NAPA VALLEY, Calif. — When it comes to Genesis, the glass is either half full or half empty. Luxury brands are defined by their sedans and no doubt that’s why Genesis has launched two and we’re here to test drive the third: the 2018 Genesis G80 Sport.
However, this is sport utility market, with crossovers and all sorts of utility vehicles now accounting for more than half of new-car sales. Automakers are loathed to comment about future products unless they are on the launching pad.
But the Korean automaker debuted a concept vehicle, the GV80 full size sport utility, at the New York Auto Show that was slick and well received. The head of Genesis design told us that the upcoming Genesis sport utility will not stray far from the concept in terms of styling. Until then, Genesis is introducing top notch luxury sedans and the 2018 G80 Sport is the latest.
Under the hood was a 3.3-liter direct injected dual turbocharged V6 that made 365 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque from 1,300 rpm to 4,500 rpm with premium fuel. It was mated to a second generation eight-speed shift by wire automatic transmission with manual gear selection available through paddle shifters.
Engineers used twin scroll turbochargers and an air-cooled intercooler as they increased low-end torque and reduced turbo lag. An integral turbo and exhaust manifold helped to reduce weight and improve exhaust performance. An electronic waste gate and thermostat were employed to improve vehicle responsiveness. Also used were sodium filled valves to boost performance.
We thought the mechanics of the car worked well on the road. The G80 Sport accelerated with authority. The engine growled as it came to life under hard acceleration. And the car had to be slowed down lest it gain too much speed on roads that were occupied with traffic.
Still, there was a bit of turbo lag but it wasn’t bad. The sheet metal around that engine was taut, the face was strong, there were minimal overhangs front and rear and that gave the car a distinctive look.
The G80 Sport had a dark chrome vertical hexagonal grille with a cross-hatch design. Full LED headlights were right next to the grille which was housed within a copper-colored encasement. Copper colored accents were used throughout the vehicle. The front fascia had a lower honeycombed front air dam and functional side intakes.
The car was shod with 19-inch dark alloy wheels that had a copper-colored bezel on the “Genesis” wheel center cap. There was a lower rocker panel with a dark satin trim for the lower section. There were black-capped side view mirrors with smoked colored turn signal housings. The taillights were smoke colored too; they had a deep red hue and there was a sport designed rear fascia. The whole car was rounded off with a chrome tipped quad exhaust and a black diffuser.
Inside, there were heated and cooled front sport seats that had torso and thigh bolstering. Those bolsters kept us planted in the center of the seat as the car powered through curves on Canyon Road and got around switchbacks on the Pacific Coast Highway.
Instruments were easy to read and to reach. For the most part, they were intuitive. The interior was rift with copper colored contrast stitching, double stitching and single stitching. What was really surprising was the carbon fiber trim on the front of the dashboard and on the door panels, all four of them.
But a yellow caution light is that in an era of minimalist design, meaning very few if any buttons and switches the Genesis G80 Sport had plenty. Given the clean smooth look of the carbon fiber, the center control pod with its buttons and switches was right on the brink of looking cluttered.
They used copper-colored accented perforated seats; there was a black microfiber headliner, sport pedals, a thick sport steering wheel and a copper-colored clock face on the center of the front console waterfall. A designer once said that luxury is conveyed in the interior of a car and the G80 Sport certainly followed that mantra.
And though the 2018 Genesis G80 Sport targets the big four midsize luxury sedans it is classified as a full-size sedan by the EPA. From the side the car was really sleek but the wheels and lines camouflaged what this was a sizable coupe sedan but it looked athletic. We climbed into the back seats and there was plenty of room. It was as not big as a full-size sedan but it was certainly more spacious than a midsize sedan. Headroom and leg room were abundant.
And though it was sizable, 2018 G80 Sport was nimble on two-lane twisting local highways here like CA-1, CA-116 and CA-128. The former (the Pacific Coast) ran up the cliffs of the coast line. Reaching up to 1,000 feet, this was no place for any slips or dips. The car tracked true to driver input.
We drove a rear-wheel-drive model to lunch and an all-wheel-drive model back. The former weighed 4,500 lbs. while the latter was close to 4,700 lbs. Yet the car felt like it was a lot lighter. What’s more, there wasn’t a discernable difference between the two.
More than half of the G80’s chassis was composed of advanced high-strength steel. The rigid structure accentuated handling and reduced noise, vibrations and harshness (NVH). The car had what Genesis called a double-block engine partition, a diamond shaped strut brace system and aluminum shock absorber housings to increase rigidity and enhance performance. Whenever aluminum is used it reduces weight and that also increases fuel efficiency.
The 2018 Genesis G80 Sport got 17mpg in the city, 25 on the highway and 20 combined for the all-wheel-drive version and 17 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg combine for the rear-wheel-drive version.
The Genesis G80 Sport was a very quick and sizable sedan. In other words, you’ve got to be able to stop it and stop it quickly, if needed. There were 14.2-inch ventilated disc brakes up front and 13-inch discs in the rear. Of course, it was an antilock system with electronic brake-force distribution which distributed maximum force to each wheel during emergency stops.
We didn’t have to make any emergency stops but we did sense how decisively the brakes stopped the car.
The 2018 G80 Sport had four driving modes: eco, normal, sport and snow. Each reconfigured drive throttle response, transmission mapping, stability control, suspension and steering reaction to driver input for each setting. The modes also worked with the G80 Sport’s all-wheel-drive equipped cars.
The all-wheel-drive system is capable of sending 100 percent of the torque to the front wheels when the G80 Sport is stuck. On normal payment, it is a 40-60 front to rear split and can go as much as 30-70 on inclines. We tried the sport mode, steering tightened a bit, rpms were higher before the gears shifted and gear shifts seemed to be a crisper.
There was a full complement of safety technology. Emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, lane change assist, lane departure warning, driver attention alert, high beam assist and smart cruise control with stop start took a lot of the labor out of driving.
Of course there was a 17-speaker premium surround sound audio system that really thumped. There was a navigation system, satellite radio, Bluetooth, voice controls, smartphone entertainment connection that included Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and Google point of interest voice search.
Years ago, a senior executive of a luxury car brand told us that as quality evens out, the successfully luxury brands will be those that take the best care of customers during the first 100,000 miles. By that rule, Genesis is an industry leader.
Scheduled maintenance, valet service, connected services; satellite radio subscription, map updates and roadside assistance are all complimentary for three years or 36,000 miles in terms of maintenance and valet service.
There are a couple of rough edges like no Wi-Fi but the 2018 Genesis G80 Sport is a top notch luxury performance sedan. Prices state at $56,225 for the rear-wheel-drive version and $58,725 for the all-wheel-drive version.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.