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TEST DRIVE: 2021 Genesis G80 2.5T — Style to Seduce

When the Genesis G80 was dropped off in my driveway, the first thing that struck me was just how much presence it had. Despite being a relatively low-end spec for the G80 — a 2.5T rear-wheel drive with only the Advanced Package — it was hard to take my eyes off of my test car.

 

The tired trope of talking about how different looking the new Korean car is versus the old Germans is about as stale as month-old bread. However, there’s no getting around the fact that the Genesis G80 stands out from its German rivals with a unique style that’s far more visually interesting than anything the Germans are doing. Even though cars like the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class are all very different looking, you can tell that they play by the same set of rules. The G80 throws those rules out the window and it’s so much better for it.

 

Up front, its large grille is blingy and unapologetic in a charming, confident way. Enthusiasts bemoan large grilles on modern cars like the new Audi A8 and BMW 4 Series, and deservedly so, because they feel cynical. Whereas the massive grille on the G80 is cheeky and fun. The large grille is flanked by split horizontal headlight bars, a completely unique design in the industry and one that makes the G80 immediately recognizable, even at a distance. The split light bar design makes its way out back, too, where its taillights follow the same design.

 

What I couldn’t take my eyes off of, though, were its wheels. The wheel design on my G80 test car shame that of almost any other car in its class. They were 19″ wheels with a complex “Y” pattern design that instantly elevated the car’s looks. The G80 is a good looking car without them but it’d be a crime to not spec them.

 

I also adored the color. Tasman Blue is the name and it’s just as much green as it is blue. In certain lights, it’s a deep, decadent blue but in others, it’s a bright, vibrant green. It looks like something you’d see on a six-figure luxury car in the South of France. Gorgeous.

 

My test car also had the Anthracite Beige interior with ash wood trim. I would have preferred a darker interior color, something like a brown or a cognac, but the beige was fine. I did like the dark grey accents, such as the steering wheel and upper dashboard.

 

What dominates the interior design, though, is its massive central infotainment screen. It’s incredibly wide and features ultra high-resolution graphics, with crisp images and clear font. I also love that the screen featured a sort of screensaver function; if you don’t use it for a little bit, the screen changes to a screensaver that only displays the current weather conditions on the left side, the time, and the navigation on the right side. Not only does it look fantastic, there’s a calming affect that it has, as the screensaver temporarily stops the constant wave of car information from entering your brain. It’s a simple, seemingly unnecessary feature, but one I enjoyed very much.

 

That said, the actual infotainment system isn’t great. It’s as if Genesis decided to combine the best infotainment system on the market — BMW’s iDrive — and the absolute worse — Lexus system. So it uses a rotary controller, like BMW’s iDrive or Audi’s of yore, but you have to sidestep through several different menus across the screen with it, a la Lexus, and it can be quite confusing and annoying. Also, the navigation system failed to initialize several times during my week with it, which was incredibly frustrating. Thankfully, it has Apple CarPlay as-standard but does require a cable connection to use it, unlike Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, who all have wireless CarPlay.

 

Though, there’s one small feature that made me forgive its frustrating infotainment — its speedometer. That might sound ridiculous but the speedo on the Genesis G80 is one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen on a car. Ever. It’s a gorgeous physical dial, trimmed in metal, with a metal needle, a black clock-face, and white numbers. It looks like it either belongs in a WWII fighter plane or a Swiss watch. It’s like jewelry, it’s so pretty. Shame, then, that Genesis decided to make the rev-counter a digital version of the same speedo dial, which looks lame and barely has any customizable info anyway, at least not any that couldn’t have been put in the central screen between both dials. It’s an odd aesthetic choice by Genesis and a disappointing one because if both dials were physical, they’d be better looking than any other on the market. Period.

 

Inside, the materials are top-notch, with nary a scratchy plastic to be found. Seats are comfy, the leather is rich and sumptuous, ergonomics are mostly good, and there’s plenty of tech and practicality. The only frustration was the act that both the gear lever and infotainment controller are both rotary dials but the gear lever is taller and closer to your arm. Which means you have to reach over it to control the infotainment system, which became a bit annoying after awhile but not a deal-breaker.

 

By now, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve spent nearly 800 words talking about the Genesis G80’s style. That’s because it really is a stylish car, one that makes you feel good just to look at it and sit inside of it. As far as the way the car actually drives, it’s… okay.

 

For such a good looking car with a comfortable, luxurious interior, the ride on its fixed dampers was fine but nothing special. Its steering was good, accurate and nicely weighted, and its front end provided enough steering response to accurately place the big car where I wanted. But it never made me want to push it hard, nor did it ever really want to play.

 

The engine is good, though. A 2.5 liter turbocharged four-cylinder powers the Genesis G80 2.5T and it makes 300 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful four-cylinder car in its class. It feels it, too. The eight-speed auto does a good job of keeping the little engine in its powerband and allows it to hustle the rather large G80 with some urgency. But it never feels exciting or particularly interesting. It’s also a bit course at the top end of the rev range.

 

Compared to something like the Audi A6, which is smoother, more refined, more comfortable, and a bit more athletic, the Genesis G80 does fall down a bit. However, it does have one trick up its sleeve — it’s cheap. As heavily loaded as my test car was, it was still under $55,000. The Audi A6 starts at $54,900 and has far less equipment at that price point (though, the A6 comes standard with Quattro all-wheel drive). The Genesis G80 is also more stylish and more interesting.

 

If you’re in the market for a midsize luxury car and prioritize style and comfort over performance and handling, the Genesis G80 is tough to beat. It’s more interesting to look at, feels more special on the inside, and has more style and presence than most of its German rivals.

 

Nico DeMattia

I've been in love with cars since I was a kid, specifically German cars. Now I get to drive them talk about them on the internet.