2018 Genesis G80 Sport RWD – Road Test Review



G80 Sport has the dark, sporty and sinister makeover of our dreams.  This luxury sport sedan has been a popular favorite among CRD writers around the country in the last few years.

We’ve watched the brand go from a fledgling offshoot to a stand-alone division whose products threaten Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and BMW ownership of the luxury sedan marketplace.

Is it weird to be proud of how far Genesis has come?  Perhaps.

2018 is a big year for the big G.  The model range has the traditional G80 from about $40k, G80 Sport and a new-for-2017 G90 flagship limo.  Soon a G70 will join the fun with turbo four and turbo six power.  BMW 340i is the bulls-eye but C400 and C43 AMG should be worried too.

On this outing with G80 Sport, we have a rear-drive test car instead of the AWD option.

Our goals for this review were to:

  • Decide if rear or AWD is the best recommendation.
  • And then to see how G80 Sport does at truly high speeds. Will it fall apart above 100mph, or get better, like its Euro rivals do?

Let’s start by watching this very speedy drive review video.

HD Drive Review Video

 

EXTERIOR

G80 Sport looks damn sexy on the road.  The core proportions and elegance of the sheetmetal still makes G80 Sport an instant luxury limo in the eyes of other traffic.  On-road width and scale of this machine are easily closer to 7 series and S-Class than they are to 5 series and E-Class.

The upgrade to G80 Sport versus the standard trim is doubly effective at making this $55k machine look like $90k in traffic.  It is true!

Totally redesigned front clip is more aggressive than other G80 trims, with mesh intakes and a moody, dramatic dark web of a front grille insert.  In place of the silvery finish of the normal G80, this dark smoked finish is a mix of shiny black chrome with matte copper detailing.

Dark inner headlamp optics complete a seriously aggressive facelift up front.  Even without wider fenders, G80 Sport’s 20-spoke alloys in dark silver have a real AMG or Audi S-line feel.  Clearly a special, sporty and rare version of a Genesis.

In profile, the most marked changes are in the full de-chroming of the window surrounds to a smoky dark accent.  Dark tinted rear LED taillamps are sexy with their tooth-like 3D light elements hidden until engaged.  Quad pipes and wider rubber contact patches all around are other unique Sport touches.

This example in Sevilla Red paintwork is a classy chameleon of a beast.  In the shade, this is a bold, premium color out of a designer lookbook.  But in bright sunlight, the shimmery metallic elements of the paint come alive to make for a rich, pure maroon.  Timeless, elegant and rarely seen on the roads.

We still prefer white or black for the G80 Sport’s sexiest colors, but this design is an easy A in our gradebook.

 

INTERIOR

G80 Sport’s cabin is as full of detail upgrades as the exterior.  Small changes that make a huge visual and sensory impact.  Inside, this means sport seats with copper stitching for their power-adjustable bolsters and squab extension.  Copper contrast stitches for the sport steering wheel are delightful too.  They match the copper central clockface and the dark headliner in mood and elegance.

Beyond these tweaks, the G80 Sport is still a rockstar for its tech suite, simple controls and massive amounts of space.  G80 just feels seriously wider than Lexus GS inside up front, with elbow, shoulder and hip room to fit the largest of Americans.  Super wide center console and armrest reinforce this roomy feel.

Drive position is excellent and the overall perceived quality on startup and engaging Drive or Reverse are top class.  Even this turbo motor plays along: idling silently and with near zero vibration even when cold.

We wished for a remote start on the remote (instead of through the MyGenesis app/web portal) and also thought soft-closing doors might be a nice future addition.  These door seals are so plush that it takes a deliberate thunk to get the doors closed right the first time.

Power open and close for the trunk are suitably premium, and the back seat is heaven.  What it lacks in rear seat adjustment it makes up for in easy entry/exit and ginormous amounts of legroom.  Sun shades are manual for the side windows, and power for the rear shade.  This is operated via rear armrest button or from up front.  No way for rear seaters to operate the sunshade of the panoramic glass roof, but that’s ok.

The only missing elements in back of G80 Sport are reclining seats, an entertainment system and seat cooling.  All of these can be specced on the Cadillac CT6, but with the Caddy costing about $30k more, they should be.

PERFORMANCE

We know this new G80 Sport’s twin-turbo V6 is a gem.  Its 365Hp and 376 pound-feet of torque are a big jump above the base 3.8-liter V6.  Along with the new eight-speed automatics in all G80 models, sprint times are better than ever.  This means 3.8 sprints to 60-mph in about 6.6s, a few tenths faster than it was with the six-speed automatic.  The 3.3T in the G80 Sport, meanwhile, nearly matches the G80 5.0-liter V8 exactly at full throttle.  420Hp of the V8 is balanced by the heavier motor to make both about five seconds flat to 60-mph.

The other big upgrades for G80 Sport are bigger, performance brakes and adaptive dampers.  The adaptive dampers are heaven – they tighten body control but barely dent ride quality even in Sport mode.  In comfort, G80 Sport seems to ride better than any G80 we can recall.

The brakes are also impressive, and pair with the wider rubber to make for a seriously confident canyon-carver.

Our high-speed goal for this drive review required a long trip into the countryside state parks of the Atlantic coast.  Roads where we didn’t even see another car for miles.  Mostly straight but with enough wide sweepers to be interesting.

RESULTS:

G80 Sport might not have the on-paper 155MPH top speeds of some Euro rivals (when properly equipped – as few US trims are).  But it does prove its performance chops above 100-mph.

Like the best rivals, G80 Sport is eerily calm even when crossing 120-mph.  And pulling hard.  Fun tapers off as the tire-limited ~137mph Vmax approaches.  Ease off the throttle and soak in how flawlessly pure and accurate the steering and directional stability feel.  No wipers flapping in the wind, and barely any additional wind noise!?  This G80 Sport is autobahn-ready.  For sure.

It is all so easy!  No drama as you brake back to a saner 80-mph or so.  The scenery outside now feels like it’s going past in slow motion after hitting triple digit speeds.

Guide the G80 Sport through some bends and feel how taut the whole experience is.  Did G80 Sport do well on this high-speed test?  Oh yes.  Passed with flying colors.

Rear-Drive or AWD?

This is a tricky one.  Same ride height, same on-paper sprint pace and only a slight weight and price bump for the AWD model.  Both drive virtually identically.

Except for one detail: the RWD G80 Sport breaks traction a lot more.  Even in bone dry conditions, we wished for the AWD system because it rockets the car out of corners and into traffic from stop signs.  The G80 Sport RWD, as shown on the video above about halfway through, has persistent stability/traction control interventions.  Even with both systems in their Off modes, G80 Sport cut power and flung us forward into seatbelt around a gravelly corner.  G80 AWD never bothers its TCS and ESP systems.  It just goes.

And that makes it feel far more powerful and loveable as a fast twin-turbo sport sedan.  We recommend AWD for all climates, and 200-percent for anywhere that gets cold rain or snow.  Without it, you simply cannot drive nearly as fast.  We have a similar gripe about the G80 V8 in the USA, where it is only available as a RWD model.

 

PRICING

G80 Sport is a fairly big upgrade from the base $40k price for the G80.  But it is only about $3k more than a comparably-equipped G80 3.8 (once tech, luxury etc. packages are added).

About $56k for the RWD model and about $58k for the AWD variant.  No options – everything is standard.

Stellar value for all G80s, but this one especially.

SUMMARY

Gorgeous, exceptional value, great to drive.  And heavenly to own?  Free maintenance, Genesis concierge to fetch the car for services, free telematics and much more for three years.  Icing on the cake.

You can instantly feel why G80 Sport has led to a massive jump in Genesis sales.  This is a G80 perfected – pro-tuned to be cool as F***, fast as S*** and sweet as pie to drive daily.

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