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Cars 2018: Genesis G80 Sport Road Test & Review

An upscale Hyundai? As recently as a decade ago, that proposition would have seemed fanciful. But now, Hyundai’s new luxury brand, Genesis, is steadily rolling out new models as part of its plan to offer a full line of premium cars and crossover SUVs to challenge high-end European marques. The latest Genesis and subject of this report is the G80 Sport.

Formerly known as the Hyundai Genesis sedan, the Genesis G80 ranks third in midsize luxury sedan sales this year behind the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series, and running head-to-head with Audi’s A6. With the new G80 Sport, Genesis turns up the jets courtesy of a standard twin-turbo V6 engine from the larger G90 flagship, an upsized 19-inch wheel and tire package, larger brakes, adaptive shock absorbers and a decidedly more aggressive exterior appearance. Rear-wheel-drive models are priced at $55,250; $2,500 more nets Hyundai’s HTRAC all-wheel drive. That’s a premium of $13,500 over the ordinary G80, albeit with additional standard equipment.

Twin-Turbocharged Urgency

The heart of the new G80 Sport is this 365-horsepower twin-turbocharged V6. Although it’s a convincing step up from the G80’s naturally aspirated 311-hp 3.8-liter V6, the twice-blown six is not the most powerful engine available in the G80 — that distinction falls to the 420-hp 5.0-liter V8 in the non-Sport G80. But with the turbo V6’s 376 lb-ft of torque arrayed in a broad band from just 1300 rpm all the way to 4500 rpm, throttle response is pleasantly rewarding in a wide variety of driving situations, from in-town stop-and-go to freeway merging and highway overtaking. This flexibility is further enhanced by the smooth and unobtrusive gear changes of the Hyundai-built eight-speed automatic transmission. Operate the steering-wheel paddles or select Sport mode (one of four intelligent drive modes) and the transmission quickens the shifts and delivers rev-matching downshifts.

Lap of Luxury

Although the G80 Sport competes against mid-lux sedans like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series, and Audi A6, the EPA classifies it as a full-size car due to its extra-roomy interior. The heated and ventilated front seats are especially capacious, yet offer extra bolstering (with power extenders on the driver’s seat) for support in sporty driving. The G80 Sport’s extra-thick sport steering wheel, carbon-fiber trim, black suede headliner and sport alloy pedals add to the regular G80 sedan’s already sumptuous accouterments. A 17-speaker Lexicon surround-sound premium audio system offers both an audience mode for a concert-hall experience or an on-stage mode that makes you feel like you’re part of the band. It’s teamed with a 9.2-inch color touchscreen that also offers navigation and a 360-degree multi-camera overhead view of the car’s surroundings. A wireless charger is on board for Qi-enabled phones, and the G80 Sport includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Yet the G80’s technology remains easily accessible with redundant knobs and buttons for frequently used infotainment and climate control functions.

Limo Zone

The G80 Sport’s rear passenger accommodations are no less lux, with heated seats, a power rear window sunshade and manual rear door sunshades. Rear headroom and legroom generally exceed the space found at the back of the Genesis’ German rivals. A standard panoramic tilt-and-slide sunroof opens wide for cabin-filling illumination when desired.

Open and Shut Case

An all-too-true axiom is that people tend to fill the space they have available. So just supposing that the G80 Sport might be a fun car to take on a driving vacation, it’s a good thing it offers one of the largest trunks in the mid-lux segment: 15.3 cubic feet. Not only is it nicely finished, it also motors open and closed at the push of a button. Or if you like, you can open it hands-free just by standing behind the trunk with the key in your pocket for at least three seconds — handy if your arms are, say, filled with a large selection of shopping items.

Copper Accents

One of the design elements that differentiate the Sport from other G80s is its copper trim. It’s subtle and at first, you may not notice it. But once you do — on the grille surround; LED headlamp housings; wheel hubs; and even in the stitching on the seats, door panels and dash — the unique metallic hue is unmistakably distinctive. It’s not something you see on or in a car every day.

Smooth Moves

The Genesis G80 Sport is not a hard-and-fast performance car. Rather, it’s a touring sedan composed of two parts luxury and one part sport. Standard equipment is Intelligent Drive Mode, which allows the driver to select among different settings: comfort-biased Normal, gas-saving Eco, performance-oriented Sport and Snow modes. These adjust throttle response, transmission shifting, shock-absorber damping, steering effort and stability control intervention as desired. The G80 Sport’s cabin is whisper-quiet when cruising, with a mellow burble from the V6 turbo’s quad exhaust adding a sporty touch as revs and throttle applications increase. The adaptive dampers help keep body motions in check, and harsh impacts never intrude into the interior despite the relatively aggressive 19-inch all-season Continental ProContact all-season tires. The G80 Sport’s rack-mounted variable-ratio electric power steering offers good precision and features light effort in town while weighing up nicely on the open road. Body roll is kept in check nicely.

Rolling on All Fours

Aside from color, the only option on the G80 Sport is HTRAC all-wheel drive, a $2,500 upcharge. If you live in areas that see serious winter weather — and we mean the white stuff — it’s likely your dealer will stock only HTRAC-equipped G80 Sports. As Genesis’ HTRAC is a rear-biased system, it normally functions with 60 percent of drive torque directed to the rear wheels. In slippery conditions, HTRAC can send up to 90 percent of the drive torque to the wheels with the most traction available.

Advanced Safety Tech

These days you never know what you might run into on the road. And literally, the Genesis G80 Sport is designed to deal with that using automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. The system combines information from the car’s adaptive cruise control radar unit and lane-keeping assist camera to detect objects and persons in harm’s way. It will flash and beep to warn the driver of an imminent forward collision and, if the driver fails to respond, apply the brakes to avoid or at least mitigate the impact. Other key safety systems also on board include rear blind-spot and cross-traffic detection, a high-beam assist, and driver-fatigue alert systems.

Strong Value Proposition

As with other Hyundai products and the Genesis G90 flagship, the G80 Sport’s long suit is offering better-than-expected quality and an extensive list of standard comfort and convenience features at a surprisingly agreeable price. That and an industry-leading five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty tied in with three years of free maintenance and valet service help give the new G80 Sport a strong value proposition versus the competition. And the G80 Sport’s silky turbo power, copper design accents, and ground-effects body tweaks add just enough road-ready bling to pull the whole thing off.