlike most rivals, the Genesis lacks fuel-saving idle stop/start and cylinder deactivation technologies, which do come in handy if you regularly frequent high-traffic areas during your commute. You should still be able to cover some decent miles between fills, though, given the G80's 77L fuel tank. Based on our indicated figure, you should get at least 550–600km per fill with more urban driving.
It's also worth noting the G80's 3.8-litre V6 is happy running on regular 91RON unleaded, too, unlike the premium tastes of turbocharged European rivals.
From an ownership perspective, Genesis leads the premium/luxury space with its five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. All Genesis G80 buyers also receive free servicing for the first five years/75,000km – whichever comes first – based on service intervals of 12 months/15,000km.
In similar style to rivals like Lexus, the Korean marque will have someone pick up and drop off your vehicle before and after your service, provided the specified collection location is within 70km driving distance from a capital city – though this excludes Tasmania and the Northern Territory according to the company's website. You also get five years of 24/7 roadside assistance thrown in, for that extra peace of mind.
All told, the Genesis G80 remains a decent package, though its downfalls could be deal-breakers for some.
It packs a huge amount of kit regardless of trim level, and in Ultimate Sport Design guise offers a range of features, performance and technologies as standard that rival European brands would charge tens of thousands more for. It's also got a fantastic warranty and servicing program that pretty much ensures hassle-free motoring for at least five years.
But for many luxury buyers, that simply won't be enough. The Genesis's old-school luxe vibe will appeal to some, but the lack of infotainment technologies like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the high fuel consumption, and lack of badge cachet are big hurdles the Korean limousine faces – though you could counter that with the inevitable exclusivity of owning one of these.
Additionally, the top-spec G80's near $100,000 asking price is close enough to a 5 Series or E-Class for many buyers to shop elsewhere despite the larger engine and higher equipment levels.
There's no doubt the G80 is still a fundamentally good car, but if you can wait a little longer, the all-new model due sometime next year will likely address all the complaints of the current model, and close the gap between South Korea and Germany in the luxury space even more.
In its current form, the G80 is best served in its entry-level form, where the price gap with rivals is far greater, it's still got plenty of kit, and isn't far off the price tags of mainstream brands.