The very notion of Korean design might seem like an established lexicon of premium fashion, but it wasn’t too long ago that it once was relegated to the background. That was also the case with Hyundai and Kia (Genesis was not a brand yet), with both brands being content with making budget-friendly but very plain automotive entries. But fast forward to 2021, and the scales have completely flipped. Genesis is rapidly becoming the lovable new kid in the luxury car landscape. K-Pop music is hot on the U.S. music charts, and Hyundai and Kia have made massive strides in design and quality. One example is the 2021 Genesis G80 which has benefitted from a radical revamp. But is it all enough to help it finally slay rivals like the BMW 5-Series, Mercedes E-Class, and Audi A6?
The Future Is Here, And It’s Not From Japan
When our tester first arrived at our Metro Detroit branch office, we were immediately drawn in by its exterior styling. Lifting key pages from the G90 sedan and GV70 SUV, the G80 is a rolling art piece and certainly a better attempt than the outgoing one, which was limited by some of its old Hyundai source material. The front fascia on the 2021 model largely follows the script laid out by its corporate siblings, with a giant pentagon-shaped front grille being flanked by large double-stacked headlights.
The side profile has an elegant shape, and it appears that Genesis designers took some of their inspiration from lessons that they learned in the wind tunnel with the car having a sleek, slippery look. The rear fascia benefits from redesigned taillights that wrap around to meet the rear fenders. This basic approach is also shared with the G90, and we like the way it allows the G80 to finally fit in with the rest of the brand’s new design language. The rear also gets a nice set of exhaust tips and 19-inch wheels to enhance its strong styling pedigree further.
When viewed alongside some of its rivals, we think the Genesis has a leg up over recent BMW and Audi models. But that said, the look can be downright polarizing to some buyers. In a luxury segment where demanding maximum amounts of attention is key to making your model shine above the rest, the G80’s exterior styling might hinder its ability to gravitate among the luxury masses truly.
Luxurious G80 Interior Brings Focus And Value To Consumers
While the exterior styling may not be up to everyone’s tastes, the G80 is a luxury car at the end of the day, which means the interior has to deliver the goods. We are very pleased to report that it continues to deliver many of the bullet points that Genesis buyers have come to love and adore. The elegant design is infused with a streamlined dashboard, and everywhere you look, there are soft-touch materials, premium plastics, and even a splash of rear metal trim here and there. The steering wheel looks like it was crafted out of bread dough, but the two-spoke design is comfortable in the hands, and you do warm up to it after long-term exposure.
Our tester arrived with plenty of welcome goodies, including a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, heads-up display: heated and ventilated front seats, and a larger infotainment system. Our tester seats were very comfortable and allowed us to have plenty of room to stretch out and relax. The 2021 G80 brings more head and legroom to consumers, and that should especially please rear passengers looking to truly get comfortable when being driven around town.
But technology is also a key ingredient in the G80’s presentation and our tester shined with its larger 14.5-inch screen. Like some other luxury cars on the market, the screen is not a touch unit, and occupants get around via a large centrally mounted control wheel and satellite controls on the steering wheel. While the system’s software is very intuitive, there were occasions where we wished it would respond to inputs a bit faster. We had no complaints about the awesome-sounding Lexicon stereo, which does a good job of bringing a wide range of music to life.
But the biggest thing that the interior manages to do is be a legit evolution over the G80. Like the exterior, the outgoing model’s interior still had some very prominent reminders of its time as a Hyundai model, with not enough being done to help it shake off its roots. This time around, the Hyundai vibes are much less pronounced, and that helps the 2021 model carve out a unique identity in the luxury segment, which should please a wide range of buyers.
Bigger Four-Cylinder Engine Brings More Power To G80
Our reasonably equipped G80 tester did not come equipped with the more powerful 3.5 liter twin-turbocharged V6 but instead chose to flaunt the all-new 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that will be the new base engine moving forward. Unlike other entry-level engines, this one is actually not that far behind its beefier counterpart. The four-banger produces a balanced 300 horsepower and a stout 311 lb-ft of torque, which allowed our example to have a very spirited personality when out on the road. It also allows this version of the G80 to make the sprint to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. The 2.5 is more powerful than the 248 horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine in the Audi A6. It also manages to make the sprint to 60 mph quicker than both the aforementioned Audi and the BMW 530i.
An eight-speed automatic is the lone transmission available. While it does a good job rowing through the gears, the car does not feel quite as athletic as a few of its peers. It prefers to deliver a more comfort-oriented driving experience with the suspension muting out bumps and dips at the cost of adding more body roll into the mix. The steering is very responsive, and we also liked the brakes, but as mentioned, buyers looking for more performance should upgrade to the bigger V6.
Pricing for the 2021 Genesis G80 starts at $48,200, which nets you a 2.5 liter equipped Standard model. Like other Genesis models, the G80 trim levels are split into individual packages, with each one tacking a premium to the fore-mentioned base price. In this instance, our range-topping Prestige tester adds an $8,500 premium to the price that helps it grow to $57,100.
This price is firmly in the luxury car segment. It actually manages to be a very compelling alternative to some of the pricing we see in many European luxury cars. For instance, a comparably equipped Mercedes E-Class sedan is more expensive than the Genesis, and Audi and BMW are not far behind either. As a result, the G80 can be considered a value-focused special that tries to give buyers as much standard equipment as possible in a pricing ladder that undercuts ritzier foes.
This approach has helped Genesis make a noticeable mark in the luxury car segment. We think the G80 has the potential to finally be a true disruptor, especially if the brand adds a performance-focused model to the lineup. In the meantime, look for the 2021 Genesis G80 to be a very potent diamond in the rough, especially for those that are willing to give this interesting luxury four-door a chance to impress.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.