2021 Genesis G80 Review

2021 Genesis G80 - Stylish new G80 fires a shot across the bow of established luxury players.


Genesis' mid-size sedan is redesigned for 2021. In addition to the G80, the luxury arm of Hyundai, sells the compact G70 and large G90. Most recently the brand began selling the GV80, a midsize crossover, which shares engines and chassis with the G80. The G80 was introduced in 2016 and gets a complete makeover this year with more powerful engine, additional safety and technology features and fresh styling. Competitors include the BMW 5-Series, Cadillac CT5, Jaguar XF, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Volvo V90.

Two trim levels are offered: 2.5T and 3.5T. Both are available with rear- or all-wheel drive. The 2.5T comes with a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine that makes 300 horsepower. The 3.5T gets a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that makes 375 horsepower. Both engines mate to an 8-speed automatic.

The rear-drive 2.5-T starts at $47,700. The rear-drive 3.5T lists for $59,100. All-wheel drive adds $3,150 to the price of either model. Standard safety features include adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, evasive steering assist, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, drive attention warning and lake-keeping assist.

The 2.5T comes standard with 18-inch wheels, LED exterior lighting, simulated leather seating surfaces, dual-zone climate control, 12-speaker audio system and Android Auto and Apple Car Play compatible infotainment system with 14.5-inch touch screen. The 3.5T adds 19-inch wheels, hands-free power trunk opener, ventilated front seats, panoramic sunroof, leather seating surfaces, wood trim, soft-close doors, wireless device charger, power rear sunshades, three-zone climate control and 21-speaker Lexicon audio system. Optional on the 3.5T is a Prestige Package that adds 20-inch wheels, upgraded leather seating surfaces, suede headliner, head-up display and digital gauge cluster.

With two distinct engine offerings and across-the-board availability of all-wheel drive, the G80 can be tailored distinctly to a buyer's wishes. Most will probably opt for the standard 2.5-liter. It provides solid, albeit anticlimactic, acceleration from a standstill and good passing punch. When pressed it will accelerate from 0 to 60 MPH in about 6 seconds. That's quick for a car of this size, but unimpressive against the competitive set. Those wanting more power can opt for the 375-horsepower V6 in the 3.5T. It's a nice step up and provides robust scoot away from a stop and great passing punch. It also is better suited to relaxed high-speed cruising.

Regardless of engine, the 8-speed automatic provides smooth and seamless upshifts and prompt downshifts in passing situations. In fact, the transmission is so buttery smooth most shifts go unnoticed.  The available all-wheel drive system does a good job of transferring power to the wheels with the most grip, but there's a noticeable delay in power delivery forward when both rear tires are on a slippery surface. In any case, you'll want to make sure you have proper M+S rated tires fitted in the winter.

The EPA ratings for the AWD G80 with turbo four are 22 MPG city and 30 MPG highway. V6 models net ratings of 18/26 MPG. Both engines require premium-grade gasoline. In routine suburban commuting expect the 2.5T to average about 25 MPG overall. The 3.5T is hard pressed to average 20 MPG overall unless you do a lot of relaxed highway cruising.

Though the wheelbase is unchanged from the previous G80, the new model offers a vast difference in ride quality and vehicle dynamics. Regardless of trim or tire combo, the suspension does an excellent job of eliminating small impacts and softening large bumps. There's also great control over unwanted body motions and brake dive. The steering can feel vague and over boosted at times and is quickly overwhelmed in quick changes of direction. Brakes have ample stopping power and an easy-to-modulate pedal.

Considering the pedigree of the competition, the G80 is a relative newcomer. Where that shows up most is in overall suspension development. While most buyers will be duly impressed with the quiet and comfortable ride offered by the G80, discerning shoppers will note that there a bit of nervousness in the way it holds the road when you turn up the wick. While cars like the 5-Series, CT5 and E-Class feel planted and nimble, the G80 feels a bit busy and unsettled. To be fair, this is only when pushed beyond the limits of normal driving.

The G80 is a very quiet sedan. There's hardly any road or wind noise and engine noise only intrudes in hard acceleration. In the case of the 4-cylinder, there's a bit of a rasp in the exhaust note that's a bit out of character. With the V6, its more of a refined growl.

As you might expect, the G80's interior is properly upscale -- especially in Prestige trim. Overall décor is decidedly upscale and the design is modern and flowing. Materials are class and price appropriate. Although, some touches, like the rotary shifter and awkward steering wheel, favor form over function. Still, you'd be hard pressed to find nicer materials in much more expensive competition.

The front seats are very comfortable and have ample padding and support. Head and leg room are generous. The driving position is near perfect and outward visibility excellent. Rear-seat passengers are treated like royalty, considering the cramped rear quarters in most competitors. The G80 offers soft-close doors and rear windows shades, both upscale touches that help impart a feeling of luxury.

On the tech and safety front, the G80 comes loaded. Just about every safety feature is offered and there are plenty of neat gadgets to keep passengers busy all day. One distraction is the rotary shifter. It's a bit awkward to use and placed immediately adjacent to another rotary jog dial for the infotainment system. Both are hard to use at night and make operating the G80 a bit cumbersome. That's a shame because all of the other controls are perfectly placed and the overall operation of the infotainment system is quite good, even if the Android Auto/Apple Car Play integration isn't the best. One unique trick is the 3D digital instrument cluster. An option, this feature mimics the look of traditional analog gauges to the point that you'd be hard pressed to notice the difference.

At 13 cubic feet, trunk space is just adequate. In addition, the rear seats don't fold and there's only a small pass through. Interior storage is good with a deep cubby in the center console, large cup holders and a butterfly cover for the console bin. Plus, there are large map pockets and a deep glove box.

Bottom Line - With all of the enhancements for 2021, the new G80 has become a serious luxury-car player. The new car offers more refinement and power than ever before and is loaded with tech and safety features. Dollar-for-dollar it is more than a match for the competition. It's only when pushed beyond the realm of sane driving that a few flaws come out, namely a nervousness in the suspension.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.