Genesis G80 2020 3.8

2021 Genesis G80 review

Australian first drive

The Genesis G80 is the brand's redesigned flagship platform, and it's every bit as luxurious and feature-laden as you'd expect.
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That the 2021 Genesis G80 is an exceptional large luxury sedan is no surprise. What is perhaps something of a surprise is just how far the luxury arm of Hyundai has come in a relatively short time. Not long after driving the all-new GV80 SUV, we get to sample the new-generation G80 – a flagship large sedan that defines the brand.

While it’s clear Australians are continuing to move to SUVs in huge numbers, there’s no doubting the appeal of a big sedan for a big country. I know that line itself is marketing guff put forward decades ago, but it does still ring true in 2020. The G80 is a car you can imagine loading up in one of our major cities before heading off on a cross-country road trip in comfort and luxury. It’s why the G80 appeals to luxury hire car drivers.

Time to find out if the new variant takes the game as far forward as we’re hoping it will.

Our pricing and specification guide explains the range in more detail, with the key being the paring down of the range spread – one trim level with two powertrains on offer.

The G80 2.5T gets a 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine making 224kW and 422Nm, which sits it not that far behind the old 3.8-litre NA V6. The entry level platform is rear-wheel drive with an eight-speed automatic.

The range-topper is the 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6, which makes a smooth 279kW and 530Nm. This platform gets an electronically controlled AWD system and the same excellent eight-speed automatic transmission.

Pricing starts from $84,900 and $99,900 respectively, both before on-road costs.

MORE: G80 price and specs

2021 Genesis G80 3.5T
Engine3.5-litre turbocharged V6 petrol
Power and torque 279kW @ 5800rpm, 530Nm @ 1300-4500rpm
TransmissionEight-speed automatic
Drive typeElectronic on-demand all-wheel drive
Kerb weight2023kg
Fuel claim combined (ADR)10.7L/100km
Fuel use on test12.1L/100km
Boot volume424L
Turning circle11.6m
ANCAP safety rating5-star
Warranty5 years / unlimited km
Main competitorsLexus GS, BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Price as tested (ex on-road costs)From $99,900

As you’d expect from Genesis, the standard specification list is meaty – that’s a very direct aspect of the sales plan – and the minute you open the door, it’s obvious that attention to detail has also been taken care of.

The high-definition 14.5-inch infotainment screen for example, looks enormous atop the dashboard, but the clarity and imagery ensure size alone isn’t the focus. Still a screen of this size is excellent when you’re connected to Apple CarPlay or using the satellite navigation for example.

Drivers get a 12-inch head-up display, there’s a panoramic sunroof, an excellent 21-speaker Lexicon sound system, wireless smartphone charging and digital radio.

We haven’t properly tested the ‘augmented reality’ satellite navigation system yet, but we will when we get the G80 through the garage, and there’s also 12-way electrically adjustable front seats which are heated and cooled and smart cruise control. We’ll test that system more extensively as well.

You can read about the optional $13,000 luxury package, there’s more quality equipment there, and I like the way Genesis has simplified the available equipment. Makes the purchasing process a lot simpler.

The 3.5T steps up the standard equipment list a little from the base model – 20-inch wheels against 19-inch, Pilot Sport 4 S tyres against Pilot Sport 4 – as well as the inclusion of Genesis Adaptive Control Suspension and Road Preview technology.

What’s most interesting, after driving the G80 and the GV80 SUV back to back, is the ride quality of the sedan. The SUV has definitely been tightened up and tuned to ride closer to sporty than floaty the way I see it, which works well for that platform and that intended buyer.

The sedan, however, has that beautiful luxurious, wafty feel about it, that seems completely unaffected by the road surface. It’s as if you’re floating above the surface of the road, comfortably rolling forward. Whether one is ‘better’ than the other is a matter of personal taste and both have their place. I reckon each is neatly focused on the intended buyer though.

The quality and effortlessness of the ride is equal parts the inherent quality of the chassis, and the smarts of the local suspension tune. Like other Hyundai and Genesis product – the G80 has received its own, Aussie-focused suspension hardware. It would be interesting to drive a pre-fettled G80, to feel the differences, but suffice to say our local tune nails the brief.

I find myself questioning whether the average punter needs to live with a large sedan every time we test one – until you get seated. Once you get comfortable with the surrounds and the controls, large sedans still make a hell of a lot of sense for the family buyer.

The seats are comfortable – heating and cooling are must haves in the luxury segments – visibility is excellent, and there’s an inherent quality to the controls and switchgear. There’s the same attention to detailed we noted in the GV80, and the same sense of insulated calm inside the cabin as well.

The big central screen is neatly positioned, clear and concise, and there’s no hand-me-down Hyundai appearance or feel to the controls and cabin amenities. That’s a key feature and it’s something Lexus has done nicely over the years. We all know there’s a Toyota under the skin, but buyers don’t want to be visibly reminded every day either.

There’s no doubt the V6 is an excellent engine and undoubtedly the one to have if money is no object. For a big, heavy vehicle, the Genesis has a surprisingly sharp turn of speed, and it will get up to highway speed rapidly. The proprietary eight-speed automatic transmission is also exceptionally smooth.

We used to criticise the old G80 (the original Hyundai Genesis) for its thirst and the good news now, is that the fuel use is much more realistic.

The ADR claim is 8.6L/100km for the four-cylinder and 10.7L/100km for the V6. On our launch drive, the V6 was using an indicated 12.1L/100km after a fairly enthusiastic country drive, which is more than acceptable for a vehicle of this size.

There’s plenty of trickery going on under the skin that all works together to deliver the rounded G80 drive experience, and we’ll dive deeper into that tech when we have one for a longer loan, but there’s no doubt the adaptive dampers, and AWD system make the most of the engine and transmission’s capability.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with the 2.5T or the way in which it drives, we’d definitely opt for the 3.5T, budget permitting.

The cabin is enormous, as you’d expect, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re seated up front, or in the second row. Research shows that nearly all of the even super wealthy choose to drive their own limos in this country, and you’d expect that to be the case with the G80 as well. Despite that however, you’ll enjoy relaxing in the second row, while being driven around, that’s for sure.

The G80 gets Genesis’s five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, and five years of complimentary servicing for private buyers.

Key to the Genesis appeal is customer service, and the 'Genesis To You' concierge scheme is a big part of that. A driver will collect your Genesis when it’s ready for a service, leave a loan vehicle with you for the day, and then return your car post-service within a 70km radius of a Genesis studio.

There’s no doubt Genesis is building cars that do exactly what the brand needs to do to succeed in Australia and you can’t mirror the success of the likes of Lexus without quality product. Still, it will be a hard road to get the message out there to Euro-focused Aussie consumers.

For mine, the G80 is so good it just pips the GV80 on the ‘which would I buy’ index. I enjoyed the GV and it is definitely going to appeal to Australia’s SUV-focused market. The G80 however is a beautiful car to drive, comfortable and luxurious, and every day would feel like you’re in a limousine. Let us know which one you prefer.

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