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2018 Genesis G80 Test Drive Review
With a twin-turbo V6 engine, an adaptive suspension, and a disruptively attractive price, the G80 Sport aims to adjust our conception of the luxury sports sedan.
Two years into its new life as a standalone brand, Genesis has injected some additional performance into its G80 luxury sedan. With the new Sport trim, buyers enjoy a reworked exterior with unique interior trim, plus an adaptive suspension and a twin-turbo, 3.3-liter V6 already seen in the G90 coupe.
Look and Feel
Hyundai isn’t messing around with the G80 Sport. It comes fully equipped, with the only options being rear-wheel drive (RWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD), paint and upholstery. That means you get adaptive LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof, heated seats front and rear with ventilated sport fronts, head-up display, multi-view camera, auto wipers, heated side mirrors with auto dimming, and dual-zone auto climate control. A power rear sunshade is complimented by manual side units, while a hands-free trunk lid and driver's memory settings add some convenience to the mix. Front seats get 10-way power with power lumbar adjustment, and the steering wheel is a power tilt and telescoping unit as well.
For safety, the G80 Sport comes standard with parking sensors front and rear, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning and intervention, adaptive cruise and a forward-collision warning system with pedestrian detection and auto-brake. Tech hasn’t been left behind, either, with a 14-speaker Lexicon stereo and 9.2-inch touchscreen with navigation and Genesis Connected Services (including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), a wireless charging pad, and upgraded driver display. Many of those features are grouped together into the $5000 Premium Package, included here but optional on lower G80 trims. Likewise, the $10,000 Ultimate Package includes features all included here, like the aforementioned adaptive LEDs, head-up display, 9.2-inch touchscreen with multi-camera view, Lexicon stereo, upgraded interior and power trunklid. For all this, you’re looking at a walkaway price of just $56,225. If you want the front wheels to get power as well, another $2500 will make it happen.
The standard G80 is a strong performer, but stealing the 3.3-liter, twin-turbo V6 out of the G90 and Kia Stinger puts this luxury sedan in a whole new category. Sure, you have the option of “upgrading” to V8 power, but this V6 is the way to go. While the V8 offers an extra 55 hp over the V6, it’s the torque numbers you should note. With the V8, you'll get 383, but with the V6 you’ll sacrifice only 7 lb-ft for a total of 376. What’s better is that peak torque in the V6 arrives at just 1300 rpm, nearly right off the line. If I’m being honest, it doesn’t pull as hard as I’d expect given those numbers, but it’s still strong, and it’s a lot better than the V8, when you'd have to spool the engine up to 5000 rpm to use all the torque available. That doesn’t make for a very rewarding driving experience in anything other than full-throttle situations. Here it pulls strong off the line with some brief turbo lag before it starts dumping on the power around 2000 rpm. After that, it's a linear increase all the way to redline. What all this means is that the G80 Sport will hit 60 mph in just over 5 seconds—nearly identical to the V8 trim’s time, while providing better driveability and fuel economy.
And while the G80 has been strongly criticized for being labeled a “sports sedan” but not providing the type of sharp agility we’ve come to expect from the competition, the adaptive suspension here does manage to hone the G80’s edge a bit. This is still solidly a GT car rather than a sports sedan, as its 4600-pound curb weight would suggest, but it can still handle spirited motoring while providing a level of comfort the more focused sports sedans in the segment have trouble replicating. To be clear, if you want all-out performance, this isn’t where you should find yourself. Instead, the G80 Sport provides a palatable blend for someone who wants a luxury sedan with a bit of adrenaline on the side. By the numbers, the Sport’s springs are 10 percent stiffer up front and 20 percent stiffer out back as compared to the V8. This is a welcome improvement, but it can occasionally lead to some business in the rear over rough pavement, which had me dropping back into the Normal setting. Unfortunately, all settings are integrated so you can’t decide to have the steering in Sport and the suspension in Normal. We hope Genesis will separate these in future model years.
The nearly ubiquitous 8-speed Shiftronic handles gear selection with nearly no issues, just a bit of lag felt with the paddle shifters, offering 6th, 7th and 8th as overdrive gears. Despite this, the transmission simply can’t overcome the portly profile of the G80 Sport, not to mention its prodigious power, resulting in a real-world average of 18 mpg for my test week, a slight departure from the EPA-estimated 17 mpg city, 25 highway, 20 combined, with required premium fuel.
Form and Function
If you approach the G80 looking for a sports sedan, you’ll be disappointed. The Sport trim doesn’t change this. When Genesis added “Sport” to the name and strapped in a twin-turbo V6 and adaptive suspension, people assumed it was going after the Mercedes AMGs, BMW M and Audi S models. This is wrong, and a quick glance at the curb weight proves it. At 4600 pounds, the G80's around 500 pounds heavier than those options—the main sacrifice you’ll make if you decide to go with the Genesis. Instead, you’re getting a spacious sedan with 15.3 cubic feet worth of trunk space that’ll still do a 14-second quarter-mile. Not a bad tradeoff.
The aesthetic changes are equally as impressive, with a dark copper trim on the new honeycomb grille, wheel caps, interior stitching and select trim pieces, and all the chrome has been replaced with black or smoke-tinted trim instead. Both the front fascia and rear bumper have been redesigned for a more aggressive appearance, with a side skirt bridging the gap. Out back, you’ll find quad exhaust tips and a diffuser, while the front fogs have been replaced with functional brake cooling ducts.
As I said before, this is not a challenger to the most potent sports sedans the competition has to offer. It’s more in line with the CTS-V or even the Continental Reserve. That means a lot more comfort for a little less performance. Not a bad tradeoff, and one that should garner a wider demographic for Genesis. It seems the same decisions were made around the steering and the differential—they handle their business, but with little flair or feedback. The steering is numb, even in Sport mode, and the rear tires break traction a bit too early. What this means is that someone with little driving experience can have a bit of hooligan fun without ever being in danger of crashing. Not crashing is a good thing, from a marketing perspective.
The interior is a mixed bag, however. Comfortable and spacious with class-leading rear headroom, it offers some of the nicer features I’ve seen of late. Specifically, the split sunshade for the panoramic sunroof is about the coolest thing on the market right now. That alone is worth seeing in action. And the sport seats are all-day comfortable with more adjustments than anyone could need. What bothers me are the materials. While the interior is well constructed and designed, this doesn’t really feel like a nearly $60,000 vehicle. Perhaps it’s because you can really see the design influence of some of the Hyundai stablemates—specifically the Sonata—but it was my major complaint during my week with the G80 Sport and should be a concern for Genesis. If it really wants to establish itself as a standalone brand, looking like a Hyundai Sonata doesn’t help. If you’d never seen a Sonata before, you wouldn’t likely have a problem. Still, an upgrade in some of the materials would help immensely. At least you’re not being asked to pay extra for ceramic switches and buttons like in a BMW. Speaking of buttons, the audio and climate control knobs are identical. Kudos to Genesis for giving us actual knobs for climate control, but with them looking and feeling exactly alike, I kept turning up the heat when I wanted to turn up the volume, and vice versa.
The G80 Sport is packed with tech, and it all comes standard. It doesn’t have all the fanciest and newest options like a decked-out 5 Series, but it has most of them, and they work nearly as well, for about $20,000 less. There’s a full autonomous safety suite, including Smart Cruise with auto stop to make heavy traffic a lot more bearable, a 9.3-inch touchscreen with a really well-designed infotainment system, and a stereo by Lexicon—the same outfit that provides audio for Rolls-Royce—with compression software to help upconvert compressed audio from streaming services. There’s even unique features you’ll find only on much more expensive models, like a fatigue monitor called Driver Alert Control, which notices if you’re getting a bit drowsy and will recommend a break.
Hyundai claims that with last year’s offerings, most of its customers didn’t feel like paying extra for navigation, so Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard here as well. That’s a great way to get and retain younger drivers, who might be looking at their first luxury sedan.
With a 5-star rating in all tests barring a 4-star score for the driver’s safety in side crashes, the G80 earns one of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s top scores. Likewise, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has named it a Top Safety Pick+, helped by the long list of standard safety features mentioned above. Braking distance lands at about 115 feet from 60mph, an impressive accomplishment given the G80's curb weight.
Price a similarly equipped 5 Series to a Genesis G80 and you’re going to come in at about $10,000 more with nearly half the warranty. No doubt a lot of people are more than willing to pay the extra money to drive a BMW rather than a re-badged Hyundai, and they’ll be missing out. The G80 Sport fills in an important gap in the luxury sports sedan arena, where too often all-out performance is given priority to the detriment of everything else. For those more concerned with comfort than with track competence, for those willing to give the new guy in town a shot, the G80 Sport won’t disappoint.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.
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