Genesis is fighting an uphill battle. Not many consumers know Genesis is a new automotive luxury brand, and fewer still will care enough to stray from first-tier brands they’ve always trusted. With the new 2018 G80 3.3T Sport, Genesis extends its reach with a powerful and sporty variant of a comfortably sized sedan that made its debut as the Hyundai Genesis for the 2015 model year before being renamed G80. Some luxury consumers—including my Genesis-3.8-driving father—seek out something different when buying a new car, but what does the 2018 Genesis G80 Sport offer midsize luxury sedan buyers?
As with the regular G80 and enormous G90, value and above-average interior space are great reasons to consider the G80 Sport. The more eye-catching Sport variant retains the same capacious cabin as the 3.8 and 5.0 models, which means it’s bigger inside than pretty much everything else you’re considering. That’s a useful advantage for those who are miffed by the prospect of paying $50,000 to $70,000 for a midsize sedan that feels barely midsized from the back seat. In Sport trim, the G80 comes as a fully loaded package with the only choice being rear- or all-wheel drive. The G80 Sport’s all-wheel-drive system can send 90 percent to the rear wheels in Sport mode (depending on what’s needed and how the car is being driven) and can send 100 percent of the torque to the front wheels in “Escape” mode, if the car is stuck in snow or ice. Having driven G80 Sports on a foggy day in Northern California, I luckily didn’t have a chance to test out this feature.
At the core of the G80 Sport is a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 with 365 hp at 6,000 rpm and a healthy 376 lb-ft of torque from 1,300 to 4,500 rpm. It’s a powerful engine and a good fit for the G80 Sport, which weighs a substantial 4,500 pounds with rear-wheel drive and just under 4,700 pounds with all-wheel drive. In rear-drive form, that’s more than 600 pounds heftier than the six-cylinder models of the Lexus GS and BMW 5 Series, both cars in the G80’s competitive set. Upon a stab of the accelerator pedal, the G80 Sport doesn’t really feel 4,500 pounds, but it also doesn’t feel as light on its feet as the Lexus GS 350 F Sport, a competitor I’ve also driven. The G80’s interior is on the quiet side, which can be a little problem for cars with sport in their name. So Genesis pipes sound into the interior to remind driver and passenger that this isn’t a 311-hp G80 3.8. Put the G80 Sport into Sport mode, and you’ll really hear it.
The G80 Sport is no wheels-and-body-kit package. Real performance upgrades include the sport-oriented adaptive suspension and eight-speed transmission, the larger rear brakes, and an improved cooling system. Fun fact: The G80 Sport’s standard 19-inch wheels (wrapped in P245/40R19 all-season tires in front and P275/35R19s in the rear) are just over a pound lighter per wheel than the 19-inchers on the eight-cylinder G80 5.0. The G80 Sport’s development effort paid off; the car is a well-executed cruiser that can be sporty when the mood strikes. There’s actually some steering feel, and compared to the regular G80 3.8, the G80 Sport has a more buttoned-down suspension with less pitch and dive under hard acceleration and heavy braking. The G80 Sport is sportier than the G80 3.8 (as it should be), but drivers like my father who now want a car that feels smaller might appreciate the new trim level while they wait for the G70 to arrive.
The 2018 G80 Sport should be noticeably quicker than the less expensive G80 3.8. Motor Trend tested a G80 3.8 AWD (back when it was called the Hyundai Genesis 3.8) accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds, and we’ve tested a rear-drive eight-cylinder model reaching 60 mph in 5.2 seconds. We expect the G80 Sport will reach 60 mph in about 5.3 seconds; a 2017 G90 with the G80 Sport’s twin-turbo V-6 and all-wheel drive hit 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. All of this size and power comes at a cost, however. The smaller rear-drive 2017 Lexus GS 350 F Sport is rated 19/27 mpg city/highway, better than the G80 Sport’s 17/25 mpg (or 24 mpg highway with all-wheel drive). Fuel economy has never been a G80 advantage. The Sport’s 17/24–25 mpg is slightly better than the V-8 model (15–16/23–24 mpg), but it’s a couple mpgs down from the 3.8 model’s 18–19/25–27 mpg. The BMW 540i, for comparison, has a manufacturer-estimated 4.7–4.9-second 0–60 time and EPA fuel economy ratings of 20/29–30 mpg. If you’re not interested in hearing about fuel economy on a sporty luxury sedan, consider that most efficient cars, such as the quick 540i, won’t need to stop for gas quite as often.
What 540i owners won’t get are the G80 Sport’s impressive standard features list. Every Genesis G80 Sport gets a full suite of active safety tech, including a system that can apply the brakes if it senses an imminent collision, a lane departure mitigation system that can subtly keep you in your lane if the car starts veering without a turn signal on, and an adaptive cruise control system with stop-and-go functionality (the car will decelerate or accelerate up to your desired speed depending on traffic). Other standard features that put the G80 Sport’s $56,225 price into perspective include a multicamera parking system that’s easy to use, LED headlights, a power-operated trunklid, a panoramic sunroof, a black microfiber suede headliner, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, navigation on a 9.2-inch screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a 17-speaker Lexicon sound system, three years/36,000 miles of complimentary scheduled maintenance, and a head-up display. As with the other G80 models, all-wheel drive is a $2,500 option.
One of the coolest additions on the G80 Sport model is the real carbon-fiber trim inside—it’s a rich touch and a good complement to the other G80 models’ matte wood trim. The Sport trim also introduces copper accents to the G80, and we’ll probably see the detail on a sportier version of the upcoming G70 four-door. Inside, the accents amount to copper stitching on the seats and steering wheel, as well as copper trim on the analog clock that sits in the center of the dash. On the exterior, the copper theme reaches the edges of the front cross-hatch grille, the LED headlights, and the outside of the wheels’ center caps. The copper details are more understated than the four look-at-me exhaust outlets and distinguish the Sport model from other G80s in a meaningful aesthetic way. The G80 wears its 196.5-inch length well, with classic-luxury styling and an imposing presence.
When it comes to safety, the Genesis G80 gets the job done. The car has a five-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (out of a possible five stars), and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the 2017 model a 2017 Top Safety Pick+, thanks in part to the car’s standard automatic emergency braking system.
For a luxury sedan under $60,000, the Genesis G80 Sport offers no compromises in terms of interior comfort or features, but the performance upgrades can only take the heavy sedan so far. The upcoming G70 will likely be lighter, more efficient, and sportier, but not everyone has the luxury of waiting one to two years for a car that doesn’t yet exist in dealerships. In the meantime, if you want a quick luxury sedan that looks and feels a little sporty without compromising commuting livability, the G80 Sport is worth a look.