Test Drive: 2018 Genesis G80 Sport

Mama Pritchard taught me not to talk to strangers, and to never get into a car with one – but today, to Mom’s disbelief, the defining shopping experience of Canada’s newest luxury car brand involves throwing her advice out the window.

Just a glance at the gas pedal gets you rolling with authority through traffic, the engine staying well under 2,000 rpm, and the transmission shifting so smoothly you wonder if its shifting at all.

Fancy a test drive of a model from Hyundai’s newly formed Genesis brand? If so, you go online and arrange for a Genesis Ambassador to arrive at your location with an iPad full of information, and a car for you to test drive. Literally, you summon a stranger from the internet, and get into their car.

You never have to set foot in a dealership.

The Genesis G80 Sport is the brand’s shot at a comparable S-Line-equipped Audi, M-Package-equipped BMW, or F SPORT-equipped Lexus: a sportier take on a standard model, with subtle upgrades to dial up the performance. It’s a unique offering: the grille is massive, imposing, and highly sculpted. Clever copper-coloured wheel and grille trim is intriguing, and original. The gracefully athletic body work and effective accents all dial up the street-smart flair.

Whether you test drive a Genesis G80 Sport that a stranger arrives in, or from one of Genesis’ boutique dealers, be sure to head to the roughest road you can find, for a leisurely drive. Here, several of this machine’s most valuable assets take centre stage.

At its core, a proper luxury sedan must create a driving environment that’s comfortable, chill, peaceful, laid-back, and conducive to unwinding, socializing, and relaxing on the move. In these regards, the G80 excels – turning in an authentic world-class luxury driving experience, even on some of the nastiest roads I could find.

Pointed over pavement craters, potholes, and the miles of crumbling asphalt that comprise much of Sudbury, Ontario’s roadways, the G80 Sport pitter-patters softly – with the suspension carefully filtering out harshness hurled at the car from beneath. Little you can drive the G80 Sport over upsets the composure, and you’ve got to crank this one hard into a fairly hefty chasm for it to feel like it’s crashing down the road. Even over undulating pavement, the body stays relatively flat: the suspension takes a ride, but drivers remain largely stable and unbothered in their seat.

Noise? Forget it. If you’re driving down a poorly maintained road, usually only a hint of tire noise is allowed into the cabin. Cruising the highway at a good clip? Other than an occasional lick of wind noise at the window seals or a brief scrunch as the tires encounter a tar strip, little more than a dull roar ever seeps in.

Rough road or smooth, the G80 feels like what it is: a big, heavy car, weighing in in the 1,800 kg ballpark. This has pros and cons, but when cruising on whatever highway, or at whatever speed you like, you feel like you’re encased in concrete. After a big sedan that feels stable, planted, and solid? The G80 Sport won’t disappoint.

The engine supports leisurely luxury driving, too. The 3.3L V6 uses twin turbochargers for 365 hp, and nearly 380 lb-ft of torque, available from 1,300 rpm. Just a glance at the gas pedal gets you rolling with authority through traffic, the engine staying well under 2,000 rpm, and the transmission shifting so smoothly you wonder if its shifting at all. As gas-powered cars go, this noiseless, generous, and highly accessible thrust is about as close as you’ll get to an electric luxury car. All-wheel drive is standard, too.

In any measure of ride quality, comfort, noise levels, refinement, and the associated fine-tuning of the goings-on beneath the vehicle, the G80 Sport impresses. If you blindfolded me, took me for a spin, and told me I was in a $90,000 Lexus, I’d believe you.

Of course, as the G80 Sport, all of the luxury goodness is only half of the equation (or, as it turns out, about two-thirds of it).

Engage Sport mode, drive the G80 sport with some fire in your pants, and it plays ball, but never gets too excited. Steering heavies, but lacks much feel or tactile sense of the interfacing between the tires and tarmac, and there’s a fair bit of work required at the wheel when firing it around. The suspension stiffens: it’s less soft, but still fairly soft. The paddle-activated gearshifts typically occur after a brief pause, and often, in no particular rush.

Sure, there’s power to spare – in fact, when called upon, the G80 Sport hauls along properly. The engine never sounds overworked, even if it’s fairly quiet, and even if the full-throttle sound you do hear is far from a mechanical earworm. Sport mode sensitizes the throttle, but the engine still operates with a calculated delay to your inputs, even if there’s sufficient forward thrust to coax cursing from passengers.

Plus, it sticks to the road like a smaller and lighter car, and rarely gets to feeling dramatic.

Thing is, the layer of smoothness around your inputs that virtually disappears in my favourite sports sedans, remains here. Drive a comparable BMW or Jaguar really hard, and it seems to love it. Do the same in the G80, and it’s like, “yeah, all right.”

So, this one’s comfort first: a machine that impresses initially, and mostly, as a luxurious cruiser that’s expert at quietly hovering down the road, with plenty of effortless twin-turbo firepower in reserve. And second, a big sturdy rocket sedan that’s neither bothered by, nor excited about, being driven spiritedly.

Drivers enjoy it from a cabin that’s impressive at first glance. Easy entry and exit via massive door openings and generous room at any seat are on offer, even for the tall, wide, or leggy. There’s room for days. Add in the relatively thin window pillars, massive panoramic sunroof and generous use of glass to visually open the cabin, and the result is an environment that’s light and airy and feels bigger than it is.

Contrast stitching; layering of colour, texture, gloss and matte surfaces; fragrant leather; aluminum accents; and miles of carbon fibre all grab – and keep – attention. For the clever and abundant deployment of top-line trimmings, G80 Sport hits the mark.

Ditto feature content. There’s hardly a modern luxury feature or gadget not present. My favourites included the high-resolution Lexicon stereo, with performance that exists elsewhere in the market as a big-dollar add-on, as well as the handy wireless Qi recharging pad for your smartphone, resting at an angle in the center console storage bin.

The cabin hits hardest for its materials and trimmings and features, and less for its overall design and originality. Take away the trimmings, and the materials, and what you’re left with in terms of the cabin shape and layout resembles a great big Hyundai Sonata. Not a bad thing – but maybe an issue when you count the 5 Series, E-Class and Volvo S90 amongst your competition.

Some additional notes, if you’re cross-shopping said competition. The G80 Sport’s ride quality and comfort are in the same ballpark as the Cadillac CT6 or Volvo S90, with performance closer to that of the Cadillac, though not as all-out potent. The dense, high-quality, and solid feel imparted through much of G80 Sport’s driving dynamics call the Lexus GS to mind. Frisky-pants handling is not the G80 Sport’s strongest asset, and those after a more potent driver’s car can consider a comparable (but pricier) BMW 5 Series, or, provided you’re okay with the drop in size, the (fantastic) Jaguar XE.

If you like the G80 Sport on a test drive, the 2018 Volvo S90 is an advisable cross-shopping exercise: it’s less powerful, but occupies a similar pricing ballpark with a more striking cabin, and very similar ride and handling feel.

Let’s sum it up. By any stretch, the G80 Sport is a gorgeous-looking car, and a fresh face. It’s smooth and refined in every aspect, it rides and coddles and relaxes you like something much pricier. Though the interior and handling don’t leave any competitors in the dust, the G80 Sport is a stand-out value for the price, too, depending on your priorities.

That price rang in at an as-tested $62,000, or about the same money as a 5 Series or E-Class – before adding the extra-cost features and powerplant and sport package and technologies that come standard in the G80 Sport.

Getting all of the goodies (and an impressive warranty) at this price point will appeal readily to the luxury sedan shopper who’s keeping an eye on their budget, and who doesn’t want to step foot in a dealer.

2018 Genesis G80 Sport
Engine Displacement: 3.3L
Engine Cylinders: V6
Peak Horsepower: 365 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Peak Torque: 376 lb-ft @ 1,300–4,500 rpm
Fuel Economy: 13.8/9.7/11.9 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 433 L
2018 Genesis G80 Sport
Base Price $62,000
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee N/A
Price as Tested $62,100
Optional Equipment None
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 8.3
9 Styling
7 Powertrain
8 Quality
9 Comfort
8 Practicality
9 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
8 Fuel Economy
9 Features
8 Value