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Return of the undead: driving the ‘new’ Genesis G80

By Andy Enright, 08 Jul 2019 Reviews

Return of the undead: driving the ‘new’ Genesis G80

The Genesis that won’t die is back, this time bearing a G80 badge. It’s an oldie but a goodie

Overall Rating

5 0 5

Plus & Minus

  1. Plus Comfort; discretion; great after-sales package

  2. Minus Feels old; no smartphone mirroring; questionable resale values

  3. The Wheels Verdict: Exhuming the Genesis and giving it a modest refresh and rebadge doesn’t seem a formula for success, but there’s a small market niche – and small is all that Genesis needs right now – that will adore the formula of this relaxed and refined highway cruiser.

WHAT IS THE GENESIS G80?

Let’s start at the beginning. Not with the Big Bang, but with an event shortly thereafter when Hyundai launched the Genesis sedan. That car arrived in Australia badged as the Hyundai Genesis in 2014, made a small ripple with private hire operators and then quietly disappeared a couple of years later. It’s recently been refreshed and Genesis is now the make, not the model. The engine is largely unchanged as is the car’s relaxed personality.

Read: Who is Hyundai kidding by calling its 2019 Genesis G80 ‘new’?

WHY WE’RE TESTING IT

The big drawcard of Genesis’ launch in Australia is the G70 sports sedan, but the company also had some G80s for us to drive so we decided to have a pedal in one to see whether this refreshed version has what it takes to rival cars like the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

GENESIS G80 REVIEW

A question has been vexing me lately. While we attempt to be meritocratic in the way we judge cars here at Wheels, it nevertheless remains the case that some cars – entirely independent of their objective attractions – are endearing and some just aren’t so much. Take this Genesis G80 for example. If pushed, it would be pretty easy to come up with a fairly lengthy list of its shortcomings yet to drive the thing (gently) is to love it. At the other extreme, you might well have a car like Volkswagen’s Golf R: objectively brilliant, but the recipient of respect rather than adoration.

So what is it that’s so charming about the Genesis G80, a car which is a strange sort of automotive zombie? Its progenitor appeared in 2014 as the Hyundai Genesis, a flagship model that sold to private hire operators looking for a cheap and reliable alternative to the premium German marques, but which quietly disappeared at some point last year. Now it’s back, renamed the Genesis G80 and it has been the beneficiary of a facelift.

SPOTTO: 2020 Genesis G80 and GV80 SUV spied in Australia

Some things haven’t changed a great deal. It’s still powered by a version of the Lambda 3.8-litre V6, an engine that can trace its roots to the 2006 Hyundai Grandeur. The shape is broadly familiar, the infotainment system still feels a couple of generations out of date and, like the old Hyundai Genesis, the grille still wears an ugly swatch of clear plastic for its front-mounted radar.

Slipping behind the wheel evokes a déjà vu moment too. The seats are big and comfortable, the dashboard logically laid out and that crucial first five metres as you pull away reveal a smooth and polished power takeup via the eight-speed transmission, slick, almost friction-free steering and truly excellent refinement. If there’s a better car for less than $100k for going very slowly, I’m struggling to think of it.

The 232kW lump isn’t equipped with any form of forced induction, so makes its peak power at a heady 6000rpm. Likewise, the torque peak of 397Nm comes at a fairly nosebleed 5000rpm so the G80 isn’t a car that feels particularly rapid when being driven at the long-stroke, low involvement cadence of the rest of its dynamics. Genesis quotes 6.5 seconds to 100km/h which feels a little optimistic and few will be inclined to put that claim to the test. The engine can run on 91RON regular unleaded petrol and buyers can expect to see 10.4L/100km, a little down on the old car’s 11.4L/100km claim.

The range kicks off with an entry level car and then steps up through Sport Design, Ultimate and then the flagship Ultimate Sports - a blend of the other two trims. Anything but the entry-level car comes with 19-inch wheels that degrade the G80’s primary attraction, namely its relaxed and absorbent ride, so smart buyers will ask Genesis to put the 18-inch wheels and tyres of the entry-level car onto the upper spec models. Or, better still, just stick with the base model. It’s ludicrously well-equipped with gear like adaptive suspension, full LED adaptive light pack, leather and aluminium interior trims, a 17-speaker 900W Harman stereo, heated front seats, a powered rear window curtain, adaptive cruise, a 9.2-inch multimedia system that includes a 27GB hard disc drive, Genesis LED logo puddle lamps and so on. The infotainment system is old, however, and doesn’t feature any form of smartphone mirroring. The satellite navigation destination entry system is also clumsy and fussy.

The cabin feels exceedingly well-built, free of squeaks and rattles and finished with some good quality materials. There’s a lovely pale Alcantara headliner in light grey that switches to a darker tone for the window rolltops. There’s a brilliantly-designed inclined wireless phone charging pad that keeps your phone right on the charging hotspot. The heated steering wheel is one of the few features that might genuinely tempt me out of the base car. That and the seat coolers. Rear legroom is excellent, and if you’re ever offered a lift in one of these, aim for the kerbside passenger seat as you’ll then be able to control the seat ahead of you from the back. The rear seats have an element of recline and also feature full media control in the centre stack. Specify the optional $3k twin-pane panoramic sunroof, however, and headroom becomes extremely pinched in the rear. It’s fine up front, but if you’re buying the car to carry passengers, give the moonroof a miss. The 493-litre boot is big enough to swallow a serious long-haul baggage allowance.

Of more importance is the after sales and care package that’s supplied with the car. This comes with a caveat, though. The G80’s set to be replaced at some point in 2020 and, at the moment, it’s only available in one Sydney-based factory-owned dealership. Part of that scheme also includes a list price that offers no scope for negotiation. You front up between $68,900 to $92,900 plus on-roads dependent upon trim level, which is an increase of $8900 to $10,900 model-for-model over the prior Genesis. Yes, the branding has changed, the suspension has enjoyed a few tweaks and there’s now an electronic gear shifter, but that’s quite an impost given that the G80’s effectively already on run-out. Where the old car gave private hire operators a generous discount of around 20 percent off list, the latest version doesn’t afford any benevolence.

NO DEALERS: Genesis follows Apple into shopping centres

With an online ordering process already in place, Genesis has set out to make ownership as simple as possible. G80 customers enjoy a five-year warranty, five years of free servicing, no haggle pricing, a valet arriving at your house to deliver you a courtesy car and pick up your vehicle for scheduled services and there’s also tempters like five-year mapping updates, five-year roadside assist and a home delivery test drive service. Having just finished top of JD Power’s Initial Quality survey in the US, it’s likely that most G80s will, in five years’ time, feel about as fresh as they do when they roll off the forecourt.

It’s said that Donald Trump is a poor man’s idea of a rich man, and there could be an accusation levelled at the Genesis G80 that it’s a naïf’s concept of a luxury sedan. But even if it’s a little gauche in some of its aesthetic execution, there’s genuine substance to the G80 and it excels at its admittedly rather narrow remit. Best of all, it’s likeable. While it’s worth doing all of the sums around the cost of ownership over five years, it’s unlikely that too many G80 customers are going to regret their purchases at the end of that tenure. We’ll call that a qualified thumbs up.

GENESIS G80 VS RIVALS

Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5-Series, Audi A6, Lexus IS

GENESIS G80 PRICE AND SPECS AUSTRALIA

Model: Genesis G80
Engine: 3.8-litre V6 petrol
Max power: 232kW @ 6000rpm
Max torque: 397Nm @ 500rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 6.5sec
Price: from $68,900
On sale: Now