Has Genesis really got what it takes to achieve its lofty goals?
There’s no doubt that the cars – including the brand spanking new G80 sedan that we’re in Canberra to drive – are bloody good; fabulous interiors, loads and loads of clever tech to both protect and entertain, and genuinely considered exterior styling.
As well, parent company Hyundai is certain to back its bet on its fledgling luxury upstart for as long as it takes - especially given that its new global president, Euisun Chung, formed the brand under his watch as vice president in the early part of this decade.
Add to that bulletproof powertrains and the Australian-centric bespoke ride/handling set-ups that its rivals dispensed with eons ago, and - on paper at least - Genesis is starting strongly in a race that won’t be won in the first year. Or even, in the case of Lexus, the first 20. Or perhaps ever.
It’s got the job ahead of it… somewhat ironically, it’s in danger of being outsold in 2020 by a brand which also figured on its chances of claiming a slice of the premium pie, Infiniti, which bolted the doors closed late last year.
Genesis G80 vs GV80: what's the difference?
What is the Genesis G80?
Built on top of parent company Hyundai’s latest M3 platform, the new G80’s role is simple; create enough noise and distraction to shake potential customers out of their Euro – or Japanese, for the matter – loyalties and give them enough reasons to switch their allegiances for now and forever.
It replaces the previous G80, which started its Australian residency in 2014 as a Hyundai Genesis before being – somewhat cynically, I feel – recycled as an “all new” (their words, not ours) Genesis in 2019.
On pure presence alone, the large G80 already has the runs on the board. It’s big, and manages to stay juuust this side of brash.
At the front its all about the light signature – the headlights are divided yet still connected with the bodywork, sitting astride an enormous grille that will make BMW feel a little better about itself.
Those vertical lighting structures stride down the side of the G80, with faux vents on the front guards and a subtle crease along the rocker panel tying into the G80’s horizontal taillights.
READ MORE Genesis GV80 review
Big rims – up to 20 inches on the top-spec variants – work well with minimal overhangs, while a speccy $2000 matte paint finish sets the G80 apart. Just be careful how you wash it, we’re told.
Price and value
Mechanically, the G80 can be had in rear- or all-wheel-drive, and with the choice of a 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with 224kW and 422Nm (rear-drive only), or an all-wheel-drive 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6, which makes 270 and 530Nm.
The only gearbox choice is an eight-speed torque-sensing auto, the V6 gets bigger front brakes, while the chassis itself is independently sprung at the rear.
Michelin Pilot Sports are the tyre of choice on both variants, too.
Spec-wise, you want for little with the G80, even with the $84,900 entry-level five-seat rear-drive 2.5T.
Open-pore wood trim and leather abounds in the spacious, airy cabin, while knurled metal details on crucial controls lift the G80 from pleasant to special.
The two-spoke steering wheel won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but the driver’s position is pretty spot on in most respects.
The seats are heated, vented and adjustable every which way, there’s inductive charging for your phone, a huge 14.5-inch multimedia screen, a digital dash, a panoramic sunroof, automatic headlights and wipers, 19 or 20-inch rims, a powered tailgate and loads more as standard.
READ MORE Genesis G70 review
There’s plenty of standard safety kit including ten airbags and clever adaptive cruise control, but you need to add a $13,000 Luxury pack to get the finer pieces of the puzzle, like parking collision avoidance and remote parking assistance.
What's the Genesis G80 like to drive?
A brief blast of the $99,900 3.5-litre twin-turbo petrol-equipped variant reveals a softly-sprung chassis backed by light, accurate but filtered steering feel.
Its brakes are interesting; Genesis has fitted an integrated electric brake booster that enables engineers to tune the pedal feel.
Comfort mode, for example, gives the pedal a softer, more modulated stroke, while Sport mode firms up the first centimetre of pedal travel for a more precise feel.
There’s plenty of linear urge from the new-gen twin-turbo six-potter, even given it’s pushing around more than 2.5 tonnes, though its note is stilted rather than sonorous.
READ MORE The guide book of Genesis
The almost five-metre-long sedan has a locally tweaked handling package that favours ride over roll support almost to a fault.
Even though its adaptive dampers are linked to a front-mounted camera to read terrain and send data back to amend the ride in almost real-time, the overall demeanour is one of a plush city-slicker, not a back-road bruiser.
Anything wrong with the Genesis G80?
Not all that impressive at first blush is the overcomplicated interface with the multimedia screen; it can be accessed via a dial, console buttons, handwriting recognition, touch and steering wheel controls, but it’s still not as intuitive as it should be.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto mirroring, too, can’t fill the whole centre console screen, while the relative age of the system means that the G80 can’t yet offer wireless support, rendering the inductive charger redundant when using your phone.
You also have to spend big - $13,000, to be exact - on a Luxury pack which gives the G80 a clever noise-cancelling system that uses mics in and out of the car to quell rumble.
It also adds remote parking capability, which is sure to impress the neighbours.
How safe is the Genesis G80?
With an almost bewildering array of active and passive safety aids, the G80 earns a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating based on Europe NCAP crash data.
Ten airbags (including a front centre/side airbag), AEB for every occasion including front, front-cylist, cross-traffic front and rear, junction assist and lane oncoming AND change assist, blind-spot assist for side and rear, sophisticated adaptive cruise control, rear occupant detection that can honk the horn if motion is detected and loads more is all standard.
How much does it cost to own the Genesis G80?
Genesis has lofty plans to flesh out its local range with market-relevant products (read: SUVs) and its service and support offering is also strong, though it still lacks a physical presence in many key population areas.
That service offering includes a five-year unlimited-kilometre warranty, five years of free servicing, five years of sat-nav map updates, five years roadside assistance and five years of service pickup/dropoff valet help.
The 3.5-litre petrol engine consumes a reasonably high 10.7L/100km on the combined economy cycle, and its 73-litre tank (bigger than the 2.5-litre G80's by some eight litres) means a theoretical range of about 680km and a cost per tank of around $100-110.
Will the Genesis G80 impress luxo sedan owners sufficiently to want to trade in their Audi A6s, BMW 530s and Mercedes-Benz E300s?
Quite possibly. Value is a strong buzzword in this new world, and while premium names are currently enjoying salad days of strong sales on the back of cancelled holidays and the like, there’s always a clique of people looking to move into something a little different and who will be wise to a good value proposition.
The G80’s overt yet attractive styling, its mature and refined presentation and its generous equipment levels will definitely bring eyeballs to the brand – but the real trick is to convert those eyeballs into bums on seats.