I first drove BMW’s 7 Series in 1979, working as a sales assistant for Classic BMW in Richardson (Texas). Introduced in the U.S. two years earlier, the ‘7’ – along with its coupe cousin, the 6 Series – was BMW’s audacious attempt (at the time) to enter the luxury segment with a $20K window sticker. And while that doesn’t seem daring in retrospect, just a decade earlier BMW showrooms were filled with 2-door sport sedans – the 1600 and 2002 – which rarely cracked $5,000. So, to go up against Benz head-on was perceived as aggressive, both on the showroom and on the street. The same might be said for the relatively recent move by Hyundai and its Genesis division – going head-to-head with Mercedes-Benz and BMW. And as this is written, Genesis is doing it without a brand-specific showroom.
Despite the challenge of marketing any all-new brand – especially a new offering in our vast U.S. marketplace – is the launch of the product itself. Initially introduced as an upscale addition to the Hyundai lineup, the Genesis tag has only recently been applied to its own retail environment. And in a mashup of corporate think and retail reality, Hyundai’s suits are still working out the details of how Genesis will be sold. (And once this is finalized we’ll readily – make that eagerly – report on it.) In the interim, you have two sedans – G80 and G90 – offering quality construction, an upscale design and credible content for price points well below the Germans and Japanese. And if this sounds like a repeat of efforts made by Acura, Lexus and Infiniti some thirty years ago, you know your history.
We’ve tested the G80 before, most recently in its upscale 3.3T ‘Sport’ guise. In that configuration the G80 is fitted with a twin turbo 3.3 liter V6, supplying 365 horsepower and prodigious torque in a chassis that ‘s a tad more buttoned down than supplied in the more standard spec G80. But the G80 Sport is almost roughly $15K more expensive than the base G80, which is priced at under $42K. And while ‘base’ is comfortably equipped the goodies – like a panoramic moonroof – aren’t there until you spend $5K for a Premium upgrade. But we find something very compelling for a window sticker – and realistic transaction – of right at $40K
The G80’s exterior is quietly upscale, and doesn’t suffer the aesthetic adds that are prevalent on Lexus and, to a lesser extent, Infiniti sheetmetal. Design teams are increasingly staffed (apparently) with fans of Kim Kardashian, while the restrained G80 comes across as more Kim Novak. And we loved Kim Novak.
Inside, seats are comfortable, and the dash is almost – but not quite – intuitively old school, allowing you to adjust both audio and HVAC with but one motion and not, as is so often the case with touchscreens, three motions. In our white/beige combo, some of the plastics on the lower dash don’t quite match the $40K window sticker, but we’ll guess that could be ameliorated by spec’ing the interior in black. Beyond that one visual disconnect we were impressed by overall fit, ergonomic layout and impression. And if climbing into the rear, regard is as almost limo-like in its seating, headroom and legroom.
Under the hood you’ll not find a turbo, and while a normally aspirated V8 is optional, this 3.8 liter V6 – with 311 horsepower and 293 lb-ft of torque – does the job nicely. Delivering its power to the rear wheels (AWD is an option) through an 8-speed automatic, the 3.8 delivers crisp acceleration and very relaxed cruising at any and all highway speeds. Genesis supplies the G80 with three driving modes. You’ll find ‘Normal’, well, normal, while ‘Sport’ is just a tad more engaging. ‘Eco’ is to be avoided; if you want ‘Eco’ get an Elantra.
On the road, the G80 drives a lot like you’d expect a luxury sedan to drive, although the on-the-road composure comes close to that of a more sporting 4-door. Like the 7 Series of thirty years ago, it drives ‘smaller’ than it actually is. And given how close it is dimensionally to a mid-‘80s BMW, and a curb weight within 10% of the 7 Series, we shouldn’t be surprised.
The biggest surprise comes in the G80’s execution; this is a sedan we could recommend without reservation. And in an era of Accords and Camrys – fully loaded – approaching $40K, the Genesis comes across as a screaming deal. Without – of course – the screaming.